Scotland

 

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As part of my mission to explore more of the UK, this year I decided my summer holidays would not involve taking any planes. I might be kissing goodbye to any chance of a tan, but at least I would finally see the places (practically) on my own doorstep, that really I had no excuse not to have visited. So, an airbnb in Inverness booked (this wonderful place – so highly recommended), a car borrowed from my generous mother, and a friend recruited, off we went on our very long car odyssey from London to the Highlands. We stopped off at a lovely BnB in Ripon and in a hotel in Glasgow on the way, making the trip to Inverness over three days. I’d never been to Glasgow before and was excited to see the city, but, perhaps rather typically, it was pouring it down the entire evening, so we didn’t want to spend much time outside looking around. We did have a nice ramble around the amazing Victorian necropolis though – definitely a sight worth seeing! The drive up from Glasgow to the Highlands takes you through the Cairngorms, which is a breathtaking mountain range offering incredible vistas of heather-covered mountains, glittering lakes and green valleys at every turn of the road. Even though the drive was several hours long, we were so enchanted by the scenery that it went by in a flash, and soon we found ourselves driving along the edge of the River Ness and up to our cottage, which was perched atop a hill with magical views across a valley to the mountains beyond. Perfect!

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I could bore you with a blow-by-blow account of all the things we did, but I’m going to let the photos speak for themselves. If you’re interested in following in our footsteps, we went to Cawdor Castle, Culloden, Eilean Donan, Glenfinnan Viaduct (famous for being where the Hogwarts Express steams over in the opening to the Harry Potter films), Dunrobin Castle, Brodie Castle and Glamis Castle, as well as Loch Ness and general Highland countryside. We had a marvellous time and utterly fell in love with the wild, unspoilt beauty of the Scottish landscape. When you are standing amidst the heather, seeing your reflection ripple in a loch by your feet as the sun chases over the craggy slopes that soar above you, you really do feel the weight of the immensity of time, and your own insignificance, which I always find strangely comforting. This is how Scotland has always been, and will always be, long into the future; what I saw is what someone a thousand years ago would also have seen, and that sense of connection over unfathomable breaches of time is something that can’t help but be a balm for the soul.

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8 comments

  1. I have visited Scotland three times. There is incredible beauty there, I hope sometime you get to visit the western isles! And somehow, I have left my heart in Glasgow: a city with such vibrancy, energy and character.

  2. I like a tropical island holiday but would give up a trip to one in a flash for your trip to Scotland. Tans are overrated and beach holidays are same-same.

    It is my dream to have a summer holiday in Scotland and the north of England. My only concern is if the roads are packed. My partner had little patience in traffic that doesn’t move. Was it crowded?

    1. Hi Lucinda! No, not crowded at all. Compared to the south of England, there’s no one there! The only issue is that once you get past the major northern cities (York, Leeds, Manchester, Bradford) most of the roads become A roads rather than motorways and they are single rather than dual carriageway, making it slow going. In Scotland it’s difficult to overtake because the roads are so winding and if you get stuck behind a coach or caravan it can get frustrating. However there is always something to look at out of the window so…if you can accept the slower pace, it’s still an enjoyable experience to drive around!

  3. It’s hard to imagine when you look at the Scottish landscape, especially in the highlands, but all of it’s been touched by the hand of man, and changed in the process. The Highlands we see today would probably look very bare to someone who knew them a 1000 years ago – certainly the Caledonian forest has gone, and the wildlife has changed. The open spaces we see now reflect the demands of sheep farming, grouse shooting, and deer stalking as much as anything else, the Sutherland estate being particularly notorious for its brutal clearing of tenants, literally burned out of their homes when they were unwilling to leave, to make way for sheep. Even now both the suppression of the clan system (after 1745), and the later effects of the clearances are raw and topical issues, especially where you have been in SNP heartlands. (I didn’t really mean to lecture like that, I’m actually quite surprised by my reaction to what you wrote, but it also tells me a lot about how much some of these issues affected me growing up in Scotland with an English accent.)

    I’m sorry Glasgow was wet and you didn’t have much time there, it’s worth going back! If you haven’t yet read it Nan Shepherds ‘The Living Mountain’ where she writes about her experiences of,and love for, the Cairngorms is an incredible bit of writing. I also hope you got to Leakey’s bookshop in Inverness.

    1. I didn’t realise that, Hayley – I knew that was an issue in the Lake District, but I suppose I rather naively thought Scotland had been left untouched. Thank you for enlightening me. I will go back to Glasgow one day, don’t worry, and yes – I parted with quite a lot of money in Leakey’s – such an amazing shop!

  4. I have difficulty in stopping myself from thinking about Scotland. . . There are several spots in Edinburgh that were used as filming locations for Elizabeth Gaskell’s fabulous novel North and South. If you are a fan, you would enjoy visiting them, particularly Calton Hill.

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