For a year now I’ve managed to survive and thrive in London. That in of itself has been a fun adventure of ups and downs! But I have finally nailed down a permanent job and a nice room in the city to call my own. With things settling down I can now turn my attention back to exploring the world, only now from the convenience of my new home!
I just got back from a 5 day break in wonderful Scotland. I can really call it a break from the city life; I feel rejuvenated, renewed, and I have that lovely post-holiday feel where you feel disjointed returning to familiar surroundings because you’re not quite the same person as you were when you left.
My destination was the famed Scottish Highlands. Its been on my ‘bucket list’ of places to see for a long time. I’d seen those amazing photos of those wild, harsh, untamed rolling mountains for years, and longed to tread those ancient paths, feel the wind on my face, and gaze upon those lonesome horizons with my own eyes.
Quite honestly, after a year of surviving the teeming metropolis of London city the thought of being somewhere were everyone else was not was immensely appealing!
The entire trip was planned and booked only a few days before we left, but it wasn’t difficult. My travelling companion and I randomly chose a cosy looking cottage in what we thought was the general vicinity of the Highlands through Airbnb. Flights to Edinburgh were approximately £50, and we put down approximately £80 for a 5 day hire of a nice little compact go-getter. Sorted!
After we landed we drove through the lush green landscapes to the little village of Pitlochry; a little over an hour from Edinburgh and situated at the bottom of the Cairngorms National Park – the largest national park in the UK, and apparently a mecca for highland wildlife. It was also driving distance to Fort Williams where the mighty Ben Nevis resides, the tallest peak in the British Isles. Ben Nevis is extremely popular with avid climbers and requires some decent fitness and skills, so we avoided climbing this. But the neat thing about visiting the rugged highlands is that it provides great hiking opportunities and views for people of all fitness.
We had an amazing experience exploring on some less known hikes and found some spetacular panoramas. The highlight for me was climbing the Coire Chondlaich and the Ryvoan bothy on the 8km Meall a’Bhuachaille trail in the Cairngorms. It starts out from the visitor centre in Glenmore and rapidly got quite steep, but I had plenty of excuses to stop and take a breather as I was whipping out my camera to capture the stunning views at every opportunity.
The peak itself is well worth the effort; it was barren, rocky, cold, windy… and absolutely magnificent. I would have sat there for hours and admired the view if the wind hadn’t been so chilly – or perhaps if I had been better prepared for the conditions. It’s definitely other-worldly being amongst the barren mountain peaks and physically separating myself from the chaos of the life I left below.
The decent to the Ryvoan bothy felt even steeper than our ascent but we were amongst the beautiful flowering purple heather and the stunted ‘bonsai’ pine trees, and could admire the meandering valley below. We headed down to what one of the locals told us was “a wee loch” of stunning green colour, which was on the flatter part of the walk in the forest in the valley between Coire Chondlaich and Cairn Gorm Mountain. Finishing the walk where I could stretch out my legs was definitely a bonus, and we welcomed the sheltered valley after getting all the cobwebs blown out of our system by the wind on the mountain top.
Hiking wasn’t the only thing we got up to in the Highlands of course. There was plenty of local foods to try, lots of whisky distilleries, Highland cow spotting, thistle picking, ruins and rich history – I’ll be writing more about these in the weeks to come. A thing to keep in mind in the Highlands however is the weather. A local told us that there are two types of weather in Scotland; raining or about to rain! The clouds come and go though, so you get patches of sunshine throughout the day – unlike London where it can just be grey for days.
I can’t recommend a trip to the Highlands strongly enough. Scotland is wonderful with its friendly peaceful people, amazing food and stunning scenery. I feel like we only caught a glimpse of the expanse that makes up the Highlands, and there is so much more exploring to do and sights to see. To find out more and plan your own trip Visit Scotland is a good place to start. I also got some good ideas and tips about different aspects of Scotland to see and experience from Traveling Savage, a very useful site! Stay tuned for more stories and tips on visiting the Highlands 🙂