One of my most memorable trips when I studied abroad in Dublin was visiting the Scottish Highlands. It probably wasn’t on the top of most 20 year olds’ european bucket lists while spending a year abroad when you’re pinching your pennies for Paris and parties in Ibiza, but at that time I was probably one of the very few who had read Outlander… (and this was before the tv show–which by the way I highly recommend as well as the book series!).
I don’t think I have ever been more broke than when I lived abroad. I think I should really write a post about that…the amounts of peanut butter I ate! Anyway, I digress. Since I was constantly broke, I discovered that traveling with a buddy really kept costs down for me. I started to inherently find people that wanted to travel to the same places as I did, so when my friend told me he wanted to rent a car to see the Scottish Highlands with his roommates, I immediately jumped on board! Renting a car while I was abroad was a luxury I didn’t really have since I was underage, and the whole driving on the left thing left me feeling a bit anxious. But since we were going to be splitting the costs it was way cheaper than if I had done so on my own! I was also eager to enjoy the flexibility of driving ourselves around wherever and whenever rather than being stuck on a big group tour’s timetable. This was a prime opportunity!
Our plan was to take a long weekend, fly out early in the morning from Dublin to Edinburgh, spend a day exploring the city, and then drive north to stay in Inverness and explore the rest of the Highlands by car.
We based ourselves out of Inverness and stayed in a local hostel eating most of our meals parked gazing out at the most spectacular vistas. The rental car was the real splurge of the trip, and the main focus was driving through the Highlands, so I’m sorry to say I don’t have much to report on Inverness! What a pity… You guessed it, I guess I’ll just have to go back to see more!
The Highlands are BREATHTAKING! If you’re planning a trip to Scotland and have the time, I hope you’ll move the Highlands to the top of your list. The Scottish Highlands were honestly what I had imagined Ireland to look like with it’s rolling green hills, mountains, and misty bogs. I highly recommend exploring by car if you are able as it was a great way to see a lot all on your own.
The Highlands are steeped in so much history. It’s a tragedy to know how rich the clan system used to be before the Jacobite uprising in the 18th century. I can only imagine what the Scotland would be like today if that had never come to be. My mother is famous in our family for pausing on a road trip, on a hike, or walking through some castle ruin of some kind to stop and wonder what it would have been like hundreds of years ago, before man made his mark on the world. The Highlands is no exception, and I found myself frequently thinking back to what it would have been like in the clan days. Be sure to read up on your Scottish clan history before you go and it will make your experience much more meaningful!
Moving on to a lighter note…
The main attraction for us was to see Loch Ness! It was March if I recall, and here we were up in the Highlands daydreaming about those who “swam with Nessie”, so of course we decided we wanted to swim with the Loch Ness monster too! Needless to say we got out of the car jumped in said loch just to be able to say we swam with the beastie.
I don’t think I’ve felt such cold, freezing water since. It got to a point where I was walking out on the rocks and my feet started to burn so badly from the cold that I couldn’t keep moving. Really don’t recommend (or encourage) this! I think I made it to just about my knees. To this day I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such a cold temperature–leave it to the Highlands!
Urquhart Castle on the shores of Loch Ness
The rest of the weekend we just spent driving from one vista to the next without a plan or itinerary in our immediate future. It was a lovely way to truly get lost in the misty mountains of the Scottish Highlands…(yes we did indeed miss our flight back Dublin–true story).
So don’t wait! Grab a map and ask the locals for the prime spots and you will no doubtedly begin daydreaming about buying a little cottage of your own and disappearing into the Scottish Highlands forever.
How about you? Have you ever been to Scotland? Did you get to visit the Scottish Highlands?