No Car, No Problem
Walking back to Smiddy Cottage from the local inn
Scotland has in the last few years become a hot destination for motorists with driving holidays being a massive attraction. For many people though, a holiday or short break is not about the driving. For some it’s an environmental choice to drive less, for others it is about relaxing and enjoying a slow pace of life for a few days, while others look forward to the opportunity to be able to have a few glasses of wine with Sunday lunch without having to worry about driving home after. Whatever your reasons for wanting a quiet weekend away here are a number of ideas for conveniently arriving by train, boat or plane that won’t involve breaking the bank.
Mullach Ruadh sits on the famous Road to the Isles but it’s also only a few hundred metres from Glenfinnan train station. Arriving across the stunning viaduct on board what is known as the Hogwarts Express due to its links with Harry Potter is truly a spectacular way to begin a holiday. Everything to see in the village, the monument, boat trips, café and hotel are walking distance away and for those wanting longer or more challenging walks there are loads of options. The village is small enough that you can get the feeling of being right in the middle of the countryside after only a few minutes on foot in any direction. Early evening is when Glenfinnan and Mullach Ruadh is at its best, the day trippers have returned home and as the sun sets you can relax in the garden sun room and revel in its serenity.
St Andrews is a bustling university town so has great public transport links with the rest of Scotland. It’s a perfect destination for a car free weekend with everything to see concentrated into a relatively small area. Over a weekend you could play a round of golf at the Old Course, mimic the infamous opening scene of Chariots of Fire on the beach, tour a distillery, go surfing, walk on the fife coastal path, visit the cathedral and sample some of the finest chocolate shops and fine dining in the country without needing at car at all. Balfour House is just the place to come back to after a day on your feet. It is a contemporary apartment in a traditional Georgian building with magnificent views over the estuary and towards the sea. It’s convenient for everything in the town and is luxurious, bright and well appointed.
The competition between Flybe and Loganair over flights to the Outer Hebrides has resulted in more flights than ever and some incredibly attractive fares. With regular flights to Stornoway from Inverness and Glasgow and from June direct from Manchester you can get to the islands quicker than ever and maximise your holiday time. For a festival like Hebcelt or something more traditional like the Mod you don’t really need a car to get round the town. In fact with such a thriving arts scene there is something musical happening in the town nearly every weekend during the summer. Peninsula Cottage is just outside the town, a short taxi ride or quick cycle will have you home in no time. Hire bikes are available from a number of locations enabling you to explore some of the local beaches and quiet roads before returning for a sundowner in the hot tub.
Oban is well served by trains with regular services to the main Scottish cities and beyond. It is also the main base for Calmac ferries to the islands with the main departures timed to coincide with the trains. The walk from rail platform to ferry gangway is less than a minute so couldn’t be more efficient. The sailing to Lochboisdale on South Uist is relaxing and comfortable and because you don’t need to worry about booking a car on board it’s a trip you can do spontaneously. Once you arrive it’s a short distance to Smiddy Cottage, a 5 star luxury thatched cottage that has been built in the traditional Hebridean style. The most popular walk from here is across a white sandy beach to get to the Polochar Inn where local seafood is a speciality. Askernish Golf Club is just up the coast if you fancy a round or you could take in some of the many hill walks in the area for a longer day out. If you are taking a bike with you there is no charge for them on the ferry although you may need to reserve a place for them on the train to Oban.