2022 began and ended with Covid. Brain fog and fatigue often left me too tired to write. I’m on the mend now though and looking forward to sharing new Scottish adventures with you in 2023. First, let’s look back at 2022 and my Scotland travel highlights.
Fun in Scotland’s water
2022 was the year I finally convinced Mr G of the benefits of spending time in the water. I love yomping up hills with him, but something was missing from my Scottish travels – water.
Cold water swimming
In 2022 I made a conscious decision to swim whenever the opportunity arose. For me, nothing beats tiptoeing into the sea or a Scottish loch for a spot of cold water swimming. It’s so invigorating – I LOVE it. The stunning Scottish scenery you’re surrounded by when you swim outdoors, beats the radioactive strip lights and sterile decor of an indoor pool hands down. During 2022 I managed dips in Loch Torridon, Loch Awe, Loch Vaa and some spectacular beaches in Lochaber, Argyll and Wester Ross.
Unfortunately, Mr G doesn’t share my passion for swimming outdoors. After wading knee-deep into a freezing Loch Torridon in March, he deemed outdoor swimming ridiculous.
Fortunately, he did take to another water-based activity in 2022.
Stand up paddle-boarding and kayaking in Scotland
Determined to make water a big part of our travels going forward, I bought myself a stand up paddle-board (SUP) at the beginning of 2022. And it wasn’t any old paddle-board, it was one I could also use as a kayak too. Like swimming, kayaking was something I’d done in the past and missed.
Mr G first stepped onto my board on a beautiful June morning, in a sheltered little bay near Glen Uig. I’d expected him to wobble, then fall into the water. He didn’t – he was a natural and immediately hooked. He ended up spending the morning paddling as I watched on longingly. I’m an only child, so sharing toys isn’t something I’ve had to do before. When we got home from that trip, I bought a second board.
With a board each, there was no stopping us. Mr G indulged his new-found passion for paddle-boarding and I didn’t have to share my new toy. I enjoy paddle-boarding, but prefer kayaking. 2022 was the year I finally got to experience the thrill and freedom of gliding through the water again. And sometimes the Wee White Dug even joined me (reluctantly) on the board too.
Brilliant Scottish boat trips
Sticking with water, if we’re not playing in it, we love a boat trip. 2022 involved a number of memorable boat trips. The first of the year was on the Clyde coast with Boat Trips Helensburgh. We really enjoyed exploring the Clyde coastline from the sea and loved visiting a partially submerged sugar boat that sits in the sea, just off the coast of Helensburgh. It was a unique experience.
Another incredible boat trip we took in 2022, was with Isle of Skye based Bella Jane Boat Trips. We sailed to Loch Coruisk from the tiny village of Elgol on the island. Loch Coruisk is a remote loch, surrounded by rugged mountains. It’s an otherworldly place that wouldn’t look out of place in the Jurassic Park movies. We spent some time ashore exploring the lochside, before returning to Elgol. We were treated to complimentary hot chocolate on the return leg of the boat trip, then three harbour porpoise appeared to make the jounrney extra memorable.
Our most memorable boat trip of 2022, was one we took on our wedding anniversary in August, when we took to the sea off the coast of Gairloch for a Shellfish Safari. It wasn’t your average tourist boat trip either. It was an opportunity to join a creel fisherman at work and was absolutely fascinating. Ian, the fisherman who offers the tours, fishes sustainably, so anything that can’t be eaten is returned to the sea alive. Ian shared information about all of the creatures he caught, before passing the safe ones round the boat. It was a fascinating, fishy show, which was both educational and fun.
Scottish wildlife encounters
Nothing gives me more pleasure than spotting native Scottish wildlife on our travels. Having a westie with no prey drive is such a blessing. The boy is so well-behaved during our wildlife encounters. He never tries to chase Scotland’s wild beasties and will sit quietly as we watch in awe.
The more we travel around Scotland, the more Scottish wildlife we see. After years of travelling, we now know what to look and listen for, and where the best locations are for spotting certain types of wildlife. Those learned skills made 2022 a bumper year for us when it came to wildlife encounters.
From otters in Argyll, to harbour porpoise in the Hebrides, a pod of dolphins off the coast of Lochaber, Pine Marten in Wester Ross and red squirrels in the Cairngorms National Park, we’ve seen them all, and lots more Scottish wildlife besides.
And although not wild, 2022 was the year I finally got to cuddle an adorable spring lamb.
Tranquil escapes in Scotland
After first catching Covid in January 2022, the brain fog and fatigue it left me with, made me crave tranquil escapes (with Mr G and the boy obviously). My desire for zen like calm was fulfilled on a number of amazing short breaks during 2022.
There was an enchanting, sea-view lodge in Ayrshire with a Japanese hot tub – think Beatrix Potter meets the hobbit.
Not forgetting a cabin with a wood-fired hot tub, hidden on a private tidal island in Wester Ross.
The benefits we gained from slowing down, immersing ourselves in nature and looking after our physical and mental well being were immeasurable. Our first trip of 2023, will stick with this tried and tested formula.
Scenic walks in Scotland
Despite the best efforts of Covid, I didn’t retire my hiking boots in 2022. We managed some incredible scenic hikes, which are now amongst our favourite Scottish walks.
Stac Pollaidh, Assynt
The first was the iconic Stac Pollaidh, a small mountain in Assynt. It was a lovely June morning and an early start pretty much gave us the whole mountain to ourselves. With each step of assent we made, the view surrounding us got more and more spectacular. We were in our element – the boy included, and the icing on the cake was meeting a small herd of red deer stags enjoying a morning snooze. Near the summit of the mountain Mr G went off to indulge his love of scrambling, while the boy and I sat on a boulder and took in the scenery. Thirty minutes of zen-like calm was the perfect reward for our efforts.
Meall a’ Bhuachaille, Glenmore
If we find ourselves with a day free, more often than not we’ll head to the Cairngorms National Park for a hike. This second, spectacular hill walk is located in the heart of the national park. Meall a’ Bhuachaille is a Corbett aka a Scottish mountain over 2,500 feet and under 3,000 feet.
The walk starts from the Glenmore Visitor Centre beside lovely Loch Morlich with its sandy beach. It climbs uphill though lovely native pinewood which is full of ant hills. We made frequent stops during our ascent of the mountain, because I couldn’t resist watching the ants working.
Once we left the woodland behind, we made more steady progress, first through heather covered moorland, then up the rocky slopes of the mountain. The views back towards Loch Morlich were lovely.
When we reached the top of Meall a’ Bhuachaille we rested at the summit cairn for a while, then strayed off piste, trying to see if we could get a view of Lochan Uaine (the Green Lochan) from above. We could – just, but it wasn’t worth the effort it took us to wade through heather to get back onto the path. A path which, coincidentally led us straight to the Green Lochan, before following a flat, ground level path, back to the starting point of our Cairngorms ramble.
Creag Bheag, Kingussie
The third memorable walk of 2022 worth a mention was one we’ve been meaning to do for years now, but never quite got round to. Finding ourselves once more with a day free, we drove to Kingussie to finally climb Creag Bheag (Gaelic for the little crag).
It was another walk that started with a climb through native woodland. There were no ants this time, but there were red squirrels playing in the treetops, so they hampered our progress for a while.
Once out of the woodland, the rocky path meandered gradually uphill. The heather was in full bloom and looked amazing. When we reached the rocky summit of Creag Bheag, we explored it from every angle. We were rewarded with incredible views, including one Loch Gynack below us.
Hidden Scottish history
If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll know I’m a die-hard history geek. I’m often to be found poring over maps, trying to pinpoint hidden historical gems. Once pinpointed, more often than not, we end up rambling knee-deep in heather, trying to locate Scotland’s hidden past.
A medieval village
Some amazing sites stand out for me when I look back at 2022. One is hidden in plain site, above Dalmally in Argyll. Tourists flock past the village to visit Kilchurn Castle on the shore of Loch Awe. Yet, on a quiet hilltop near the castle, are the remains of Barr a Chasteilean, a medieval village which was once home to Clan MacNab. The MacNabs were Kilchurn Castle’s armourers and blacksmiths.
A poignant reminder of the past
Another amazing piece of hidden history we visited in 2022, was located in the far north of Scotland, high on a hillside above Loch Erribol.
The Royal Navy stationed ships in the sheltered sea loch during WWI and WWII. The landscape surrounding the loch is remote and rugged. Many of the sailors stationed there, found it bleak and depressing and renamed it Loch ‘Orrible as in horrible. One of the things the crews did to pass the time there, was to place white-painted boulders on the hills surrounding the loch, spelling out the names of the ships they crewed. They’re still there today, if you know where to look. The most poignant is HMS Hood. In May 1941, the Royal Navy battlecruiser was sunk by German shells. 1,415 of the 1,418 men and boys aboard died in the attack.
Chasing the Aurora Borealis
When you think of the Aurora Borealis, it’s likely Iceland, Norway and the likes that spring to mind as great places to see the lights, yet Scotland deserves an honourable shout out too. We’ve seen the lights a few times on our travels, but it wasn’t until a well-timed visit to Dornoch early in 2022, that we were really treated to a light show to rival foreign climes. We watched in awe from the shore of Loch fleet on a freezing cold February night. It was incredible.
Towards the end of the year, we would witness the lights again – this time in Iceland with my daughters and their boyfriends. It was our first foreign trip since the pandemic and where I caught my second bout of Covid in 2022, after a scunner sitting behind me on the flight coughed on me all the way to Keflavik, then back to Edinburgh again four days later.
Food glorious Scottish food
For a small country, Scotland punches above its weight when it comes to good food. We have one of the finest natural larders in the world, so finding delicious food is easy on our travels. From fine dining to fish and chips by the sea, we’ve tried it all in 2022 and enjoyed every mouthwatering morsel.
Particular food highlights were the best pizza outside of Italy from Anderson’s Woodfired Pizzas in Grantown-on-Spey, eating freshly-baked scones by a roaring fire at the Fife Arms, Braemar. Then there was the delicious macaroni cheese, made with Isle of Mull Cheddar, scoffed at the ever so instragrammable Glass Barn Cafe and Shop on the Isle of Mull and the fabulous veggie fayre at Taychreggan Hotel Loch Awe. Their spicy couscous dish was so good, I had it on both nights of our stay at the hotel back in April. And let’s hear a great big “hell yeah” for the fantastic bread and butter pudding we devoured at The Ceilidh PlaceThe Ceilidh Place in Ullapool.
All that talk of Scottish food and not a mention of drink. So let’s rectify that with some Scotch whisky to warm the cockles. I’m quite partial to a wee nip every now and then, so back in May I jumped at the chance when I was invited to Mary King’s Close in Edinburgh for a whisky themed history tour, followed by a tasting. It was a fantastic night and the drams slipped down a treat, after our underground daunder.
And that concludes my whistle stop tour of some of my Scotland travel highlights of 2022. If you’re planning a trip to Scotland in the near future, I hope I’ve inspired you to try some of these experiences too.
You can read a more detailed account of some of the experiences featured, in the following posts:
Now all that’s left for me to say is, Happy New Year. Lang may yer lum reek. Here’s to 2023 and exciting new adventures to come.
Until next time …