Scotland by motorcar — the only way to travel.
Is it a book? A magazine? Or is it a catalog? I asked myself these questions when a copy of “Curves Scotland: Number 8” arrived at my home recently.
“Curves” is actually a German magazine bound like a softcover book and distributed from time to time. Each issue supplies an account of a specific country or region, areas offering majestic mountain passes and white-knuckled bends, with a close-up look at local culture in such a way that it brings you there.
Indeed, the phrase “soulful driving” is the magazine’s theme, detailing each five-day excursion, inviting the reader to retrace the journey. And if you manage to forget the many twists and turns described, a pullout map of the area with the route highlighted in red ensures you’ll always stay on course.
Founded by designer Stefan Bogner in 2009, each issue overflows with stunning photographs — some taken roadside, while certain others are helicopter captured. Drones are also deployed to acquire images that are otherwise too difficult, even dangerous, for a man or human-piloted machinery to take.
Curves Installment No. 8: Scotland
The eighth issue is all about Scotland, the seventh time featuring a European destination. Sicily, the Pyrenees, and Northern Italy were among the previous places covered. The sixth issue featured California, the first and only time the Curves crew embarked on a new world adventure.
For the Scotland voyage, the team drove a Porsche Panamera 4E Hybrid, but the car was definitely *not* the focal point of the story. Only a few carefully placed ads, a smattering of photos, and the briefest mention in the addendum confirmed the chosen vehicle.
Automotive enthusiasts may find it disappointing that the storyline supplies very little information about driving dynamics. Instead, you’re provided with details of everything you should take in along the way. After all, there is a clear assumption you’d choose the right vehicle for the roads less traveled.
Scotland is the northernmost region or country within the United Kingdom. Glasgow and Edinburgh are her major cities, with Aberdeen, Dundee, and Inverness also of note. But much of the country is mountain wilderness, peppered with glacial glens and lakes.
There are nearly 800 islands too, and Scotland’s history is typically traced to the years immediately following Christ, when the Romans battled local Caledonians, among the earliest Celtic tribes in Britain.
Scotland in Five Days
Day No. 1 – Glasgow to Isle of Skye
What is the best way to start your Scottish journey? In one of the country’s largest cities, of course. Glasgow, home to more than 1 in 10 Scots, is where the Curves crew began their five-day journey, a city of 600,000 people situated on the River Clyde.
The first day was also the crew’s longest, a 407-mile meandrous journey to the Isle of Skye. Just off of A819, the ruins of Kilchurn Castle a 15th-century one-time stronghold of Clan Campbell, are awaiting your visit.
Large expanses of wilderness, the Glencoe Mountains, and a stretch of the A82 popularized in the 2012 James Bond “Skyfall” movie are among the most noteworthy places along the way. Hairpin turns, anyone?
Day No. 2 – Isle of Skye
The Curves crew spent a full day on the Isle of Skye, a 639-square mile island off the northwestern coast of Scotland. It is the largest of the Inner Hebrides and home to about 10,000 people. The name doesn’t mean what you think as “Skye” is Gaelic for fog. Let’s just say Sky Island sounds far more romantic than Fog Island.
You may reach the isle in one of two ways: 1) by taking a 30-minute car ferry from Maillag to Armadale or 2), by heading north to Kyle of Lochalsh and cross the Skye Bridge, opened in 1995. The team took the ferry on the way to the isle and exited over the bridge to return to the mainland.
The 136-mile Skye loop is a four-hour twisting expedition, but that’s ambitious considering the amount of livestock and slow-moving traffic you’re likely to encounter. But if water views, castles, and brochs (towers) interest you, then bypassing Skye would be a tragedy almost on the order of Macbeth.
Day No. 3 – Isle of Skye to Ullapool
I’ve decided that if I ever make a trip to Scotland, the Isle of Skye will be my top destination after leaving Edinburgh or Glasgow, of course. But there is much more to the land of the Scots and the 174-mile leg from the isle to Ullapool should definitely strike your fancy.
Along the way is the Eilean Donan Castle, built in the 13th century, destroyed by the Royal Navy in 1719, and reconstructed early in the 20th century.
Wonderful architecture and beautiful scenery aside, drivers should take note of the Bealach na Bà — Pass of the Cattle — a historic passageway on the Applecross Peninsula. Known for its very tight hairpin turns with gradients approaching 20 percent, the road is entirely unsuitable for novice drivers.
And that’s reason enough for enthusiasts to take this serpentine road on the way to Ullapool.
Day No. 4 – Ullapool to Inverness
Founded in 1788, Ullapool is and was a herring port. Our intrepid travelers began their fourth day leaving Ullapool for Inverness, a 193-mile trek that took them about as far north as you can go on the Scottish mainland before winding their way south toward Inverness.
Throughout their journey, the Curves crew sampled the local fare, while gradually switching from coffee to Scottish tea along the way.
One such meal included haggis — a delicacy comprised of sheep’s heart, liver, lungs, and stomach — typically served with neeps and tatties. Black pudding, beans, and doughy white bread were among the more palatable items sampled.
Day No. 5 – Inverness to Edinburgh
The fifth and final leg of this Scottish adventure began in Inverness and ended in Edinburgh. With 372 miles ahead of them, the Curves crew headed out at dawn, but instead of heading to the Scottish capital, they traveled immediately to a nearby airport for a helicopter ride.
Many of the photos shown in the book come from that ride, supplying readers with a vantage point that would have otherwise been impossible to provide.
Nearly halfway between the two cities and tucked within Cairngorms National Park is Balmoral Castle, the Scottish residency and summer home of the royal family. Consider this stop a must in your effort to apprehend the grandeur of Great Britain. Even when the royal family is not present, the castle is always prepared in the event the royals pay an unexpected visit.
If you have ever considered visiting Scotland, Curves certainly provides a tantalizing primer of the country. Its otherworldly-in-places beauty, lost-in-time villages, and historic castles offer a fitting alternative to the big city life of an Edinburgh or a Glasgow. You’ll also gain a greater appreciation of Scotland’s impact on not just Great Britain, but on Northern Europe, indeed the world.
Disappointment will invade the soul of every reader expecting a detailed drive synopsis of the country. With that knowledge, it isn’t too difficult to find the top 10 scenic roads in Scotland as many travel writers eagerly share their opinion of them.
That said, no part of Scotland is more than 50 miles from the coast, making it possible to enjoy all types of topography in just one day. With much to see, take your time as there is very little along the way you’d dare overlook.
Photos copyright Curves Magazin. All rights reserved.