Friday, 3 August 2018

Scottish Road Trip: Dundee to Oban

A good friend of mine came to visit from France recently to take a road trip across Scotland. It was so much fun that I wanted to share it with you.

Firstly, meet my friend Salima! She's wonderful. I've known Salima for about 8 years now. We worked together for a couple of summers when we first met and just got along really well but she lives in France. Not fair! She is incredibly chic, as you'd expect, and really does not enjoy colour and pattern like I do. I've always liked that she cannot hide how much she dislikes some of my outfit choices. On this trip I had the last laugh though, as she brought a pile of 'hiking' outfits, seemingly believing that Scottish people dress like they've just crawled out of a khaki-filled cave. They were hilariously bad (and not featured here or she'd kill me).

There was just one small issue with planning our road trip... I can't drive! But we didn't let that deter us. Salima can drive, although she hasn't in the UK, so we decided to hire a car together that she could drive and I would navigate and yell out what speed limit we were working to (and potentially work the gears). The dream team!

Since part of our old job together had involved organising and logistics, it was both easy and fun to plan our trip together. Like old times. Although Salima flew into Edinburgh, we decided to set off from Dundee as it's central. So, after a day in Dundee to walk around the city and hang out with friends, we had 3 days with the car. We decided to head west, straight across the country, and then do a loop. We booked a night each in two hotels and worked around those.

Day 1: Dundee to Oban
The direct route from Dundee to Oban is lovely and scenic yet takes under 3 hours. We had no specific plans on route but stopped off as we passed through Perth, Crieff and the Trossachs at spots we liked. We brought a picnic and ate it next to the river, since it was the hottest weekend in July.

We arrived in Oban on schedule to settle into our B&B. We stayed in the Dana Villa and it was fantastic- central, beautifully decorated and wonderful hosts. I wish we'd stayed longer. Then we headed along the harbour for a relaxed dinner at the highly recommended Waterfront Fishouse Restaurant to watch the sunset across the sea.
Day 2: day trip to Mull and Iona
Salima wanted to spot wild animals and I wanted to branch out from my old annual Mull trips to see the surrounding islands. Rather than worry about driving on and off the ferry - and to give poor Salima a break! - we decided on a tourist day trip. The Calmac Mull and Iona Adventure includes a ferry to Mull, coach tour round the island and further ferry to Iona to walk around the tiny island. It was a shame that we didn't pass by Tobermory but the driver/tour guide was really good and we covered a lot of area in the time. The 2 hours on Iona was more than enough to see the abbey and those beautiful white sands. We sadly didn't see any dolphins or deer but it felt like an adventure.

Since we didn't get back to Oban until 6pm, we grabbed a quick bite at another seafood restaurant (more fish!) and headed up the coast to relax at our next hotel near Fort William. Oh deary me. We weren't quite as lucky with that one. We had a difficult sleep, a flooded bathroom and a broken window so we couldn't get any fresh air on the hottest night of the weekend. Welp!

At least it was only one night.
Day 3: Fort William to Pitlochry
Next, we had planned to head up to Cairngorms National Park to see the wild reindeer herd. But we had to return the car by 4.30pm and those tiny roads can become a nightmare if there are any traffic problems. We're both quite sensible so we gave it a miss. Instead, we took the north route back via Pitlochry (1hr 40) so that we could still see some of the Cairngorm mountains. It was nice to pass through areas that I remembered from childhood, as I spent summers at my grandmother's home in that area. We saw lots of highland cows, or, as Salima calls them, 'Hamish cows' (because years ago we saw one cow named Hamish).

We ate ice cream and took a short walking tour around Pitlochry, passing through the town, up the salmon ladder and across the dam. Then we made a trip further out of our way for the best view in Scotland (imo), Queen's View. The clue is in the name.
I am so glad that Salima came to stay and made me think more about visiting my own country. It's so easy to take your local surroundings for granted but we saw a lot of things that I hadn't even known about beforehand. And my list for future Scottish adventures has grown! It's only a few hours in any direction, there's really no excuse not to do it.
As for Salima, I'm missing her already. Bisous!