Besides driving along the Glen Etive, which I highly recommend, there are other things to see and do in the Highlands of Scotland including visiting churches, castles and… reindeer trekking.
St Conan’s Kirk
Our Highlands of Scotland road trip continued with a visit to the St Conan’s Kirk. It is a relatively small church (compared to those in the big cities in Europe) designed and built by a self-made architect for his elderly mother. The church is medieval-looking from the outside and include many different styles of architecture, quite confusing but beautiful at the same time.
Nearby the Kirk lies the Kilchurn Castle, a ruined structure built in the 15th century. For some reasons there were no signs whatsoever indicating the location or even the direction to the Castle. It actually was situated off the main road A85 and off the beaten path. Can’t remember how many times we drove up and down this road trying to find the Castle. We even tried asking a shopkeeper nearby, who was surprisingly, not very friendly. (Note: when we were there, the trees and shrubs were overgrown and the side road was not obvious at all!)
It wasn’t until we randomly saw a few cars turned into the side road that we suspected it could lead to somewhere/something interesting. So, we followed those cars and turned into the road with caution, not sure what to expect. Fortunately, we were right to follow our guts. We parked the car, walked through this stretch of footpath and went past what looked like an abandoned railway track. We were a little skeptical about where the path was leading us…
… but soon we saw the Castle.
The Kilchurn Castle was originally a tower house and later converted to a barrack. It was badly damaged by lightning in 1760 and abandoned since. The castle is now under the care of Historic Environment Scotland and is open to the public during summer. It was free when we visited in 2011 and from the Historic Environment Scotland website, it appears to have remained the same.
We did not spend a lot of time at the Castle since the compound was quite small even though I would say the driving up and down road A85 trying to find this place was still worth it. But there were A LOT of small flying insects which were annoying and getting in the way of us enjoying the beauty of the surroundings.
Loch Ness (Monster)
No trip to the Highlands of Scotland would be complete without the Loch Ness Monster (Nessie) would it? The following day we drove ourselves from Fort William to Drumnadrochit, looking out into the Loch Ness in a quest to spot Nessie.
There were 2 Loch Ness Monster exhibition centres in Drumnadrochit and we went to the Original Loch Ness Monster Visitor Centre.
We watched a short documentary about the discovery and sightings of Nessie. There were also exhibitions of photographs, articles of Nessie and interviews of people who claimed to have seen the dinosaur. It was quite interesting.
Our next stop was the Urquhat Castle, one of the largest castles in Scotland in area, which sits beside the Loch Ness. It is another Castle ruin but this time, we paid entrance fees to enter. The Castle has a very turbulent history so I won’t bore you here. It is located in beautiful surroundings which allows visitors to get a chance to find Nessie in action!
One of the “perks” for driving in the Highlands of Scotland was the opportunity to see the Highland Cows face-to-face! They are one of the cutest (big) animals I’ve seen and I’ve always wondered how they see with their long fringe covering their eyes. So cute!!
MUST DO: TREKKING WITH REINDEER
The other MUST-DO activity when travelling in the Highlands of Scotland, besides driving on the Glen Etive Road, is trekking with reindeers! Yes, REINDEERS!!
Whilst researching for something different and more interesting to do than visiting castles, I came across The Cairngorm Reindeer website which says they organise reindeer visits and treks! The money collected for these activities go into the upkeep of the Reindeer Company that looks after the reindeers roaming and breeding in Glenmore. You can also choose to adopt them online if you simply feel like helping the reindeers.
SO, we drove for about 1 hour to the Glenmore Forest Park and arrived at the Reindeer Centre. After completing the paperwork, our guides passed us a backpack and a bag of reindeer snacks each, then brought us on a little hike up the mountains to where the reindeers were.
After about 10mins, we arrived at the mountain and saw herds of reindeers spread out in different areas. We were very excited!
They brought us to a little shed to meet the 2 reindeers trekking with us, Congo and Viekker. We were taught how to hold the reins and how to lead the reindeers. Actually, time they were leading us most of the time! .
The wind was particularly strong that day (we were told) and we had some difficulty trekking across the open plain. We were struggling a little since the reindeers were not exactly following our instructions. But the guides were always there to help and give the reindeers a little nudge when needed.
Our guides then led us to a forested area where Congo and Viekker could take their snack (from the ground) and take a break from the trekking. They were just so beautiful to look at. The fur were soft to the touch too. Simply adorable!
By the time we returned to where we started off, many reindeers were back / out for the visit session. We were allowed to feed them with our hands this time. Their lips were so soft and tender that when they touch our hands it actually tickled.
The whole trekking exercise took about 4 hours and it was one of the most amazing experiences we had! If you are in the region, please try this and I promise you won’t regret it.
Trekking with the reindeers was an awesome experience and a fantastic way to end our Highlands of Scotland tour!
Have you visited the Highlands of Scotland? Have you trekked with reindeers? Tell me about your experiences.