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Scotland drive: fancy a highland fling?

Thursday, September 16, 2010
After the beauty of Bath, the Cotswolds and The Lake District, you could be forgiven for thinking it doesn't become any more beautiful. Natalie Gruzlewski crossed the border between England and Scotland and was prepared to arm-wrestle Jules Lund to make the point that her destination took the prize.

The scenery is breathtaking, the people so friendly — even though some of them hard to understand — and it's just full of lochs, castles and marvellous history.

Natalie's drive took her north-west of Glasgow into the heart of the lush, green highlands. She was in for a drive of breathtaking beauty along roads hugging lochs as she headed for one of the most famous which holds a special place in the hearts of all true Scots.

Loch Lomond

Loch Lomond is the biggest lake in the British Isles and it contains many islands. It brings together two very different parts of Scotland — the Bonnie Banks, which are located within the boundaries of Loch Lomond, and the Trossachs National Park.

There are plenty of ferries and pleasure cruises running throughout the season from the communities surrounding the Loch — Tarbet, Balloch, Balmaha and Luss.

Loch Awe

Forty-one kilometres long, Loch Awe is Scotland's largest freshwater loch. It is famous for trout fishing and at the northern end several ruined castles on islands can be seen from the shore.

Kilchurn Castle

Kenny Hanley, Natalie's Blue Badge Guide, told her this is Scotland's most photographed castle.

At its peak it was a fortress and grand home. It's reached by a short walk over the River Orchy. In the 1890s the loch's water level was lowered to allow a road to be built so it could be accessed by foot.

Kilchurn Castle has a very chequered history. It was completely abandoned at the end of the 18th century and was then burnt out after a lightning strike. Being on an island, the castle didn't suffer badly from local quarrying, but some houses around the loch do have a suspicious look to them.

In 1951 it was put into the guardianship of the state and is maintained and administered by Historic Scotland. It is in unusually good order and access stairs make it possible to climb to the highest towers.

Island of Mull

A 45-minute car ferry journey from Oban leads to the Island of Mull. The day presented thick mist and the trip was quite eerie — not the perfect way to explore one of the 700 islands off the Scottish coast.

The Isle of Mull was inhabited at the end of the last Ice Age, from around 6000 BC. Bronze Age inhabitants built menhirs (upright standing stones), brochs (Iron Age drystone hollow-wall structures) and a stone circle with examples of burial cairns, standing stones, pottery and knife blades are there to see.

Between 600 BC and 400 AD, Iron Age inhabitants built protective forts, duns and crannogs (artificial islands). The early Christian period began in the sixth century. In 563 AD Christianity was returned to mainland Britain by St Columba who arrived from Ireland to set up a monastery on Iona, an island just off the south-west point of Mull.

Tobermory, the main village, was built in the late 18th century. The cosy little town is surrounded by high wooded hills. It has Mull's only single malt Scotch whisky distillery. Mishnish pub on the seafront has been in the same family for more than 100 years and is a good place to enjoy a warming local whisky.

Related: Haggis heaven in Scotland

Location

Scotland's beautiful Western Highlands.

Cost

Hertz has a great range of vehicles and rates to get you on the road for a drive through Scotland's Western Highlands. Log on to their website and book before you leave home.

Emirates has flights to Glasgow from:

  • Perth $1814
  • Melbourne and Adelaide $1817
  • Sydney $1836
  • Brisbane $1383

These fares are available only online to the first 100 people to book. Sales and validity dates and conditions apply.

Prices correct at September 16, 2010.

For further information

Emirates
www.emirates.com/getaway

Hertz
www.hertz.com.au

Blue Badge Guides
The Guild House
52d Borough High Street
London SE1 1XN
United Kingdom
Ph: +44 20 7403 1115
Fax: +44 20 7378 1705
www.blue-badge-guides.com
guild@blue-badge.org.uk

Visas: Visas are not required for Australians entering the UK for tourism for stays of less than six months. If you wish to work, you must obtain the appropriate two-year visa in advance.

Electricity: 220V with a three-point plug.

Time zone: GMT.

Currency: The British pound sterling.

International dialling code: +44.

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