I have just returned from my very first coach holiday with Lochs and Glens in Fort William, Scotland which was surprisingly really good fun! I was hesitant at first because it's a tour company mainly aimed at the older generation and as I was going with my Granny I thought I wouldn't get any time to myself or enjoy any of it, but I couldn't have been more wrong.
The Highland Hotel is a grand Victorian hotel with open fires and wooden panellling, situated beside Loch Linnhe with views to the distant Stuart Hills and in close proximity to Ben Nevis.
It is a place to reflect on the beauty of the surrounding Scottish landscape and offers easy access to the tourist town of Fort William.
Lochs and Glens
Lochs and Glens are a holiday company which has been in operation for over 40 years. It is a family run business which own both the coaches we travelled on as well as all of the hotels within the Lochs and Glens brand.
The best part about travelling with Lochs and Glens in this way is that they can personalise each tour to the passengers they have on board as well as offer great value for money on each holiday booked.
This also allows the staff (drivers, hotel staff, etc) to give each guest that personal touch when arriving on holiday.
They have been perfecting their coach holidays for decades and tailor make each itinerary to explore all sorts of attractions.
The company itself was founded in 1979 with one hotel in Arrochar but by 1990 their portfolio included 4 hotels and many of their own coaches.
By 1999 the Loch Tummel Hotel was purpose built by Lochs and Glens, followed by the purchase of the Highland Hotel (where we stayed) in 2008 which was subsequently stripped down and renovated.
After 8 years of planning and negotiation the Ardgartan Hotel finally opened its doors in 2012, just a few miles from Arrochar where the company began so many years before.
For the past 40 years, they have continued to expand, refurbish and renovate the properites, whilst modernising their coaches and developing a broader range of exciting itineraries.
Itinerary - Highland Hotel Autumn Break 5 Days.
Day 1 - Travel Harrogate to Fort William (Friday)
Day 2 - Cruise Loch Ness (Saturday)
Day 3 - Mallaig (Sunday)
Day 4 - Glencoe, Rannoch Moor and Oban (Monday)
Day 5 - Travel Fort William to Harrogate (Tuesday)
The Highland Hotel
The situation of the Highland Hotel is just absolutely stunning. You can sit anywhere within the hotel and look out over the gorgeous Loch Linnhe which looks just as beautiful in the sunshine as it does during a dreich day.
It's located on a hill so you get a fantastic view all the way around and when you're coming back in the coach on an afternoon it looks spectacular.
Inside the hotel has been thoughtfully renovated in keeping with its history. The wooden floors and oak panelling hark back to its past and blend perfectly with its surroundings. It looks regal perched atop of the hill looking out over Loch Linnhe.
The rooms themselves are basic but adequate enough for what you need them for. My room had a double bed, desk, tea/coffee facilities, en-suite bathroom, flat-screen TV and a small window which overlooked the top of the kitchen and part of the loch.
The bed was comfortable but I personally found the pillows too thin and needed to sleep with at least two, when at home (with my new ones!) I only need the one! But I found I was comfy sitting up in bed when I wanted to watch TV. This is always one perk I love when staying in hotels, being able to watch TV in bed as at home I don't have one in my room!
The whole hotel is just beautiful and allows for quiet contemplation from almost every angle. From the dining rooms to the bar area, there are views for days which constantly change from one moment to the next, as is the nature of Scottish weather!
Day 2 - Cruise Loch Ness
After an early start (breakfast at 7:30AM!) it was on board the bus to head towards Inverness and Loch Ness to search for that ever so infamous monster! We had a boat to catch so couldn't be late but once there we realised it was definitely worth it as we pretty much had the whole boat to ourselves.
The cruise itself was blissful, the water was calm which allowed our boat to sail quietly along the foreshore, all the while keeping an eye out for mountain goats. Unfortunately I didn't see any - neither did anyone else on the boat so who knows if they were actually there!
The rain held off for our cruise and walk back to the bus where we set off for the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition and lunch at the Drumnadrochit hotel. The exhibition itself told the story of Nessy, the history surrounding this myth as well as tales from people who claim to have seen her over the years!
On the way back to the hotel we stopped at the Commando Memorial which is dedicated to the memory of all Commandos who gave their lives in the service of this country during the 1939-1945 War. Comrades who have died since the cessation of hostilities are also remembered here.
We then stopped by Neptune's Staircase is a staircase lock system comprising of eight locks in total and take an hour and a half to go through.
It was built by Thomas Telford between 1803-1822 and is Britain's longest staircase lock system.
We then headed back to the hotel to rest before dinner later that night.
Day 3 - Mallaig
The next morning after a more reasonable start we headed out to visit Mallaig, stopping off first at the Glenfinnen Monument which stands a reminder to those who fought in the Jacobite Risings.
There also just happens to be a very famous viaduct there which has been used for many film and TV series previously. If you're a Harry Potter fan you may recognise it from that famous scene with the flying Ford Anglia!
Mallaig is a beautiful fishing town located in Lochaber on the west coast of Scotland. We visited on a Sunday so it was fairly quiet and most of the shops were closed, so there wasn't much to see but it still made for a good morning out and photo opportunities.
It felt a bit like going back in time, to a town in which fishing was still the mainstay of many of people still living there. I even saw a fisherman fixing his nets, just next to where I took this photo. I guess still goes on no matter the weather of day of the week!
I wandered around taking photos, looked in the one shop which was open and then headed to the pub for a much needed drink!
On the way home we crossed over on the Corran ferry to save some much needed time going all the way around like we'd done in the morning!
It was only 5 minutes or so but it was fun to experience something which to the locals was just a way to get from one side of the loch to the other.
Another fantastic day out on board the Lochs and Glens coach.
Day 4 - Glencoe, Rannoch Moor and Oban.
Our last full day saw us travelling over Rannoch Moor towards Glencoe and then on to Oban. It was a bit of a miserable morning with the rain again but that didn't put us off, after all we're hardy Northerners a bit of rain doesn't stop us!
Our first stop was to see a mountain range called the three sisters - Faith, Hope and Charity. Just a quick stop as it was raining but enough for me to get a photo and see it in all its majestic glory.
The run over Rannoch Moor was just beautiful, again. Everywhere we've been on this holiday, the scenery was just out of this world stunning; like I knew Scotland was beautiful but the west coast especially was just incredible. The lochs especially were just some of the best I have ever seen.
Rannoch Moor is an expanse of around 50 square miles of boggy moorland to the west of Loch Rannoch in Scotland, where it extends from and into westerly Perth and Kinross, northerly Loachaber and the area of highland Scotland towards its South West, Northern Argyll and Bute.
It was designated as a world heritage site in 1976.
Glen Coe is a glen of volcanic origins in the Highlands of Scotland which lies in the North of the county of Argyll, close to the border with the historic province of Lochaber; within the modern council area of Highland. The scenic beauty of the glen has led to its inclusion in the Ben Nevis and Glen Coe National Scenic Area - one of 40 such areas in Scotland.
Kingshouse Hotel, Glen Coe
En route to Oban, we stopped off for a coffee and loo stop at the beautiful Kingshouse Hotel. Recently refurbished, the hotel now stands proudly next to the River Etive and offers up spectacular 180 degree views across Glen Coe.
The inside had been decorated tastefully and would make the perfect location for a Hogmany celebration with a group of friends.
I absolutely loved it here and couldn't help but take photos of the interiors. Can you imagine dining by the windows and seeing a red deer appear by the river for a drink? Just incredible.
Loch Awe Hotel
After our stop at Kingshouse Hotel, we made our way towards the Loch Awe Hotel for lunch. This is another of the Lochs and Glens hotels and the view was just stunning. Again I couldn't help but take photos here and I would love to visit on another Lochs and Glens holiday.
Finally we arrived in Oban, we had two hours here so plenty of time for lunch, a wander around and perhaps a sample or two of the local whisky! Again we had some liquid sunshine here but having got used to that this week we strode on and made the best of it.
I firstly wandered around and tried to find somewhere for lunch which wasn't seafood related, (Oban is known for it's seafood! Being a port I'd be disappointed if it wasn't!).
I eventually found a lovely little cafe called The Potting Shed which catered to my vegan requirements wonderfully and I was able to enjoy a fishless fish finger sandwich very happily!
Oban is a lovely little resort town within the Argyll and Bute area of Scotland, despite its small size, it's the largest town between Helensburgh and Fort William. During the tourist season the town can play host to up to 25,000 people.
It was certainly busy whilst we were there and whilst I didn't have time to tour around the Distillery, a wander around the harbour edge certainly provided a good sense of what this small town was about.
I can only imagine what it's like on a sunny afternoon, with the bars and harbour boats full of tourists. I for one would certainly love to visit again with better weather.Day 5 was a ridiculously early start for the journey home so no photos here! Just a long coach journey back to Harrogate!
Well that wraps up my first post all about my first Lochs and Glens holiday and I have to say I was surprised by how much I actually enjoyed it. Being able to see some of the most breathtaking scenery from on board a coach was bliss, especially when it there was lots of liquid sunshine pouring from the sky!
Yes the coach was full of older people and yes the breakfast/dinner services were like a military operation but that all made for smooth sailing. The food was well cooked and tasty, the drinks served at the bar were very reasonably priced and the views were just exceptional.
I've never been to the West coast of Scotland before but after this brief tour I am inspired to explore more of it as it's just all incredible. I've always known the North is the place to be for awe inspiring scenery, but I guess I just never knew how awe inspiring it actually was.
I suppose the ultimate question is, would I book another Lochs and Glens holiday? And you might be surprised to hear my answer, because as well as writing this review I have actually been looking at holidays for 2020! I really want to go to another hotel and experience yet more stunning scenery.
Thanks for reading this post, if you've been inspired to book a Lochs and Glens holiday for yourself, head to their website and start searching!