Imagine this: I’m standing on the edge of a landslip. It could be anywhere but — without a doubt — this is stereotypical Scotland. From where I am above the slopes and scree, huge cliffs tower to my left. Hills roll to the right. Drumlins disappear before me. Welcome to tartan country.
Back in February, I was invited to journey north for three days with Barbour and fellow Instagram aficionado Rab (@itsrab) to celebrate the launch of SS17 #BarbourTartan. Not only did this involve visiting some of the Scottish Highlands’ most stunning spots (more on that ‘landslip’ later) but it also involved me being in front of the camera for a change… Scary stuff eh?!
So if you’d like to discover how to hit the Highlands in three days (taking in some of the jaw-dropping scenery us Scots have on our doorsteps) whilst seeing behind the scenes of a Barbour campaign shoot, then get scrolling!
Day One: Isle of Skye
After peeling back our eyelids and piling our plates high with black pudding, we left Portree and headed north. Direction? The Quiraing. Part of the vast dips and dives of land that make up Skye’s Trotternish Ridge, the Quiraing is arguably the most magical and iconic of them all. Whether you walk the circuit — taking in the views from the flat ‘table’ summit — or just breathe and enjoy the panorama from the car park, this gigantic landscape is the best way to put your modern stresses into perspective.
Our next stop was Dunvegan Castle. Although this site is steeped in history — as home to Clan MacLeod for over 800 years — its hotchpotch architecture and nineteenth-century renovations mean Dunvegan’s facade doesn’t feel like a typical fortress. But what it lacks in exposed stone, it makes up for in scenery. With Loch Dunvegan weaving past the boathouse, you can quite literally speak to the seals as they come closer in curiosity. Add to that the extensive gardens and this is a winning day out whatever the weather.
Finally, we stopped by the always-amazing Three Chimneys for some fresh and seasonal scran. This place has got a special spot in my heart — thanks goes to the Other Half for driving me all the way here for my twenty-first! — so it was lovely to pay a return visit with Rab.
And (again!) the food didn’t disappoint… It was just a little different being surrounded by three guys with film cameras!
Day Two: Inverness
As the capital of the Highlands, Inverness has its heart truly in the outdoors. With snow-capped hills visible from the town centre, the River Ness swirling past pedestrians and Moray Firth dolphins on your doorstep, this is one of my favourite places in Scotland.
There’s no better way to start the day with coffee… especially if that’s at Velocity. You’ll find this café-cum-bicycle shop in the Crown area of the city. On a quiet weekday, with the morning light streaming through the glass and OS maps spread on the table, this is a peaceful place to plan the next stage of your journey… And devour some of the homemade cakes (Rab bagged the incredible shortcake).
Next on our itinerary was another of my favourites: Inverness Botanic Gardens. If you want to switch off from the town hubbub, this floral bolthole is the place to go. Hide out here with a book, explore glasshouse to greenhouse and enjoy the soft sound of the waterfall as it works its way through the greenery.
Looking for lunch? Put the Mustard Seed on your list. Right by the river, this restaurant is big on its Scottish fare. With a well-stocked bar, bright balcony and chat of content diners, this is a sophisticated spot for scran in the centre of Inverness itself. Want to visit Inverness? Read more of my travel tips in the Scots Magazine.
Day Three: Fort William
Our final day began bright and early — quite literally — at the foot of the UK’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis. Before we even thought about scaling the peak, we had to get through the glen. As Rab and I walked in front of the video team, we sneaked the first view of the morning fog pushing and pulling its way through the valley. I’m not a morning person, but seeing this with (tired) eyes is something I won’t ever regret setting my alarm for.
By the time we’d hit halfway the clouds had closed in, transforming the hills from green to grey. In just a second — standard Scotland! — it was winter again. We jumped back in the car, cameras in tow, and headed east. It was now waterproof weather for the short walk to Steall Falls.
Through thick forest, over slippy stones and between cliffs, the path shortly opened into a glade where the 120-metre waterfall was before us. This is a short but stunning wander which I’ll definitely be ticking off twice — can you imagine how beautiful this scene would look in the height of summer?
After a day outdoors, it was time to refuel and reflect. Our manic but magical few days with SS17 #BarbourTartan wound up with a glass of wine, a plate of stylish Scottish food (shout out to The Lime Tree in Fort William) and a huge serving of laughter thanks to Rab and the video guys. For me, this trip summed up the spirit of Scotland: spectacular scenery, unpredictable skies and good banter. Slainte!