So going back in time and revisiting where I left off in the travel posts – in February 2014, after a ‘exciting’ week in beautiful Edinburgh, Kev and I realised that we had to figure out a way to Aberdeen to visit our friends-from-home, Siska and Robin.
Now, we didn’t want to fly. So we explored different options from taking a bus to hopping onto a train, to joining a tour group. We ultimately decided to DIY and drive ourselves to Aberdeen to make the most of exploring the Highlands.
The next decision was to figure out where we were to stop, as there are just so many things to see in Scotland. Kev and I had an in-joke about ‘The Mull of Kintyre’ so we both were keen on going there for the sake of saying that we’ve been there (if you look at the map, The Mull of Kintyre is at the tip of the phallic-looking landmass right where the ‘G’ of Google is so fortunately placed) – what a surprise Google!
The expectations from the road trip
After getting a little overwhelmed as to how many must-see natural wonders in Scotland, Kev and I had to sit down and knuckle out what were our essential and personal expectations from this road trip. We both wanted to go hiking and skiing in the Cairngorms, see Lochs, try out the seafood from Oban as highly recommended to us by Jenna and Brett, and we also wanted to visit the Isle of Skye as that was an absolute must as recommended by tour brochures and TripAdvisor, not to mention all the breweries and distilleries too; and we only had the weekend.
We ended up streamlining our road trip to the following – Edinburgh; Perth; Fort William; Torrin; Inverness and then to Aberdeen (no Mull of Kintyre sadly). We had forego skiing in the Caringorms and keep the itinerary lean so that we still got to spend quality time in the highlands, try seafood and see the Isle of Skye too.
So we packed our rental car
…and said goodbye to Jenna and Brett. They were such wonderful hosts and unfortunately I don’t have a photo of both of Jenna and Brett, but here’s a photo of Kev and Brett with their own little Northern lights in the living room (thanks Gareth and Elina for recommending the Lapland application).
We were happy to find out that we could rent a car from Edinburgh at Europecar and return it in Aberdeen at Alamo. One of the first stops on our road trip was to a little town called… Perth! Brett and Jenna advised us that there wasn’t really anything to see there and they were 100% right.
With streets named Hay, William and Barrack, Perth UK amused us with the luxury of calling out street names that we had not needed to use for 5 months.
We had a chat with the tourist information attendant who laughed when we told her we were from Perth, Western Australia. She told us that a few months back someone walked into the tourist office looking for a hotel on Hay Street, only to be horrified to find out that they had booked for the wrong Perth!
From Perth we navigated around the narrow with sharp bends of the unlit A85 and A82. The scenery disappeared with the sun and so we were pretty happy once we arrived at our overnight stay.
Finding accommodation on Airbnb in places other than the main cities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen was hard as there wasn’t a lot of listings. However, we rang some of the local bed and breakfast places and booked a night at Myrtle Bank Guest House over the telephone for a great rate. Don’t be worried if the B&B’s don’t ask for a last name or credit card details when you book. They seem to be based on a honour system and when we arrived at the Myrtle Bank Guest House, ‘Kevin‘ was enough to confirm the booking and a smooth check in.
Our drive around Scotland just kept surprising us around each and every tight corner.
The reveals were amazing.
I’m going to let the photos do the talking for the leg from Fort William to the Isle of Skye.
We stayed overnight at an Airbnb place in Torrin, near Portree and the Isle of Skye. Torrin is a very small town, and the house itself was located off the main road.
It was windy, it was narrow.
Drivers would politely pull over to one side of the road to let an on coming car pass by. There’s no real ‘system’ to follow. I would describe it as a civilised, polite game of chicken. Kev enjoyed this and would beam the biggest goofy smile at the guaranteed friendly wave that you would receive after pulling over, or after driving past. It did make us both feel very community minded.
We decided to spend this day hiking, and the place that captured our imagination was The Old Man of Storr. There’s just something about that name that made me want to visit it. It sounded like a place out of A Song of Ice and Fire series or from The Lord of the Rings. Reviews stated that it was a wonderful hike and that it can be a little dangerous during icey/wet conditions. Ha ha! That didn’t deter us.
The drive to The Old man of Storr was just as varied and as grandiose as the previous drives. The weather kept changing with pockets of glorious sun, followed by heavy clouds.
I just love the above photo.
This view of the famous rock formation was like a trophy being dangled before us. As we drove with that view ahead, anticipation of what we were going to achieve grew – we were going to get up that mountain and visit The Old Man of Storr.
The hike took a few hours as the trails had been covered snow. It was quite exciting and thrilling looking up at the rocks and figuring out how to get up there. At the beginning it was sunny and calm. This was the most enjoyable part of the hike for me as everything seemed to twinkle.
However, that soon changed. When we started ascending the steepest part of the hike, large dark clouds rolled over The Old Man of Storr, strong winds started billowing against us with shards of icy sleet. I kept looking up at the top and I could feel myself get all… whats the word? – Terrified.
Just think about those movies where someone freaks out and wants to turn back when the right decision is to keep on going. That’s who I was at that moment, while Kev was happily bounding up with not a care in the world.
I started to freak myself out, reverse vertigo, that feeling of being blown over, the fear that I’m going to die. Everything just seemed to make me spiral into this out of control fear. Though Kev was fine.
I attempted to rationalise my fear for a good period of time, taking photos and videos and anything to distract me from the huge freak out party that was happening inside. I think I did pretty well to hide too.
But eventually fear got to me and I just stopped. I stopped right in the middle of a ledge. I couldn’t move forward or backwards. I was just so scared. Poor Kev, he had no idea what was happening and asked me if I was ok.
I just ended up failing at trying to politely and calmly tell him that I couldn’t do it.
I could tell Kev did not want to stop, and I didn’t want hold him back so I said ‘just go without me’. I had that mental block. Kev told me that he would go ahead and then come back to show me the way, but as soon as he turned around, I regretted my decision to stay put. I couldn’t believe I was tapping out. This just wasn’t like me. I got extremely frustrated and angry at myself.
I ended up slowly getting up, and just focused on Kev’s back as he continued onwards to the top. So long as I ignored the wind, the sleet and my crazy thoughts about being blown off, I was able to put one foot in front of the other. Kev kept turning around to see me, and he smiled when he saw that I was cautiously following him.
I am proud to say we made it. It wasn’t the highest or toughest hike we’ve done, but it was definitely the scariest experience for me. I don’t know why. So when we got to the top, it was sweeter and it was a glorious view! The clouds passed, the winds softened and the sun came out.
I don’t doubt that I would have turned around if I were there alone, so I am forever grateful that Kev was there to keep me going and to make us get to the top.
The way down was a lot easier psychologically. Haha! While we were both just casually strolling along around the mid point of the hike I asked Kev
Do you want to build a snow man?
Kev’s eyes lit up, and he looked around at all the nice ‘damp’ snow that we had around us. We were unable to build one in Finland as the snow was dry like powder and wouldn’t stick. He then eagerly said
And that’s how Mr McHaggis of Storr was created.
It was such a fun, relaxing activity for the both of us. We were sheltered from the harsh winds and sleet that passed over, so nothing interrupted us and time flew by without us really noticing.
After playing around with Mr McHaggis of Storr, we made our way back to the car to continue on with exploring the area.
We decided to drive to one more spot before heading back as it was getting dark, and we drove 15 minutes more north to stop at Kilt Rock.
This is a nice pit stop if you are around The Old Man of Storr or if you are driving up to Quiraing or to visit the fairy pools.
So our Sunday ended on a high note and we drove back to Torrin for one more night. The next day, we gunned it through Inverness and stopped by to see if we could see the Loch Ness Monster (we were unlucky) and soon the mountains and lochs disappeared and the horizon was filled with flat green meadows. We arrived in Aberdeen on the Monday at 2pm, nice and early and in time to pick up the keys from a friend of Siska and Rob at Starbucks on Union Street.
What a weekend! 🙂