First Solo Trip: Visiting Scotland

On May 18th, 2017 my official journey began. I seriously couldn’t be more excited, not only for my trip but my first flight too!

 


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Somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, dreaming about the Highlands.

Edinburgh


I made it! after what felt like the longest flight of my life. (Well, technically it was.)

No, but seriously, it felt long as hell, especially since I couldn’t sleep a wink. To further add to my stress, the lady sitting to my right (in a two-seat row) had popped 2 Valiums just as we had begun to board, and was fast asleep long before take off.

Why was this stressful for me? Well… Since I regularly drink water as if I’m going to be stranded in the Sahara desert at any given moment. I needed to use the bathroom often (TMI? I know.) So I was constantly waiting for her to open her eyes, even slightly, just so that I could signal her that I needed to pass (she was a rather large woman, so crossing over her was quite impossible.) Anyway, I thankfully made it with my bladder intact.

(I promise I won’t mention my bladder again in this post 😆.)

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Is there anything like getting your first stamp?!

 

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Exploring Edinburgh Castle

 

Edinburgh was a place I was eager to see but honestly didn’t think it would live up to my expectations. How fortunately wrong I turned out to be!

I stayed in the heart of the city, in a hostel in the Royal Mile street. This was highly convenient for me since I had a tall list of things I wanted to see and do, and would be walking to most of the places.

One of the things I enjoyed most, was that Edinburgh had the bustle of a city, but never felt overwhelming, and nature was always just around the corner. (The lack of overwhelming crowds may have also been because it wasn’t peak season, which is roughly around June -September)

Either way, it was epically beautiful! Rich in history, breathtaking architecture, and charming Scots!

 

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Views for days
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Although this view has been photographed extensively, there’s nothing like actually seeing it in person!
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Arthur’s Seat

Fort William



Now Fort William, was meant to be the highlight of my trip (Hellooo, Highlands anyone?) and without doubt surpassed all my hopes for it. I stayed two nights here, and would be up at 4 a.m. to get ready to go hiking. I would spend literally the whole day outdoors in hiking paths, or just exploring the town. I was so engrossed with my adventures, that the first day I literally forgot to eat. (That was a first!)

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Who wouldn’t lose track of time here?

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The following day, I went to hike up Ben Nevis in the wee hours. (Although I didn’t get to summit :/ ) Scotland is well known for its wonderful weather, and that morning it sure lived up to it! It was blisteringly cold (I’m from Miami), and with a harsh thunderstorm making conditions even lovelier, about an hour and a half into my ascent, I decided to turn back.

Even though I didn’t make it to the top, I feel Ben Nevis was slightly overrated, and next time will definitely try Bidean nam Bian in Glen Coe, as I’ve read that it is less touristy than the Ben, with some incredible views.

I later ended up doing the hiking trail to Steall Falls, whose entrance had a wonderful welcome sign (that in an ideal world, I would have taken more seriously.) But alas, I’m the most stubborn person I know and I love a good challenge.

DANGER

The glen was lined with huge boulders on one side, and a deep ravine on the other… and the narrow path would rise and fall with a steepness, that honestly had me saying prayers. Twice, I almost slipped down the ravine.

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This is what most of the trail was like, narrow, rocky, and very slippery due to the constant streams of water coming from the top left, downwards to the ravine on the right.  (blurry phone pic  – but you get the idea)

It was the perfect hike. With such a peaceful stillness, and just the sound of a waterfall and nature as company. Wellafter a little more than two hours, I finally made it through to the clearing, and the view I beheld was honestly heart wrenchingly beautiful… No really, I’m pretty sure I teared up.

(Admittedly, I tear up even with the simplest TV commercials)

But it was seriously gorgeous! The waterfall, which is the second highest in Scotland, was just amazing… yet it was the surrounding valley that took my breath away, I felt I was plopped down into the middle of a place you only ever see in the movies.

 

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Although at times the trail felt a bit more risky than Ben Nevis, I MADE it through!

 

STEALL FALLS
And it was definitely worth it

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steall

 

Fort Williams has to have been my favorite part of the trip; it will always be included in any future trips I make to Scotland.

Journey to Inverness


After heading back to Edinburgh, I joined a 2-day tour to Skye with the company Scottish Tours

It was a nice sunny cool day, as we made our way to Inverness. We made a few stops along the way at quaint little touristy shops, which I  had no interest in spending time in. (While everyone would go inside to eat at every stop, I would head out to see what path I could get lost in) I was able to see some beautiful sights this way, without having to deal with big crowds.

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If you haven’t noticed already… I’m not that “relax in a hotel or restaurant” …

“we’re on vacation, lets sleep in” type.

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On our route, we stopped by the ruined Urquhart Castle. (One of my favorite)

 

When we would make stops, the driver would tell us how long we were going to be there – which was how I would calculate my hike times. For example, we often stopped for an hour at designated places, I would then time myself and hike as far as I could go for about 45 minutes, and then make my way back in 15. (Since most of the hikes were going upwards, I could make it down rather quickly.)

Somewhere along the banks of Loch Ness, a lightly trodden path called my name, although the tour guide made his best attempts at trying to dissuade me… something about danger?…  Cheers! I said, and thanked him as I made my way to it. (Once on the path I never felt it was dangerous at all, my greatest concern was what I’d do if a snake lunged and bit me.)

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In the picture it’s hard to tell, but the incline climbing up, was killer.
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Danger and beauty make for the best adventures in my book.

We stayed in Inverness for the rest of the day, and honestly, it was the only place that greatly disappointed me. I had read a lot from other travelers that it was overrated, and not worth the time. But since it was the base sight for the next part of the tour, I decided to make the best of it and go exploring the city center.

However, from the moment I entered the city, there was a different vibe compared to the other places. I had asked the driver – that had left me at my accommodations, if he felt it was safe for me to go exploring. (It was the first time in my trip that I actually felt a tad “apprehensive” walking alone.)… He pointed one way and said to stay away from that area that – “It isnae safe fur a lassie alone in those parts.” He said… I proceeded to ask about the city center, and although he said it was safer there, he reminded me to – “Keep yer een open, an’ dinnae be thaur at nicht.”

Thanking him, I of course still intended to try (honestly, did you expect anything less of me?)… I thought maybe he just wasn’t used to seeing a girl traveling alone?

However, surprisingly (not really) I was wrong. I had just been in the town for wee bit, and received such unwanted attention, that I began to feel just a little uncomfortable…ok, a lot uncomfortable!

I decided to stop for the day. I’m usually never bothered by things like that, but I found myself clutching my bag at all times and unable to relax, which was not fun. (It was late in the afternoon, so I didn’t feel so cheated at losing the rest of the day.)

Disclaimer: I was only in a small part of Inverness. I’m sure that there must be lovely places there, it just wasn’t feeling it.

Moving onwards to Skye (cue “Outlander theme song”)


We had a different guide for this part of the tour, although he was a *Campbell, he was so nice and the absolute best storyteller! We were a small group of about 10 people so it was a very warm atmosphere, where one was able to meet other passengers more easily and interact with the guide.

The road we took to Skye was ever so beautiful; a vast rugged terrain that looked like a perilous wilderness. There were lush green highlands as far as the eye could see, and the crisp Spring air filling my lungs was sweet and luring. Whenever I saw a path that seemed to lead nowhere, I would always feel that it was beckoning me to it, mesmerizing me with its promise of more.

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At this stop, I was very tempted to just stay there! (Pictures don’t even do it justice)

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We finally made it to Portree, which would be are longest stop of the day.

Portree is the largest town in Skye, although to me, it felt very cozy and old-fashion with its adorable houses, and little shops lining the banks.

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After climbing the path around The Lump, I was rewarded with this lovely view.

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View from a small window in the Apothecary Tower

After a long day of excursions, I was famished (as I almost always am!) And stopped at a little restaurant (whose name escapes me) that served the best fish & chips I tasted in Scotland.

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There’s nothing like some good ol’ fish-n-chips 💯🙌🏽

 

On our way back, we made our final stop at Dornie to see the iconic and in my opinion, the loveliest castle of them all.

It was an amazing feeling walking inside; the walls were so old and filled with voices from history. I felt transported to another time – living there sometime in the 16th century… with the lively bustle of its inhabitants going about their day, and me, the daughter of the laird, taking every chance I got to get lost in the surrounding hills with my trusted steed. Okay, I have big imagination, but a girl can DREAM! 😅 

 

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Eilean Donan Castle (My absolute favorite!)

 

We made it back to Inverness in the late afternoon, where I took a train back to Edinburgh. The next two days were spent exploring what I had previously missed, and squeezing in a short train ride to Stirling.

I went through a swirl of emotions those final days. Trying to come to terms with the fact that I would be leaving.

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Sir Walter looking a bit solemn despite the lovely day! 😄

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Balmoral view
The iconic Balmoral looming over the Duke and his rearing horse. (I seriously had to get into the most crazy position to get this angle, I think it was worth it though!)
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If only all banks looked like this!
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William Wallace

 

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I never get over the beautiful architecture 💛

scott monument

 

 

|Wow! Congrats, you’re still here. I can only assume that you want me to keep writing if you’ve made it this far. 😅|

 

 

My final morning, I was up at 3 a.m. packing my things, before heading out to watch my final Scottish sunrise.

It was hard. I cried. Boarding that plane home has been my hardest goodbye. (No, a tear did NOT just land on my phone as I’m writing this, don’t be silly!) 😩

 

And THAT pretty much sums up my trip to Scotland; it was the most amazing experience of my life till date!

This is why I wholeheartedly recommend you go to Scotland. It will enchant you in ways you’ve only ever dreamed of. You’ll begin to believe in things you didn’t even think were possible. Life changing, 100% guaranteed. (Not literally, but you know what I mean.)

Also, if it’s your first time traveling alone, I think this is a great place to start. I always felt welcome, every person I encountered was very friendly, and the atmosphere honestly felt rather safe; minus Inverness. You get views on views wherever you are, and if you love nature and history, you’ll never have a boring day here.

 

 

I read somewhere that people who travel, always carry a piece of where they’ve been in their hearts. I however, feel that a part of my heart has stayed there, and no matter how many other beautiful places I go to, it will only ever be whole when I return…

Och aye, Scotland has bewitched me, gladly. ♥️

 

I Hope you enjoyed reading this post, cheers!

Au revoir for now – Suzie

 


*In February 13, 1692 men under the command of Robert Campbell betrayed the MacDonalds of Glencoe, even after they had received them in customary highland friendship. After days of enjoying MacDonalds hospitality, Campbell ordered the attack on their sleeping host and his men, 38 of them were massacred. They also burned down the homes causing the death of some 40 women and children due to exposure. After their betrayal, the Campbells were shunned by many. Even until this day, “No Campbells” signs can be found in the Highlands.  

 

Have you already been to Scotland? Which parts are your favorite?

3 thoughts on “First Solo Trip: Visiting Scotland

  1. Good stuff!
    You have put so much work into this. I think you have seen more of Scotland than me and I live just outside Edinburgh.
    Dave 🙂

    Like

    1. You live in such a beautiful country, where exploring is a must. Glad you enjoyed the post!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks! I know, I really should do more exploration. Scotland is a beautiful country, the only downside is the weather.
        Dave 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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