Great Drives: The Road to the Isles

The road journey from Loch Lomond, about an hour north of Glasgow, to Glencoe takes just a couple of hours but must rate as one of the most picturesque and spectacular in the United Kingdom.

The journey follows the shores of Loch Lomond , the biggest loch in Scotland , before merging into a sparse and silent landscape at the entrance of the Scottish Highlands. Here there is an abundance of mountain vistas, lochs, glens, little bothies, and moorland. It is one of the most stunning and well known photography locations in Scotland

Glen Coe is a deep glacial trough bounded by steep slopes rising steeply from sea level to summit altitudes over 3000 feet (900 m). Glaciers were present until 10,000 years ago and the resultant steep rock walls prove popular with climbers.

Heading north of Glencoe towards Fort William there are some great places to visit in the region.

Scotland’s tallest mountain, the summit of Ben Nevis is at an elevation of 4,411ft above sea level. For the less experienced hikers there’s a mountain track to guide you to the top. When you get there you will be rewarded with a panorama of magnificent views, weather depending of course!

There are also some historical sites associated with Bonnie Prince Charles, heritage centres, an iconic viaduct and a lovely woodland garden.
The Road to Isles has important connection to the Jacobite rebellion of 1745. The NTS Glenfinnan Monument and Visitor Centre, at the head of Loch Shiel, stands on the site where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his Standard at Glenfinnan, on 19th August 1745. The Prince’s Cairn, near Beasdale Station on the shores of Loch nan Uamh, commemorates the historic departure of Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1746, following the unsuccessful 1745 uprising.

The Mallaig Heritage Centre offers an interesting insight into the cultural heritage of the fishing port of Mallaig

One of the most iconic features of the Road to the Isles is Glenfinnan Viaduct. The viaduct is constructed of mass concrete being 380 metres long and 30 metres high, with 21 arches and spans the River Finnan at the head of Loch Shiel. It was the completed in 1898 and is the longest concrete railway bridge in Scotland.

The Glenfinnan Viaduct has featured in a number of films and TV series including Ring of Bright Water, Charlotte Gray and The Monarch of the Glen and the Harry Potters movies (Chamber of Secrets, The Prisoner of Azkaban, and The Goblet of Fire). Loch Shiel has also featured as Hogwart’s Lake.

The Jacobite steam train runs between Fort William and Mallaig between May and October. The route has been described as one of the ‘great railway journeys of the world and crosses the magnificent Glenfinnan Viaduct ‘. The train combines stunning scenery with a sense of adventure. A real must for train enthusiasts and Harry Potter fans.

From Malaig there are also regular Calmac ferry services to the Small Isles (Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna) and the Isle of Skye. You can also take a ferry to the Knoydart Peninsula, a rugged, remote wilderness region, situated between Loch Nevis and Loch Hourn.

The Road to the Isles has much to offer; a rich cultural heritage, beautiful beaches, stunning scenery and a ‘highway’ to the Western Isles.


Destinations – Scotland