Scotland ‘Ooo aye’ Part 1

Throughout the last couple of years I have travelled a fair bit, and I want to share my adventures with you!

June saw me up in Scotland about to embark on a 6 day highland adventure, courtesy of MacBackpackers.

Their 6 day tour encompasses the east coast of Scotland, via the Highlands and up to Orkney Isles. It was amazing. Firstly, we were blessed with the best weather I have ever seen in Scotland, sunny clear skies all the way, the first day was actually the hottest day of the year, 27 degrees! We had singlets on and actually had a paddle down at Loch Morlich, it was just like a beach! Too bad I didn’t pack my bathers… who takes bathers to Scotland in June?!

Our first day took in the historical town of Pitlochry, Culloden Moore and then all the way up to Rogart. Here our accommodation for the night was converted train carriages. Amazing. Cosy little bunk beds in each compartment, and a bathroom at the end, and kitchen come sitting room in a spare compartment. Such a great concept for a hostel!

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The next day we made our way north up to Castle of Sinclair Girnigoe which sits on top of a cliff overlooking the ocean.

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Then it was to the port of John O’Groates where we got our ferry over to Orkney. It really feels like you’re on another planet when you’re all the way up in the Scottish Islands. You see the landscape change from humungous mountains and forests to a sparse island with no tress at all. Even the accent changes! There’s also a lot of Viking history in this region and a lot of ruins and standing stones. A truly fascinating place.

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Look at that sky! This is the kind of weather we were blessed with 80% of our time there. AMAZING.
And just as well, the winds out on the coast are fierce, I cannot imagine being up there in winter, I think the wind would just cut right through you.

Some of the places we visited only see sunshine about 10 days a year, so it really puts this weather into perspective!

 

 

 

 

Once we were on Orkney, we made our way to Kirkwell where we spent the two nights. On the way we were able to take in the view;

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The photos really don’t do it justice but you can see how flat and sparse the vegetation is on the island.

As I said there is a rich history out on these islands, and that means lots of ruins! We stopped in at some standing stones, I’m not sure where they were exactly, but I do know they are over 5,000 years old!
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And they’re huge.. it’s amazing to think they’ve been there for thousands of years..

 

 

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For some perspective… I’m tall and that thing is still towering over me!

 

 

 

Then it was onto Skara Brae, which is a Neolithic (3200 – 2200 BC) settlement, still intact on the cliffs. It attracts loads of tourists every year, it’s even been included on those ‘things to do before you die’ lists.. it’s quite amazing that something so old is still there and for the most part, intact!

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I tried to get a shot without a hundred tourists in the background. But this is essentially what their houses looked like. A hearth in the middle, an area for sleeping and an area for food storage. Reminds me a bit of Hobbiton with all the green grass growing around them.

Then it was up to the Kitchener Memorial where there are some of the prettiest cliffs I have ever seen.. we were on the hunt for Puffins.. they know how to hide from birdwatchers and tourists. We did eventually see some but it involved hiking out to an island you can only reach at low tide and waiting on a cliff edge. Totally worth it, they are the cutest little birds.. sadly I didn’t get a picture because it turns out an iPhone zoom is pretty useless in such instances. Oh well, the cliffs are pretty!

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Can you spot the puffins?

More spectacular coastal scenes could be found back on the mainland of Scotland up at Duncansby Head. These massive sea stacks sit in the ocean like giant witches hats. Truly an amazing sight to see up close…

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I have been to Scotland 5 times now, I love the place. Clearly. This tour was SO good, nice to see areas of the country that most tourist companies don’t go to. We definitely still went to the usual places, Loch Ness, Glen Coe, Culloden etc, but it is nice to see the roads less travelled. I loved this tour so much that I immediately booked to go on another one a day later, covering the west coast and islands out that way.. the joys of not having a set travel plan!

I’ll share that adventure with you next time.. but if you are thinking of going to Scotland and don’t know where to start, I highly highly recommend MacBackpackers. They make everything so easy, their guides are authentic Scottish locals who know their stuff, and they let you choose the itinerary. – They have a rough guide for the week but if you want to see something in particular and it’s not included, they can make it happen. Plus on the tours I did, there were no more than 12 people on the bus which ensured… hilarity, great friends that I hope to stay in touch with for a long time yet, and a real personal experience – you could actually forget you are part of a tour group because it just becomes travelling around on a bus with a bunch of mates.

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Scotland I Love You

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I was lucky enough to spend a weekend up in Scotland recently… god I love the Highlands.

It had been about 4 years since my last visit with my pals Gordon & Hazel. They live in a tiny village called Kilmacolm, it’s only 20 minutes west of Glasgow, but you’d swear you were hours away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

I always sleep well when I go to Scotland.. must be something in the air, that sweet fresh air! Fresh was definitely the word of the weekend, it was arctic temperatures, but it definitely didn’t feel like summer when the central heating is still required and you find yourself wearing 2 sometimes 3 layers… I can understand the Scot’s frustrations with their so-called summer.. it doesn’t look like it will improve anytime soon!

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We went on a road trip north, past the vast Loch Lomond, one of Scotland’s more famous Loch’s (although my hosts weren’t too sure why), through the rain and mist and up through Glencoe where the infamous battle was fought back in the 16th century. Past the brave mountaineers and hikers trudging along in the rain. Despite the weather, I was still able to marvel at the land’s beauty. When the rain cleared enough to see the mountains we were driving past, you could see the natural waterfalls spilling down the crevices. Everytime I see them, it astounds me that these giant green mountains and valleys have been there for centuries, untouched. Coming from a very flat land, I still marvel at the fact that land can naturally form like that! (crazy I know..)

Let the photo spam begin….

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Loch Lomond after the sun came out!

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Snapping the scenery from the backseat

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On my last day, I ventured into Glasgow, a city I have not really been able to explore in the past as it is usually the transit point for my trips. It is a city of change, that is evident in the buildings alone. We began in the old part of the city, taking in the Necroplois which is situated on a huge hill overlooking the whole city… which on a better weather day would have given us a view far and wide… as it was, we couldn’t see a whole lot. We did however, get a good look at Glasgow Cathedral, which sits on the other side of the hill.

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Glasgow Cathedral

I then had a gander at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, a free museum that offers everything from natural history through to crusaders and convicts! I found all the Scottish history really interesting, the Jacobites and their fight for their clans.

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Many faces hanging above the foyer of the Kelvingrove.

My trip was very brief, but it was enough to remind me of how much I love this country. I am now making plans to go back and explore the entire place!

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