Scotland!

Scotland has been “home” for the past two weeks and the experience has actually felt a bit “homey” and comfortable. I’ve always wanted to visit but felt overwhelmed by the number of fascinating places to go and wonderful things to see. Scotland packs a real cultural punch and offers an amazingly diverse landscape. For example, I learned by busing between destinations I could catch a peek at some delightful sights; Going through the Cairngorms, along Loch Ness and past Eilean Donan Castle.

My visit wasn’t planned very well in advance but I am so happy with the experience that came together. The journey has been on foot and by bus which has limited what I’ve been able to reach and carry. However, this has forced me to get out and to meet others and take each day at a time.

Too much has happened to post in the normal style so here are a few highlights: 

With full knowledge of Edinburgh’s hills, I was still blown away by the spectacular view from Arthur’s Seat in Hollyrood Park, just one of the numerous parks and green spaces in Edinburgh. Spending an afternoon with a book and a coffee in the grass at Princes Street Gardens, with view of the castle, is also lovely.
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is a colorful way to spend a gloomy day! Water of Leith Walkway passes right by it, providing a beautiful route to the museum from the city center. Glasgow had multiple great and free museums!
Playing in the fairytale forest all day outside of Inverness is such a treat. The Great Glen Way goes up to Craig Dunain with beautiful views of the area. This is where I spotted a deer and admired the gorgeous wildflowers.
On my first full day in Fort William the sky was relatively clear and I jumped on the chance to hike up Ben Nevis. The march from the hostel to the route start was 10 kilometers round trip so it made for a brutal and long day. IT WAS SO WORTH IT. The summit was thick with fog but views about 3/4 up were incredible. People make fun of Scottish food but a warm hearty dinner and a Scottish beer hit the spot after a long day of hard work.
The very happy (and soon-to-be-sore) hiker. For every beautiful day in Scotland there is a rainy day but it makes for a perfect cycle of hiking and rest days. I especially liked http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk for trail info and a bit of background about each hike.
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Due to the popularity of Skye, my only option was to stay a night in Kyleakin, just over the bridge onto the isle. The village wasn’t on my radar before booking my bed but after spending a rainy afternoon exploring the area I came to like it. I was thankful for and impressed by the amount of maps and information publicly available throughout Scotland’s trails. On each hike I was able to learn about the history, wildlife and geology and this enriched the experience. On one of such walks I explored the now ruined Caisteal Maol, which can be reached from town at low tide.
Skye has so many natural wonders it was truly difficult to pick just two days worth. I decided to do a 15 km trek across the isle from Broadford to Loch Eisdort. The trail passed through woodland, along the gorgeous shore cliffs ending with views of the Cuillins, Bla Bheinn and Red Hills. The day began with light rain moving in almost almost a horizontal direction, due to the strong isle wind. Things cleared up nicely by afternoon and the hike ended with great views.
Sheep roam around the remains of Boreaig, a village cleared in 1853. People were taken away and their homes burned to make way for pasture. As an American I was unaware of the clearances and the hike was educational and bit sad. 

It’s been a peaceful and enjoyable two weeks. I’m going to miss the hiking, kind people, rich foods, and rainy days that provide an excuse to hide in a cozy bed reading and sipping coffee. If you love the arts and outdoors and aren’t afraid of of a bit of rain, you will adore Scotland.

Thanks for reading!

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