A journey to the Highlands and back…
After being graduated and having worked on my first job for almost a year it was time for a welcome break. After some consideration I decided Scotland would be the prefect destination so flights were booked and research for an interesting itinerary began. I also bought a 12 day travel pass for unlimited travel on most public transport in Scotland’s Highlands and Islands and then I was ready to go.
On the 8th of July I travelled to Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam for my flight to Glasgow. As it was the first trip on my own it was hard not to show my excitement but things went well and I made it on time to the gate.
During the flight I was offered a lift by one of my fellow passengers to Edinburgh, an offer that was to good to refuse, and by the evening I had checked in at a youth hostel. The sun was setting over Edinburgh and I was ready to explore the city the next day.
That I spent almost completely downtown and to be honest it was the Edinburg castle that intrigued me the most. What a fantastic place it was, in spite of all the big things it was the dog’s cemetery that really caught my eye.
After a good night’s sleep I then took the train to Inverness, a journey just over 4 hours but as there were big observation windows in the train it was a joy seeing the rugged landscape pass by.
In Inverness I then took a connecting bus to Cannich and found a place for the next two nights in a youth hostel. The day after I spent the complete day hiking the remote and unspoiled area. It was almost like the air was much fresher here indeed, but than most likely it was.
Next morning was an early rise as I was told Loch Ness was at it’s most beautiful and mysterious just after sunrise. And it was… I took the bus to Drumnadrochit and from there on hiked to Urquhart Castle. Clouds were rolling from the surrounding hills into Loch Ness and when at a time shapes in the water appeared I would not have been surprised if Nessie would have made her appearance. Like usual, she remained a mystery.
I was really happy with the recommendations to leave early, once the sun got stronger, although remaining extremely beautiful, the magic was gone. Back in Drumnadrochit I took the buss to Inverness and then continued by train even further north. The landscape became even rougher and more isolate and I was eyes shorts to capture the beauty around me.
It was already dark by the time I arrived but as I had phoned earlier my place at a bed and breakfast was secured and the owners were waiting for me at the railway-station.
Next day I took a bus to Britain’s centre of fast reactor research and development. It was the first time I was that close to a nuclear plant and I can only say I was impressed.
Even more impressive was the beautiful landscape. It must have been my lucky day as the weather was stunning which made everything even look even nicer than it already was.
But it was time to move on so the next morning I took a ferry to Kirkwall, at the Orkney Islands. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and by the time I arrived in Kirkwall I even had a slight sunburn, the last thing I had expected to happen whilst in Scotland.
After debarking the friendly owner and his wife from the Bed & Breakfast I had booked brought me to their place and apologized for not making me the traditional cup of tea on arrival. There was something that they really wanted to show me but we had to leave right away. So we got in the car again and headed to the highest point of the island in order to see an absolutely stunning sunset. What a way to finish of an already perfect day.
The Orkneys had many things to offer but I was the most interested to be on something that made an appearance in the Guinness World Records… Ships were the obvious way of transport but there was also a daily scheduled flight that connected the islands. I booked a roundtrip from Kirkwall to Kirkwall and flew to several islands where passengers were dropped and picked up.
It was the flight from Westray to Papa Westray however that I really wanted to be on as with a length of two minutes only it is mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records as the shortest scheduled flight in the world.
The flights were amazing and I had a good view over the underlying islands. At one point the pilot spotted a school of seagulls on a rock so he circled around it so all of us got a good glimpse of it. Another adventurous day that had not left my memories since.
In my Bed & Breakfast I met a Japanese girl and together with her I travelled the next morning to the Ring of Brodgar, a Neolithic henge and stone circle. It is believed to be built between 2500BC and 2000BC. The ring originally comprised up to 60 stones, of which only 27 remained standing by the time I visited it. Still a very impressive sight and the oldest monument I had seen so far in my life.
Not far away was one of the most remarkable prehistoric monuments in Europe, the remainders of an ancient village at Skara Brae. Like the ring of Brodgar it originated from the late Neolithic and was inhabited for around 600 years, between 3200BC and 2200BC.
Together with my new Japanese friend we took to boat back to Thurso to set our feet back on the mainland of Scotland, from where we continued our adventure together.
In Thurso we took a train south west to Kyle of Lochalsh. It was a trip that took just over 4 hours but as there was so much to be seen we were not bored a single minute, however for one of us the tiredness kicked in….
We stayed in the area the next day and did some hikes. We met another girl and with the three of us admired the stunning nature surrounding us. There was not a lot of talking to be done as nature was simply overwhelming and all three were soaking it in.
Next day my Japanese friend and I took a ferry for the short crossing to the Isle of Sky where we spent 2 days of exploring another island that I learned to love a lot. By now the clouds had returned and somehow this seemed to be more appropriate. It was much closer to the way I had Scotland in my mind anyway.
After our ferry ride back to the mainland it was also time to say goodbye to my Japanese friend. Her time was up and she needed to return to Glasgow but I still wanted to see a little bit more of some even more remote islands so I took the train to Oban where I spent the night in another youth hostel.
Next morning I boarded a ferry and left for the Outer Hebrides. First we sailed between some of the islands before we choose open water and headed towards Lochboisdale in the south of the Outer Hebrides. It was a long crossing that took over 6 hours and by the time I arrived sun was already setting, I was happy I had already booked a B&B over the phone earlier that morning so I did not need to look for a place to stay in the darkness.
When the sun rose the morning after I realized I had really escaped from it all. This place was as remote and desolate as it could get. I said my goodbyes and took the bus up north. It took me almost a complete day to make the trip to Stornaway but there was so much to be seen. Perhaps I should say there was so little to be seen but I enjoyed the emptiness thoroughly.
In Stornaway I had booked another Bed & Breakfast and after a long journey I was looking forward to a nice and relaxing night. It was time to leave the Outer Hebrides again as also slowly my time was running out. So the next morning I said goodbye to my friendly hosts and took a ferry for the last time, this time I would be heading to Ullapool where I arrived about 4 hours later. Once again I had arranged a Bed & Breakfast and as there were some hours left in the afternoon I made another hike in the area.
My Scotland adventure was slowly getting to an end and the next morning I took the train to Inverness and another one to Glasgow. We drove through the Cairngorms National park and I was enjoying every single minute of the journey whilst I was having a last glimpse of the highlands.
My shock on arriving in Glasgow could not have been bigger, I hated the place instantly. It was crowded, loud and in my opinion dirty. Buildings were grey and people were lacking the friendliness of the people in the highlands. I could not believe it and I only wanted to do one thing and that was to get out of here as quickly as possible. Even one night in the youth hostel seemed to be too long. Fortunately a cinema nearby was showing a double program; Romancing the Stone and it’s Sequel The Jewel of the Nile. Although I had seen both movies before I bought a ticket, simply to kill time.
It might not come as a surprise that at the morning of the 23rd of July I was at the airport way ahead of time and checked in for my flight to Amsterdam, that had a short stopover in Newcastle.
By the time we took off my mind was in the highlands again. I had enjoyed my stay over there tremendously. The scenery was breathtaking and the people so friendly with a hospitality that was unknown to me before. My decision to get a 12 day travel pass had been perfect and I had made use of it extensively. I travelled Scotland by train, bus and ferry and even added some flights in the far north Orkneys. The last two weeks I saw a lot of different aspects of Scotland. Most of them I loved, and Glasgow? Perhaps I simply had not given it a chance…
Little did I know at the time that with this trip a firm foundation was built for future trips. My hunger for adventure and exploration was born and I was ready for more…