Glencoe, Castle Stalker and Port Appin. Through Scotland’s most dramatic Glen to Castle Stalker:
This day trip combines the majesty of Glencoe with a chance to touch the past at Castle Stalker. From Ardbrecknish head North on the A819, taking a right onto the A85 and through Dalmally. Heading Easterly , the A85 traces the route of the old ‘Wade’ military road of the 17th Century and runs alongside the River Lochy and the Glasgow-Oban West Highland rail line past Lochan na Bi and onwards to Tyndrum. At the junction of the A85 and A82, which heads towards Glencoe, you can briefly divert into the famous Green Welly cafe for a coffee and scone pitstop.
Your journey now shifts a gear as you enter one of Scotland’s dramatic landscapes. Heading Northerly on the A82, you climb towards Bridge of Orchy, where many walkers on the West Highland Way stop for refreshments at the excellent Bridge of Orchy Hotel, and onwards to the the westerly parts of Rannoch Moor which was the heart of the last significant ice field in the UK during the Ice Age. Beyond Loch Tulla and Rannoch Moor, you enter Glencoe, a U-shaped narrow Glen of volcanic origins and a designated National Scenic Area. The entrance to Glen Coe is marked by Buachaille Etive Mor, “the great herdsman of Etive” at the ‘junction’ with Glen Etive and then by the Three Sisters peaks.
Opposite Buachaille Etive Mor and running through much of the Glen is another old ‘Wade’ military road, part of which was named the ‘Devil’s Staircase’ by Wade’s soldiers who toiled to lift materials on the steep terrain. On entering the Glen you’ll see the Glencoe Ski Centre on your left and, in the winter months and Spring, this ski run offers tremendous skiing whenever the slopes hold a decent amount of snow. From your base in Ardbrecknish at The Blue Cottage or Tabernacle, you’re only a 50 minute drive to the ski centre.
As you leave the Glen, stop off at the excellent Glencoe Visitor Centre, run by the National Trust for Scotland and open daily year-round; here you can discover more about the geology and wildlife of the area as well as it’s infamous history, the 1692 Massacre of Glencoe where Clan MacDonald of Glencoe were murdered in an act of revenge by John Campbell of Clan Campbell, who marshalled soldiers of the Earl of Argyll’s Regiment of Foot. So goes the 1963 ballad by Jim MacLean:
O, cruel was the snow that sweeps Glencoe
And covers the grave o’ Donald
O, cruel was the foe that raped Glencoe
And murdered the house of MacDonald
If you visit the famous, and haunted, Clachaig Inn you might see a sign on the bar door proclaiming, in jest we think, ‘No Dogs, No Hiking Boots and No Campbells’. The pass of Glen Coe and Clachaig Gully were locations for Monty Python and The Holy Grail, Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban and James Bond’s Skyfall.
Now drive past Ballachulish and head westerly on the A82 past the coastline of Loch Leven, then turn left down the coastline on the A828 towards Castle Stalker, a medieval castle dating from 1320 and built in a commanding position on an small island overlooking Loch Linnhe. From March to October, one daily tour of the castle is run by members of the Stewart Allward family who are the present owners of the Castle. Each tour includes the short boat trip over the water to the Castle; allow up to two hours for the tour, including the boat trips. Booking in advance is essential.
A 10minute drive down the coast takes you to Port Appin, a small settlement in a beautiful setting overlooking a strip of water called the Lynn of Lorn to the northern tip of the island of Lismore and across Loch Linnhe to the coast of Morvern beyond. Here you’ll find the excellent Pierhouse seafood restaurant and a passenger-only ferry which takes you a short hop across to the Isle of Lismore. We think there’s enough in this day trip without taking on Lismore…that’s another trip on it’s own.
Heading southerly on the A828 towards Connel and across the bridge over the Falls of Lora, you head Easterly along the A85 with Loch Etive on your left and then via Taynuilt to Loch Awe and back onto the A819 to return to Ardbrecknish.
Google Map route for this day trip:
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