Semi Solo Scotland

For years I have wanted to visit Scotland

It finally happened in April of 2022

 

This is how it went down. A few years ago I met a wonderful, wonderful woman in a women’s group in the town where I live, and we kept in contact with one another.

And then, years later, I started seeing on her Facebook and Instagram accounts that she was in Scotland!! Her husband got a job there so, they up and moved to Inverness.

Which is absolutely awesome! I was so happy for them. Then Covid hit right when they were starting the move, so it was difficult for them to get into the country but it also meant that people couldn’t get in to visit. 

Well, once countries in Europe and the US started opening up again I saw a post that invited anyone she knew to come visit. You know I totally jumped on that amazing offer.

So, the day arrived for me to be taking off for my semi solo adventures. All, went well with my flights and into view came Inverness.

.   

I do tend to get a little nervous when travelling, especially when I haven't seen the person picking me up for years. So these were the thoughts boiling in my head

“Would she be there?” “Am I now on my own for the whole trip?” “Will I recognize her?” Argh, all of these thoughts.

 

Here is my first lesson learned on this Semi Solo Scotland trip.

Remember to keep open lines of communication, with yourself and with those you will be travelling with. Good advice anytime, but one to keep at the forefront of your mind in more stressful situations, of which, travelling can be.


 

Yay, she came to pick me up.

After picking me up from the airport we immediately stopped off at Culloden Moor and to the Balnuaran of Clava Cairns. So much for jet lag.

.         
     

Next was Culloden Moor and the Culloden Forest

A bit of history here.

Culloden Moor is where the battle of Culloden happened.

Many Scottish Highlanders did not want the British to rule over them and their lands. Walking on this windswept Moor and in the forest leading to the moor, I felt the history, I saw the history. The site of the final battle in the Jacobite Rising of 1746. Here, the dreams of a restored Gaelic Scotland were dashed against the brutal might of the British Crown.

This is the battle ground where, within an hour the British defeated the Highlanders that were opposing the takeover of Scotland and especially the Highland way of life. 

Theirs was a desperate fight against overwhelming odds. The British army, led by the infamous Duke of Cumberland, was a well-drilled force armed with superior firepower. In contrast, the Jacobite army, comprised largely of Gaelic clansmen, relied on traditional tactics and swords. The battle itself was a brutal affair, lasting only a single, bloody hour. Though the Highlanders fought with unmatched courage, their stand was ultimately cut down by relentless musket fire. Culloden marked a turning point in Scottish history, signifying the crushing of Highland culture and identity.

This somber chapter may color the landscape, but it doesn't diminish the enduring spirit of the Scottish Highlands. The area was powerful to connect with.

Some of you might know about the little building where those that survived the battle were taken, and then shot. This is that building. 

I was here at about the same time of year as the battle occured. Wow, such wet, muddy conditions, I cannot fathom having to fight in conditions like that, it was a sight to see.

The battle lines have been mapped out which makes for an amazing sight in just how crazy this battle was. This is that view of which the Highlanders saw.

Culloden Moor, Scotland   Culloden Moor, Scotland
Culloden Moor, Scotland

Time to settle in for the night.

I had a lovely room in Nicole's home where I settled in for a short time; because I did not want to sleep so soon, it was time to get moving so I did not fall asleep.

TIP: this is how I deal with jet lag. I stay up until it is time to go to bed in the place I am. I ignore time zones until by brain and body settle.

So, off to walk in Culloden Forest (the trail to Culloden Moor), and was it ever wet and murky (I know the photos don't look super wet, step off of the trail and your feet would be soaked.)

Along Culloden Trail

Bed time for me

I slept well, and was ready for a day in Inverness, where I was dropped off at the Inverness Botanic Gardens where I explored beautiful formal gardens, ponds, a tropical house with exotic plants, a cactus house for desert plants, and a wildflower meadow bursting with color. 

Once my fill was had of gardens, I meandered along the river pathway into downtown Inverness, past the Cathedral (designed by architect Alexander Ross, Inverness Cathedral is a stunning example of Gothic Revival architecture. It is the northernmost Anglican cathedral in the United Kingdom. It's the seat of the Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness, and the Mother Church of the Diocese of Moray, Ross and Caithnessin the Scottish Episcopal Church. Construction of the cathedral began in 1866 and was completed in 1869).

The castle (was closed, even the grounds), which sits on a cliff overlooking the River Ness. There have been a succession of castles on this site since 1057, although the current structure dates from 1836. I hear that the castle will open in 2025 again.

Along the way I enjoyed trees and flowers in bloom and friendly faces.

   
Inverness Scotland, Colleen Fletcher

Sights of Inverness

  
   

Aviemore

It was suggested by my friend to take the train to Aviemore, (a town nestled within the Cairngorms National Park. It's a popular year-round destination known for its stunning scenery and abundance of outdoor activities) and camp in the Cairngorms for the night. I took her advice and her help with the train schedule, where tickets were purchased. The following morning I was dropped off at the train station in downtown Inverness and away I went.

Arriving in Aviemore with nothing other than my backpack I had to find a place I could walk to and camp for the night. The wonderfully helpful people at the information center got me on my way to the Rothiemurchus campground.

Rothiemurchus

Camping for the first time in Scotland in my single tent was thrilling for me. When I am all alone (yes, there were other campers) it is empowering to find my own routine.

  • Am I hungry now, or should I wait?
  • Let’s take care of your feet now, Colleen. They were a little sore.
  • Set up the tent and everything for a good night's sleep.
  • Yes, I will set up my tent first, then care for my feet.

Not huge decisions in life, yet so important. It’s such a different way of being when done alone and especially in a foreign country.

 

 Corngarims Scotland Aviemore Scotland Rothiemurchas Scotland Corngairms Scotland Scotland Cairngorms, Scotland

My hike and times spent in this area was a delight. The smells, the views, the old pathways that spoke of previous generations and life in this beautiful area.
I did stop at the visitors center at Loch An Eilean and was greeted with such kindness. I wish I had this wonderful woman's information to share with you. This might help.

Off to Isle of Skye

 

Where we stopped at Eilean Donan Castle.

 

Camping at Glenbrittle camp site 

on the Isle of Skye

 

Our first night out camping and it was a wild, wild night of winds and gales. Chilly gusts invigorating our walks and bringing rosy cheeks.

I had to walk; I found a trail leading up the mountain and found my own personal meditation paradise. It was filled with faeries dancing on waters rushing to meet Loch Brittle beach and winds bringing more chill to the air.

 

Glenbrittle campsite, Scotland

 

Glenbrittle campsite, Scotland

 

Isle of Skye Colleen Fletcher

 

 With the winds howling all night, Nicole found her tent poles to be lacking. This is how I found her tent in the morning. She laid it down on top of her and her son😊

I don't normally post images of food because I feel that those photos never do it justice. I am a huge fan of local foods and yummy foods so don't think that my lack of photos means I don't love a good meal, however, here is an exception for food images. (I had some great foods so there will be more to come).

Best Cheese, Black Crowdie

 

 

Neist Lighthouse

Niest Lighthouse, Scotland Niest Point Lighthouse, Scotlan 
Neist Point Lighthouse, Scotland
Standing at the most westerly tip of the Isle of Skye, Neist Point Lighthouse cuts a landmark against the dramatic cliffs. Built in 1909, the whitewashed tower stands 19 meters tall, its light guiding ships for 16 nautical miles across the wild Atlantic waters. While the lighthouse itself is unmanned, the surrounding area offers breathtaking coastal scenery, with opportunities to spot whales, dolphins, and a variety of seabirds.

A walk out to Neist Lighthouse along a long path, down stairs and back up those stairs we had a delightful time at Neist point.

 

From a drive and deciding to follow the sign. Let's just check it out.

Another lesson in travelling. Just follow the sign and find a new wonderful place. Get past the nerves, or whatever it is that stops you, and follow the sign.

 

An Corran dinosaur foot prints

An Corran beach holds a surprising chapter in Skye's history. In 2002, a local resident walking their dog stumbled upon a revelation – a set of dinosaur footprints embedded in a recently exposed block of rock. Further investigation by paleontologists revealed these weren't just any footprints, but a trackway left behind by three-toed dinosaurs over 168 million years ago during the Middle Jurassic period. This discovery transformed An Corran beach into a significant paleontological site, offering a glimpse into the prehistoric inhabitants of the Isle of Skye.

So much to do ... off to Isle of Harris/Lewis

Before we drive onto the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry to the Outer Hebrides we had to have dinner, and mine was delicious. Nicole made a major error in her ordering and was not so fond of hers. I promise, I offered her some of mine as I was happy to share.

 Once on the ferry for the Isle of Harris we enjoyed the cold journey in bitter winds.

Now, for the best series of photos of the trip. Oh, this was so cold and that wind again ... whipping around.

ScotlandColleen Fletcher in Scotland   Colleen Fletcher in Scotland, best photo

The Isles of Harris/Lewis

 

Due to the ferry schedules merging with school schedules for Asher (Nicole's son) we arrived late, leaving one full day of seeing as much as possible. Nicole is a great driver and personal tour guide so we managed to fill our day with so much of the Outer Hebrides.

This is what we did.

Checked in to our blackhouse for the night (this was about 9:30pm) and had a wonderful first night at the Lickisto Blackhouse Camping.

Arrival time to the Isle of Harris - Sunset

Isle of Harris, Scotland Colleen Fletcher

 Morning Meditations

 Isle of Harris, Scotland - Colleen Fletcher - morning

Isle of Harris, Scotland, Morning Meditation Colleen Fletcher

Callanais Standing Stones

Scotland Callanais, scotland Callanais, Scotland

Standing stones of Callanais

Still shrouded in mystery, the Callanish Stones on the Isle of Lewis stand as a testament to an ancient civilization. Erected around 2900-2600 BC, these pre-date the famous Stonehenge monument in England. The stones form a unique cruciform pattern with a central circle and radiating rows. Their exact purpose remains a subject of debate, but evidence suggests they served as an astronomical observatory and a focal point for rituals during the Bronze Age. For thousands of years, the Callanish Stones have stood as a powerful symbol of the ingenuity and spiritual beliefs of the people who built them.

The images directly below are of the main, and most well known of the megalithic sites, known as Callanais I

The following images are of Callanais II

Calanais Standing Stones Scotland
Yes, these are the stones used in the books and TV series, Outlander.

 

Gearrannan Blackhouse Village  

Gearrannan Blackhouse Village is nestled on the dramatic western coast of the Isle of Lewis, these windswept homes whisper tales of a bygone era. Built in the late 1800s, these traditional blackhouses were once a common sight in the Outer Hebrides. Constructed from stone with thatched roofs, these single-room dwellings housed families and their livestock for centuries. However, by the 1970s, Gearrannan faced abandonment. Thankfully, the local Urras nan Gearrannan trust stepped in. Through meticulous restoration, they've transformed Gearrannan into a living museum and a place to stay. Today, visitors can experience crofting life firsthand, explore the restored houses, and even stay in a cozy blackhouse cottage, offering a unique glimpse into the resilience and traditions of the Hebridean people.
 Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, Scotland Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, Scotland Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, Scotland
Stornoway history is that of Viking roots, clan battles, and industrial shifts. Founded by Vikings in the 9th century and named "Steering Bay" for its sheltered harbor, Stornoway thrived as a trading hub. A medieval castle, Stornoway Castle, arose in the 12th century, witnessing power struggles between local clans and the Scottish crown. The 17th century saw Stornoway become a burgh and a center for fishing. The 20th century brought major changes. Industrialist Lord Leverhulme attempted to modernize the fishing industry, but his plans faltered. However, the rise of the Harris Tweed industry on Lewis Island provided a new economic lifeline. Today, Stornoway remains a vital center for the Outer Hebrides, boasting a rich cultural heritage and a strong sense of community, shaped by its centuries-long journey.
I'd take a bite of this delicious black pudding hamburger, and look up to a view of the Stornoway Castle. Delightful!
Around town
  

Luskantyre (Losgaintir) Beach 

(voted the most spectacular in the UK)

Luskentyre Beach (Tràigh Losgaintir in Gaelic) isn't just a beach; it's a contender for the title of Scotland's most magnificent. Tucked away on the west coast of South Harris in the Outer Hebrides, Luskentyre boasts miles of pristine white sand and clear turquoise waters. The vastness of the beach is truly impressive, especially at low tide when it stretches out as far as the eye can see. Framed by towering sand dunes that shift and change with the wind, Luskentyre offers a feeling of remoteness and tranquility. This beach has been recognized for its beauty, having been voted one of the best in the UK. Despite its acclaim, Luskentyre retains a sense of unspoiled wilderness.

Luskantyre (Losgaintir) Beach scotland Luskantyre (Losgaintir) Beach, Scotland Luskantyre (Losgaintir) Beach

This beach was jaw-droppingly gorgeous.

Now we come to my second favorite grouping of images, it is proof that Asher decided that I was OK.

Luskantyre (Losgaintir) Beach.   Luskantyre (Losgaintir) Beach Luskantyre (Losgaintir) Beach

 

After time at Luskantyre beach we drove to Seilebost, just because we were close. Seilebost is a tiny crofting village on the Isle of Lewis, known for its traditional blackhouse dwellings, and the beaches with such a jaw dropping view.

Seilebost Beach, Isle of Harris Scotland   Seilebost Beach, Isle of Harris Scotland
Seilebost Beach, Isle of Harris Scotland

As the sun sets on Isle of Harris

Honestly, we did all of this in one long day. I am forever thankful to Nicole for doing all of the driving and loving to adventure as much as I do.

 

 

 Scotland Isle of Harris Colleen Fletcher

 

 

Now, to explain a little more about where we stayed on Harris.

This blackstone bothy was a single room with a double bed and a single bunk bed above the double. I was on top as Nicole and Asher shared the double.

These photos do not show the chilly winds that continually blow outside, making a stone lodging chilly inside too, although they certainly help in blocking the winds. Now, there is a heater inside of which we left on both nights. The second night that heater must have made some extra heat as the fire alarm went off. After the long day that we had we were all sound asleep when that sound pierced our dreams.

You are all now going to know a crazy thing that I do when I am awakened from a deep sleep, so I apologize now. Poor Nicole did not know this about me in advance.

I will yell at you while saying something semi coherent. This time, I made it very clear to her that I was not about to get up and take care of that alarm. I really think I just yelled at her as I went back to sleep.

Back on the ferry at 6am, headed to Uig on the Isle of Skye, and the drive home to Inverness. 

The night was spent in preparations for the next leg of my journey. Solo, along the North Coast 500. Woooo hooo!!

From the Skye Bridge

Isle of Skye, Scotland, Skye bridge, Colleen Fletcher

Time for a Scottish Distillery

What else would one do when they are leaving Inverness for a long drive?

Glen Ord Distillery a whisky tour, or course!

Nestled in the heart of the Black Isle, the Glen Ord Distillery stands as the sole remaining single malt producer on this fertile Scottish plateau. Its history stretches back to 1838, making it a veteran of the Scotch whisky industry. While Glen Ord produces whisky for Diageo's famed Singleton blend, it also boasts its own single malt bottlings, offering a taste of the distillery's unique character. Recently expanded, Glen Ord continues to play a significant role in Scotland's whisky production, drawing upon tradition while embracing innovation to create its signature spirit.

I had my samples put into little bottles for me, as I was off for my solo driving travels.

Beinn Eighe - Woodland Trail

My first stop, and a great place to stretch my legs.

 

 

Gairloch - The Sands Caravan and Camping

A wonderful family run campsite situated on the beautiful west coast of the Highlands of Scotland with unsurpassed views of the Isle of Skye and Outer Hebrides.  Sands is an ideal base to explore the best of Wester Ross, with the famous Torridon mountains to the south and the world renowned Inverewe Gardens to the north.

 

 

 

 

My second night all by myself, the first on this leg of my journey.

Taking a moment for some skincare routines. I am asked quite often how do I keep my skin looking so good. Well, it is times like this that make a difference for me

Poolewe ancient cemetaries and cairns

 
 

It needs to be mentioned here that I was not able to stop and take many photos; there just are not pull outs all along the winding, curvy small roads.

Corrieshalloch Gorge

One of the many stunning places I wanted to visit. 

Plunging deep into the heart of the Scottish Highlands, Corrieshalloch Gorge is a dramatic testament to the power of nature. Carved by glacial meltwater over millions of years, this 1.5-kilometer long canyon reaches depths of over 60 meters. Visitors can take a short, scenic walk to a Victorian suspension bridge, offering a thrilling view straight down into the gorge. The roaring Falls of Measach plunge 46 meters within the gorge, creating a mesmerizing spectacle. Designated as a National Nature Reserve, Corrieshalloch Gorge is a haven for wildlife and a must-see for anyone seeking a glimpse into the raw beauty of the Scottish Highlands.

With the gentle pathways up and down to the gorge, the suspension bridge that made me a bit nervous to look over, the views of Falls of Measach with its fresh water from the River Droma the views of one of Great Britans most spectacular sights was not a let down.

 

 

 


Then lunch in Ullapool at the delightful Seafood Shack

From a Gorge to the Ruins of a Castle

Ardvreck Castle along my drive of the North Coast.

Scotland, Highlands, Crow Scotland

Lots of driving and even along the wee mad road

While I did not do all of this road, I drove a fair share of the narrow, winding road, and due to the narrowness and the windyness, I have only a couple of photos.

The sheep have right of way; while I was stopped, waiting for them to pass I quickly took a photo or two.

Durness and a Cave

Durness, a small village on Scotland's rugged northern coast, boasts a history intertwined with the dramatic Smoo Cave. Evidence suggests Mesolithic people, some 10,000 years ago, were the first to find shelter within the cave's vast chambers. Over the centuries, Smoo Cave witnessed various chapters unfold. Picts, a Celtic tribe, may have used it for rituals. Vikings, drawn to its natural harbor, likely found the cave a useful storehouse in the 8th century. Locals have long used Smoo Cave, with stories of illicit whisky distilling and even tales of using it as a refuge for those who fell out of favor with local authorities. Today, Durness and Smoo Cave stand together, a testament to Scotland's rich and often mysterious past.

The campground here was already booked so I was not able to stay. I did enjoy a tour of the cave and time in contemplation on the beach.

Durness, Scotland
Durness, Scotland
Durness, Scotland
Smoo Cave, Scotland, Colleen Fletcher
Smoo Cave, Scotland, Colleen Fletcher
Out of the cave into the mouth of the ocean.
Smoo Cave, Scotland

From Durness to Lairg

Inland, along some lochs to Lairg.

I stopped when possible, and ventured into new areas to smell and feel the lands around me. I wanted to touch it all.

Lairg Scotland Church
Inland cairns at the crossroads
Semi Solo Scotland

Haggis with cream in Lairg

Haggis with Cream

 

All around Lairg

 Ravens Rock Gorge

 Ravens Rock Gorge, Scotland

Ravens Rock Gorge, Scotland

Ravens Rock Gorge, Scotland


Falls of Shin

 Falls of Shinn, Scotland

 Falls of Shinn, Scotland

 

Falls of Shinn, Scotland 

 Falls of Shinn, Scotland

Falls of Shinn, Scotland
Fairycroft Visitors Center
 

had much to see and the walks around the center are easy and historical.  And, a huge thanks to Hazel for being so kind and helpful.
Lairg, ScotlandLairg, Scotland

Lairg, Scotland

Lairg, ScotlandLairg, Scotland
A final solitary walk in Culloden forest ,

and dinner at Rocpool

Along my final walk here I stopped by St Mary's Well again, while I left no cloot I did wish for expanded wonders in my life, and ease for the shifting world.

 

Rocpool did not dissapoint for an amazing final dinner with friends and memories for a lifetime.

Inverness Scotland, Colleen Fletcher

Inverness Scotland, Colleen Fletcher

 

Inverness Scotland, Colleen Fletcher

 Inverness Scotland, Colleen Fletcher

  

Solo travel offers a unique kind of freedom. Unburdened by the need to coordinate plans or cater to others' preferences, your mind is unleashed to wander at its own pace. Thoughts that might usually be pushed aside by the daily routine are given space to unfurl and breathe. Like a solitary seed carried on the wind, a stray idea can take root in this fertile ground of quiet contemplation. Unexpected connections blossom as your thoughts brush up against the sights, sounds, and experiences of your journey. This introspective dance can be surprisingly comforting. In the quiet moments of solo travel, you not only encounter new landscapes, but also have the chance to rediscover the rich landscape within yourself.

 

What did I learn about myself on this trip?

Keep open lines of communication with friends.

Know limits of how far you can drive in a day - with time, not distance.

Flexibility matters - in body, mind and spirit.

Muscle memory, trust that previous habits can, and do return.

Driving on the other side of the road came back easily after a bit of a freak out (I missed the proper turn off and ended up in the busy part of Inverness), some practice and an attitude of being able to do it. The moment I sat down to drive my left hand went into an "L" for left. Left, stay on teh left side of the road.

Thanks for being with me!
Lot's of love,
Colleen 

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