Hello friends! Over half term, I went on holiday on my own to Scotland, and it was an absolute delight. Here’s what I got up to.
Sunday: I took the sleeper train to Inverness. It is so much fun. You get to go to sleep on the train, lulled by the lovely rocking motion and in a surprisingly comfy bed. You get tea and biscuits in the morning. You, uh, get to hear snoring through the walls. You get to watch the Highlands slip past at 6am. It’s fantastic. It was doubly fantastic because I’d booked myself into a twin berth, but the other person didn’t turn up.
Monday: I arrived in Inverness and nothing was really open so I got a McDo breakfast, then killed a fair bit of time wandering about, and buying snacks for later, before going to pick up my car. It was extremely yellow, and had a parking camera which I wasn’t thrilled about, but it did the job. I then drove out to the sea, and walked along the shore at Nairn, then sat on a bench with a cup of tea and watched the waves and the gulls and the light, and felt very peaceful. I checked into my B&B – Inchrye Guest House in Ardersier, which turned out to be brilliant; it’s run by a lovely couple, the bed was so comfy and the breakfasts are amazing – then headed back to Nairn for a fish supper (average, but good to sit by the sea with my tea), and was in bed by 9.
Tuesday: I went, on the B&B owners’ recommendation, to the Fyrish Monument. It was a long and tiring climb, and even with frequent breaks to watch birds and gaze at scenery, I got very warm very quickly. I reached the top around the same time as two middle-aged women and a group of American students, and we all sat around together discussing our various trips. From the top, I could see the whole of the Cromarty Firth, and peaks rising in every direction but east. It was spectacular. The other people drifted off after a while, but I stayed longer, enjoying the view and the quiet (and taking selfies), before heading back to the car and going in search of a macaroni pie and driving out to Nigg. From the first of June, a ferry runs between Nigg and Cromarty, but I was a couple of days too early – I knew this before I went, but hoped it would be pretty up there anyway. I wasn’t wrong. I walked along the beach, watching seals, eider ducks, oystercatchers and gulls, until I got soaked in a sudden downpour, and decided it was time to head back. Once I’d dried off, I visited the RSPB reserve at Nigg Bay, and made my first ever records in the official hide book. The hide there is lovely, and has a telescope, which was great to use. After about an hour, I set off again, took a wrong turning and ended up at Nigg Old Church, which has a Pictish cross-slab, a Cholera Stone, and a poor loft, then another wrong turning brought me to Shandwick, which is really pretty, and also has a Pictish stone, in a glass box on a hill. Eventually I managed to get my bearings, and headed back to the B&B, then for dinner at one of the places in the village.
Wednesday: I went up to RSPB Udale Bay, where I spent about an hour and a half recording sightings, including a family of very small shelduck ducklings, and watched a heron hunting. A cruise ship was moored at Invergordon, and it loomed over the bay. In the hide was a board about the best times and places to see dolphins in the area, so I did some calculations, and drove the long way round to Fortrose, so I could walk out to Chanonry Point to catch them on the incoming tide. I wasn’t disappointed. A small crowd had gathered on the end of the headland, and there were about eight dolphins – including at least one calf, possibly two. Check out the amazing picture I got of one of them jumping! I stood in the water watching them, for well over an hour, before leaving and making my way to Findhorn Bay, though I didn’t see many birds there, then detoured on my way home so I could take a selfie with the sign outside the village of Dyke (I am nothing if not predictable) before heading back for dinner and a sunset stroll along the shore.
Thursday: I got myself organised, checked out of the B&B and drove to RSPB Loch Garten, in the hope of seeing ospreys. I didn’t, in the end – they’ve had a bad year, as the male disappeared so the chicks died, and the female hasn’t been around quite so much since – but I did see other birds, and red squirrels, and I walked in the forest and felt very peaceful. I’d run out of steam a bit by the time I got back to the car so I curled up with my book and my lunch and spent a pleasant hour or so before driving up to Loch Ness – I’d been north, south and east of Inverness so I might as well make a complete compass. I parked up by the loch for almost two hours, enjoying the view and the quiet and the warmth, and restoring myself a little, until I had to drop the car back. I had a brainwave when I found myself in Inverness with three and a half hours until my train, and left my suitcase at left luggage – although it’s not big, it would’ve been a pain to take around with me – then went for a stroll before going to Cafe One for dinner, on a friend’s recommendation. Their early bird dinner menu is such good value, and everything was delicious, and the staff were so friendly and accommodating. I had another little stroll, bought some postcards, and went to get on the train. Sadly the person in the other bunk turned up this time, but she was very nice, and I managed to sleep, as well as finishing writing in my holiday notebook, and reading a lot of book. Good stuff.
I was worried about going on holiday on my own – I didn’t think anything bad would happen to me, because I’m fairly sensible, I know my limits, but I was concerned that I’d get lonely. But it turns out that travelling alone means people are interested – I spoke to so many people, and they were all lovely. It was a bit out of my comfort zone to do that but I got used to it and shared – both ways – some great knowledge and tips. The main benefit, of course, was that I could do exactly what I wanted. I didn’t have to worry about keeping up with someone else when on a walk, or that I had spent too long looking at something. I didn’t have to check it was alright to have an early dinner, or spend two hours sitting in the car with a book. I only had to please myself, and it was so liberating. I loved it, and I’m already thinking about where I’ll go on my next solo trip.