A Day Trip to The Scottish Highlands

Glenfinnan and Camusdarach

Did you know that 83.2% of Glaswegians have never been further north than Loch Lomond?

Did you also know that this kind of statistic does not exist?!

Seriously though, recently, I have been surprised to learn that the majority of Scottish people I’ve chatted to said they’ve never actually been anywhere in Scotland.

I know I can’t compare myself to others and it would be unfair to assume that everyone else should be traveling 1000+ miles every weekend to see remote beautiful places. With that in mind, surely you can spare a weekend every now and then and enjoy this beautiful country that you have. Why not take a day trip to the Scottish Highlands?

View of Glen Docherty from the car, Scottish Highlands
Marcel’s Regular Office View 🙂

Since we can’t really do any international traveling at the moment, I thought it would be good to showcase some cool day trips you could do to get your holiday fix. If you’re from the central belt of Scotland and are looking for an awesome day trip or even a long weekend up north, stay tuned and subscribe to the mailing list to not miss a post!

From Glasgow to Glenfinnan

Here’s one good day trip anyone living in Glasgow or Edinburgh or anywhere in between should take: go to Glenfinnan Viaduct to check out the Jacobite Steam Train, also known for its appearance in the Harry Potter movies as the Hogwarts Express.

The drive from Glasgow to Glenfinnan is spectacular as you go up north along the A82, past Loch Lomond and the stunning Glen Coe valley. I’ve written more about Glen Coe in previous posts which you can check out here.

Although we’ve been to the Glenfinnan Viaduct before, we never actually got a chance to see the Jacobite steam train cross it. I am so glad we finally got a chance to see it.

Timing It

It was fairly easy to predict when it would cross the viaduct, but worry not if you just arrive there and you miss it. The train goes back and forth between Fort William and Mallaig throughout the day so you should be able to see it.

The Jacobite Steam Train is operated by West Coast Railways and they have a full website dedicated just to the train here. You can buy tickets if you want to go on board and have trip to Mallaig for a day and you can also see its schedule. From Fort William, it should take about 40 to 50 minutes for the train to arrive at the viaduct and from Mallaig, it should be around 70 to 80 minutes.

Bottom view of Glenfinnan Viaduct, Scottish Highlands
Glenfinnan Viaduct

To put things into perspective, we were at the Morrisons in Fort William (great wee pit stop by the way) and we could see the train in the train station getting ready to leave just as we were driving off. Glenfinnan is about 30 minutes away from there and walking up to the viewpoint on the left hand side shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes so we got to the viewpoint with loads of time to spare before the train showed up.

Getting To The Viewpoint

Just follow the newly built footpath from the car park to the viaduct. Cross the single track road and head up on to the path that leads you under the viaduct and then up into the hill above it. I would wear some sort of grippy shoes but you should be fine in regular foot ware especially if it’s not raining. Once you’re up there, pick a wee spot to catch the train and wait!

This is a cool little experience and you should definitely do it, especially if you are a Harry Potter fan!


The Jacobite Steam Train on its way to Mallaig through the Scottish Highlands
The Jacobite Steam Train Crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct
You can purchase a print of this image here.

Stay for Another One!

So now you got your fix for the train. But there’s no reason to leave yet. Why not see it again, this time from the other side of the viaduct? After all, you drove all the way here, why not get everything you can out of it.

This is probably a lesser known spot so bonus points for you for sticking around! To get to this second spot, head down the path that you just walked up. When you get the to the single track road, turn left and after 30 off feet you’ll reach a little foot bridge that takes you to another path that crosses underneath the viaduct. Keep going up the path, through the gate until the path stops. Turn left through the bushes (it will be quite clear that there’s a path there) and make your way as you see fit through the moor. Here you would definitely need some sort of hiking shoes or boots as the terrain is quite muddy. But once you find a good vantage point, it should all be worth it!


The Jacobite Steam Train gowing back to Fort William in the Scottish Highlands
The Jacobite Steam Train and Loch Shiel

You can purchase a print of this image here.

Visit The Train Station

This is something that we did not have time to do (more on that below) but, if you came in early during the day, you should also do the trail from the viaduct to the Glenfinnan train station. It takes you further up into the hills from the first viewpoint and you can also get a good glimpse at Loch Shiel! At the right time of the year, the sun sets right between the hills on the horizon of the loch!

You can also check out the Glenfinnan monument and get some souvenirs from the gift shop if that’s your thing!

Bonus

So you’ve seen the viaduct, you’ve seen the train pass and fill the valley up with its steam and the echo of its whistle. You’d think that’s the day over, but fear not.

The reason we didn’t to the hike to the train station is because we wanted a little beach fix!

Only a short 35 minutes (but incredibly scenic drive) further north from Glenfinnan, lie the Silver sands of Morar, a superb string of beaches covering the coast between Arisaig and Mallaig.

The crown jewel of these beaches is Camusdarach Beach. It has amazing silver sand and beautiful turquoise waters. On a clear day, you get spectacular views of the rugged Cullins on the Isle of Skye, the steep sea cliff of Eigg and the wild peaks of Rum.


Two perfectly placed cottages on Camusdarach Beach, Scottish Highlands
Camusdarach Beach

You can purchase a print of this image here.

Find a spot, have a picnic and just chill listening to the waves come in and being mesmerized by the colors of the ocean. If you are prepared, you may want to go for a dip too!


Dramatic skies over the Isle of Eigg viewed from Camusdarach Beach, Scottish Highlands
Isle of Eigg From Camusdarach Beach

This is probably one of the most beautiful beaches in Scotland and I hope anyone reading this gets a chance to see it one day.

Fin

I hope you found this useful and hope it motivated you to go out and plan your own day trip to the Scottish Highlands.

Of course, ideally you would need a car for this if you’d like to do it in one day. It can also be done using public transport links but it might feel like a very long day or you might want to stay the night somewhere (like Fort William for example).

Another suggestion would be to cycle/wild camp for a long weekend. Take your bike on a train to Fort William and cycle from there to the Viaduct. See the train and then head towards Mallaig to see the beaches and camp where appropriate.


A shot of the stunning turqoise waters of Camusdarach Beach looking towards the Isle of Skye, Scottish Highlands
Isle of Skye From Camusdarach Beach

We are INCREDIBLY lucky here being able to see these places under the freedom to roam, especially nowadays, when even being able to take a trip for the simple reason of recreation can be easily and instantly be taken away from us.

So please, my dear reader, enjoy the most you can out of this gorgeous country! Experience everything it has to offer, support local business where you travel and take your rubbish home! You enjoyed a beautiful place, why shouldn’t the next person do the same?

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