If you’ve felt envy watching the stars of car commercials zip along remote roads through seemingly endless scenic space, then head to Scotland, which has the perfect highway for you. The A82, which winds from Glasgow to Inverness, is like a strip of postcards filled with wildlife, quirky diners, trailheads, and panoramas so fetching, they make even the most stoic Highlander stop and stare.
The first stop on the trip from Glasgow, a gothic city of mumbled obscenities and indie rock, lies 25 miles from the necropolis overlooking the city center. Loch Lomand and The Trossach’s National Park, a series of gracefull hills and dells, is so full of wildlife that drivers warn off skeins of pink-footed geese, Red Deer stags, and Highland Cattle – a local breed that calls to mind an emo yak – with their 100mms. Pistolry isn’t advisable, but sometimes feels almost necessary given the density of animal life. The better course is to climb out and take The Bird of Prey Trail, above which Golden Eagles swoop and dive in intimidating fashion.
Next, gear-shift through the thick Caledonian forests north of Crianlarich. At Glen Orchy, an 11-mile detour sends drivers looking to play Little Red Riding Hood under a canopy of knobbly willow trees that lends the landscape a primordial air. Further down the road is the desolation of Glencoe, a perminent reminder that winter is always coming, and the lunar peak of Buachaille Etive Mòr, the best photo stop on the highway. Emerging from the pin-drop serenity comes the sound of piping, the music of locals biding their time waiting for buses.
The sight of the dangling ski chairs at Fort William signal your arrival at snow-dusted Ben Nevis, the United Kingdom’s highest peak. The summit can be round-tripped in about five hours, but clever hikers leave a bit of extra time to grab an Aberdeen Angus at the Invergarry Hotel on the way down.
From Scotland’s roof, the A82 dives down toward Loch Ness, where misty shores team with tug boats ferrying eager tourists out into the lake on Nessie tracking trips. Sonar equipment bleeps and bloops and Japanese instagrammers snap away, but no one ever seems to spy the monster. Still, the lake is as dignified as a lake can be, and the road around it assuages the disappointment myth wrings from reality.
More information: Nestled in the highlands of Crianlarich, the eco-sensitive environs of Ewich House ($55 per person B&B) makes a great Highland haven for drivers headed north, offering a slap up, free-range breakfast.