You may have noticed that it has been a few weeks since my last post. I took my oldest daughter, who just graduated from high school at the beginning of June, to Scotland as a graduation gift. When asked where she wanted to go on a mother-daughter trip, she replied “Scotland.” My husband wasn’t sure that it sounded like much of an ‘adventure’, compared to traveling to Africa or Asia, but I knew that even a country that is a close relative of ours in terms of culture and language could still turn out to be a great journey.
Wanting to minimize the trip cost with this bad economy hitting all of us while maximizing our time, I chose to buy train passes, relying on public transportation and lots of walking throughout the trip. The train passes were for eight consecutive days and we used them every day but one, more than paying for their cost, as the first day alone we spent seven hours going from Manchester, England to near Inverness, Scotland with three train changes.
One of the trains we rode during our time in Scotland
A great highland view from the train window
What made the trip enjoyable and such an adventure was that it was a combination of cities and countryside, while experiencing the journeys from a train window. We stayed in four places; two cities full of history and beautiful castles (Stirling and Edinburgh) and two places in the highlands with stunning scenery (Fort William and Aviemore, near Inverness and adjacent to Cairngorms National Park). Even at our destinations we used the train passes to see more. We took a 90 minute ride and then a ferry journey as a day trip from Fort William to the Isle of Skye, and another day hopped on a 40 minute trip from Aviemore to Inverness for a stroll along the River Ness and a dinner in town before returning in the evening. So we were able to see a wide variety of Scotland during the actual nine days we were on the ground.
Isle of Skye from the ferry
Castle in Inverness
Probably the biggest adventure we had was a hike I wanted to take outside of Fort William in an area called Glen Nevis. It is a very scenic area with mountains, meadows, rivers and waterfalls with movies such as Rob Roy, Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone and Braveheart having been filmed here. Deciding to walk the entire way, we first trekked two miles from the center of town to the visitors center to get a map for the hike to a meadow and waterfall, which my guidebook said was a three mile round trip from that parking lot.
However, upon arriving at the visitors center, we learned that the hike was much further away than the guidebook had stated, starting at another parking lot five miles away! We were told that there was a public bus coming in 10 minutes time that we could flag down. This would cut several miles off the trip, making the hike about six miles round trip from where the bus ended. So we boarded the bus to the end of the line and began the hike along a beautiful river.
The trail climbed slightly up a highland ridge and then across a small bridge to the Nevis Gorge. Through here the trail was rocky and a little slow going, but not too steep. Upon coming out of the gorge we reached the meadow and the waterfall, which was about 300 feet high and cascading down one of the mountain walls. After crossing the meadow to get a closer look at the falls, we took a short break and consulted the bus schedule. The next one all the way back to Fort William left in 2 ½ hours, giving us plenty of time to walk back to the bus pick up point.
Our hiking destination – waterfall and meadow
We actually hiked the three miles back very quickly and had about 45 minutes to spare at the bus stop. The flies were really bad so we decided to continue walking along the road toward the visitors center and town and then flag the bus when it came by. After about 45 minutes we reached a youth hostel and went in to buy a drink. I inquired about the next bus and was told that particular one did not run on school days (there was a ‘NS’ notation that I had not noticed on the schedule) and the next bus would not come for two more hours!
At that point, we had the hostel call a taxi and were back in town within a few minutes. We figure we walked about 11 miles in all that day, but both agree that it was quite worth it to be able to experience such beautiful scenery in a very special setting. So between the history, highlands, trains and hikes we had a wonderful mother / daughter adventure full of great memories. Even my husband had to admit so when we got home and he saw the pictures and heard the stories.