Being weighed down with deadlines and stress is not fun, but what is is an adventure around the city centre of Edinburgh.
There are no words to describe it. The awe-inspiring, breath taking sensation of standing amidst the colossal, ominous mountains of Glencoe.
One of Scotland’s most famous must-see landmarks, Glencoe is truly a unique place on Planet Earth. Its atmosphere is both magnificent and foreboding. The tiny, weaving A9, as seen in James Bond and M’s trip up north in Skyfall, snakes its way first across Rannoch Moor (a must see on its own, although better seen together with Glencoe) before, suddenly, looming out of the dark, grumbling rain clouds, is perhaps Glencoe’s most famous peak, Buchaille Etive Mor.
This terrifying mountain is simply jaw-dropping, a sight so unique to Scotland. The mountains and falls of Glencoe inspire a sense of awe, and oh boy do they demand your respect. Buchaille Etive Mor is an example why – this mountain claims lives, frequently. She and her sisters are no pushovers. They are much like Scottish women – nice to look at, you know they’re a challenge, but if you let your guard down, God help you.
The road wraps around the base of the mountain, entering the Glen and leaving the flat, barren landscape of Rannoch Moor behind.
For a driver, this road is heaven. Great sweeping curves, well-maintained surfaces. But you have to know what you’re doing, as it’s not an easy road to drive. The best things in the world never are. There was a fatal accident when we were up there, and it caused chaos and commotion for hours.
Driving through Glencoe is one thing, but actually pulling up and getting out of the car to look around, is another thing entirely. The feeling I had when I stepped out of the car…I have never felt so small.
I’ve been a bit naughty and haven’t posted in almost a month! Oops! In my defence, life got a little boring in the run-up to my end of year exam. But that’s done and life’s getting interesting again.
Like the fact that it’s less than two weeks until I fly off to Chicago! (sorry say again?) I am so excited! First time in America, first time out of Europe in truth, and I cannot wait! *exited squeak*
But before that, I’m getting back to business here in Scotland.
Like the other weekend, for example.
About a fortnight ago Katie messaged me and asks if I want to go to the Hidden Door festival with her in Edinburgh. Having absolutely no idea what the heck it was, I did the completely normal thing of accepting the offer without asking what in the name I was agreeing to, because when has that ever gone wrong?
I did eventually research the festival, just in case Katie had lost her mind and had asked me to attend a festival similar to T in the Park or something like that, lots of people, little space, my worst nightmare, that kind of thing.
Turns out, Hidden Door is a pretty cool arts festival held in Edinburgh and is volunteer run. According to their website:
Hidden Door is an arts organisation which aims to open up urban spaces as a platform for new and emerging artists, musicians, theatre makers, film makers and poets. Through organising temporary events Hidden Door works to showcase new work and create engaging environments for the public to experience, explore and discover. The project is volunteer run and not for profit.
And it’s actually pretty cool!
All in all it was a pretty fab evening. The music was great, the atmosphere was one where you felt surrounded by like minded people, and I definitely intend on returning next year, and strongly advise you guys to have a look and get going too!
What about you guys? What have you been up to whilst I was away? Any of you been to Hidden Door before?
When you look at all the different travel blogs out there people have so many different ways of travelling. There’s the Nomads, people who have no home base. They travel all over the world with everything they own on their back, having complete freedom to travel to wherever the hell they like whenever the hell they like. There are also the people like Amanda over at A Dangerous Business, who has a set home base, works at home, and then travels throughout the year around work and other commitments.
And then there’s the people like me, who dream of travelling the world and seeing the sights, but lack the courage, funds and time to actually go out there and see the world. Trips abroad are family holidays or concert tours (can you believe the NYCoS America tour is less than TWO months away? Because I can’t!) where sightseeing is usually done in groups to the big touristy destinations, and you don’t really get the chance to get involved and truly get the feel for a destination and its culture.
Hopefully though this will change soon, and I’ll have the funds to be able to explore and see all that’s out there.
But even if I do, I know that the nomadic life probably isn’t for me, because no matter where in the world I go I will always have a home, and that home will always be…
Scotland is and always will be home for me. There’s just something about it, it’s a country filled with magic and wonder and fairy tales, and I just feel like I belong here. Yes, I know I go on and on about wanting to travel and get out of here, but that’s because I know Scotland will always be here, calling me back. Back to what I know, back to settled normality. When I get off the train at Glasgow Queen Street and I haven’t been into the city in a while I still get this tingle that just tells me “I’m back, this feels right”, and I love that feeling! It’s an amazing sensation, and one that I hope never goes away.
There’s something just so distinct about Scotland and its people. The culture is so unique, as are the locals who live here. We’re a very patriotic nation, but in a uniquely Scottish way. Unlike other patriotic countries, we don’t think Scotland is the best country in the world. In fact, we know it can be a bit of a shithole, but you know what , it’s our shithole, so don’t you say anything bad about it, because the only people who can are born and bred in this ridiculous country and we won’t take any flack from anyone! So I dare you to give it a try. Bring it, and see how far you get.
There’s no denying though, no matter how much of a shithole it may be, Scotland is a brilliantly stunning country. The weather’s shit, but it’s because of the dank, dark, murky skies and constant bombardment of rain, sleet and snow that our country is so green and lush and spectacular. Few places on the planet rival Scotland in her beauty and her unique landscapes and scenery. I love it, and I love that I can call this beautiful country home.
Now to head out in search of her rivals.
Where’s home for you? Have you been lucky enough to find that place you belong, or are you still out there searching? Or not searching, perhaps? Let me know!
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Before Christmas Mum and I took a trip up to Forfar to visit my Aunt Linda and exchange Christmas presents. I always enjoy trips up north, as I love the picturesque drive up there, and I also have an affinity with the Scottish Highlands, and love getting as close as I can.
I took some really lovely photos when I was up there, but never got around to sharing them with you guys. Well, here you are.
Finally got round to posting this one, as I’ve spent all week in Glasgow for Fresher’s Week.
Last Sunday Mum and I headed to Culross for the week’s wander. A fairly short walk, this leisurely walk was still packed full of sights to see, and was wonderfully completed by quite possibly the largest meal I have ever eaten in the Red Lion Inn.
The beginning of our walk was interesting, because the sat-nav led us astray, and so finding the car park that marked the start of our route took a little bit of work. Once found, the start of our walk was pretty easy, as the path was flat and paved. We were treated to views out over the Firth of Forth, and a glimpse of Dunimarle Castle through the trees.
Our route then took us up the driveway of Blair Castle Memorial Home for Miners, a sheltered walk surrounded by Rhododendrons. A fairly steep climb, this was a bit of a shock to the system after our easy, flat path. We passed a field of unusual looking cattle who didn’t seem to impressed by our walking past their field. At the top of the hill Blair Castle came into view. Now this is not the same Blair Castle which featured in the previous post, and I admit I have no idea why there are two castles in Scotland with exactly the same name. This Blair Castle reminded me more of Merchiston castle where we spend the NYCoS residential course.
After snapping a few photos we headed through the trees along a farm track up towards Blair Mains Farm. Our directions told us that after the farm we would reach a metal gate which would mark the point at which we would turn off the farm track and cut through the woods. It later transpired that we passed about 6 metal gates before we found the correct one with a signpost directing us along our way. The directions we were following were quite old so I guess the farm has just undergone some renovations since then.
Our route left the farm track and headed along a rough woodland path that bordered farmland. A short way along this woodland path we came across a stile on the fence we were following, and realised this was the way to a hidden plague grave we had been told about in the village. The grave was the resting place of three siblings who all lost their lives on the same day when Culross was decimated by the Plague. Much as this was fascinating and I was curious, we decided to move on without further investigation, as this kind of thing creeps me out like nothing on earth.
The path opened out onto a flatter grass path which was easier to follow than the rough woodland path. We came across the ruin of Culross West Church, which had been the main place of worship for the people of Culross until this duty was taken over by Culross Abbey. We spent some time nosing round the ruin and the surrounding graveyard and mausoleum. Graves here mainly range from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, with some from the 20th century, and one very modern grave from 2014 in the top corner. It was interesting to see the evolutions in gravestones, with the older ones being sunk and more macabre in design. There were also a number of famous people and War Graves in the graveyard. The church itself is now a complete ruin, with no roof and collapsing walls.
After our investigation of the Church we continued along the path, eventually ending up on the road we had originally driven into the village on. I have to admit I was glad our walk was nearly over, as my stomach was making more noise than I do when I’m singing on stage. However, I did have to stop and photograph Culross Abbey and read the tourist plaque outside to learn a little about the history of the building. Most of the once enormous building is now gone, but what little remains is still truly lovely.
Our walk was ended with a lovely visit to The Red Lion Inn, which I would seriously recommend. I wolfed down as much as I possibly could, but there was still enough left to feed another person. Below is halfway through my meal just to put it into perspective.
All in all, our trip to Culross was highly educational, and I would love to do more walks full of history like this one.
If you want to check where else I’ve been in Scotland so far you could check out:-
Sorry it’s taken so long to get another post up. I’ve been finishing some last minute details for uni. Can’t believe I start in less than a week!
Anyway, this Sunday I forced an at first reluctant Mum up to Blair Atholl for the annual horse trials. I love going every year, just to have a nose around and watch all the different classes and events. As a bonus, there’s also a bit of shopping to be had as well.
I do have to say a MASSIVE Thank You to Joanne Fairbrother of Avonmill Equestrian for our last minute tickets.
The journey up to Blair is always so spectacular, as the views and sights are just stunning. There’s a particular bend of the A9 which sits in the middle of a valley, and to just round that corner and see these great, imposing green conifers towering over the road-it just takes my breath away every time. However, it always takes me by surprise, and I am therefore yet to take a photograph of this scene.
Upon arrival at Blair, I was reminded that it had been raining heavily on Saturday as the ground was just mud, even our 4×4 was sliding about all over the place. One woman was making a futile attempt to push a Mercedes through the parking field to the grass and getting nowhere. Walking anywhere was a struggle, people sliding and squelching everywhere. Through the gate was the worst bit, as everyone had to walk there.
Once through the gate we headed straight to Mum’s one stop shop for coffee. She discovered this stall the year we were up for my 16th, and sticks by her belief that this is the best coffee at Blair. I would have to say it is the best on-the-go hot chocolate I’ve come across, so I’m not complaining.
Whilst waiting in the queue for our drinks we met Missie’s former owner Abby, and chatted to her and her mum whilst watching the ex-racehorse class, and who did I realise was handing out prizes but Clare Balding! Couldn’t get any decent photos though as we were sitting at a funny angle to her.
After watching until the end of that class, Mum and I got up for a wander, as we were staring to turn to icicles. We only got as far as the far end of the ring before I realised that it was a side-saddle class up next. I love side-saddle riding. I think it looks so elegant and classy, and would absolutely love to learn to ride side-saddle with Missie, but a decent side-saddle is absolutely extortionate, as its a dying art. I think Missie would be a great side-saddle horse though, as she’s so comfortable to ride.
In the class there were several stunning horses, I in particular loved a stunning black Fresian, but the judge didn’t agree with me, as it wasn’t placed very highly. Such is the world of showing.Whilst watching the class Mum’s friend Bernadette found us and stopped for a chat. She’s had a great Blair with her young gelding Cayro Spring.
By this point Mum and I were eyeing up every food stall in the place in search of lunch, but I couldn’t resist stopping ring-side of the Clydesdale Championship. I absolutely love the thundering, ground-shaking of these gentle giants galloping past-what a feeling!
We settled on some pasties and a shared brownie from the Just Baked stall, Mum being adventurous trying the Blair Special Venison and Chocolate Pasty. Whilst eating we wandered around the show jumping arenas before heading out to have a wander round the cross country course.
Those cross country jumps are terrifying! How do people jump them? They are really high, really wide and some have almost vertical drops after them. Cross country jumpers and eventers are mad! Many of the jumps are very well decorated though, and also very pretty.
We wandered quite a distance out, and I commented on the fact that we could still hear the Queen’s Piper’s away out there. How bizarrely terrifying must a Scottish army have been in the past? On our wander back Mum and I walked past a small convoy of parked Range Rovers, and thought nothing of it until we noticed the Royal flag attached to the nose of one-we wandered past the Queen’s car! She wasn’t anywhere to be seen though, just a very bored driver sitting in his car.
Some photos taken by the mini-kelpies, it was time for some shopping! Wandering in and out of different stalls I spotted a beautiful blue tartan blanket scarf in the Joules clothing tent, and then got slightly distracted by the leather hats. After learning that we already have a real leather cowboy hat up the loft somewhere, I chose the scarf, and can honestly say I’ve not taken it off since. It’s so comfy! Mum bought herself a lovely fur ear warmer, and we headed in off in search of coffee.
Coffee and hot chocolate in hand, we sat and watched the pre-veteran in hand class and enjoyed our brownie. After this, we decided it was time to head for home, as did everyone else at Blair it would seem. It was slow the entirety of the A9, and it’s quite a long road. We did however choose the right time in the sense that the heavens opened just as we left, so at least we didn’t end up soaked.
All in all it was a very enjoyable day, and I look forward to returning to Blair next year.
Well, today Mum and I went on our first “proper” cross-country wander.
Our daily walks around Cumbernauld are usually around about 4 miles, but of various difficulties depending on our routes, but we have decided to walk a little further at the weekends to allow us to up our distances and fitness. After all, we did start our walking venture, however long it may last, in order to improve our health and fitness, and to tone up.
All in all, we walked 7.9 miles, which is almost double our usual distance! No wonder my legs are killing me! Starting in Dullatur, we followed the marked route along Croy Hill to the Antonine Wall and Ruined Roman Fort, and then down the hill towards The Boathouse at Auchinstarry, which is one of our favourite places to eat. After stopping for wee naughty Chocolate Fudge Brownie Sundaes, we carried on along the Forth/Clyde Canal path back towards Dullatur. Thinking we had found that too easy, we fearlessly decided to continue back up the hill, eventually finding our old route, and doubling back on ourselves as we headed home.
The walk down through Dullatur was pretty easy, as it’s all down hill. The biggest problem with this section of the walk is trying to ignore the serious envy you feel walking past the houses down there. Seriously, they are ridiculously big. Mum and I had a tourist moment when we stopped to pose for pictures next to the Roman Statue, before continuing on our way.
After locating the first signpost for our route, we wandered down past Dullatur Tennis Courts, and arrived at a choice. We could choose to follow the road round a bend, or head down a seemingly never ending staircase. With no signpost to guide us, I decided that, as we had to reach the bottom of the hill to find the main trail, we should use the stairs. About halfway down, we discovered a signpost which told us that we were on the right track-hurray!
Our real walk began at the bottom of that staircase. The terrain changed from paved paths to gravel tracks through the woods alongside Dullatur Golf Course. Keeping an eye out for stray balls, Mum and I admired the scenery, and noted on how wonderful it would be to bring a horse here to hack out. As the path looped round, we discovered a small-for lack of a better word- lagoon beside our walk. Getting closer to have a better look, I couldn’t help noticing how serene the location was, and how much I just wanted to find a good book and waste the days away just sitting doing nothing much at all.
Crossing the railway line, our gravel paths turned to narrow grass paths, and I must say, I am glad I decided to wear my walking boots and not my trainers, as the paths became quite damp and muddy in places. Someone, I know not whom, had placed large branches and planks of wood down at the worst points, in an attempt to make the crossing easier. I thank whomever this was, as these were a godsend.
At the end of one little trail, we were again confronted with a signless fork. However, at this fork we were also greeted by a small herd of cattle to make up for this obstacle. After consulting a map, we decided to head left, following the train tracks for a time before heading uphill along a cattle track. What a hill! A few breathers were required on our ascent, let me tell you. However, relief was found when at the summit we discovered the Old Roman Fort, a historical site I had hoped we would find but doubted we would.
After a wee snoop around the Fort, we rejoined the path and headed up another ridiculously steep hill. However, my ire at this was quickly dispelled as I realised that the path we were on was a section of the John Muir Way, a long-distance walk I would love to one day walk along. We stopped at the top as Mum spotted a gentleman out with his sons sitting eating their lunch surrounded by some beautiful heather. The sight was a perfect picture opportunity, and we stopped to take a photo of them on the man’s phone. I wish I had also taken a photo for this, as the whole setting was idyllic. Unfortunately, the thought did not occur to me until the boys came racing past us on their way home. Mum and I did take a few selfies at the highest point of the walk. (Please excuse the highly obvious bra straps, my more modest attire had been removed early in the walk.)
Also visible from this point was our pit stop, the Auchinstarry Marina and The Boathouse.
I was sad when I realised that our route would take us away from the John Muir Way. I had enjoyed feeling like a real hiker following the waymarkers along our route.
As steep as the hill had been on our way up, the hill down was just as bad, and made worse by the fact my muscles were starting to feel the strain. However, I soldiered on, knowing that there was Brownie Sundae out there with my name on it.
We arrived at our pit stop just in time, as poor Mum ended up with a migraine trying to rear its ugly head. If it had succeeded, our adventure would have ended there and then, as her migraines put Mum out of commission for at least the rest of the day. Thankfully, due to a wee rest and her favourite dessert, Mum was good to go.
After stuffing down a hearty helping of delicious chocolate ice cream, we set off once more along the Forth/Clyde Canal path, which was largely uneventful, as the path is fairly flat and even. We did however nearly have a moment when Mum couldn’t quite process that she had heard a bicycle bell, and when I moved out of the way of the oncoming cyclist, she got very confused and moved into the way! She did realise her mistake in time though, or things could have been very interesting indeed.
At the end of the canal path we had a choice to make. As it was our first distance walk, we had agreed with Dad that we would phone him when we reached this point and he would come and collect us by car. However, as the walk along the canal had been so easy, I suggested that we continue back up the hill. If you asked my legs, they would tell you that this was the wrong decision, but I am glad that we did so. I had not realized how steep the path we would follow would be, but had been seduced by the fact that we would once again be following the John Muir Way, and that I could once again feel like a real hiker.
Our path did flatten out at the top of the hill for a time, and I was able to enjoy the wide open spaces around us. I realised that we were looping round, and were soon to meet up with our earlier path. We passed our friendly herd of cattle once more, and headed back along the grassy path back towards Dullatur.
Passing the lagoon, our peace was disrupted by Mum’s phone as Dad phoned to find out what was happening. This was a godsend, as we were both starting to struggle quite a bit, and asked him to meet us at the tennis courts to take us home. Upon reaching the gravel path, Mum’s feet were clearly getting tired, as she nearly faceplanted quite spectacularly, but regained her composure quickly enough to save herself too much embarrassment. A small deviation from our earlier route took us by a few more mansion style homes in Dullatur, before our tired, sore feet carried us up the hill towards Dad and his waiting car.
Much as my legs are screaming out in pain right now, I am really glad Mum and I went our wander today. It’s always great to spend some quality time together, and I am glad that we are both comfortable walking together as silent companions, as I prefer to wander in silence, listening to the sounds of nature around me.