GLEN NEVIS // Highlands, Scotland

In the spirit of being unorganised on our Scottish roadtrip, we had not planned anywhere to camp after our spontaneous (and painful!) hike up the Pap of Glencoe. Initially I thought we might try wild camp, but after the long afternoon hike we decided to opt for the upgrade of camping in Fort William.

Our campsite ending up being perfect, with a view of Ben Nevis in the distance – the tallest mountain in the below photo!

We slept well in our tent that night, and woke up to a slightly cloudier morning. Again, we had no plans in place other than some morning walking. After a quick google session over coffee, we opted to drive from Fort William, around the base of Ben Nevis to the glen.

We reached an already busy carpark and followed a nice path for about a kilometre.

The path suddenly emerged out into Glen Nevis, where we were met with an amazing view of a waterfall down the end of the valley.

There was plenty to explore in the valley, with paths dotting around the creeks to cross – including over a very precarious cable bridge!

The views down the valley were absolutely amazing. This would be an amazing wild campsite for when we (hopefully!) return to summit Ben Nevis!

The waterfall was impressive, and very fast running! Exploring the base felt like a bit of an adventure as we scrambled over rocks and the raging river.

We could have spent hours walking around the valley and further down the Glen, but we had a few more sights planned for our road trip.

Exploring Glen Nevis was certainly worth the spontaneous drive! As we were leaving the number of hikers in increased substantially, so I was glad we got there early.

– Reanna

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PAP OF GLENCOE // Glencoe, Scotland

Our original plans for our visit to the Scottish Highlands were to hike Ben Nevis, but given this was going to be my first hiking trip since breaking my toe we decided to play it by ear and just choose an smaller hike depending on how I felt walking around on the day.

After a morning of making our way up through Glencoe, we decided that a short 5-8km hike would be a good way to spend the afternoon. Having done next to no planning, I spent five minutes frantically googling in the car as we drove through Glencoe village. We arrived in a carpark and decided on what sounded like a nice 5km hike up a hill… that hill in the distance below! The Pap of Glencoe (Sgorr na Ciche) was waiting for us.

The walk was immediately straight up hill, and after referring back to the directions online we realised that we were going to covering 700m ascent in 2km… not that bad, right?!

We spent the first kilometre losing the track among the bracken, before eventually encountering another hiker who advised us to pretty well just go straight up. By this point we were almost an hour in and beginning to seriously question our decision. The views were already stunning from the side of the hill!

But we decided to slowly keep on. It was a very tough, very steep, and very rocky final few hundred metres, and I was almost ready to collapse when we reached the peak.

All our lack of planning and suffering was 100% worth it when we emerged to the peak. The views of the surrounding highlands had me absolutely lost for words. And not to mention we were treated to perfect blue skies – unheard of in Scotland!

Absolutely unreal – we will definitely be back for more highland hiking!

After taking in the views and resting our sore feet, we realised that there was an alternative route up and down the mountain, that everyone else at the peak must have taken. This route was 1km longer, but was a clear trail with steps and everything!

We slowly made our way down this trail, which wound down the mountain for a good hour. The extra kilometre did not make the 700m of descent any less brutal on the knees!

Despite the challenge of the hike, making it up the Pap of Glencoe was so rewarding, with the views making up for the physical challenge of it all.

It is safe to say we slept well that night!

– Reanna

THE HIGHLANDS // Glencoe, Scotland

I had always heard of the legendary Scottish highlands, but it wasn’t until Chris moved to Glasgow that I considered them as a must visit whilst living in the UK. As soon as we scheduled in my long weekend visit up to Scotland, we booked a car and planned to spend a couple of days driving and hiking in the hills.

After a long day in Edinburgh the day prior, we were up reasonably early to hit the road from Glasgow. The road started by taking us alongside the beautiful Loch Lomond.

The weather was already providing again, and the blue skies only got better as we drove on towards the highlands. Obviously, I began to get pretty snap happy with the camera as we began to enter the hills.

The water in the above photo was like glass – I have never seen anything so still and the reflections on the mountain were stunning!

The road was narrow and windy, as we reached the famed Glencoe region, roadside carparks become quickly crowded.

We found an off road car park just before the township of Glencoe, and enjoyed a short forest walk.

Everything was just so green, the colours even more vibrant due to the sunshine and clear skies.

After a picnic lunch, we followed a path back up the glen alongside the river to take in some more of the magnificent valley.

In the above photos you can make our distant waterfalls on the side of the mountains. In the valley below, the River Coe was running fast and featured some smaller falls.

Needless to say, we were off to a good start in the morning! Feeling inspired, we jumped back in the car in search on an afternoon hike to stretch our legs some more. But this hike deserves its own post!

– Reanna

FRINGE FESTIVAL // Edinburgh, Scotland

We recently had a bank holiday weekend in the UK, so I jumped at the opportunity to take another weekend away. With an extra day of leave tacked on, I jumped on the train up to Glasgow to visit Chris and explore some more of Scotland.

Our plans for a quiet night were changed last minute when Chris received a phone call from a work colleague offering last minute tickets to see the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. After a moment of hesitation, we said yes and within a couple of hours we were jumping on the train over to Edinburgh.

Edinburgh is only a short 45 minute train ride from Glasgow, so soon we were walking through the historic city up to our destination for the night – the esplanade of the Edinburgh Castle! The Fringe Festival was also in full swing, so we had to maze our way through crowds and street performers.

The Tattoo had a pretty amazing back drop!

Admittedly we had no idea what we were in for, but it ended up being a worthwhile experience! The Tattoo is an evening of military tattoos (e.g. military band performances) from Scotland and across the world. Imagine lots and lots of kilts, bagpipes, and uniforms.

The use of the castle as part of the performance was spectacular, and thankfully we had a clear (but cold!) night.

We headed back to Glasgow for night, before heading back to Edinburgh again the next day!

Spending Saturday in Edinburgh had always been our plan, so we could spend a day exploring the famous Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the worlds largest arts festival. Again, we were treated to beautiful weather and set about wandering the city with no plans other than seeing a few shows.

We saw three shows, two were part of the free festival (including one by my work colleague!) and a paid show we prebooked. All were a bit of fun, and we could easily have gone to more as there were literally hundreds to choose from. But with the weather so nice, we took advantage of being outside and taking in the atmosphere and beautiful surroundings.

We spent part of the afternoon sitting in the park below Edinburgh Castle. In the left of the above photo you can see the stands we sat in the night before!

By the end of the day we were exhausted from the hectic day of exploring a very busy city. Despite two trips to the city in two days, I feel like I have hardly had the time to truly explore Edinbugh, so I am sure I will be back!

– Reanna

 

CAUSEWAY COASTAL ROUTE PT. 2 // Northern Ireland

Our windy and cold walk along the Giant’s Causeway did not deter us from completing the remainder of the Causeway Coastal Route in Northern Ireland. We were lucky to have the warmth of our car to protect us from the weather in between every stop!

From Giant’s Causeway, we backtracked slightly along our route to have a quick stop at Dunluce Castle, an impressive looking medieval castle ruin. We didn’t pay to go down, as all I wanted to see was a ruined castle on the impressive Northern Ireland coastline!

The next stop was Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, again located on a stunning section of coastline.

We chose to walk along the coastal path and view the famous rope bridge in question from the distance (because honestly, we didn’t feel like paying 10 pound to walk on a rickety rope bridge!). The bridge was closed when we first arrived due to the weather, but by the time we had reached the island it had reopened and there was a long line of people waiting to get across!

We continued our drive along the coast, driving through more little villages and stopping for a brief lunch.

Our final stop was perhaps one of my unexpected favourites of the day. Slightly back from the coastline we drove to the Glen of Atrim. Again, we were faced with another extortionate parking fee and managed to find an alternative just down the road. Not really sure what we were in for, we followed a path towards then Glen and soon found ourselves in front of some amazing views down the valley.

We only had time to walk around for an hour or so, but it was enough time to take in the waterfalls across the valley and the sweeping views towards the coast.

Ireland really is 110% green!

Before all too long we had to jump back in the car and make our way to the airport to head home.

Northern Ireland certainly surpassed my expectations, in both the natural beauty and the interesting (and slightly confronting) history about the region that we learned. Sure, we had to change plans due to injury and weather, but it ended up being a wonderful weekend getaway.

Visiting Northern Ireland also means I have ticked off visiting all four countries of the United Kingdom! Now to visit some of the isles.

– Reanna

CAUSEWAY COASTAL ROUTE PT. 1 // Northern Ireland

After our morning of exploring Belfast and receiving a crash course in the local history, Chris and I set off in to the countryside to explore more of Northern Ireland. We had planned to do the Causeway Coastal Route in an anticlockwise direction, but again due to my broken toe our plans changed and we reversed our decision, heading inland first.

Our first stop on the drive was Roe Valley Country Park, a lovely woods where we had a short walk along the river.

Despite the grey weather the drive itself was very beautiful – everything was just so green!

We squeezed in one more stop for the afternoon at Downhill House, an old mansion atop a very wild and windy clifftop.

Despite the wind we made our way down to the nearby viewpoint to look at the distant shores of the Republic of Ireland across the water.

That night we stayed in the most wonderful airbnb in an old Victorian house in the little town of Ballymoney. The village was the perfect base to set off for the remainder of our roadtrip, as the next morning it was only a short drive to the Dark Hedges.

The Dark Hedges are an imposing set of beech trees lining a country lane. They were planted in the 1700s and provide an eerie natural tunnel. I just thought they looked cool, but the main reason they have become popular is because some scenes from Game of Thrones were filmed here!

From the hedges, it was another short drive to the coast to the famous Giant’s Causeway!

Visiting the Causeway is a bit confusing – the main carpark is full of signs advising of an expensive admission fee, and tourists are directed to a visitor centre to get tickets. However, visiting the Giant’s Causeway is actually free. Thanks to the advice of our Airbnb hosts, we parked our car at a nearby hotel and walked down to the Causeway, straight through the carpark and past the visitor centre.

It was a cold and windy morning, but the weather seemed to improve ever so slightly as we walked down to the water and the Causeway itself.

Thankfully the above photo hides the fact that I look like an idiot wearing my thongs/flip flops on a wet, slippery rock. They were the only shoes that I could wear with my broken toe!

The Causeway was better than I expected, and after exploring the rocks we (very slowly) took the cliff park back to the main entrance.

The cliff path gave us an aerial perspective of the Causeway below.

The green coastline of Northern Ireland was simply stunning.

We (well, I) hobbled back to the car and we hit the road again for the final afternoon of our roadtrip. More greenery to come!

– Reanna

WORK TRIP // Belfast, Northern Ireland

Less than two weeks after our weekend trip to Dublin with my family, I found myself back over on the island of Ireland to visit the north. I had the opportunity to visit Belfast in Northern Ireland for work, and my manager conveniently backed on the trip to a weekend so we could all stay on to explore the region. Of course I jumped at this opportunity, and Chris managed to organise some flights and join me for the weekend as well.

The trip started off well, with me waking up in the hotel work had booked be to the below view!

I managed to get a quick walk in before the work day ahead, to see exciting sights such as… the salmon of knowledge! Actually, it was more of a hobble than a walk, as I unfortunately broke my toe the weekend before and shoes were proving difficult to wear.

In the evening the sun stayed out, and a colleague and I set out to wander around the Cathedral Quarter, which felt like a slightly smaller version of Temple Bar in Dublin. The area was also filled with some amazing street art.

After dinner we returned to our hotel, which turned out to have a top floor bar with spectacular views of the city! The overpriced drink was worth it for the amazing sunset.

The next day was another whirlwind of work (and sadly rain), before Chris arrived in the evening and we check in to our Airbnb for good night of sleep. We woke up to more rain, but not to be deterred we made our way in to the city and checked out the local indoor market.

Admittedly before coming to Belfast neither of us knew very much (if anything) about the history of Northern Ireland and the UK. Seeing as the rain had set in, my foot was sore, and we were interested in learning more about the region, we booked a tour with a local black cab company. We were incredibly lucky and called just in time time get a tour guide, and within 10 minutes we were off in a cab with the most honest and frank tour guide I had ever had!

The tour was quite intense and I lot to take in. We drove to West Belfast, where we could see the two neighbourhoods and the ‘peace wall’ separating them. You can see the wall behind the below hour – a massive, touring wire fence.

I honestly had no idea about the walls, let alone that they were still standing and in use. The above gate was closed between the two neighbourhood as it was the weekend – and it also closed every night.

On the Irish Catholic side of the wall, it was adorned with street art in solidarity of other communities, alongside other political statements.

On the Unionist side, the wall art focused around militant heroes, and flags for the UK and Northern Ireland were everywhere.

The tour flew by, leaving Chris and I feeling quite overwhelmed with the information we had taken in, and the knowledge that this segregation still exists in the 21st Century.

To lift the mood, we had a delicious lunch back at the indoor market, and drove over to the botanic gardens to visit the most beautiful greenhouse.

On our way out of Belfast, we drove past the famous Titanic Museum. Neither of us had any interest in seeing it (admittedly I have never ever seen the movie!) but I was keen to see the building.

I also snapped only one crappy photo from the moving car of on the iconic cranes from the shipyard – the huge yellow cranes dominate the skyline in Belfast, and are aptly names Samson and Goliath. Sadly the shipyard has just gone into the administration, so I wonder what will happen to these landmarks.

From Belfast we set off to do a quick roadtrip around the green countryside and coastline of Northern Ireland!

– Reanna