I’ve come back to this post a few times, I scribble some ideas down on a notepad and I think of an opening. They have all failed, clearly, and it seemed like Scotland was about to go unwritten. That thought was more depressing so here we are. We all have unattainable dreams that we revisit from time to time with friends. Mine has always been, ‘I want to live in a cottage in the woods with my border collie and be surrounded by what I love.’ I come from South Africa so that’s why this dream was a joke; it’s far from safe in my country and I never thought this dream would be possible. Well, not possible, until Scotland… I’ve decided to break this into two posts; one for the details of my trip and one for my encounters.
Why the Scottish Highlands?
The Scottish Highlands have been on my Bucket List since I was a teenager, but it was a bit of a secret. Edinburgh or Glasgow, for sure, but the Highlands? Sounds a little boring, right? I’ve always craved peace. Peace away from humans because they exhaust me. I love interacting with good people and making connections but I always leave encounters exhausted. I struggle with protecting my energy and I just want to give, to help or support. This is why the cottage in the woods drew me in like a moth to a (hopefully) solar powered light. I could have the peace I craved with the option to interact; I would be protected.
Heading into thirty has changed things for me; mainly that I give fewer fucks now. I don’t care if people think me heading into the mountains is ridiculous, it’s my life and I’ll live it how I want. Gosh darn, I was finally going to head into the Highlands! It seemed like the perfect ME holiday I was craving so I started planning meticulously!
Planning on going to the Scottish Highlands?
The first hurdle was time constraints because my holiday in the UK was going to be rushed and I didn’t want to take time away from my family. I managed to squeeze in around two full days and one-half day in the Highlands and, to be honest, that wasn’t enough time. My goal was to see the main things I wanted to see and, if there was time, squeeze in anything else.
How to get to the Scottish Highlands
The capital of the Highlands is the beautiful city of Inverness and I decided to make that my base. I was coming from England (Hull up north specifically) and I thought the train would be my best bet. It’s not the cheapest option and I could’ve saved some coin (and time) by flying into Inverness but the views were second to none so I don’t regret it. My nose was pressed onto the window the entire time and it was truly magical to see the different landscapes Scotland has to offer.
I booked through Trainline and it set me back around $130 for my return ticket. The train is almost 8-hours and it’s a very comfortable ride with good toilets. You do need to bring your own food unless you want to purchase on the train, as you would guess the prices are inflated for their convenience. There are also numerous buses you can take from major cities in both Scotland and the rest of the UK. These will differ in price depending on the length of the journey and comfort.
Where to stay in Inverness
I found this adorable B&B on Booking.com and it was perfect for me. My goal was to find something close to the river but off the main street and that’s what No.29 gave me. A woman called May who literally lights up every room she walks into runs it. I felt right at home and loved my breakfast every morning with the news playing in the background as I buttered my toast. It was around $140 for three nights but the price will fluctuate depending on the time of year.
No.29 is literally a 30-second walk to the river and a full minute until you’re on the main street. When I arrived at the train station at 9 pm on my first night, it took me all of three minutes to arrive at my B&B. May was waiting for me and it was the perfect greeting to welcome me to Scotland.
What to do in Inverness
Boat trip to Urquhart Castle
This is such a cool trip and I would personally recommend the guys from Loch Ness by Jacobite. I opted for the Temptation Cruise, which was a pick-up from Inverness Bus Station and a full tour up to the dock with loads of information about Inverness and Loch Ness. Once we got to the dock we hopped onto the boat for a tour down Loch Ness right up to Urquhart Castle. There was something incredibly special about approaching Urquhart Castle by boat; it felt very old school as it was frequently approached from the Loch when it was inhabited. The castle itself is wonderful to explore and so is the visitors center. Make sure you watch the video they’ve put together in the visitors center because it shares the vast history of the castle and a wonderful view magical appears after the rolling credits!
You cannot beat the tour guides from Scotland, they are hilarious and a huge reason for recommending Jacobite is because of the awesome tour guide we had.
Isle of Skye
If you don’t make your way through the Isle of Skye… there really is no point in going to the Scottish Highlands. I’m KINDA kidding. The day spent running through the mountains and seeing unmatched beauty is more than this Lamb could hope for. I kept feeling emotional because I couldn’t quite grasp what I was seeing. It was the ‘cottage in the woods’ come to life before my very eyes. There was a way of life like I’d imagined. I went with a small-ish tour company called WOW Scotland and they were absolutely amazing. Such wonderful gents that just kept the energy up throughout the day and made sure to spend time with each of us in the group.
I was initially going to hire a car and do it myself but they had experienced pretty heavy rainfall and the roads are not the most sturdy. You do need to know what you are doing and where you’re going. If I had an entire week I would’ve definitely hired a car and gone out on my own for a day or two. Next time.
Inverness & River Ness
The city of Inverness is beautiful and has some gems of its own. Walking along the River Ness is just beautiful and it was there, sitting on a bench surrounded by the beauty that I had a personal breakthrough of a serious magnitude. I will go into that on my next post about Scotland, as it deserves its moment in the sun.
Inverness is home to about 47 000 people and it sees its fair share of tourists depending on the time of year. It’s small enough to get around on foot and I would recommend giving yourself a day to properly explore the different places in the town.
My Inverness Recommendations:
- River Ness
- Leakey’s Bookstore (absolutely magical – see pic below)
- Inverness Cathedral
- Inverness Castle
Things I didn’t get to see but need to…
- The Battlefield of Culloden
- Orkney Day Tour
- The Fairy Pools
How much did I spend?
This took a while to calculate actually because the costs change depending on the time of year. I went in March of this year for three nights and the costs were as follows:
Train to Inverness from Hull (England): $130 [return]
Accommodation for three nights: $140
Jacobite Boat Cruise to Urquhart Castle: $40
Isle of Skye 1-day tour with WOW Scotland: $100
Food & Coffee (two meals and snacks): $60
Purchases aka books: $30
My budget for this trip was $500 – $600 and I was happy I stayed comfortably within my budget. You can definitely do it for cheaper, especially in the accommodation and travel department.
I cannot recommend Inverness/Scottish Highlands enough and I am so happy with the messages I’ve been receiving on Instagram from people now interested in checking out this beautiful city! Like I said before, I will be writing a follow-up post on Scotland about my personal encounters but I wanted to get all the information out there on the travel side of things!