The Highlands, the Scottish Coast & an Angsty Nomad Behind the Wheel

 

Scotland in and of itself is a remarkable place. Driving Scotland, well, that’s pretty new to me. I have visited Scotland before, but on September 26 I will be making my way from Frodsham to Edinburgh to begin a unique adventure.

I found myself in the Scottish Highlands in the 1980s, purely by accident. It is a long and interesting story (at least I think so), that perhaps I will share here one day soon… but these next few posts will be about my upcoming trip, the planning involved, my rather ambitious aspirations involving all that I wish to see and do during this Scottish adventure, as well as driving some of the most treacherous roads of the UK, while driving a manual transmission on the wrong side of the road. (stone cold sober too)

Route Planner Scotland East Coast
Route Planner Scotland East Coast

The first half of my Scottish journey via the AA route planner

To know the story of how I ended up on this journey, check out my about page.

It has taken me an entire month, but utilizing this amazing app (and no I am not connected to them in any way) Travefy, I have finally booked the bulk of it. Mostly staying at AirBnB , with a castle and an Inn thrown in for good measure.

The NC500 is a more popular coastal route and I have gotten quite a lot of shit from people, including Scots, questioning me as to why I wish to drive the grey, dreary, rocky and rather desolate East Coast of Scotland, and well… that IS exactly why.

Soon… the tourists seeking out their very own Craigh na Dun will join the nature seekers and explorers drawn originally by the Northern Lights, over to the less popular but equally starlit skies of Sctoland’s East Coast.

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Northern Lights, Scotland

Northern Lights, Scotland

The Millennial adventure travellers, digital nomads and rough travellers, blogging their way through life will inspire the jet setters and eventually your 1/9th part Scottish grandmother, to visit its bleak beauty. The tours will quadruple, the exclusive resorts dig in. Buses will begin clogging the treacherous roads, while yachts fill the quaint fishing piers, in the same manner as they now do Scotland’s Northern Coast. From Edinburgh to all of Aberdeenshire, from Fraserburgh to Inverness and up to the Orkney’s, I wish to see it in all of its Scottishness. (and early Fall is the perfect time of year to experience it that way as well) without too much taint of the visitors soon to come.

Aberdeenshire is rich with ancient history, as well as the castles and ruins of castles to allow one to get lost in the past. From Dunnottar Castle to the beauty of the Fraserburg fishing village, and all of the bits in between.

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Dunnottar Castle, Aberdeenshire Scotland
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Inverness, Scotland

From Culloden to the extremely strong ties to the American Revolution of which (amazingly to me) so many are unaware, that a great deal of the soldiers that fought for the right to be free, were disposed Scots, sent to the colonies as punishment for their rebellion, Inverness then the seed and ever the gateway to the Highlands, has its own unique grace and varied history or triumph and strife.

The craggy cliffs of Scotland have been here practically since the beginning of time. They look unreal, precarious and dank. They are survivors, standing strong and tall against the wind, and sun and rain. Standing tall and proud, as they weather the elements much like the history of the Scots that were born there.

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Planning My Road Trip Scotlands North Coast East Coast & more…

When I originally planned my UK road trip, as an American driving my way through England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland (basically the U.K. plus 1), and including the entire Scottish coast, I figured the hardest part of it would be driving on the other side of the road and travel blogging my way along, without killing myself (or someone else for that matter). I had no idea that driving ‘Scotlands North Coast’ was not only a “thing”, but a popular “thing”. I also did not realize the sheer extent of planning such a trip.

Highland Cow
Highland Cow

Two years ago I spent 3 weeks driving three of Italy’s coasts. Planning and booking the trip including only AirBnB for stays, was pretty straight forward and in the end, I only came short on one date and only had to move one reservation.

In Italy I drove for an easy 6 1/2 hours at one point, from the Amalfi Coast to Ravenna, and I managed it like champ. I was driving between lanes on the white lines of the highways, speeding around cliff hung, death curves at fearless speeds, and flipping people off like a true Italian driver, happily, in no time and enjoying it!

But… because I had a deadline for landing in Ravenna, I missed a great deal of the ‘spur of the moment’ site seeing, I so very much like to do.

For me road trips, be they European road trips, across the US, or anywhere for that matter, are all about being able to see something interesting, turn off and seek it out.

Although I knew this trip was to be much larger, I did not realise the sheer immensity of the endeavour, and the vast amount of things to see and do.

Even for someone who has travelled the U.K. more than once in the past, it is quite remarkable to realise the vast scope of what is crammed into 4 countries, whose landmass could all fit into the state of Texas.

Bluebells in Austin Texas
Bluebells in Austin Texas 2015 (this park is likely the size of London)

I could live in the Scottish Highlands for a full year, spending each waking moment exploring, and I’d still feel swindled at the end of the year. Add England, Ireland and Wales into the mix and holy sh*t.

If you’re from Australia, parts of Asia or from the US, the land mass of these four (4) countries is diminutive at best. But the immense depth of history, variation of cultures and landscape, architecture, museums, pubs, wilderness, historic sites, people, food, pubs, beaches, cities, farmland, did I say pubs?… it’s just astounding to say the least.

Because of my experience of feeling as if perhaps I missed out on too much on the Italian trip, even if I saw and experienced far more than most do on one such trip, I planned this trip with many more stops, hoping to broaden my chances for more exploration. I’m just not exactly sure how this rigid timeline, in one of my favorite places on the planet, the Scottish Highlands, is going to pan out.

I’ve crammed a Hell of a lot of places to see and things to do, along the rugged trail of the NC 500, no matter how short the actual drive might be. So much, that I am unsure if it is even remotely reasonable, let alone doable, in the sort of stress free and freewheeling style, in which I like to travel.

I realize now, (only one month prior to the trip) it’s quite a stringent timetable for such a tempestuous traveler as myself, so keep your fingers crossed and as usual, I’ll just play it by ear.