Living in the North East we are lucky enough to be within easy travelling distance of the south and north of the British Isles. The best months for good weather in Scotland they say are May, June and September which tends to be true as all the times we have visited during those months have given us beautiful, sunny and dry weather.
This was certainly true when we visited the Highlands in June. We stopped off first overnight just outside Glasgow to break the journey and then the day after we travelled up the western side of Loch Lomond. The loch reminded me more like a bigger version of Lake Windermere in the Lake District rather than ones with steep, rolling hills normally associated with Scotland.
Our first port of call was Oban. Known as the Gateway to the Isles, Oban’s sheltered bay makes a perfect harbour. Bustling with life and boasting some of the best views in Scotland, Oban has plenty to offer. Within walking distance of the Victorian town centre you can explore castles and cafes, enjoy brunch on the beach and take your time browsing around the shops.
Standing proud at the top of the town is McCraig’s Tower built in the late 19th century by local banker John Stuart McCraig, partly to provide work for local stone masons, it is striking to look up at and even better from inside. The view across the bay and to the Isles is one we will never forget.
The next day we visited Fort William, though the approach to the town is pretty Fort William itself seemed a bit grubby. Our main reason for visiting was to experience The Nevis Range cable car.
Home to the UK’s only mountain gondala, transporting you to 650m on the mountain of Aonach Moor. The ride itself was magical but the views from the top of the mountain were even more spectacular. Wrap up well if you visit – even in mid June it was quite cool and the wind was quite ferocious too. There is a cafe if you wish to enjoy some refreshments with an outdoor seating area as well.
The last time I visited the Glenfinnan monument at the head of Loch Shiel was over thirty years ago, long before the Harry Potter films. Nowadays people seem to come to the beauty spot to visit the 21-span Glenfinnan viaduct which features in the Harry Potter films. You can experience it from a steam train – The Jacobite Train which runs services every day. Unfortunately, on the day of our visit the national railway strike put paid to our planned visit!
A statue of a lone Highlander high above Loch Shiel is a reminder of the loss of life in the Jacobite risings and the fact that Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard here to start the 1745 campaign.
The Ballachulish Hotel
A good base for all these excursions is the recently renovated Ballachulish Hotel. The hotel has a breathtaking location on the shores of Loch Linnhe. The rooms at the hotel are as grand as the views, if you can book a room overlooking the loch it will be money well spent.
Our Signature Double Room with Victorian furniture, had a modern twist too with a large flat screen television, decorated in a 21st century style. It came with tea and coffee making facilities which naturally included shortbread biscuits. The room, just like the rest of the hotel felt homely and was the perfect place to escape the everyday stresses of the modern world.
There are not many hotels where the view from the free standing bath was as mind blowing as the ones I enjoyed here whilst soaking away the day’s aches and pains.
The hotel does not have a lift, the creaky staircase was a reminder of the hotel’s history – there is no sneaking about quietly at night here, the staircase floorboards will see to that!
There were two inviting lounges on the ground floor that invite you to take a gin perhaps whilst playing one of the many board games that are at the guests’ disposal.
Meals are taken in the Fish at Ballachulish restaurant which has a small entrance bar. The food was some of the best we have tasted, though at times the service could have been faster. All the food is sourced locally wherever possible.
The mix of American and Continental guests dining gave an ambiance in the restaurant and the hotel an international flair. Breakfast was buffet style ranging from a continental selection to a traditional Scottish breakfast- including haggis. You might be better asking what it contains after eating this famed Scottish dish!
The Ballachulish Hotel was one of those that once you have visited you would want to return to again – just like this bonny part of Scotland.
This article was first published on 16 July 2022