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Scotland Road Trip Day 3: Glencoe to Loch Ness Via The Hogwarts Express

Alright, I’m seriously lagging behind on these Scotland road trip posts, aren’t I?! I promise to catch up before I go to Venice in a few days – it’ll be the first time I’ve travelled abroad in over a year, which is absolutely ridiculous. Really living up to your name there, Clazz. It’s okay though – I’ll be in two countries in the next couple of weeks (Italy & Portugal!), so I’m looking forward to lots of exploring! So without further ado, day 3.

We woke up to much better weather again, which meant one thing: MIDGES. Tons and tons and tons of midges. They were inside the tent. They were in my ears. They were in EVERYTHING.

King's House Hotel camping, Glencoe, Scotland
You can’t quite see the midges in this photo. But they were there. Oh boy, they were there!

But once we got out of the riverside campsite (who the hell thought that was a good idea in Scotland, in summer??!), we also had brilliant, incredible views.

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Our plan for day 3 wasn’t really a plan at all. It was a pipe dream; a hope sailing in the wind. We were going to get up nice and early and head to Fort William in the vague, distant hope that we might find cancellations on the Jacobite steam train, aka the Hogwarts Express.

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We had tried to book it six weeks in advance, but August was virtually fully booked even then. They say on their website that there may be a chance to grab a last minute cancellation or no-show, so we went along to the station with our tail between our legs, knowing that there was no real hope of getting three seats, let alone three seats together.

But it was worth going along just to see the train off from the station – along with the croooowds of other people who also hadn’t made it onto the train. In fact, we did actually step onto the train even if we weren’t destined to take the famous journey.

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We then raced (not literally) to nearby Glenfinnan, which you may have heard of because there’s a rather famous bridge there.

Oh, and this view. You know, no big deal. But Glenfinnan could just about be one of my favourite places IN THE ENTIRE GOD DAMN WORLD.

Glenfinnan loch & monument, Scotland, UK

Unfortunately, we had real problems parking (in fact, I’ve never seen such chaos), so by the time we climbed up to the view point, we had it to ourselves because we literally passed every tourist in Scotland on their way down from watching the train cross the viaduct. As it turns out, this isn’t even the best viewpoint – by far – for the viaduct, but it does offer exceedingly stunning views over the loch, which fun fact was used various times as the Black Lake next to Hogwarts. If you look closely (and are a witch / wizard), you may be able to spot Hogwarts itself in the distance.

Had it not been raining, the view point would have been an absolutely perfect place for a picnic lunch. However, the running theme of our road trip had been staying dry just long enough to enjoy views or a quick walk around, before the heavens open and drench us so we can’t do anything more than that.

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We had to leave anyway. You honestly have no idea what that car park was like, because I sure as hell have never seen anything like it. It was less of a “car park” and more of a “cars parking wherever the hell they like”, and we needed to run back to make sure one of the ten cars we had indirectly blocked in hadn’t set fire to ours in rage. Not that it mattered – we were also blocked in by another five cars by the time we got back. It was absolutely ridiculous. All this for a bridge??

That said, I’m definitely glad we made the trip, even if we missed the train. The views are just phenomenal, and although I took a walk up to the viaduct itself, I’d like to take the full walk past the bridge… when it’s not raining. I heard a rumour that sometimes it doesn’t.

With that, we drove back to Fort William, pretty aimlessly this time. We needed to stock up on a few things, but other than that what I had really wanted to do was go for a hike, like I’d been trying to do for the whole trip so far. Instead, the rain got worse and we couldn’t even see the mountains that surrounded us, let alone think about climbing them. We couldn’t even bring ourselves to explore Fort William.

So, I’m 100% sure I’ll be back. To do the town some justice, and to complete one of my bucket list items by climbing the biggest mountain the UK: Ben Nevis (and defying my parents who say I can’t possibly do it!).

We carried on up towards Loch Ness, but I was in a quandary. We were way ahead of schedule now, so I was tempted to head up to the Kyle Of Lochalsh to tick off another Scotland bucket list view: Eilean Donan Castle. The problem was, we’d be too rushed to make it to Skye, and was there any point going all that way to not go to Skye?

We decided no.

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So we persevered and drove to Fort Augustus, at the southern tip of Loch Ness. Fort Augustus is the site of a childhood tale that has stayed with me for at least twenty years now. My parents were driving to meet someone in Perth, and my Dad somehow took us on a 100 mile detour via Fort Augustus. After that, it was all windy roads and Mum and I felt truly sick. God knows where we ended up, but some time after he realised he’d taken us down the wrong side of Loch Ness and continued in the wrong direction, we were still 100 miles from where we needed to be. His detour is still a running joke whenever someone drives the wrong way, and the other day he actually did it again (only a 5 mile detour this time) and Mum dubbed them “Daddy’s Scenic Routes”!

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This time, we actually stopped in Fort Augustus, and found out that it’s quite a cute little town. We also passed a fancy schmancy campsite on the way in, and decided that rather than continuing on into the wilderness and risking having to set up camp in a crap place in the rain, that we’d treat ourselves to a night here. Apart from anything else, we’d spotted a couple of cute pubs and really fancied a drink or two, not to mention it would be nice to have somewhere to charge our phones properly.

So we had some down time to explore the southern end of Loch Ness, and for once it wasn’t raining!

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As an aside, all the pub food menus sounded DELICIOUS. I think the one behind Nessie there had me wishing I’d not only eaten there, but eaten the ENTIRE MENU.

We also watched a lady fall out of a boat in the canal and she had to be rescued. Bit of drama for the day! All was OK in the end, I felt awfully sorry for her because everyone was watching while we tried not to, and now I’m telling you all about it on a blog post.

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And yeah, it was all very pretty in Fort Augustus. I hadn’t planned to stop here at all, so it was a nice – and civilised! – surprise on our road trip.

And, it was nice to not have any midges…

Have you ever gone on a camping trip? What were your biggest challenges?

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4 thoughts on “Scotland Road Trip Day 3: Glencoe to Loch Ness Via The Hogwarts Express

  1. Wow, it sounds like the HP factor has had a phenomenal effect on that part of Scotland. I rocked up to that train and bought at ticket on the day no problem. And there were no parking problems anywhere either. But that was a long time ago way before HP. Oh and I’ve stayed at that campsite too when I walked the Great Glen Way. It was pretty nice even back then but I didn’t get to see much of Fort Augustus as I arrived in the evening and left in the morning. It’s been on my list of ‘must get back to’ places ever since.

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    1. It’s crazy!! I mean that train ride is popular among non-HP’ers too, but it’s definitely one of the main draws. I couldn’t believe it was sold out SIX WEEKS in advance though. We didn’t have much time in Fort Augustus either but I don’t think you need much time, it would be a nice base for the area though. :)

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  2. Lovely photos and commentary, as usual. Like the look of Fort Augustus – not somewhere I’ve been yet. Surprised you didn’t mention the Jacobite connection at Glenfinnan – isn’t that more famous than the HP factor? I’m very glad that there’s someone else who’s accused of taking ‘the scenic route’; I knew I wasn’t alone :-)

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    1. Thank you! :) Fort Augustus is a nice base for Loch Ness, I reckon. Oops, I’m not very cultured, am I?! lol, let’s face it though – most of the people I saw were there to take photos of the train, which we missed but I wasn’t even bothered because the scenery is just stunning!

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