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.


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.


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;


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!

And they’re huge.. it’s amazing to think they’ve been there for thousands of years..








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!


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!




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…


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.









Under The Tuscan Sun

Last weekend I did something I have never done before. I went on holiday, by myself! At first I was terrified, as this wasn’t the original plan.. but then I embraced it. Living with friends is great but I do love a bit of Me time, and what better way to unwind and completely relax then by going to Pisa for a weekend in the sun?

My first worry about going on holiday solo was that I would get bored (my attention span has been known to be rather short). What was I going to do with myself for a little over 48 hours? Well I discovered there was plenty to do on my own. It actually allowed me to get excited about the little things.. going for a walk around the town and taking in the landscape. Pisa is a small town, surrounded by mountains so the landscape is actually really interesting to look at.

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People watching! My oh my were there some interesting people. Not only is it a total tourist town (cue people posing in front of the leaning tower as if they’re holding it up) but it is also full of Italians… Italians are (I think) some of the most interesting people to watch. Firstly, they talk with their hands. They get so animated in conversation it’s fun to try and work out if they’re arguing with each other or just sharing a private joke. Being from an Italian heritage myself, a lot of this brought back childhood memories for me. Sitting at my Nonna & Nonno’s house while they had their friends over for coffee… it was exactly the same scene being played out on the streets of Pisa and in restaurants and bars.

The language itself I also find comforting, mainly for the memories it evokes in me. But just walking around, listening to people’s conversations (without a clue of what they were saying) was really nice and quite relaxing!

Another perk of travelling by myself was I wasn’t accountable to anyone. If I felt like getting some hazelnut gelato at 10:30am then I was going to have it! I could eat where I wanted, when I wanted, go and have a siesta anytime I wanted. Perfect!


The weather in Pisa couldn’t have been better. Mild low twenties and not a single cloud in the sky.. for the entire 3 days. Although I did notice that most of the time, I was the only person in town without a jacket on. (clearly adjusting to this English climate) But it was actually nice to not be so hot that you were constantly sweating and in need of water. (last time I was in Italy it was averaging about 40 degrees!) So it allowed me to lay in the park for a couple of hours with my book and my journal and just BE. Really take stock of everything that’s happening in my life… I’ve had a big twelve months, a LOT has changed in that time and I guess it was the first chance I’ve had to just sit back and reflect.

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The food of course was what took up most of my time.. My days pretty much revolved around it! Something that was clear was how different the food is to the Italian cuisine we are used to having at home. I think back in Australia, they have adapted the style of serving food to fit in with our culture, but when you’re in Italy it’s different. For example, at home if you order a pizza, it is usually enough food to feed 2 people at least, but in Italy, a pizza is the size of a dinner plate.. just enough! A bowl of pasta wont leave you with a food coma because you are served a plate of pasta.. just enough! But it’s because of this perfect portioning that you can actually indulge and have antipasto and cheese or gelato (or sometimes both) afterwards. Makes for a much better meal really. And none of the meals were fancy restaurant style, it was all very simply served, very humble food…. now prepare to salivate as I post all my food pics..

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I highly recommend Pisa for a visit. Most people do a day trip, I think it deserves at least one night! It’s such a charming town with beautiful buildings and beautiful people. As for solo traveling, I now have the confidence to go if I find a good deal to go somewhere and no one else can make it, I’m not going to let it hold me back anymore!


Just one more…