AirBnB Benefits All Especially The Solo Traveler

Gorgeous kitchen of my AirBnB in Glasgow

As is obvious, I am an avid solo traveler. Although my posts are currently focused on my most recent trip to the U.K., I have traveled much more than that, long before there was AirBnB or blogs for that matter.

Arnisdale House, Scotland AirBnB Scottish High;lands

Having traveled for most of my life, in looking back through my past adventures, perhaps I should have been much more cautious. But hey, I was young, fearless and determined. Often youth is a time less focused on concerns for welfare.

Now in my midlife, I have a greater realization of the potential hazards around me. I do not tend to allow such dangers to greatly sway or hinder my passions, either in life or travel. Yet today, I am much more cognizant of potential issues. AirBnB has become a bit of a safety net for me in that respect.

Solo Traveler Advantages of AirBnB

There are a lot of advantages to AirBnB and similar sites and apps, that help support ones desire to travel. I will share some of those advantages here, but one in particular stands out to me.

Gorgeous kitchen of my AirBnB in Glasgow
Gorgeous kitchen of my AirBnB in Glasgow

Retrospectively I realize, I’ve either been extremely lucky (since I certainly was far from cautious) or perhaps the world is just a safer place than many people think. I’ve gotten into strangers cars. Slept on their couches, floors and beds. I have walked through dangerous neighborhoods like Compton, where I clearly stood out. But in all of those years traveling alone, I never thought about who would have noticed if I’d gone missing?

CBGBs not an AirBnB
CBGBs not an AirBnB

Hell, at 13 I would walk from Grand Central Station to CBGBs and back, in the wee hours of the night / morning. That NYC was a far different place than it is today. I’d sneak out the window and take the train into NYC. Essentially, no one would know where I went or that I’d gone missing until morning.

Road to Arnisdale House AirBnB
Road to Arnisdale House AirBnB Arnisdale Scotland Scottish Highlands

So what’s this all about you ask? Well, it is about AirBnB and similar types of hotel disruptive apps. It is how AirBnB increased my sense of safety when traveling alone simply by knowing there was someone at the other end expecting me.

Utilizing AirBnB has saved me a shitload of money for more reasons than you may think. But it’s sheer existence has changed the way I travel. AirBnB quite literally opened up a new world to me, within the world, I thought I already knew so very well.

AirBnB cottage. Dublin
AirBnB Cottage, Dublin Ireland. Superb! But no coffee maker.

The Power of Alternatives

When AirBnB started, it was the idea of a place for guests to stay that was cheap and safe, yet also provided extra income for those willing to host with very little costs or middle men, so to speak.

Such a perfect AirBnB in Glasgow. I’m booking it again!
Gorgeous Glasgow AirBnB. The host, delightful

Like other disruptive services, AirBnB opened a up a window of opportunity for those looking for alternative ways to make some money. It also opened up a new world to both the guests and the hosts. Today, AirBnB can be a cash cow for many. Although the prices are at times like that of hotels, they still offer unique benefits that seem to help one save quite a few bucks.

View from AirBnB Miramare, Agerola Italy
View from Miramare AirBnB Agerola Italy

With me, traveling on my own often means driving. Driving for weeks and months at a time. Therefor having someone on the other end expecting me is a huge plus.

A hotel isn’t going to freak out if I don’t show (for the most part). If the host of the AirBnB I book does not intend to be there, I give them specific instructions to expect me to ping them upon arrival. If I don’t contact them in a reasonable amount of time, they are to contact me.

Arnisdale, Scotland AirBnB
AirBnB bedroom in Arnisdale. The wine was a nice touch too!

To think of me meandering through Bali, at 17… on my own. No one even knew I was there. I could have vanished into thin air and it would have taken months to track me down. So this is one really big perk of AirBnB. On top of this unintentional perk of AirBnB, there are so many other pluses in utilizing them and similar sights, over hotels, motels and hostels.

Wonderful kitchen. Arnisdale Scotland AirBnB
Fantastic kitchen Arnisdale House, AirBnB. Scotland

Home Cooked Meals & Traveling with Pets

Some of the more pragmatic perks involved in utilizing AirBnB, is the option of cooking for yourself or ‘self catering’ as it is more commonly referred to overseas. Sure you can still eat out, but you’re not forced to eat out at every meal.

Doo the cat. AirBnB Chapel hill North Carolina
Chapel Hill North Carolina, Doo the cat enjoys the AirBnB

This not only saves you money, but offers more healthy options and more control of your calorie intake. It also lets you eat when you want. Make snacks to take with you or sandwiches for picnics, you get the gist.

When traveling with babies or pets, I consider this an ideal situation. Yes many AirBnBs allow pets. Some are even ok with babies.

Full Scottish Breakfast AirBnB Inverness
Full Scottish breakfast. AirBnB Inverness

It’s good to keep in mind that although self catering is a huge AirBnB perk (when it is offered), that it does not always mean full use of the kitchen, especially outside of the US. I do not believe AirBnB has stringent criteria for what this means.

It also doesn’t always mean there is a stove. Some may not have an oven. It could mean access to a microwave or even only a fridge. I searched AirBnB for specific criteria and couldn’t find anything. Because of this, it is best to check and not to assume that you have access to an entire kitchen. Also check if you might be sharing said kitchen.

AirBnB Arnisdale Scotland. Real coffee!
Real coffee thank God at Arnisdale House AirBnB

What to Know When Booking an AirBnB

I suggest you ask if they have a can opener (especially if traveling with pets) or a coffee maker. If you’re like me and going to need them. Coffee often means that shit some people consider to be coffee called Nescafé, especially outside of the US.

Shockingly, in the U.K., Ireland, and similar places abroad… many people do not have coffee makers, or even French presses for that matter. The inhumanity! It is all about the tea.

Groceries. Dublin, Ireland AirBnB
Groceries. Dublin, Ireland AirBnB

Before you go, do make sure there is access to food either already there or at a place to which you can get. Some AirBnB locations can be pretty darned remote. Since I mostly drive, I can pick up groceries for remote areas. If you’re in a remote area with no transport and the kitchen is empty, it’s sort of redundant.

Scottish breakfast. AirBnB Kirkwall Scotland
True Scottish breaky Kirkwall AirBnB. Kept me going all day!

Complimentary breakfast is a great AirBnB perk, but not all comp breakfasts are created equal. In some places, like Scotland, a good Scottish breakfast can go a long long way. Seriously, a true Scottish breakfast will keep you going well to tea (dinner) time and the chance to interact with others is most often a plus.

But breakfast to some is tea and yogurt. Which is fine, but it will less likely tide you over to dinner. Also, a plus is when along with breakfast, comes conversation with other guests or your hosts. It’s an added bonus for a solo traveler like me.

Breakfast by AirBnB host day 2 Edinburgh. Delish!
Breakfast by AirBnB host day 2 Edinburgh. Delish! Scottish oatmeal

Do make sure if you’re expecting a comp breakfast, that they can meet your dietary needs. In Italy I was once offered only custard, donuts and tea for breakfast. I ate an apple and had an early lunch. When asked if they could provide alternatives like oatmeal, eggs and fruit… they happily obliged the next day.

Since I generally walk many miles in a day, covering most cities on foot, so a hearty meal makes it easy to keep going without being focused on my next meal.

A Place to Park & Advice From Locals

Free parking is a fantastic AirBnB bonus, if you’re a driver like me. When a staying in a major city, a promised parking spot can save you a ton of money and aggravation. Downtowns New York City, London, San Francisco, Boston, Paris etc… can be an outrageous expense for parking.

In Florence and Rome car break ins are rampant and finding any parking can be an absolute nightmare. Oh, and try parallel parking with 2 inches of space in front and back while newly driving on a different side.

London parking in front of AirBnB
Look at that parking job in front of London AirBnB

One of my favorite perks of AirBnB is the opportunity to get a true locals advice on where to go, what to do, where to eat and when.

Roseleaf in Edinburgh. Suggested by AirBnB host
Roseleaf in Edinburgh. Fantastic pub, suggested by my AirBnB host. Kedgeree, yum!

Without AirBnB I would have never found the Roseleaf in Edinburgh. I’d have never gone to Gellions in Inverness, I’d never have forgone driving into Dublin’s city center and taken LUAS instead. And I’d never have driven out to Brough Birsay on the Orkneys (one of the best parts of that fantastic journey)

Washing Machine AirBnB Durness Scotland
Durness Scotland AirBnB Washing machine! Yay!

There’s No PLace Like Home / But AirBnB Can Come Close

OMG! I almost forgot. A washing machine. After 3 weeks on the road, I was glad to see this washing machine in Durness. So glad, I almost kissed it. (I actually may have).

It’s crazy expensive to have your knickers washed at a hotel and time consuming in a laundromat. (although it’s a great way to meet the locals). Since I carry only a backpack, I often must rinse my clothes in the sink. To actually wash them? Joy of joys.

Not so important to me is the TV and cable access that many AirBnB provides, even in remote locations lacking much infrastructure. But for me the access to decent Wi-Fi, so I can post, or download pics or video is a huge bonus.

Bathroom Glasgow AirBnB
Glasgow AirBnB bath!

Lastly, being able to plunk down on a couch in your jammies with a glass of wine is a true pleasure. Doing so after a nice hot bath, with your clothes churning in the wash even better. Ultimately having all of that while nibbling on foods you enjoy in a place that feels like home, makes all of the difference in the world on a long excursion.

AirBnB & Extended Stays

Staying at an AirBnB for at least a week. Getting to know the neighbors or if in a remote area, the camels or sheep. Having time to yourself in your own space, is such a different experience than just “staying” somewhere, because you become part of the community instead of just observing it. For me it’s the best addition to my traveling life that has occurred beyond the advent of GPS.

Oh and I must admit, I too love a good stay in a nice hotel. Fine food, lots of catering to your needs. I am all up for that. But for me, that’s vacation, not travel. I can go anywhere and obtain fine service in a fine hotel. Travel to me is melding into your environment and becoming as much a part of it as you can. There certainly are benefits to all sort of travel and quite frankly, I’ll take any sort of travel, pretty much to anywhere over almost anything else.

Killdrummy Castle Hotel not an AirBnB but amazing
Kildrummy Castle Hotel aka Kildrummy Park Castle Hotel. Picture by Elizabeth Whitener, Aberdeenshire Scotland 2017

Unexpected Benefits of AirBnB

A really unexpected perk of AirBnB has been the locations. Although I have stayed in some amazing places such as Miramare (which is an actual BnB, in Agerola Italy). The neo gothic half ruin in which I stayed in Fiesole Italy (sadly no longer available) or in Arnisdale Scotland (I will return there) were just as magical as the journey itself.

These places took me to places to which I never would have been if not searching out places on AirBnB. My stays there were as wonderful as the journey that brought me to them.

Fiesole AirBnB
Gothic Revival half ruined estate Fiesole Italy AirBnB

Lastly, the enduring friendships, interesting people, the exceptional conversations I have had while staying in AirBnBs have added to my travels so significantly, it is hard for me to imagine traveling without it.

Aberdeenshire: Scotland’s Castles, Other Coast & Hidden Wonders

If you are not from the UK, an archeologist, a paleontologist, an ancient or Celtic history buff or perhaps in the oil industry,  it is unlikely you have heard much about the Aberdeenshire region of Scotland. If you are from England, you likely think it is mostly a grey, dreary, wretched place. In fact it seems a great many Scots think this too.

Sunny Day in Aberdeenshire
A beautiful and sunny day in Aberdeen Scotland Aberdeenshire 2017 photo by Elizabeth Whitener

When I decided to drive around the entire coast of Scotland, shunning the typical “North Coast” route for one of my own making,  I was inundated with information about the route commonly known as the NC 500 . I found little about Scotland’s North East Coast beyond grumbles from my UK friends as to why I would even WANT to drive THAT coast.

The popular North Coast 500 is a lovely drive through my beloved Highlands, but you miss so very much stopping at 500 miles in. Yes you get to see the remarkable Highlands, but you miss out on most of the castles.

Arnisdale - Donan
NC 500 near Glenelg, Scotland Highlands Photo by Elizabeth Whitener 2017

The NC 500 part of my journey was truly spectacular. But Aberdeen and the surrounding area (Aberdeenshire) were equally full of splendor.  So much so, I plan to do it all again next year. All of it!

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Kildrummy Castle Ruins (a true castle) Scotland 2017 Photo by Elizabeth Whitener 

Since I am currently writing about my experiences as they unfolded, we’ve now left Edinburgh. I have much more to write about that city, but for now we are about a 3 hour drive Northeast-ish of there.

I only stayed at one conventional hotel during my month long journey. The rest of the time I stayed with friends or at AirBnBs.

I stayed at Kildrummy Park Castle Hotel for two (2) nights. It was at the tail end of the season, so the hotel was relatively quiet and I got a great deal from Booking.com. It was worth every damned dime.

Although rather remote and only accessible via some extremely rural roads, that is the general nature of such a journey anyway. It’s location made access to the numerous wonders in the area fairly easy and the view, service and food were simply stupendous. If you decide to stay there, ask for Fiona.

Kildrummy Castle Hotel
Kildrummy Castle Hotel aka Kildrummy Park Castle Hotel. Picture by Elizabeth Whitener, Aberdeenshire Scotland 2017

The hotel was built in 1900, partially from the ruins of the original 13th century castle that it now overlooks. It was turned into a hotel in 1950. Located near Kildrummy, which is fairly inland from the coast, but nothing in Scotland is really THAT far away (at least not to a road trippin’ American).

In Aberdeenshire, or let’s say the area between Edinburgh and Aberdeen (and a wee bit beyond) it seems one cannot drive more than 10 miles without bumping into an ancient castle. Now I am not talking about Tower Houses like the magnificent Castle Fraser, which is not really a castle at all, see my post about this here–> Tower Houses of Scotland aka Scotland’s Castles I am talking about castles, real Scottish castles!

Fraser full view
Castle Fraser. Magnificently preserved. Built in 1636 Z plan Tower House. Not a castle. Photo by Elizabeth Whitener, Inverurie, Scotland, Aberdeenshire 2017

Don’t get me wrong, there is a seemingly endless array of Tower Houses, Castellated Houses and Baronial House in the area. All well worth seeing as far as I am concerned. Some still in use, some well to moderately preserved and some in ruins dotting the landscape. But let’s talk castles, true castles.

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Dunnottar Castle. A true 16th century courtyard castle. Stonehaven Aberdeenshire. Photo by Elizabeth Whitener 2017

Magnificent Dunnottar Castle. A menacing ruin of a castle jutting up from a huge rock, surrounded by what is often a very turbulent sea. Fortified in the Early Middles Ages, the remaining buildings are from the 15th and 16th centuries.

Dunnottar is a little less than 2 miles south of Stonehaven, and you can make a day of castles and tower houses if planned well.

Castle FraserCraigievar Castle, Drum Castle and Crathes Castle (all actually tower houses by the way) are not so far away. They are all part of the National Trust of Scotland  so give them a call before you go. They are super helpful and every one of these properties have their own unique qualities.

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Crathes Castle & Gardens. The painted ceilings of this castle are wondrous. Built 1596 Banchory Scotland, Aberdeenshire. Photo by Elizabeth Whitener 2017

Check ahead that Dunnottar is open before you go. It is private and not attached to the National Trust. It was NOT open when I was there due to weather.

Also check schedules for events, as well as road closures along your route. Drum closes down to the public for special events and road closures happen frequently. I do not advise it, but I drove around the road closure signs after circling for too long. It isn’t uncommon for detour signs to lead you either in a circle or to nowhere, according to the locals.

Dunnottar is truly a marvel, and is a huge part of not only ancient but more modern Scottish history. This impressive group of structures belonged to the Keiths from the 14th century and was practically impenetrable until the shit hit the fan after the 1715 Jacobite rising. See my short post on the subject here–>  And then the English… 

If you wish to go a bit off of the beaten path, there are the Nine Castles of Knuckle, 2 of which are gone. From west to east, the castles are Dundarg, Pitsligo, Pitullie, Kinnaird, Wine Tower, Cairnbulg, Inverallochy, Lonmay and Rattray

  1. Kinnaird Castle (tower house) now The Museum of Scottish Lighthouses
  2. Winetower (?) – preserved
  3. Cairnbulg Castle (z plan tower house) – private residence
  4. Inverallochy Castle (true castle) – ruin
  5. Dundarg Castle – ruin
  6. Pittulie – ruin
  7. Pitsligo (keep) -ruin
  8. Lonmay Castle (gone)
  9. Castle of Rattray (gone)

True castles in Aberdeenshire to note. Click on them for further info. Some quite obscure.

Cluny Castle – Z-plan Castle – Built 1604 – Private Residence – South of Monymusk

Corse Castle – L / Z plan Castle – 16th Century – Ruin – Three miles NW of Lumphannan

Coull Castle – Fortress –  13th Century – Ruin – South of Coull

Findlater Castle – Courtyard Castle – 14th Century – Ruin – Sandend

Inveralochy Castle – Courtyard Castle – 13th Century – Ruin – Inverlochy Inverlochy Castle Hotel looks like a great place to stay.

Kildrummy Castle – Castle of Enciente – 13th Century – Ruin – Kildrummy

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Kildrummy Castle – 13th Century ruin – photo by Elizabeth Whitener Kildrummy Scotland 2017 (quite a sunny day too)

Lauriston Castle – Courtyard Castle with later additions – 13th Century – Private Residence – St Cyrus (right outside of Edinburgh). A beauty with fantastic gardens and views. Lots of people walking dogs! Lots of wonderful little benches and hideaways.

lauriston Castle view
View from Lauriston Castle. True 13th century courtyard castle with additions. Private residence. Look, another sunny Aberdeenshire day! Photo by Elizabeth Whitener 2017

Toluqon Castle – Courtyard Castle – Built 1589 – Ruin (Historic Scotland) – Pitmedden

Scotland, ALL of Scotland, has so much to do and so much to see. Plan your journey well and be open to making changes as you go.

Scotland is just a beautiful place. Its diversity is as unique as is its history, its flora and fauna and its people.

Closing yourself off to one part of this country, to me, is like getting a glimpse of a small corner of a masterpiece and calling it a day, never getting a full view of all that you could have seen.