2016 has been another crazy year for me in terms of traveling. I left the country often and to far away places, like Canada, the Faroe Islands, Monaco and Austria. Don’t get me wrong, I loved these trips, and seeing new countries (or ‘old’ ones again) is great – but after three years in Glasgow I feel like I still haven’t seen as much as I’d like to of Scotland. That’s why in 2017 I want to focus more in traveling within the country and made up an ever-growing Scotland bucket list to tick off along the way.
Even though I have some international trips planned for the new year already, I hope to keep them to the absolute minimum of visiting family and research trips for university. I’d rather finally explore the different far-flung corners of Scotland that I haven’t seen so far! Here’s what is on my Scotland bucket list:
1) A Road trip along the North Coast 500 route
Ever since Visit Scotland started marketing the North Coast 500 route, it has been on my list of things to do in Scotland. Naturally I tend to go as far north as possible, and therefore I am actually surprised that I haven’t been to the far north of mainland Scotland yet.
Route 500 starts in Inverness and leads around the north-west tip of Scotland, along the rugged coastlines and past some beautiful castles and beaches. I would probably want to put a week aside for this trip, including driving from Glasgow to Inverness and back.
For inspiration I like to look at Near the Lighthouse’s pictures and descriptions of NC500.
photo via North Coast 500
2) Standing Stones of the Orkneys
After visiting the Shetlands in 2016, the Orkneys are very high up on my 2017 Scotland bucket list. It’s not just because I studies Scandinavian Studies with a focus on Old Nordic cultural studies that I love everything related to Nordic mythology. I find it simply fascinating to think that thousands of years ago, people were able to make, transport and erect these standing stones!
3) Glamping near Loch Ness and Inverness
And while I’m up there, I’d love to finally try some proper glamping – maybe at the Black Isle Yurts…
photo via Black Isle Yurts
4) Beaches of the Outer Hebrides
You must have guessed it by now – I’m in love with islands far up north! What makes the Outer Hebrides so appealing to me, is not just how remote they are, but also the tropical-looking beaches you can find there on a sunny day. Not that I’d want to dip my toes into the icy water… I also have a friend up there, and visiting her is long overdue!
5) The Islay Festival of Malt and Music
Seeing that I recently discovered my growing love for Scottish whisky, I feel like the Islay Festival of Mald & Music would be the perfect occasion to learn more about Scotland’s most iconic single malts. The festival takes places in the last week of May every year and offers a programme of whisky tastings, distillery tours, ceilidh dances, Gaelic lessons and of course traditional music performances.
Even though Islay whiskies are not my favourite malts at the moment – so smoky! – I might warm up to them hop on a ferry to the Southern Hebrides next year!
photo via Lagavulin Distillery
6) Solo Walk the West Highland Way
To counter act the whisky galore, I would like to fulfil a dream and walk the West Highland Way from Milngavie to Fort William. I’m aware that there are less trodden paths and long-distance hikes to chose from, but for a first solo hiking experience I wouldn’t mind bumping into other hikers and possible little helpers frequently along the way.
I don’t mean to do a ‘Wild’, but rather see some of Scotland’s most beautiful scenery from the hiking trail and challenge myself to hike and camp several days in a row.
7) Taking the Hogwarts Express train
Once I’ve reached Fort William, I will reward my tired legs and get aboard the Jacobite Steam Train – otherwise known as Hogwarts Express. I’ve seen the Harry Potter train cross Glenfinnan viaduct before, but this time I’d like to be actually on the train. The journey from Fort William to Mallaig is one of Britain’s finest train rides and the scenery is a stunner!
8) Visit the Isles of Staffa & Iona
If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you will know that I love Oban enough that I have written a little guide to Oban. One thing on my Oban bucket list that I haven’t managed to do yet, is a Three Island Boat Tour which brings you to Mull, Iona and Staffa. The Isle of Staffa in particular has caught my eye, because of its bizarre rock formations, beautiful caves and high chance to see Puffins.
photo via Visit Scotland
9) Hike the Aonach Eagach
Thanks to the many landscape and adventure photographers from Scotland I follow, my general goal for the future is to go outdoors more often and hike the many munro and hills the Highlands and Cairngorms have to offer.
One place that has been on my Scotland bucket list ever since my very first Mountaineering Club meet in Glen Coe, has been the intimidating ridge of Aonach Eagach. The first step was to learn how to pronounce it, but now I feel like with a bit of training I would actually successfully tackle this route. I wouldn’t dare to hike this between autumn and spring, because of snow and ice it is necessary to bring crampons, ice axes and ropes with you – just in case; but during the summer months the ridge turns into a manageable ridge tour, and all I lack is an experienced partner… any volunteers?!
10) Go Ape in Aberfoyle
It might be much easier to find a partner in crime to hit up Go Ape in Aberfoyle – a tree top walk in the Trossachs National Park with zip wires, Tarzan swings, rope bridges and other obstacles. Ever since driving past this on our way to hiking Ben A’an, I’ve wanted to come back for an adventurous day out.
photo via Go Ape
11) Explore the Scottish Borders region
While there are many areas in Scotland I haven’t seen yet, there is one entire region where I have never been – the Scottish Borders region in the south. Somehow it never crossed my mind to venture further south than the central belt and to be very honest I don’t know what would expect me.
In my mind there are images of rolling hills all the way to Hadrian’s Wall in England. I’d like to see with what else this region would surprise me!
12) Visit the Kelpies
Last but not least: the Kelpies; two 30m-high horse head sculptures standing right beside the Forth & Clyde Canal. Sounds crazy right?
This is probably the first item on this Scotland bucket list for 2017 that I will actually tick off, because Rabbie’s has started to offer half-day tours to the Kelpies and the Falkirk wheel starting in Glasgow!
photo via The Kelpies
With twelve items on my Scotland bucket list, I will make the ambitious attempt to do one little trip every month and see a new corner of Scotland every few weeks. Some might require only a day or weekend trip, others will turn into longer journeys, but the goal is to every month go somewhere I haven’t been before.