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Central Scotland

David Cross (DavidX) from England

The large area of central Scotland contains both Scotland's highest mountain, Ben Nevis, and the Cairngorm mountains, which rise to over 4,000 feet. However nothing is high here by European standards and my own suggestion would be to sacrifice a bit of height for the scenic splendour of the mountains around Glencoe. Since some will only be passing through the central area to either the north or to the islands, I start with a section on "Moving Through" and then move on to possible holiday areas.

ST Google Map - Southern Scotland: Detailed Google Map by DavidX for Southern and Central Scotland

Moving Through Central Scotland

There are a number of routes through to the north and it is worth varying the route up when you make the return journey.

The A9 can be picked up from the end of the M90 motorway near Perth and followed up to where it crosses the Beauly Firth near Inverness and then continues into the area of Scotland 3. This is not my favourite route for scenery but it is pleasant enough and is undoubtedly by far the fastest way if you are making a beeline for the far north.

If you go this way primarily for the ease of the driving, and you are prepared to stop a bit, there are some good places to visit:

  • Pitlochry has a fine salmon leap
  • Killiecrankie has an interesting visitors centre
  • Aviemore gives easy access to the Cairngorms where there is a mechanical way of getting high up
  • Boat of Garten is near to a bird reserve where an osprey's nest can be viewed from a hide
  • Carrbridge has a visitors' centre which I find it difficult to pass

A variation of the above route is to take the A9 earlier from the end of the M9 above Stirling and then turn off on the A822 to Crieff and Aberfeldy then the B846 to Tummel Bridge. You will see from any road map how to continue via Trinatour and hit the A9 again at Dalnacardoch Lodge. Both Crieff and Aberfeldy are pleasant little towns and I far prefer this route.

What might be thought of as the main western route again takes the M9 above Stirling but then picks up the A84 for Callander, probably my favourite of the roadside towns.

Any number of other routes can be selected from a map to get from near Glasgow to Callander and any of them is good. From Callander continue on the A84 and A85 to Crianlarich and Tyndrum. From there you can either take the A85 on to Oban and the boat for many of the islands or the A82 to Glencoe ad Fort William. This latter road is scenically excellent to past Glencoe and is close to being a must-see on a first visit to Scotland.

An alternative route to Crianlarich is to take the M8 west past Glasgow then the M898 and over the Erskine Bridge to pick up the A82 all the way up Loch Lomond. This is pretty but it is very hard to overtake and can be desperately slow. I prefer the last or the next route.

A variation on the last route is to leave the A82 soon after Erskine bridge and take the A814 to Helensburgh and on to Arrochar. Ben Arthur (or The Cobbler) provides a fine rocky peak south of Scotland's other most scenic mountains just along the A83 on your left or you can join the last route a short way to your right along the same road - or both! Further west - and I have not done the first bit of this - the Clyde can be crossed by ferry to Dunoon and then take the A815 to meet the A83. A road map will reveal quite a range of choices from here.

Lastly you could study the Calmac website (see Resources) and work out something really clever through Arran's two ferry routes (summer only) or through the Kyles of Bute. This would be both expensive and time consuming and I have never done it.

For public transport information options, see below.

Possible Holiday Areas


This would be my first choice in the whole of the area covered by this page and it equals anything in the far north or the islands, except perhaps for the Cuillins of Skye. Glencoe itself would make a good base - perhaps the Clachaig Inn - but Kinlochleven has a fair few bed and breakfast houses. I should prefer to stop before Fort William. The downside of Glencoe is that it is just about always busy but a mountain walker will find it difficult to resist.

Having said that I should also say that the mountains here are not easy and their lack of great height should not deceive visitors into thinking that they are. Bidean nam Bian on the left of Glencoe (going north) has more than its share of accidents and Aonach Eagach to the right is a narrow ridge with plenty of pinnacles. I have been on both sides many times and they are wonderful but children should be kept under very close control. Further afield the Mamores above Kinlochleven form an interesting group of mountains and the Ben Nevis range is easily reached via Fort William.

The Corran Ferry just north of Ballachulish also leads to all sorts of possibilities which are covered in my Scotland 3 folder under Ardgour and Ardnamurchan. Longer trips can easily be worked out from a road map.

The Cairngorms

These high mountains - by UK standards - are as easy to reach as any (see first two routes above) and perhaps lend themselves best to extended high-level walks. Moreover if you want to cheat you can start by machinery to get you nearly up. I enjoyed my one visit to these mountains very much but would not suggest them except for a many-time visitor as they lack, for me, the distinctive character of those further west. If you have a fair bit of time, however, and want some variety in the type of mountain scenery they must be a fair bet. There is an Outdoor Leisure map of this area (No. 3).

Queen Elizabeth Forest Park

It is rather difficult to know what to call this area and The Trossacks sounds far more familiar, but only refers to a bit of it. I must admit that I have used this mainly as an alternative route up further - or rather I have been to all sorts of bits on a number of alternative routes but it is very pretty and could well be combined with Glasgow and Edinburgh for those who do not want to go too far but do want to see some good Scottish scenery. Again a map and some imagination will provide the best guide.

Google Maps

ST Google Map - Southern Scotland: Detailed Google Map by DavidX for Southern and Central Scotland

ST Google Map - Northern Scotland: Detailed Google Map by DavidX for Northern Scotland and the Islands


Websites for Central Scotland.

www.glencoe-scotland.net: Discover Glencoe and Loch Leven

www.glencoescotland.com: Glencoe Scotland, the Clachaig Guide to Scotland's most famous glen

www.scotland-calling.com/touring/grampian/cairngorms.htm: The granite domes of the Cairngorms

David Cross was born in Plymouth but is now a "happily naturalized" Yorkshireman. He has grand-children in Wales and Scotland. David is a moderator on the World Travel Experience forums - groups.yahoo.com/group/worldtravelexp/. See David's Slow Travel Member page.

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