Once upon a time, there were two young, naive and carefree travellers, a kiwi and anenglishman. In search of adventure, they set off on the bonus Royal Wedding bank holiday of 2011 from the southern shores of Bournemouth destined for the Scottish Highlands. They packed their survival gear into the back of their rickety old Ford Focus and strapped the moutain bikes as securely (and legally) as possible to the back and hit bank holiday roads.
Of course I’m talking about me and Scott.
After hours of driving to the Lake District we finally arrived in Windermere. It was a little overwhelming, what with the thousands of tourists which had turned this quiant lakeside resort into a themepark, so we made a quick stop of at the tourist information centre for directions to the nearest campsite. As I re-appear rather disheveled, I told Scott that the women had quite literally laughed in my face and told me “that I was unbeleivably naive to have come here without a booking” and that we’d have to “wild camp”. Well, well, well, that sounds like a challenge to me.
After a few hours of driving from village to village, we finally found a campsite set in the valley of a mountain range. The most expensive camping we’d ever experienced, but none the less absolutely spectacular. We set up our tent, cracked into a bottle of wine and watched the sun disappear behind the mountains.
Scott’s tent has been around the world with him. We laugh every time we sleep in it as we always seem to find some travel memorabilia hidden within its small poles and ropes. Its the curse of the travelling tent and in fact last time we slept in it, we found some kind of African currency! Not much use in the Lake District however…
The next day, fresh faced and ready for some exploring, we hit the lakes. They have got to be one of the most incredible landscapes I have ever seen.
Lakes so clear they appear to mirror the landscapes surrounding them. The unseasonable April weather also made for the most magical of spring side settings. Lambs patrolled the greenery and the leaves awakened from the warmth of the sun. We weren’t quite ready to leave our paradise, but Edinburgh was calling our names.
Ever wondered what a Kiwi looks like in Scotland?
Edinburgh gave us the perfect opportunity to use those bikes we’d dragged up the length of England, so we set off early in the morning on our two wheels and explored the cities amazing history. Waking up a little jaded the next day (the Scots love to get you drinking their local whiskeys) we set off and headed west towards Lock Lomand.
And WOW is it incredible. The road further north runs adjacent with the Loch and in the spring you’ll get uninterrupted views of the magnificent scenery. Boat trips of tourists gallivant up and down the crystal waters and you can spot castles and large mansions nestled in the quiet of the other side of the Loch. After 3 hours of driving we arrived in Fort William (home to Ben Nevis) and once again set up our tent. That night we gorged fillet steaks and fine red wine under the clear Scottish skies. I was loving this already.
The next day we made our way to the local tourist information centre (just outside the Morrison’s) and booked some Outer Hebrides ferries with the main provider Calmac. We’d booked our first ferry from Ullapool that evening so after pleading with the kind Scotsman at the campsite to let us keep our tent pitched in the grounds for a few days, we hit the road once again.
We headed north towards Inverness and once again the landscape just blew us away.
Take the road to the west of Loch Ness for the best views of the Loch. They’ll blow your mind.
After Inverness the landscape changes completely. No longer are you driving through lush green forests alongside mirror lakes. Oh no, everything turns dry and baron.
Its unnerving and eery.
But the roads are an entirely different story. Long, straight, amazing roads that allow you to enjoy the view in its entirety. The below photo is scarily similar to those I’d taken on the South Island of New Zealand.
We reached Ullapool in the early evening, hit up a local fish and chip shop and joined the que for the car ferry. We met travellers from all over the world on the ferry that evening and as we shared life stories under the setting Scottish sun, the view on Stornoway had everyone on their feet.
Stornoway is the largest town on the Isles of Harris and Lewis. The northern part of the island is Harris, famous for Harris Tweed, and is amazingly flat. The weather proof houses here are battered by the Atlantic weather and still to this day villagers burn the “peat” that covers this island as fire fuel for their homes. There are no trees and nothing in the way of protection, but it is the exposure of this island which creates its beauty.
After a full Scottish breakfast in our B&B we headed north from Stornoway to the most northern point on the Isle of Harris to the famous lighthouse. On our decent back through the isles you spot parts of history which have been left virtually untouched. They call them Blackhouses and are thousands of years old. You can freely walk up to and even explore the interior of these amazing small buildings and still to this day smell the peat which was once burnt inside.
On the Isle of Lewis, stone circles cover the landscape. Far larger and more impressive than Stone Henge, you can freely walk up to each circle and marvel in the mystery of these incredible formations.
Our last ferry of the journey took us from the most southern point of the Isle of Lewis to the northern tip of the tropical Isle of Skye. Unfortunately the evening winds had drawn in some clouds and we were desperate to get back to our tent in Fort William for more of that fine Scottish steak, that Scott put his foot down and we flew threw the Isle of Skye like there was no tomorrow.
And our final view of this amazing landscape was one worth pulling over for. We’d crossed the bridge connecting the Isle of Skye to Scotland and in the rear view mirror we saw the most magical of sunsets. The sun just breaking through the clouds and the enormous mountain range as a backdrop of the sheer beauty of the landscape.
And so I urge you, with all my will, please see our magical island. Those dark winter days are more bearable knowing how wonderful our land is and having travelled to New Zealand, Scotland is like the kiwi’s little sister.