It was the day after our wedding in Gretna! We’d wild-camped overnight in the Moffat Hills then headed up the motorway, past the sprawling mass of Glasgow, before starting this leg of our Scottish Road Trip – the A82 to Glencoe.
We hope it captures the majesty of the drive and inspires you to make this journey yourself if you’ve not already done so.
Let’s get going…
The A82 to the Scottish Highlands
On the first morning of our married life, we left Grey Mare’s Tail (shown in the picture above) on the A708 in the Southern Uplands, and made our way down through Moffat before heading north along the M74.
Although preferring to avoid motorways wherever possible, this was a lot quieter than what we’d been used to in England.
Once past Glasgow we decided to head west of Loch Lomond, following the water’s edge for several miles along the A82.
Road Trip Tip: Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park get busy in the summer and in order to stay overnight here you now need a parking permit. It’s one of the reasons we chose to give it a miss this time.
We only found out about the parking situation in Martin Dorey’s excellent book ‘Take the Slow Road’, essential reading if you’re travelling this way.
We eventually stopped for a break at the Falls of Falloch, which are well worth a look. (Zoom in on the map below to follow the route and places of interest).
The mountains are calling!
Continuing north, the A82 snakes its way through the valleys, sometimes right by the water’s edge, the scenery becoming more impressive as the miles pass.
By the time you reach Loch Tulla you get a sense that you’re just about to enter the mountains proper. We stopped for lunch at the view-point, as did many other motorhomers, despite the signs saying ‘No motorhomes between 7am and 7pm‘.
It would make a great spot for overnight parking, but this was only midday, and we were hungry for the real mountains now!
A few miles on and we entered another world…
The Sirens of the Highlands
By now the clouds had gathered and the first few drops of rain had started falling. We knew the mountains were close.
We drove on for several more miles through low-lying ground across Rannoch Moor. The water comes right up close to the road in places, as if we were being enticed by Nature herself, a Siren’s song creeping down from the Highlands like swirling mist, hypnotizing us, drawing us right in.
The mountains of Glencoe loomed large on the horizon. Big, green, rugged mountains that have the power, like the Sirens, to lure you ever closer.
A note of caution though: be mindful here because there are one or two narrow bridges along the A82 and tourist buses round these parts stop for no-one! For example, it was a tight squeeze going over Etive Bridge with a bus coming in the opposite direction…
Don’t let the majesty of the surroundings take your eyes off the road! It gets busier the closer you get to Glencoe.
Indeed, it wasn’t much further until we saw tourists – like us – with their cameras and selfie sticks standing at viewpoints, or hikers getting ready to traipse along one of the many mountain paths in the area.
It seems that there is something in our DNA that needs to get higher, to rise up, to see things from a new vista, to marvel in awe at Nature’s creation. This is the lure of the mountains. They call us back home.
And ‘mountains calling us home’ shouldn’t really make sense to us Hobos. Being from the lowlands of Suffolk, mountains should feel like alien territory. But they don’t.
Respecting the mountains’ home
If you get a chance, pull over and soak it all in. There are plenty of places to do so and even camp in your van overnight. Remember, the laws in Scotland on wild camping seem much more tolerant than anywhere else in the UK.
You see, before you know it, you’re right through the main section of high peaks in Glencoe and out the other side, so it pays to park up and wander for a bit or just enjoy the scenery.
Indeed, many people do go hiking from one of the many car parks along the route. But of course, you need the right gear if you’re entering serious mountain territory.
We saw a family in Wales trying to go up Pen Y Fan wearing flipflops, pushing a kid’s buggy. Needless to say, they returned, defeated by the incline and terrain after just ten minutes. Mountains need to be taken seriously!
We love what this guy is doing…
‘Steaming Boots’ produces the best videos we’ve seen of the Scottish Mountains and we recommend you subscribe to his YouTube channel now! He puts up many videos of his wild camps in Glencoe.
Have a look at this one…
From motorhome to Chieftain tank
After driving a little further we stumbled upon a campsite next to the Glencoe Visitor Centre and our road trip for the day was done. It was raining gently, quite the norm for these parts.
Indeed, the late, great Alfred Wainwright reported that it rained every time he visited Glencoe. And it has to really…
There is a heavy, mournful air about the place, steeped as it is in historical massacre.
Whatever the weather, it had been an amazing journey, so good in fact that we decided to go back the next morning and drive through the high peaks again. And this time the sun was shining. Even better!
But it was at this point that Cree, our van, blew a hole in her exhaust and we sounded like a Chieftain tank echoing through the glen!
Trudi mentioned something about a quick exhaust repair kit, but Gav didn’t want to get drawn back into normal life, fixing things at garages or going into Motorspares and the like. We wanted our honeymoon to last forever.
So, Cree filled the mountains with sound. They, in return, filled our hearts with soul.
Thank you, Glencoe! To the mountains and the men who laid the A82, we shall return.
Check out part 2 of our Scotland road trip
We hope you’ve enjoyed this road trip story and feel inspired to drive the A82 yourself. It’s certainly one of the best we’ve done.
Check out where we went next in Part 2 of our Scotland Road Trip – From Ben Nevis to the Isle of Skye.
We bought a couple of excellent books whilst on our travels through Scotland that you might also be interested in…
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