Oh, Scotland, My Love! A Love Letter to the Scottish Highlands, Mostly in Photos
I can't remember when exactly I fell in love with Scotland. I know that for about two decades it's been always somewhere on my mind.
I've read books by Stevenson and got interested in Scottish history. Nothing too deep, just a bit here, a bit there. Scotland seemed a somewhat magical place that I didn't even think about visiting. As if this place wasn't real.
It was only a year ago when I convinced myself that I deserved a real vacation and was looking for a destination (Greece? Spain? Iceland?), that this question first popped up: Why not Scotland?
It's a strange thing but Scotland was not on the top of the list. Even though it was in my thoughts for such a long time.
When watching amazing documentaries about Scottish history (thank you, Neil Oliver!) or my beloved British tv series Escape to the Country, I didn't think I would actually see this place. For real. Weird, huh?
Maybe I was a little bit scared that the image I created in my head would not match the reality?
I still remember how the magic died when I visited New York during summer, some years ago.
Suddenly this mythical place from movies died painful death among the fetor of garbage piled directly on pavements. The image of steaming black garbage bags with some liquid pouring out of them contrasted with elegant ladies walking right next to them etched in my mind forever. And killed the magic of New York for good.
I couldn't believe I was really going to see Scotland. The expectations were high... and I was anxious like before a first date.
My month-long tête-à-tête with Scotland turned infatuation into something stronger. No matter how much she tested my love - teasing one time with a sunny day to drench me completely the next.
Providing November rains, dark clouds, and stormy winds...it didn't matter. My platonic feelings were returned with stunning views, landscapes that took my breath away and experience that changed my life.
Returning from Highlands I was a different woman - more confident, calmer and convinced that I wanted to do it full time. My stay in Scotland reminded me how much I loved hiking, how much I needed it and how calmer I was when out there in the wilderness.
But enough with the words. I invite you to take a peek into my month of romance - but I have to warn you: you cannot see those places and not fall in love with Scotland. It's just impossible.
Along the West Highland Way, Scotland
Oh, the sweet beginnings. I was so anxious getting on the bus to Drymen, pushing down all the negative "what if?" thoughts.
I was out of shape, with a too-heavy backpack but determined. I had no idea what hiking ten miles or twenty miles really meant. I had to learn myself and my body's responses to the physical demands of the trail.
But the views... the views were everything. No matter if it rained or not, with clear skies or heavy clouds - I was touching the utmost beauty with every step. Tired and sore, but happy.
At the gates to the Scottish wilderness: Glenfinnan
When I was still back home, I planned on hiking parts of the Cape Wrath Trail. I wanted to hike its southern part for about four days all the way to Morvich, to then jump over to the Isle of Skye.
But after hiking the West Highland Way I had to do a lot of thinking and take a more realistic look at my skills and capabilities. Although I used to be pretty good with a map and compass, that was when I was still in scouts... some thirty years earlier.
My natural orientation is really bad and the Cape Wrath Trail does not have clear trail markings the way WHW does. This trail is demanding, challenging and requires a higher level of hiking skills.
After resting and some short walking around Fort William I decided to go to Glenfinnan to at least feed my Harry Potter nerdiness and see the famous viaduct... and check if maybe, just maybe, there was a chance to walk the trail.
When going for just a short trip up the trail from Glenfinnan I was met with horizontal rains, multiple streams in spate and boginess equal to simply throwing some grass over a pool. I decided to leave the Cape Wrath Trail for some other time.
Scotland from west to east: Great Glen Way
When I decided that Cape Wrath Trail was not a sensible idea, I had to think of something instead. The Great Glen Way was not on my radar at all before but was now. It seemed easy, relaxing and just something different.
And it was truly pleasant although the greatest challenge were the long parts on the hard surface. I didn't do the whole trail - I stopped in Fort Augustus to go faster on Skye. I craved mountains.
But the Great Glen Way is charming and there is something magical with drinking my morning coffee right at the loch's shore, watching mist rising from the hills on the other side.
Are you planning on hiking in Scotland? Make sure you have the right gear - check out some good examples below!
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The gem in the Scottish crown: Isle of Skye
The most beautiful and the most challenging. Endless views, boggy trails, and rolling milky fogs...
Rains, storms and arctic winds with the rare sharp sunlight. No matter the weather, every step was accompanied with awe (and some curse words at times).
The Skye Trail tested my love in many ways, although I think that the "will you love me still if I blow you off the Trotternish Ridge" was a bit much.
I didn't have enough time to do the whole trail, I skipped a couple of sections. I also haven't had the chance to get to the western part more. All the reasons to come back again.
Do you feel the budding love or are you already head over your feet in love with Scotland? :D
No matter which is it (I don't even consider the option of staying neutral) - you might want to read some more about my month hiking trip to the Highlands. You will find detailed trail descriptions, some tips, and advice on camping and hiking and even more of my Scottish love :)