Holly Tuppen takes her young family for a drive on the wild side in Scotland
When it comes to mountains, lakes and islands lost in time, I’m a sucker for pining over the likes of New Zealand, Chile and Scandinavia. It’s easy to forget our neighbours up north host some of the world’s most spectacular landscapes — and they’re just a train trip away.
After four-and-a-half hours, my husband, our two boys (Wilf, four, and Barney, two) and I arrived at Glasgow Central for some urban wanderings before heading into the wilderness. Loaded with snacks, we headed off on a three-hour drive to Arisaig – the jumping-off point for the Small Isles. Heavy rain clouds and silvery sunbeams danced across lochs and moors as we rainbow-spotted our way through The Trossachs National Park towards the Bridge of Orchy, Glen Coe and Fort William. Just in time for tea, we arrived at The Arisaig Hotel, where a seafood feast in its cosy pub with live Celtic music and a soft-play area was most welcome.
Another morning, another mode of transport. We left our car in the fishing port of Mallaig to jump on the ferry to the Isle of Eigg – an island with only 70 residents and one shop. After the excitement of seal-spotting from the boat, Eigg’s iconic An Sgùrr loomed into view. The tiny houses dotted across the landscape looked more like Scandinavia than the UK.
Visitors aren’t allowed cars on the island so we hired bikes with a trailer and bike seat from Eigg Adventures. Up and over the island’s hilly road into the back of beyond, Macquarrie’s Cottage is a cosy, converted croft house overlooking Eigg’s largest beach and the Isle of Rum. The boys rushed out of the van to be confronted by a herd of sheep blocking the road, rabbits hopping into the undergrowth and buzzards soaring overhead. The next couple of days were spent whizzing around on our bikes. This tiny island is a treasure map of natural wonders, perfect for little legs.
Back in Mallaig, we hopped on another ferry to Skye for more island adventures. Our Airbnb cottage, aptly named the ‘back-house between woodland and sea’, is attached to one of Skye’s oldest houses on the edge of 87 acres. Our days were filled with exploring fairy pools, Dunvegan Castle and running wild in The Quiraing.
Before heading home, we stopped in the village of Luss on the shores of Loch Lomond for two nights of country-pub luxury. Having self-catered all week, sauntering down to breakfast feasts and candlelit dinners was the perfect way to end our trip. The Loch Lomond Arms Hotel is in an enviable spot just moments from the Luss Seafood Bar and pier. And with plenty of walking routes, we didn’t need to get in the car once.
On our final day, as we watched the sun lighting up Loch Lomond, Glasgow, the Lake District and England’s industrial heartland all the way back to London, we felt overwhelmed by these British Isles, and full of luck to call them home.