It’s three years since I published my first blog here on ‘Scotland with The Wee White Dug’, doubting anyone would read it. Since then, my wee Scottish travel blog has reached 145 countries worldwide.
2018 – slightly surreal
2018 has been a frantic (but fun) whirlwind of travel. It’s also been a tad surreal at times. It’s now fairly common for the boy to be recognised by fans when we’re out and about. No matter how often it happens, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to people stopping me to ask – “Is that The Wee White Dug?”
Then, there was the time back in spring when Barbour asked him to model some of their Barbour Dogs range. My handsome laddie strutting his stuff for an iconic British brand – unbelievable.
Perhaps the strangest moment of the year came when I found out children in New York State had been learning about The Wee White Dug’s travels as part of a class project they were doing on Scotland.
As I’ve wittered away here on WordPress, it seems the world and his wife have become aware of my Scottish travel blog!
Besides being surreal, 2018 has been a memorable year for travel. So, as the year draws to a close, I’ll do what all Scots do at Hogmanay – I’ll reflect.
Scotland’s natural beauty
For a small country, Scotland has wow factor by the spade load.
We found natural beauty at every turn in 2018, but there were some real standout moments.
The Green Lochan, Cairngorms National Park
It doesn’t matter how many times I visit the Green Lochan (An Lochan Uaine) near Aviemore, the bright green water always leaves me awestruck.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. The water’s that weird colour because the fairies wash their clothes in it. We didn’t spot any fairies on our visit in June, but they’re great at hiding, so it’s likely they were watching us from a distance.
Camusdarach sunset, Lochaber
Back in March, we stood on Camusdarach Beach and watched the sun setting over the Small Isles. It was one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever witnessed. We were euphoric afterwards – simple pleasures and all that.
The Flow Country, Caithness and Sutherland
When you think of bog, natural beauty may not be the first thing that springs to mind. A visit to the Flow Country will quickly put paid to that misconception. The landscape is spectacular, and the ancient peat bog is surprisingly, teeming with life. The highlights of our June visit were the insect eating sundew plant, and spotting a lizard (a first on our travels around Scotland).
Scotland is a country with a rich natural larder, so it’s to be expected that food features heavily in this blog. We love fine dining in fancy restaurants, but we also enjoy tucking into homemade soup in nice wee cafes, and eating take-away fish and chips al fresco.
Stornoway White Pudding – the food of gods
In July we discovered the heavenly mana that is Stornoway White Pudding (oatmeal, beef suet, onions, flour and seasoning), when we stopped at Mhor Fish in Callander for some take-away suppers.
Stornoway Black Pudding is legendary. Stornoway White Pudding should be – it’s deeeelicious, and easily the best white pudding I’ve ever tasted.
When we visited Stornoway on a day trip in September, there was only one thing we wanted to eat for dinner.
Manuela’s Wee Bakery, Ardelve
I love quirky places, so visiting Manuela’s Wee Bakery near the iconic Eilean Donan Castle was one of the culinary highlights of my year.
The place looked like a Lord of the Rings movie set, and the food was equally delightful. One bite of Manuela’s homemade Nutella croissant, and the wee Highland bakery became my favourite breakfast spot in Scotland.
A mouth-watering coo pie
I’m not a fan of red meat, but occasionally I get a hankering for a traditional steak pie. I had one such hankering when we were staying at the wonderful Argyll Hotel in Bellochantuy back in April.
Owner and head chef Iain was a real star in the kitchen, and he rustled us up a number of fantastic dishes during our stay. It was his homemade steak pie that left me in raptures though. The pastry was crisp, the gravy rich and flavoursome, and the beef, melt in the mouth.
When I complimented Iain on his cooking, he dropped a bombshell. I’d just tucked into a Heilan’ coo (Highland Cow).
Arghhhh – but, it was sooooooo damn delicious.
As you know, I’m a proud history geek. It doesn’t matter where we travel in Scotland, I’ll always scout out reminders of the past. We visited lots of awe-inspiring historic sites this year, so it’s hard to choose favourites, but I’ll try.
The stone circles of Aberdeenshire
I LOVE standing stones – so much so, I wear a silver one from Orcadian Jeweller Sheila Fleet around my neck (a lovely anniversary gift from Mr G).
The stones in Orkney are incredible, but it’s the ones in Aberdeenshire that captivate me the most. Aberdeenshire’s stone circles feature huge recumbent stones (weighing an average of 24 tons). They’re unique, and only found in the north-east of Scotland and south-west of Ireland.
In November, I managed to squeeze in visits to Aikey Brae Stone Circle and East Aquhorthies Stone Circle when we were staying in Aberdeenshire. Both sites are really atmospheric. They may not draw the same visitor numbers as Orkney’s Ring of Brodgar, but in my opinion they’re just as magical.
The Ness of Brodgar, Orkney
If I hadn’t studied history at university, archaeology would have been my next subject choice. I’ve always loved the idea of unearthing treasures from the past, so I was delighted to find a team of archaeologists hard at work when we visited the Ness of Brodgar in August.
The dig was fascinating to watch, but we kept a close eye on The Wee White Dug just in case he made off with any Neolithic bones.
The Glenelg Brochs
Scotland has many magnificent castles, but less well-known are its towering brochs which pre-date the medieval fortresses by around two thousand years.
We visited two of Scotland’s best-preserved brochs in July when we camped in Glenelg.
Brochs are circular, Iron Age dwellings, which stand up to 15 metres in height. When you consider they were constructed using a dry stone building technique (no mortar), between 800 BC and 200 AD, you truly appreciate the remarkable and skilled workmanship that went into building them.
Fun, fun, fun
If I was to sum up 2018 in one word, it would be fun. We experienced so much in twelve short months, that it’s hard to believe we fitted it all in.
Camping with WildTrax Beyond Limits
One of my most memorable experiences of the year was camping in a Land Rover Defender. The iconic vehicle from WildTrax Beyond Limits came fully pimped out for a serious camping expedition. We had everything we needed, and more for an enjoyable and comfortable trip.
Being in a tough as old boots landy, meant even the most pot-holed of Scotland’s single track roads were a doddle to navigate.
We spent two fabulous days in July, exploring Glenelg, Rasaay and Skye and were reluctant to part with the dream machine at the end of our trip.
A bucket list tick – the Jacobite steam train
I’ve been meaning to book a trip on The Jacobite steam train for as long as I can remember. I love old trains, and being a bit of a Harry Potter fan I wanted to ride on the “real” Hogwarts Express of Harry Potter movie fame.
2018 was the year I finally got round to booking the trip. I was delighted to discover The Jacobite was dog friendly, so the boy could join us too.
Riding on The Jacobite was everything I’d hoped it would be and more. The Wee White Dug loved his first train journey, and revelled it the attention he got on board. Even Harry Potter ignoramus and non-fan Mr G was casting spells with a liquorice wand before the day was done.
Glasgow Mural Trail – Photo Walk Scotland
I first fell in love with street art in Paris. The French capital may be known for its beautiful architecture and famous tower, but it also boasts some brilliant murals. In recent years Glasgow has joined the party, and some of the best street art in Europe can be found dotted around the city’s streets.
In February we did a walking tour of the Glasgow Mural Trail with local historian and photographer Tommy Docherty. Tommy runs the popular tour company Photo Walk Scotland. It was a brilliant tour, enhanced by Tommy’s relaxed and friendly banter. With a local guide at our disposal we effortlessly navigated the rabbit warren that is Glasgow city centre. I loved learning about the various artworks that we viewed, and the artists who created them.
It was a completely different walk to the ones The Wee White Dug normally finds himself on when we’re travelling, but he really enjoyed sniffing his way around Glasgow.
Segway and safari on the Atholl Estate
In May we spent a brilliant weekend on the Atholl Estate in Perthshire. Our itinerary was jam-packed, full of fun activities.
I’ve always fancied having a go on a Segway, so I was super excited when I found out I’d be taking one for a spin in the grounds of Blair Castle. I’d be lying if I said Mr G, The Teen and I weren’t nervous to begin with, but Trevor from Segway Ecosse, quickly showed us the ropes and put us at ease.
Our tour was a hoot from start to finish, and the time flew by. The consensus was unanimous – we’d all fallen in love with the Segway. It’s one of the most fun activities I’ve tried on my travels around Scotland. I’d definitely like to give it another go.
And just when we thought the day couldn’t get any better, we were whisked off into the hills of The Atholl Estate on a private Land Rover Safari. Our guide Sandy was a funny, charming and fascinating man. What he didn’t know about the native wildlife wasn’t worth knowing.
Sandy had worked on the Atholl Estate for fifty years. Since retiring from his role as Head Gamekeeper and Stalker, he’d put his knowledge to good use by running Land Rover safaris on the estate.
He may have been in his seventies, but he had eyes like a hawk and saw things we struggled to. With lots of pointing and helpful hints about what to look for (plus some handy binoculars) we finally spotted a herd of red deer high on a hill, a tawny owl, black grouse and various other creatures.
The Land Rover safari was an amazing experience, which allowed us to explore a hidden corner of Scotland we’d never have known existed without an expert guide.
Favourite stays of 2018
We’ve stayed in all sorts of accommodation in 2018 – ranging from luxury hotel to cute cabin, rustic inn, hot tub lodge, self-catering cottage, glamping pod and fab wee B&B. We loved each and every place we rested our travel weary heads, so I couldn’t choose favourites.
If you’re looking for inspiration for places to stay in Scotland, you’ll find plenty of great ideas in my other posts. I only feature accommodation I love, so if it appears on the blog, it comes recommended.
And there you have it – my memorable Scottish travel moments of 2018 (or some of them at least). After a busy year there were way too many of them to squeeze into one post.
I’d like to finish by thanking everyone who chose to work with me this year, and also my lovely readers for sticking with my ramblings for another year. Without you ‘Scotland with The Wee White Dug’ wouldn’t exist.
So, here’s to 2019 and lots of new adventures.
Happy New Year – lang may yer lum reek.
Until next time ……….