Scotland is a land of mysterious tales, beautiful valleys, and impressive lakes that extend to the ocean (also known as lochs). Our adventure takes us through the Highlands, the north-western part of Scotland. In contrast to the urban life of cities like Edinburgh or Glasgow, the Highlands encompass a simple countryside lifestyle. As a result, local folks are incredibly welcoming, easy-going, and kind. In this post, we narrate our first week trekking through these magical lands, including an unexpected event that forced us to rethink our whole travelling strategy.
Our journey started in Fort William, a charming town on the shore of Loch Linnhe and at the foothills of Ben Nevis (the tallest mountain in the U.K.!). We stayed at a campsite with an incredible view of the misty valley (or Glen) of Nevis. Camping on this spot far from civilization allowed for switching off from distractions of everyday life, sharing stories of our childhood, and connecting at a deeply humane level. Nonetheless, staying warm under the freezing northern winds was no easy endeavour. We woke up early that morning, ready to depart on an adventurous trek across the Highlands.
Photo: Gairlochy, Scotland
When we travel not everything goes as planned; this day was a reminder of this lesson. We set off from Fort William, aiming to walk at least for 10 miles with three hefty bags. The day was gorgeously sunny, and the trail pleasantly flat. We reached a wild-camping spot in the late afternoon. However, we decided to walk a couple of miles ahead to a village with a camping site. Those ‘couple miles’ became incredibly cumbersome as the covered miles, and the weight of our bags begun taking the toll on us. After almost two hours, we reached the campsite only to find out that they were not receiving backpackers due to recent COVID-19 preventive measures.
People are mostly kind and willing to help a couple of exhausted travellers. Even though the campsite was closed, its managers went above and beyond to make sure we had a place to stay that night. They reached out to their friends from nearby B&Bs and even called a friend to drive us to our accommodation. We stayed at the Aonach Mor Hotel in Spean Bridge, picturesque village worth visiting. Liz, a welcoming woman running the hotel, had a cozy bedroom and warm food waiting for us. Over dinner, we had a pleasant conversation with a woman from L.A. (yes, in California) who’s been living as an expat in this tiny little village in the Scottish Highlands for years. Indeed, these unexpected experiences are the ones we cherish the most from travelling.
Photo: Drumnadrochit, Scotland
What started as trekking the Great Glen Way quickly became a different form of adventuring. With campsites accepting only self-sustained campers to minimize contact with other travellers in bathrooms and shared spaces, we had to rethink our travel plans. We decided to stay for three days in Drumnadrochit, a village home to numerous tales about the Loch Ness monster. In fact, we visited ‘The Nessieland Center‘, a museum dedicated to decades of research on the Loch Ness Monster.
What we have learned so far in this adventure is that traveling with an open mind pays off. We had planned to trek the Great Glen Way for over a year, and even though it hasn’t turned out how we planned, we’ve enjoyed every single moment. The people we met on the road have been overwhelmingly kind and helpful. Most importantly, they have reminded us that adventuring is about getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.
In the next part of this story (click here to read), we’ll cover the rest of this trek across Scotland. You’ll read our experiences with hiking in the surroundings of Loch Ness. Moreover, we’ll tell you more about our visit to the Urquhart Castle ruins. Finally, you’ll discover hidden spots of Inverness, the Highlands’ largest city. Stay tuned for our next post!