Beauty and the beast
It's not the size that counts it's what you do with it, I keep telling everyone when they ask what's under the bonnet. Of course I'm lying, given the choice I bet most people would feel the same. They'd choose big over small, more instead of less. Personally I'd prefer a bigger salary each month, a car with a bigger engine, bigger holiday with my family, a bigger house with a bigger garden, and of course bigger biceps, well who wouldn't.
If you're identifying with what I'm saying then the A82 will be right up your street. It's the second longest primary A-road in Scotland and if you join it on its 140 mile journey from Loch Lomond to Loch Ness you'll finish in the knowledge that you've had maximum bang for your buck. Your route starts next to the biggest loch/lake in Great Britain, Loch Lomond, the 1st of 10 on this route. The loch hosts the largest fresh water island in the British Isles, Inchmurrin. The A82 also takes in Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles and if that doesn't impress you enough you might get lucky enough to see the biggest fish in the world too.
For the first 20 miles you'll be accompanied by Loch Lomond, and a very pleasant start it is too. After about 15 miles the road starts to liven up and gets a little snug so you'll have to play nicely with the lorries, coaches and plethora of shed draggers. On a quiet day this claustrophobic section would be rather fun with its many sweeping bends and tight turns but with parts only really big enough for one lane caution is required. Statistics will tell that the Tarbet to Tyndrum stretch is one of the most dangerous roads in Scotland, but that's likely to be due to holiday drivers getting caught out in their unfamiliar hire cars.
Once you wave goodbye to Tyndrum with your wing mirrors intact the road opens up nicely and the vastness gives an overwhelming sense of freedom. Even slower traffic won't be a problem with many opportunities to leave them to eat your dust as you kick your heels into the highlands. As you approach Altnafeadh you find yourself flying over a jagged landscape that's almost lunar in its appearance. This continues for quite a few miles during which the road doesn't ask too much from the driver, probably a good thing as you'll be constantly gawping at the view.
As you continue the mountains slowly envelope you and the long, largely straight road now has to negotiate its way through the phenomenal mountain terrain. Corners start to become more frequent, tighter and occasionally cling to the edge of what ever it can. The road wakes up nicely and you'll feel the urge to flick the car into the corners but enjoy it while you can because sooner than you'd like the kinks iron themselves out again. It was at this point being flanked by mountains that it struck me how humbling this road is. I'd not normally suggest getting out of your car as it goes against what this is all about but just once, I'd recommend stopping and having a little stroll around, just to appreciate how colossal these mountains are.
As you drive on, the mountain activity seems to subside and soon enough water dominates the route again. On your way to the finale of this amazing road you'll pass Ben Nevis, zig zag across picturesque bridges and skip from loch to loch. Soon enough you're hugging the waters edge and weaving across the improved road surface as the legendary Loch Ness makes its entrance under the watchful gaze of a few more mountains. As you near the end of this drive in your climate controlled cocoon you feel so at one with your surroundings that you can't imagine this prehistoric wilderness without the spin of tarmac running through it. It's a massive road with a list as long as your arm why you should drive it so when you park on the edge of Lock Ness and contemplate the 140 miles that's just flashed in front of your eyes there'll be no doubt that you'll feel you've had an absurd level of value for money.
If size matters then this big Mac will satisfy any appetite. I cannot describe how insignificant you feel as you drive through the prehistoric terrain so you'll just have to experience it for yourself. Variable road conditions and motor homes a plenty do not dampen this phenomenal road. Forget about Nessie, the real beast is the A82 and she certainly isn't camera shy.
At a glance
Things you'll love
Mile after mile of breath taking views the likes for many not to be seen again. The relentless fun of this magnificent road.
Look out for
The very narrow bends of Tarbet to Tyndrum.
In and around Loch Lomond to Loch Ness
Ben Nevis Distillery
Ben Nevis Distillery established in 1825, is one of the oldest licensed distilleries in Scotland. The distillery is nestled at the foot of Britain's highest mountain, Ben Nevis, which has a summit elevation of 4'406 feet above sea level. This imposing mountain provides an impressive background to a traditional Scottish craft.
Glen Ord Distillery
Glen Ord Distillery sits on the edge of the Black Isle in the Highlands west of Inverness. Watch the distillers at work creating a magicial malt whisky which is sweet, malty and dry on the palate.
One of the highest in Scotland, sitting at 1028 feet above sea level, deep in the heart of the Monadhliath Mountains, it is still one of the most accessible by road, just 16 miles north of Aviemore and 16 miles south of Inverness on the A9 route from Perth to Thurso.
Loch Lomond Golf Club
Although a members only golf club other facilities are available for day visitors.
Ben is the highest mountain in the British Isles. It is located at the western end of the Grampian Mountains in the Lochaber area of the Scottish Highlands, close to the town of Fort William.
The castle sits beside Loch Ness in Scotland along the A82 road, between Fort William and Inverness. It is close to the village of Drumnadrochit. Though extensively ruined, it was in its day one of the largest strongholds of medieval Scotland, and remains an impressive structure, splendidly situated on a headland overlooking Loch Ness. It is also near this castle that the majority of Nessie (Loch Ness Monster) sightings occur.
Invergarry is a village at the foot of Glengarry, on the main Fort William - Inverness road through the Great Glen. Loch Oich, Loch Garry and the Glengarry Forest are among the natural attractions of the area, and the ruined 17th century Invergarry Castle is on the shire of Loch Oich.
Fort Augustus is a small village at the southern end of Loch Ness on the Caledonian Canal. The Caledonian Canal, connecting Corpach near Fort William with Clachnaharry in Inverness, was completed in 1822. It is over 60 miles long, but more than two thirds of its length consists of three connected lochs - Loch Ness, Loch Oich and Loch Lochy. The canal, built principally by Thomas Telford, comprises 29 locks in total. The waterway can be regarded as one of Scotland's greatest engineering feats and remains a popular route with leisure craft of all kinds. At Fort Augustus you can enjoy a visit to the Caledonian Canal Heritage Centre which details the history of the canal. Other than watching boats navigate all the locks, a further attraction is the Clansmen Centre, where appropriately attired guides demonstrate 17th century clan weaponry.
Driving in Britain
The UK is the only country in Europe to measure their speed in Miles Per Hour, not Kilometers. Along with Malta and Cyprus they are the only country in Europe to drive on the left hand side. The UK speed limits range from as low as 20mph in built-up city areas up to 70mph on the motorway. It's understood that Police will allow you to drive 10% over the speed limit but it's the speed cameras you need to look out for. They are scattered everywhere and will take a picture of your car / plate while speeding. If you're driving a hire car when caught by a speed camera you'll probably be tracked down through your rental agency and issued with your ticket! Speed cameras are always accompanied by warning signs so look out for them while enjoying your drive.
The law states that it is illegal to ride a motorbike or drive a car while you are using a hand held communication device. Hands free phones may be used, but they are ultimately a distraction and you are still open to a charge of careless driving should a police officer think you are driving poorly while using one.
Things you might want to have with you
Driving licence (if from UK both card and paper licence)
Vehicle registration form
Headlight beam deflectors
First aid kit
High visibilty jacket
For more information on driving in Europe visit the European Traffic Police Network website www.tispol.org