A year of travel around Scotland.
I’m all for keeping up traditions, so here is a post packed with all the best bits from my year of adventures around Scotland. For a wee flashback, and some extra travel inspiration, check out my Top Scottish Travel Experiences from 2017. Enjoy!
So, how was 2018 for you Kay? ‘Chaotic’ doesn’t even cover it! 2018 has been an absolute whirlwind. I have nine new Scottish islands under my belt, I’m back on Instagram after a two-year break, and I still don’t drive. On a far more exciting note, the pivotal point of my year – and of my adult life – was in June, when I left my corporate day job to be with my one true love; Scotland. I’d been ‘hobby blogging’ for five years, and constantly imagined travelling Scotland and writing as a career. After much procrastination and self-doubt, the opportunity arose, the stars aligned, and I did it.
Since then, I’ve visited new destinations and old favourites, and I’ve worked on some brilliant projects with Stagecoach and Citylink to promote Scotland’s public transport network; something I’m very passionate about. I’ve reached a whole new audience online, and experienced a sense of freedom and independence that I had previously only dreamt of.
That said, it’s not all been sunshine, rainbows and scenic rail journeys. Social media portrays a filtered version of reality. Behind my smiling selfies and pretty pictures, there have been tears, tantrums, health issues and heartbreak. I’m unashamed to admit that I’m no stranger to stress and anxiety, and that I regularly question myself and my ability; e.g. “is this blog post pure genius or a load of nonsense?” – I very often can’t tell the difference. Why am I telling you this? I’m not whinging or seeking sympathy. It’s just a wee reminder that everyone’s lives are imperfect, no matter how fun or exciting they may seem. We’re all only human.
Thankfully, I’m entering 2019 with a fresh supply of positivity, and an (arguably unrealistic) wish-list of destinations to visit; I just cannae help myself! I will be dedicating the beginning of the year to improving my website, and working on ways to enhance my blog. I aspire to launch some exciting new projects later in the year too, so I’ll be very busy indeed.
As always, my focus will always be to show you Scotland through my eyes, and to help inspire your own adventures. One of my personal resolutions for the blog is to write more about my random and self-funded adventures, as well as the paid campaigns and partnerships. Writing is my passion, and I don’t ever want it to feel like just a job. I will only ever accept projects which are a good fit for my blog and will be of interest to my readers, and I’ll never recommend anything unless I personally love it. That’s my (virtual) pinky promise to you.
Anyway, I think that’s quite enough reflection and sentimentality from me. Lets move on to what it’s really all about, with a look back on my year of travelling Scotland.
– Favourite Scottish Islands –
Lismore was my first Scottish Island of 2018, and the weather was beautifully sunny and crisp for the month of March. The island is just one hour from Oban by ferry, yet is less touristy than some of the more distant isles. I stayed in a cosy private room at Lismore Bunkhouse, where I hired a bike to explore the island. I loved the views over to Mull, the picturesque cottages at Port Ramsay, and the wee ferry crossing to Port Appin for amazing seafood at The Pierhouse Hotel.
- I booked Lismore Bunkhouse through Airbnb. Sign up to Airbnb with my discount here to receive £25 off your first booking (I receive £15 travel credit too).
Iona & Staffa.
Iona is one of my very favourite Scottish islands, and although this was my third visit, it was the first time I stayed overnight on the island. I spent almost three full days there, where I wandered the flawless beaches, dined at the Argyll Hotel, and met the cutest baby Highland coo called Afro on Maol Farm. I also drank too much at the village ceilidh and got soaked in a rainstorm on the steep and muddy walk back to our glamping pod afterwards. Living the dream!
From Iona, I took a boat trip over to Staffa – this time during puffin season. I couldn’t believe how close we were able to sit next to the adorable wee creatures; I was totally mesmerised by them. I can’t say they’re the most graceful birds however – watching them crash land was absolutely hilarious. On the way back to Iona, we were followed by a pod of dolphins with a wee baby in tow. They were leaping out of the water next to our boat, and it almost brought me to tears. Such an amazing day.
I love Orkney, so I jumped at the chance to go on a wee summer holiday with my lovely Orcadian friend to her parent’s home in Kirkwall. Her uncle owns a wee cottage at the serenely beautiful Rackwick Bay on Hoy, so we took the ferry over to spend the night there. I was amazed by how mountainous Hoy is compared to the other islands, and loved the coastal walk to the famous Old Man of Hoy. The weather was glorious – so much so that I sunburned my lips and ended up with severe blisters for weeks. No, I won’t forget to pack my SPF lipbalm again.
– Favourite Scottish Eateries –
Food from Argyll at the Pier, Oban.
I’m a total foodie, but I’m not high maintenance when it comes to dining. I don’t like pretentious places, and I’m a huge fan of simple food executed well. Food from Argyll at the Pier is a self-explanatory kinda place; it’s located at the ferry terminal in Oban, and the menu boasts local produce from suppliers around Argyll. Everything from the soup and bacon rolls, to the macaroni cheese and steak sandwich is high quality and so tasty! This is my go-to lunch stop when I’m on my way to or from the islands.
The Boathouse, Isle of Gigha.
This wee gem of a restaurant was one of the main reasons I wanted to visit Gigha, and it didn’t disappoint. Just a short walk from the ferry port and from the main town of Ardminish, the cosy, intimate restaurant overlooks the water and boasts a menu filled with fresh seafood delights. The Boathouse is regularly featured in the Michelin Guide, and I quickly discovered why – everything was beautifully presented and totally delicious. The Boathouse is just one of the reasons you should visit the Isle of Gigha. I highly recommend it!
Etive Restaurant, Oban.
In my highlights post from last year, I featured Etive Restaurant at its previous home in Taynuilt. The restaurant has since relocated to Oban, and is my top recommendation for an evening meal in the town. Chef John McNulty is an absolute wizard in the kitchen, and sommelier David Lapsley is the loveliest of hosts and perfectionist at pairing drinks. I visited in March, and can still vividly remember the delicious scallops in a hazelnut & chive butter. Once again Etive Restaurant has made it onto my list of favourite dining experiences of the year.
– Favourite Places to Stay in Scotland –
Westside Woodshed, The Pentland Hills National Park.
I’m always on the lookout for cosy and unusual places to stay in Scotland, and I didn’t have to venture far to experience this one. Westside Woodshed feels remote, but is only a few miles south of Edinburgh city centre. The Scandinavian-style cottage is stylish to the max, with high-quality fixtures and contemporary furnishings. I loved the mezzanine bedroom, the views of surrounding hills, and the flickering wood-burner. Read my full review of Westside Woodside with things to do nearby here.
Hillside Havens, Dufftown.
Those who have been reading my blog for a while will know that I LOVE glamping. I’ve stayed in several glamping pods around Scotland, but Hillside Havens in Dufftown is by far my favourite. I chose the pods as my base when exploring the Speyside Whisky Trail, and was so impressed by the clever use of space and level of comfort within. Located just outside the town centre, the well-equipped pods have uninterrupted views of the countryside – complete with a picnic table and fire-pit outside to fully appreciate them. I really didn’t want to get out of that bed in the morning!
Woodcock Lodge, Argyll.
Ah, Woodcock Lodge. What a wonderful wintry escape. I stayed in this lovely lodge on the Kirnan Estate at the end of November, and it was heaven. Nestled in a remote glen in Argyll, it was blissfully quiet, while the lodge itself is the epitome of comfort and luxury. For once, I put relaxation before exploration, and felt no guilt whatsoever about my movements predominately being limited to the journey between the bed, the copper bath, the dining table, and the sofa. When I decided to venture outside, there is loads to see and do in the surrounding area. Find out more in my full blog post here.
– Favourite Travel Experiences in Scotland –
Being stuck in Glencoe during Storm Ali.
My landrover safari was cancelled, the WiFi was non-existent, and I couldn’t even go out for a walk. Not exactly ideal, right? It’s funny though, that such experiences can turn out to be some of the best. I was stranded inside the renowned Clachaig Inn while Storm Ali wreaked havoc outside. The view of the mountains from my bedroom window was epic; I lay watching heavy stripes of rain blow through Glencoe, while the mountainside waterfalls became more impressive by the hour. I just had to make the most of the situation, there was nothing else for it. There was whisky, haggis, live music and a flickering fire. I could think of worse places to be stuck during a storm! Read my full post about Glencoe here.
Boat trip to Loch Coruisk, Isle of Skye.
Skye was my first Scottish island in 2010, but due to the stories of over-tourism, I chose to avoid the island for several years, until my trip in September. On my return, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn’t bonkers-busy (aside from Portree around lunchtime). I did three tours while on Skye, and the highlight was my water-based adventure from Elgol to Loch Coruisk with Bella Jane/Aqua Xplore. The journey towards the Cuillin mountains was exhilarating and jaw-dropping. The water at Loch Na Cuilce, where I was dropped off, was a translucent green, while the gnarly black peaks and absence of any other life was otherworldly to the say the least. I was the only soul around on my walk to Loch Coruisk, and I felt completely consumed by my surroundings. It was amazing.
Keith and Dufftown Railway.
I rely on public transport to explore Scotland, and I love a bit of vintage, so the wee blast from the past was highly appealing. This retro railway is run solely by a lovely bunch of volunteers, who look after everything related to the line; from manning the ‘old school cool’ ticket office, to maintaining the line, and driving the train itself. The original line opened in 1852, however by 1991 it was no longer in use. Thanks to the Keith and Dufftown Railway Association, it has been back in operation since 2001. I loved the slow journey through scenic Speyside, and the commentary from our train guard Laurie. It was such a relaxing experience, and a lovely wee escape from the modern world. Read all about my experience, and things to do in Keith here.
Mount Stuart, Isle of Bute.
I had visited Bute a couple of times prior to my Rail & Sail trip with CalMac in July, however I had somehow overlooked Mount Stuart. I’ve visited lots of grand houses and estates on my travels, so I suppose I just didn’t have a burning desire to see another one. I clearly had no idea what I was missing!
Mount Stuart is a Victorian Gothic mansion, which was home to the Stuarts of Bute until 1993. Set within 300-acres of land – complete with a private beach, and a hidden ‘Wee Garden’ – Mount Stuart House is truly one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen; a beauty that’s quite difficult to put into words. My vision was bombarded by vibrant colour, intricate detail, and elaborate furnishing, as I eagerly tried to take it all in. I spent hours exploring the house and the estate, and it still didn’t feel like enough. Find out what I got up to in the full blog here.
– Most Popular Blog Posts of 2018 –
’15 Things to Do in Inverness & Beyond’
During the summer I spent a few days getting to know Inverness and the surrounding area. I discovered a magical bookshop, the best place in Scotland to spot dolphins, locations with connections to Outlander, and the most famous loch on the world. Check out the full post here.
‘The Isle of Kerrera Tea Garden’
This was my second visit to the Isle of Kerrera, and far more successful than my first, when I forgot to withdraw cash in Oban to spend at the tea garden. The Kerrera Tea Garden is a magical wee oasis, with delicious home-cooking and cakes, and a Game of Thrones-style castle nearby. The walk from the ferry to get there is totally worth it. For more info, check out the full post here.
’12 Cool Things to Do in Dundee’
Everyone has been talking about Dundee this year, thanks to the opening of the eagerly anticipated V&A Dundee. I spent two nights in the city, and I couldn’t believe the difference since my last visit. I found vibrant street art, an amazing brunch place, a cool book/record shop, and a highly entertaining walking tour. Read all of my recommendations for Dundee here.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reminiscing with me.
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Wishing you all the best for 2019!
May your year be filled with new adventures.