Having driven the Skye Bridge on our way into Skye, we decided that it was only right to give the ferry a try on the way out. Not that we wanted to go. If not for the unshakable reality of hotel deposits, nonrefundable airfare, and real life–you know, jobs, kids, whatever–awaiting us, we may very well have dug in our heels and refused to leave. Alas, a longer stay was not in the cards, so we loaded up the car, said our goodbyes, and headed down to the Armadale Ferry Terminal.
Taking the Ferry from Armadale to Mallaig
When we arrived at the ferry terminal, we dropped off the car, checked in, got a coffee, and then wandered through the small shops. If you are not in the mood to spend your last few minutes on Skye indoors, you can sit outside and enjoy the views.
When it was time to board, we drove onto the ferry and then headed up to the top deck where we could take in the fresh sea air. While I enjoyed the views throughout the entire crossing, I especially loved the layers of green hills coming into view as we neared Mallaig.
The drive from Mallaig to Glenfinnan was absolutely beautiful (I know, big surprise in Scotland, right?). Dramatic rock formations dotted the coastline near Mallaig, and as we began to head inland, the landscape became decidedly camp-like with green, rocky hills and patches of forest all around. Sadly, I have no pictures from this scenic drive, as there were not many places to pull off on the road. Next time, right?
The Glenfinnan House Hotel
We were staying the night at the Glenfinnan House, a beautiful loch-front hotel, serenely tucked away in the small hamlet of Glenfinnan. Interestingly, Glenfinnan was not even on our radar until well after we had finished planning our itinerary. My friend came across this FB video clip of a stag eating from the hotel’s bird feeder, and we were instantly sucked in. Charmed by the idea of staying where the stags take their afternoon snacks, we immediately found the Glenfinnan House online, checked availability, made reservations, cancelled our previous booking, and rerouted the last leg of our trip. Was it worth the upheaval? Absolutely!
After checking in, we had a late lunch at the bar (which was delicious, by the way) and then headed out to catch the 3:00 viewing of the Hogwarts Express. Okay fine, not actually the Hogwarts Express but the Jacobite Steam Train, which speeds along the Glenfinnan Viaduct twice daily on its way from Fort William to Mallaig.
Once the train passed, we headed back to the Glenfinnan House for an afternoon treat of scones and shortbread. And the scones were delightful–maybe the best we had in Scotland–served with jam and clotted cream, and easily polished off in about 60 seconds.
Back when we booked our stay at the Glenfinnan House, we had decided to make dinner reservations at the hotel rather than finding a nearby restaurant or pub. Our decision paid off with excellent service and an indulgently delicious meal. Plus, at this point in the trip, we were ready to stay put and relax after our busy traveling schedule. I am sure you can stop in for dinner without booking a room, but I would advise staying the night, as you will be too full to go much further than the guest rooms upstairs.
After dinner, we went upstairs to rest up for the next day’s long drive back toward Edinburgh. As I went to the window to close the curtains, I saw some local residents enjoying a stroll on the front lawn.
Good night, stags!
Tips and Lessons Learned:
- The Cal Mac Ferry is an excellent way to travel to and from Skye. The ferry runs between Armadale and Mallaig several times a day in the summer, and the ride is just 45 minutes. Booking online is easy, and tickets are inexpensive (even when traveling with a vehicle).
- If you are bringing a car onto the ferry, you will have to arrive at the terminal about 20 minutes prior to departure. Checking your car in is as easy as driving into the designated lane and giving your name to the attendant, and there are a few shops to keep you occupied while you wait.
- Be flexible with your vacation planning. I was initially hesitant to change some plans and bookings to stay at the Glenfinnan House, but it was absolutely worth it, as this ended up being one of our favorite places.
- Whether or not you are a Harry Potter fan, the Jacobite Steam Train is worth watching as it crosses the Glenfinnan Viaduct. If you’re more of a doer than a watcher, you can even catch a ride on the steam train, which travels from Fort William to Mallaig twice a day during the summers. You can find more information on the West Coast Railways site.
A Morning Walk Around Loch Shiel