Beautiful Scottish highlands – Onich, Fort Williams, and Glen Etive Drive
Beautiful Scottish highlands – Onich, Fort Williams, and Glen Etive Drive- In my last post i shared how i prepared for our family road trip to the beautiful Scottish highlands. Here are some lovely pictures of the highlands, what all we explored , where we travelled and how we spent our 4 day holiday in Scotland, visiting beautiful little towns and exploring Neptune’s staircase, Nevis range mountain gondola, Steall falls, and Glencoe.
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Day 1-Arrival at Onich⛰ – The Ardhru Cottages
After almost a 5-6 hours long journey , including 2 food break and another rest break we reached Onich in the evening. After entering Scotland we made a stop at 2-3 viewpoints to inhale the beauty of scotland.
We booked The Ardhru cottages for our stay . This is situated right down Loch Linnhe to the Isle of Mull and has some picturesque views of Loch Linnhe and outstanding scenic views of Glencoe.
The cottage and its location were lovely but we were exhausted
Our cottage had some stunning views of the lake and mountains from the deck, so decided to just relax in the cottage on day 1 and went around the cottage to walk by the lake. The lake from the cottage is just a 2 mins walk .
Day 2 in highlands – Exploring the town of Fort Williams and Neptune’s Staircase 🛶
The next morning after having home cooked breakfast and another walk by the lake, we visited the town of Fort Williams . It is around 8 miles from Onich.
For lunch we wanted to try Crannog restaurants, one of the most famous places for seafood lovers with the best lake views, but it was our bad luck as the restaurant was all booked.
We visited The Geographer restaurant , another lovely restaurant in the town center of fort williams. The place, the food and the staff was lovely.
We walked around the town, visited the The West Highland Museum(great for kids) situated right just on the main high street.
The entry to the museum is free. It is great place to learn about the items of significance- historical and cultural interest related to the West Highland area.
While walking towards the car park we stumbled upon the Old fort. It is situated at confluence of two lochs, Loch Linnhe and Loch Eil.
It doesn’t have much to offer other than the ruins and remains of the fort. But it is a lovely place to unwind and watch the stunning views of the lakes, sunrise and sunset.
We sat by the lakes and enjoyed the lovely weather.
Later we drove to the Neptune’s staircase that is around 10-12 mins drive from the Fort williams center , just north of Loch Linnhe.
Situated in the village of Banavie, in the shadows of Ben Nevis (Britain’s highest mountain) this is a masterpiece of engineering.
Neptune staircase is the longest staircase lock flight in Scotland consisting of eight locks on the Caledonian Canal , that raise the canal by almost 62 feet, for the boats to travel up and down the locks .
It takes almost 90 minutes for the boat to pass through all the locks, to reach up or down the canal.
The parking here is free, but hidden from the main entrance and situated off the road .
From the car park the staircase is just a few minutes walk.
There is a lovely cafe, bistro and restaurant situated on the Neptune staircase, Neptune’s restaurant -The Moorings Hotel.
This is a perfect place to watch the vessels make their way up the canal . Incase you do not want to take a walk, just sit there with your drinks and absorb the glorious views .
Day 3- Visit to Nevis range mountain Gondola and hike to Steall Falls 🚠
Nevis range mountain Gondola
Two things that we really wanted to experience on our trip to highlands was the Mountain Gondola and the Jacobite steam train.
We could not do the Jacobite steam train, as by the time we started looking for the train tickets it was all booked and no tickets were available for the days we were there.
However we managed to take the Nevis range mountain Gondola. Though the tickets can be booked on site, we booked our tickets online , a night before visiting the gondola.
We kept the gondola bookings for the last minute , as the Gondola ride is subject to weather and can close without notice.
The correct Postcode to be followed is PH33 6SQ. We were a bit lost on our way to the Gondola as the postcodes are not very clear.
The parking there is paid but there is enough parking available there at the site .
The Gondolas take around 12-15 minutes one side and it is a beautiful ride with some stunning views . We were not met with very good weather, it was raining and the views were not very clear.
Once you reach uphill on Aonach Mor you get amazing views of the highlands .
You can take walks from there to Panoramic viewpoints like Sgurr Finnisg-aig and Meall Beag.
The walks take around 40 minutes to one hour return depending on the viewpoints to plan to see.
The details of the things to do on Aonach Mor are available on the Nevis range website.
They have a lovely cafe on site. When you are back from the gondola ride , you can sit in the cafe and have a bite .
Hike to Steall Falls 🏞
Our next destination was spectacular Steall Falls situated in Glen Nevis, the second-highest waterfall in Scotland and UK. This cascading waterfall is featured in the movie Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire .
It is best to drive to the start of the walk (or i’d better say hike) , as it is a very long way.
Drive right on to the car park at the end of the road past the Lower Falls car parks . The last couple of miles is single track. Then follow the path at the end of the car park .
The car park is really small and allows for around 20-25 cars , something you need to take that into consideration.
From the car park there is an almost 45 minute rocky walk along a narrow gorge , with some areas really slippery. It is a little tricky to walk with the kids.
Be really careful, and make sure you are wearing right shoes as it is not a straight alley to walk.
The 45 minute hike takes you close to the falls. Then you need to cross a stream either on foot or using a single rope bridge, and only a single person can cross the bridge at one time.
With an 8 year old we were not comfortable crossing the bridge (letting her walk on the rope on her own), or crossing the stream on foot as the rocks were slippery .
We enjoyed the falls from the other side. It is still beautiful, and worth a visit if you think the uneven rocky slippery hike along a gorge is something you have the heart for.
You can even set up camping here . Make sure to carry water , and a few snacks as you wont get anything all the way from the start to the return from your hike.
The drive to the end of the car park leading to start of the hike to steall falls is gorgeous. We did not stop anywhere while going, but we did make a stop while driving back at the point where the movie braveheart was shot.
Day 4- Glen Etive drive – The most scenic drive in Scotland and visiting Glencoe 🏔
Glen Etive drive
Glen Etive drive is one of the most scenic drives in highlands. With the high mountain peaks on one side, and lovely streams on the other side , the drive leads to end with a spectacular Loch etive.
It is a 12 mile drive . It sounds like a short drive,but with its small meandering single track road, and impressive views , you want to stop at every point and inhale its beauty.
Wild camping is allowed here, so if you are interested you can give it a go. If you are lucky you might spot some wild deers on the way .
It is also on this route scenes from the James Bond movie Skyfall were shot along the road, next to the river. Ian Fleming’s actual former home is near the end of the road.
Tip – take food and drinks with you as it’s quite a way from any kind of stop. You can easily spend a couple of hours driving and stopping to take photos along the no through road to the loch and back.
The car park at the bottom of the Glen can accommodate 15-20 cars at most . You might not get the parking next to the lake . In that case drive back from the lake to look for another parking spot.
This drive was one of the most enchanting , scenic drive of our trip. Had we planned it any better, and carried some food / drinks along we would have loved to spend more time there .
The complete drive is filled with spots where you can sit , relax and enjoy by the side of a stream surrounded by magnificent mountain peaks.
On our way back to Onich we drove through the beautiful village of Glencoe.Again a very scenic drive. We did not explore much of the town on foot , but just drove through it.
We stopped for our lunch at Glencoe cafe which is a lovely little cafe on the main road, with seating available inside, and outside. They also have a small shop to collect memoirs.
The food was lovely, very simple but very fresh . After lunch it was time to head back to our cottage and pack for home.
There are a few scenic points where you should stop for a few minutes to take in the enchanting beauty of the highlands.
There are passing places near every viewpoint, and you can park your car in these passing places for a few minutes to enjoy the scenery around you and click some pictures.
Day 5- Travelling back to UK from highlands 🇬🇧
As much as we loved visiting the Highlands and our stay in Onich it was time to head back home. We left early in the morning as we had an early checkout and a long drive home . Also we wanted to have ample time to stop at any viewpoints we might have missed or wanted to see again.
It was pouring heavily on the day of our return, but we still managed to squeeze in a few minutes halt at some of the viewpoints on our way back.
Every viewpoint is worth stopping for a few minutes, so if you have time and you do manage to find a passing point , do make a halt at the viewpoints.
The next stop we made was at services on loch lomond. Again a spectacular lake . The location of the services was just perfect. You could easily spend a few hours here if you want to.
Grab a cup of coffee and something to eat, and there is a path to the lake just next to parking. You can sit and enjoy your break here, besides the lovely lake.
What more do you want on your holiday than to explore, relax and rejuvenate.
That’s our kind of a perfect family holiday.
Tell me about your favourite experiences, the food you enjoyed, or your disappointments while you travelled . Are there any places that you want to recommend.Let me know all of this in the comments.I would love to read your stories, and experiences.Tag these using #frombowltosoul, @frombowltosoul
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Check out this video of our trip to Scottish highlands