Believe the hype.

I’m a little behind (oops). It’s been almost three months since I got back from travelling and I still haven’t finished writing about it. So much has happened since then, so finding the time has been difficult – but determined, I will complete my write up of the trip that changed so much for me.

At last, it’s time to write about one of my favourite cities – Dubrovnik. All I can say is that it really was as beautiful as they say. For anyone interested in Game of Thrones, the city is a deserving necessity (although, unfortunately many people share this view…). A big issue is that Dubrovnik is Europe’s worst kept secret, its streets are as busy as they are beautiful. While I’m a fairly social person, I’m not really one for crowds. My first quick scan of the city involved me scouting each GoT filming location I could find with some help from Google. While attempting to study the small map on my phone as I walked, one eye on the screen and the other on the streets, I travelled slowly while being pushed and shoved in multiple directions. The situation was more than hectic.

From my experiences that day, I knew that Dubrovnik was a city to be enjoyed at a quieter time (possibly not in August, the middle of peak tourist season – d’oh). With that in mind, I decided to wake up as early as possible on the following morning to discover the city in peace and solitude. The next morning, I left my hostel just after 6am. My first port of call was Srd, a low mountain on the edge of the city. Somehow I found the energy to literally run up the hill side, meaning I arrived at the top just over an hour later. There, I sat for a while, and as the sun’s rays began to fight through the morning clouds I watched the Croatian flag fly proudly over the historic city below. From here I returned to the walled city and revisited the locations I had been at the previous day, this time with minimal pushing and shoving – the streets were unrecognisable.

I know I seem like a loner, as I constantly advocate spending time on your own. However, it’s not the solitude that I’m necessarily an advocate of – it’s the attitude that makes you do things for yourself, it’s the action of making things perfect for you, it’s the drive to change situations that make you unhappy. I suppose I’m really an advocate of doing things for yourself as opposed to by yourself.

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This isn’t just about mountains.

Over a year ago, it was a picture of the ‘Stairway to Nothingness’ that first inspired me to start planning my trip around Europe. It was the first picture in what would become an album of destinations I needed to experience. My visit to the Dachstein glacier in Austria was mesmerising yet terrifying – a confusing inconsistency that I’ve found difficult to convey. Sometimes fewer words can bring many more emotions, so here’s a poem about my visit. N.B. This isn’t just about mountains.  

The stairway to everything.


The edge of the mountain,
           where her sure met the unknown,
           in the deep end of the sky.

The clouds reminded her,
           just because you can’t see it,
           doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Was she ready to look?
           To see it would make it real,
           but would that spoil her dreams?

Just in that one moment,
          there was a realisation,
          it wasn’t the heights she feared.

Her fear was absent courage.
          Staying grounded, staying safe,
          never daring to know more.

That day she took the leap,
          cautiously nearing the edge,
          out of character, she looked.

Cloudy, as expected.
          Yet, her vision was clearer,
          clearer than ever before.

Footsteps for thought.

While Budapest is growing in popularity, by comparison to many other European cities, it remains a little off the beaten track. Nevertheless, while visiting this city may be less clichéd than other destinations, there are still many clichéd things that you can do while there. Despite doing most of these, I found that the most enchanting part of Budapest was its maze of streets that allow you to lose yourself in both mind and body.


On my first day in the city, I left my hostel armed with a map but no real timeframe or plan. While I usually work my life to a schedule, I had grown accustomed to winging it on this trip. Over the years I’ve become fairly efficient at orienteering in the wild; however my urban map reading skills leave something to be desired. With this in mind, I stepped on to the streets of Budapest with a general idea of where to go but no exact route of getting there – a common trend in my life.

Much of my time in the city was spent aimlessly walking. I made it to the castle, where the 360 degree views of the city provided my first thinkers backdrop. I strolled along both the eastern and western promenades of the Danube, one side providing the perfect view of the impressive Parliament building and the other providing an understated yet powerful memorial to those murdered on the banks of the river during WWII. I was fortunate to find an empty bench at the musical fountain on Margaret Island. The simple notion of moving water set to music, doesn’t sound that impressive, yet I found it magical and was left hypnotized, staring like a fascinated child.


While I enjoy solitude, it’s possibly only healthy in moderation. Luckily, that night I was able to meet a group of friends that saved me from drowning in my own thoughts. We made the city’s ‘ruin bars’ our setting for a night of cocktails and beers. I drank too much, stayed out too late, and with that faced the unfavourable consequences of my actions the next day.

After a slow and lazy morning recovering at the Szechenyi baths, I chose another day of aimless wondering with interludes of history and beer. A perfect marriage of these two qualities could be found in Red Ruin, a bar with a vast selection of Hungarian craft beer featuring a satirical decor themed on the city’s communist past. It was the perfect waiting room for my appointment with dusk that evening.


As a final farewell to the city, I made my way up to the Citadella in time for a lucrative sunset. This brought my time in the city to an end, in the most picturesque way. You would struggle to find a better backdrop than the city of Budapest for watching the world go by. However, personally, the longer I sat watching the world turn, the more fearful I grew of the world leaving me behind.

And breathe. 

“To sit in solitude, to think in solitude with only the music of the stream and the cedar to break the flow of silence, there lies the value of wilderness” – John Muir

It’s difficult to pinpoint a single favourite moment or place from my European travels, but my time spent in the Polish Tatras was certainly a highlight for me. I chose to stay in Zakopane, a town overlooked by the mountains and essentially untouched by foreign tourism. Although, by this point, I was getting used to travelling on my own, my days in these mountains were my first days of true solitude yet none of my memories are lonely ones.

Currently, I’m reading ‘The Living Mountain’ – a book which truly encapsulates the idea that you can have a friendship with your surroundings. It puts forward the idea that the wilderness and the time you allow yourself to enjoy it, can be some of the most important experiences you will have, especially in our busy, bustling, sleepless society.

Maybe it was an essence of aimlessness that made my time in the Tatras so memorable. I had the gift of time – waking up each morning with nothing to do with my day but walk through the mountains. I did have big goals of climbing both Giewont (1895m) and Rysy (2499m) on back to back days. However, when I set these targets, I wasn’t aware that reaching these heights wouldn’t actually be the pinnacle of my days.

While reaching the summit of a mountain on a beautiful day, to be met with 360 degree views is an achievement to be unrivalled, its important to remember the journey that leads to that point. It’s difficult to explain the worth of climbing higher through the hills with only your thoughts for company, but it’s this part of hiking that I often cherish the most.

Sometimes the hours that you take to climb a mountain and the breathing room it gives you, is the exact amount of time and space that you need to process your own thoughts.

Shaped by war.

It only took a failed bus journey, a few extra days in Berlin and about 9hrs on a train, but I eventually made it to Poland.

Warsaw was my first impression of the country. I knew that the city had been completely devastated during WWII and was unsure how the rebuilt capital would look. When walking out of the train station, I was greeted by a city that, as one would expect, was decidedly modern yet surprisingly metropolitan. At first glance, its skyline seemed a little confused, featuring a mixture of contemporary skyscrapers as well as communist era constructions. This contrast of new and old would become a running theme as I discovered more of the city.

The Palace of Science and Culture vs. the Old Town – which is older? 

I made my way to the area of the city misleadingly referred to as the, Old Town. While on the surface, it mirrored many of the European historic towns; it was in fact considerably newer. The Warsaw Uprising of 1944 saw the remains of an already battered Old Town, almost entirely decimated. Following WWII, the Old Town was resurrected from the rubble but of course would never regain the authenticity of its pre-war design.

While Warsaw may be lacking in some of the material history we see across Europe, its modern landscape is possibly the most blatant reminder of its troubled past. Although the city’s architecture leaves a lot unsaid, its silence really says it all.

The old facade of a modern city. 

As with many other cities in Poland, Krakow was occupied by the Nazis during WWII and faced the same tyrannical rule. However, unlike these other cities, Krakow was left mainly unscathed by the war. With the intentions of making the city a base for light industry and agriculture within the Third Reich, the Nazis left much of Krakow’s infrastructure undamaged. Due to this, much of the city’s Old Town remains in its incredibly picturesque original form, with a busy and bustling atmosphere. As you walk through it, each street beautifully presents a new photo op.

Although the city may have suffered less than its neighbours, it would be wrong to say it was untouched by the events of WWII. On the edge of the city, the remains of the Płaszów Concentration Camp, as well as the Oskar Schindler Factory, can be found. These places both act as a reminder of what can amount from the cruel and cowardly ideology of one man, and what could be achieved through the heroism of another.

Having visited both Warsaw and Krakow, it was interesting to see how two major cities of a war torn country could evolve in such different ways but still hold so many memories of the past.

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The best of European history.

When I started this blog, I promised myself I wouldn’t just write for the sake of it, that I would only write when it meant something to me.

My visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau was the most sombre and thought provoking day of my trip, yet, I’ve found myself struggling to write anything about the experience at all. I’ve been searching for the words to describe the harrowing experience with the respect it deserves. However, the truth is that it’s difficult to put into writing what that day meant as I don’t think that there is any combination of words that can truly convey the emotions that walking through the gates of such a place will trigger.

I think that’s one of the reasons that everyone should try to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau at least once in their life. You may watch documentaries about the holocaust or read accounts of what went on at such camps, but until you walk through the gates of such a place, you’re missing the context needed to truly comprehend what once happened there. The buildings of the camp, frozen in time, watch from above as you walk through the quiet streets between them, focused on the unthinkable fact that so many innocent people once suffered and died there by the hands of man.

Poland was an incredibly captivating place, for many reasons; and one that I will never forget, for many reasons.

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.

Berlin was a window into European culture and history; the city’s streets were both modern and historic; and my memories of them were both the best and worst of my travels. I spent a day cycling through the city which provided me with constant reminders of its incredibly dark past as well as its more recent divided history.

They say a picture paints a thousand words, so here’s a short book on my time in Berlin.

I could write about all the places I visited in Berlin, the places that everyone will visit, almost through an obligation to the city. I could write about cycling through the Friedrichshain District, where each grungy street corner was enlightened by some form of mural. I could write about how the 2km journey from the Brandenburg Gate to the victory column is made all the more picturesque by the vast and beautiful Tiergarten.  I could write about how unbelievably empty you will feel when you look through the pane of glass in Bebelplatz, into the barren library situated beneath the square. I could write about all of this and so much more, but instead I’ve decided to focus my writing on one particular place in Berlin – a hidden treasure.

Fuck it all.

On the outskirts of the city, around 10km from all the central sights of Berlin you will find a deserted US listening station from the Cold War – Teufelsberg. Being partial to abandoned buildings I decided that a visit to Teufelsberg would be worth a 40min cycle in the rain. While believe that preserving history for future generations is something that should be important to us all, there is something about a building being left to age naturally that I find particularly interesting. Standing in such buildings can be so eerie, and you can often feel the presence of those who once stood in the place where you are now.

Slightly damp, I arrived at the old listening station, expecting to find a derelict building with some stories to tell but I was met with a structure that housed a wealth of artistic expression. The walls did have stories to tell, but these weren’t the stories I was expecting. I wasn’t just visiting an old reminder of the past; I was visiting a modern day art colony. This former hub of intelligence was now a hub of creativity. Even during my visit, I saw artists sat working on their future projects. As I climbed higher up the central stairwell of the building, my path became darker and darker. With this, alighting at each floor brought a greater sense of brightness and a greater appreciation for the art on display. I climbed to the highest radome of the building and stood in the centre of the spherical structure, sufficiently awe-inspired. By this point I had already decided that Teufelsberg was one of the best art exhibits I’ve ever visited.

Edgy, arty, derelict things.

Unfortunately all good things must come to an end, a sentiment that was brutally true in Berlin. After a pretty phenomenal day in the city, I experienced my first case of self doubt and true homesickness.

That night I had planned to take a night bus to Warsaw, leaving Berlin at 10pm. I won’t get in to the boring details of why this didn’t go ahead, but I was assured by the operating company that a ‘plan B’ was in place, and we would be on the road by midnight. At 3am, I accepted that this may not be the case. The idea that my plan had failed made me doubt whether I could really manage on my own. I was in Germany, surrounded by a hoard of angry Russians and Poles who were shouting at the Latvian operators of our bus service – to use the term ‘language barrier’ in this situation would be quite the understatement. Not only did I feel lost and alone, but I felt as though everyone was actively conspiring against me. I allowed myself to over think, and because of this ended up feeling so much more isolated than I actually was.

€2 refills with a side of coaster collecting.

Upon discovering that it would be at least another 3 hours for a replacement bus, I decided to call it quits. It was 4am, I was in one Europe’s biggest cities and I had nowhere to go. Hopeful, I migrated back to the hostel where I had been staying, which at this hour was an experience in itself. While I couldn’t check into a room until 2pm, the reception staff kindly agreed to let me sleep in the lobby until it was light outside.  After about 4 hours sleep, I headed back into the city. I spent the majority of my day at the Berlin Beer Festival where, by chance, I met a group of fun loving Scots. I don’t know if it was the beer or the banter, but as the day went on my mood was certainly lightened.

It was only weeks later that I was really able separate the failure of my plan from the idea of me being a failure. Sometimes things that are outside of your control will happen. However, it is not these incidents that determine your success, but instead your reaction to them. It’s okay to be your own toughest judge, but don’t be too hard on yourself.

Reality Czech.

I spent two nights in the Czech Republic. During my time there I ran around various towns and cities trying to see as much as possible. It was here that I learnt some of my first lessons on the practicalities of travelling as my naive expectations were met with harsh realities. While some lessons were difficult, they proved to be vital in the weeks that followed.

Imagine.


During my time in the Czech Republic I decided to base out of Prague, with the belief that I was unlikely to get bored here – I was right. The city offered infinite things to do, but of these things, some were better than others. I had been warned that Prague’s astronomical clock was somewhat underwhelming, but I gave it the benefit of the doubt and visited it with an open mind. While I could imagine the clock being underwhelming on an average day, the clock as I saw it, framed by scaffolding, was even less impressive.

While I enjoyed the idea of the John Lennon wall, the sight itself seemed a little misguided. The wall acted as a confused memorial to the influential Beetle, where genuine tributes mixed with generic graffiti. On my first visit the wall was crowded but a local busker provided some acoustic, tranquil vibes. However, it wasn’t until my second, much quieter, visit to the wall when I could truly appreciate its peaceful sentiment.

Some of the best on offer.


Charles Bridge was as busy as they say, but I think that was part of its charm. While the artistry of the bridge was beautiful, its bustling atmosphere gave it its character. Walking across the bridge as the sunset over the historic city and browsing the little bespoke jewellery stalls while the music of multiple street musicians harmonised was one of my favourite moments in Prague.

Prague acted as a great central hub for my adventures across the Czech Republic. Determined to do as much as possible, my schedule was tight and relied on a quick pace and prompt trains. I had hoped to visit the town Karlovy Vary, and while my paper itinerary allowed time for it, I soon learnt that in reality there weren’t enough hours in the day. Luckily, the streets of Prague offered similarly colourful walks with equally beautiful views.

Where the magic happens.


An adventure I did have time for was a trip to the Pilsner Urquell Brewery, about a 90min train journey from Prague. I set off early and around 2hrs later I arrived. Prior to this train journey, I had been spoilt by Dutch and German efficiency, but unfortunately not all European train lines run with the same punctuality (this would become more evident the further east I travelled).

As a beer enthusiast, I felt a trip to the Czech Republic wouldn’t be complete without visiting at least one of its famous breweries. The Pilsner tour provided me with a dose of history and a taste of unpasteurised beer. It was also where I was taught my first Czech – Na Zdraví!

Ever wonder what 40,000 skeletons look like?


On my final day in the country I planned to visit the small town of Kutna Hora in the morning, before hiking in Bohemian Switzerland that afternoon, and making it to Berlin that evening – totally achievable… At 6am I caught my first train of the day heading to Kutna Hora with the plan of visiting the Sedlec Ossuary, the Jesuit College and St. Barbara’s Church. What I didn’t consider was that I would be carrying my 60L backpack. I walked through eerily empty streets for about 20mins to reach the Sedlec Ossuary. The idea of being alone in such a quiet, rural town weighed on my mind while my 12kg bag weighed on my back. It was at this point that I decided walking any further would be a task for another day.

I waited for the Sedlec Ossuary to open while seated in its surrounding graveyard. While the outside of the church was covered in scaffolding (a recurring theme of my travels), research told me that the inside would be worth the wait. When the church opened I was, unsurprisingly, the first person through the door. You would think a building decorated using 40,000 skeletons would be fairly expansive, but it oddly wasn’t. That’s not to say it wasn’t both intimidating and impressive.

Sweaty highlights of Pravcicka Gate.


Based on my previous Czech travel experiences I left myself with, what I thought was a generous 40min connection in between my train from Kutna Hora and my train to Decin. Delays meant I actually ended up madly, running through Prague main station trying to find my platform and boarding my train with about 2mins to spare. From Decin I would take a local bus to the Bohemian Switzerland National Park and take a hike up to Pravcicka Gate.

So there were a couple problems with this, the first being where to actually get the bus… Speaking English in Decin didn’t seem to get me as far as it did in Prague. A little guess work and a little good fortune meant I eventually found the right stop. When my bus reached Bohemian Switzerland, another problem occurred to me – I still had my 60L backpack. The bag was heavy and the walk was sweaty, but with a little willpower I made it to Pravcicka Gate. The landscape was unlike anything we have in Scotland with views that reassured me that I had saved the best of the Czech Republic till last.

Views like these make it all worthwhile.


In my haste to start the hike, I had actually forgotten to check the return times of the hourly bus back to Decin. I thought my best bet would be to get back to the bus stop as quickly as possible to avoid being stranded. Although, not before making a visit to the bar situated just under Pravcicka Gate. With a water in one hand, and a beer in the other I began running back to down the hill. At the bottom, I discovered I would need to wait about 30mins for a bus that would get me to Decin in time for my train to Berlin. My day ended as it started, with another train delay but I was soon on my way north to Berlin.

My time in the Czech Republic was both exhausting and enlightening. It gave me the reality check I needed while affirming that even though you can’t do it all – you can, in fact, enjoy all that you do.

 

We were all strangers once.

Around two months ago I left to go travelling on my own for the first time. I’ve been home for almost two weeks now, and its only been in this time that I’ve begun to really understand what my trip meant to me and why I needed to do it. My idea had been to write about my adventures while I was away, but as I learnt on this trip, things don’t always go to plan. Having said that, waiting until now to start writing about my travels hasn’t necessarily been a bad thing as hindsight can be an incredibly powerful tool.

My journey started in Amsterdam, a city I had visited many times during the eight years that I lived in the Netherlands. I’m not sure if it was a conscious decision or not, but starting my travels in a city that I was so familiar with, seemed to settle some of my solo traveller nerves.

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Life on the water.

I had been in the city for less than an hour when I had my first chance encounter with a random stranger. It was early and the streets were quiet. As I aimlessly walked through the city towards the main square, an older man smiled at me. “Smile darling!” he said. My initial reaction was a mixture of shock and mild disgust which must have been evident as the man immediately assured me that he was, in fact, gay and not a creepy old man. He introduced himself as Ferris, as he took my hand and began walking with me, immediately demanding he found out more about me.

While the situation was somewhat unconventional, part of me was relieved. I was no longer alone in the city. I spent almost an hour with Ferris. We sat in the street, sharing a smoke and talking about life, love and our very different philosophies on both. I shocked him with my monogamous long distance relationship and he shocked me with essentially everything that he said. He was bluntly honest with his opinions and incredibly open with his stories, his flamboyant transparency made him unlike anyone else I’ve ever met.

With the instruction that I attend a live sex show and a big farewell cuddle, Ferris and I parted ways. Our encounter, while brief, somehow reassured me that everything would be fine.

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The beginning of the self timer life.

I had multiple plans for Amsterdam, most of which I executed. I hired an inconspicuous black bicycle and pretended to be a local. I trained at Carlson Gracie Amsterdam where I was welcomed like a regular. I visited the museum quarter and climbed the Iamsterdam sign. I had a beer at Brouwerij ‘t IJ and ate at Europe’s first avocado restaurant. I did everything I wanted to do, yet for some reason one of my favourite memories is the hour I spent speaking to a stranger.

A friend of mine recently wrote that its the people, not the places that make travelling so special. A sentiment which I completely agree with. Especially when travelling alone, the kindness of a stranger can mean so much.

While we can be anything, we should always try to be kind. Smile at people in the street, offer help to those who look lost and open your heart to new friendships.

Time is a gift that costs nothing but it can mean everything.

The self-fulfilling life of a loner.

Its been about a week since my return to Scotland and during my time away I felt as though I had changed. However, as I have tried to slip back into day to day life, it has been difficult to pin point exactly what this change was. I’ve always been fairly independent, but perhaps it is the philosophy surrounding my independence that has developed.

Last night I went to see the band Arab Strap at the Tivoli theatre here in Aberdeen. For those of you who are unfamiliar with their music, Arab Strap were a pretty influential Scottish indie band in the 90s and in my opinion one of the best bands in Slowcore. Their first single, The First Big Weekend, gives a pretty strong insight into what they’re all about. Aidan talks through a fairly relatable monologue in time to Malcolm’s hypnotising beats. As you listen to the song, you actually begin to feel like a part of the story.

So, nothing particularly new so far – I went to a gig. Except, last night I went lone wolf.

I had asked around the usual suspects, but for various reasons, it didn’t look like I was going to find a side kick for the night. Not wanting to go alone, I made myself comfortable in my usual seat at home. While Arab Strap had only just reformed after about a decade apart, I consoled myself with the idea that I would have the opportunity to see them again some day. But, why?

As I sat, staring at the ticket I had selected on the box office website, I thought more about the reasons I shouldn’t go to the gig. The more I thought, the fewer reasons I found… Until there were none. A band I wanted to see for years, were playing live in my home town and I had the ability to go see them. It was actually a pretty simple decision. So, I bought a ticket, slapped myself out of the miserable mood I’d created and went to a pretty great gig.

“He who delights in solitude is either a wild beast or a god” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Sometimes, there can be so much pressure to do things with people that we forget that it’s actually okay to do things alone. I’m not going to start preaching about relationships being social constructs or about our over reliance on others, but what I will say, is that occasionally by doing things alone we have the power to create our own happiness in ways that we couldn’t otherwise.

NC500 – Day Four: I’ll take a Diet Coke, thanks. 

Our days had passed quickly and before we knew it we were on the homestretch. 

It was our final morning yet for the first time on our trip, we woke up in a structurally sound bedroom. Our lodgings that night had been somewhat unconventional but more than comfortable. The boys affectionately referred to it as the trailer park, but honestly, I think it was more special than that. I would recommend Sleeperzzz to anyone looking for an affordable nights sleep with a truly unique twist. 

Our first adventure of the day was a trip to Rogie Falls, not far from Inverness. It wasn’t the first waterfall of our trip, but it was the first that we actually experienced in the sunshine which made it all the more scenic. It also meant the short walk from the car to the falls was more enjoyable, as the sun’s rays pushed through the leafy trees above us and shone a glittering light on our path.

The beauty of nature needs no caption.


Once back in the car we drove towards Clootie Well. While I had done a little research, I still wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, and when we arrived I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of it… Said to be an old pilgrim tradition, strips of cloth were tied to trees surrounding springs and wells as part of a healing ritual. 

However, the modern day manifestation of this practice, I’d imagine, is somewhat different to what it was originally. As we walked through the woodland we saw old clothes, flags, tea towels and even shoes tied to the trees. I appreciate most of these tributes were made with some attempt at keeping the old tradition alive, but it really just seemed like glorified littering to me. Maybe I’m just a snob though. 

Eerie, hippie vibes.


We continued our drive east towards Rosemarkie and the very picturesque Fairy Glen where we took a short walk through the woods. I think it would be easy to dismiss these woods as a dark, slightly damp, almost swampy environment. However, if you really took a minute to really appreciate your surroundings, there was something quite magical about it and it was easy to see why it was called the Fairy Glen. 

After our walk it was time for lunch so we made our way to the Plough Inn, the quaint little pub we had passed on our way in to town. Here, I ordered my first Diet Coke of many that day, while the boys ordered their first beer. In a form of Karma their beers were on the warm side which wasn’t great for a hot day like this. 

Workplace of my dreams.


While in the Black Isle area, it would be rude not to stop in at the Black Isle Brewery, as they make one of my favourite beers – Black Isle Blonde. The brewery fulfilled all of my hippie expectations. At the end of a little pothole infested road we found a quirky metal building surrounded by a fairly rustic garden. It was the type of place that I just wanted to hover around long enough for them to offer me a job.

Inside, we were informed that Black Isle had actually opened a tap room in the centre of Inverness, just down the street from a gelataria. This was enough persuasion for us to put any of our other plans for the day on hold. While I couldn’t have a beer, my ice cream options were unrestricted so it seemed like a winning option all round. I was kindly allowed to eat an ice cream in the beer garden while posing with a beer for effect. 

Beer for effect.


Although we had planned for multiple other stops, time dictated that we would have to just choose one. We decided Duffus castle would be our grande finale. Much like the other castles we had visited, there wasn’t much left of it. Often with ruins, it is this that makes them so interesting as you can wander round and imagine what was once there. The planning and engineering that once went it to building such structures is quite formidable really and the fact that so many of them are in part still standing really is a testament to this. 

Forever falling into these natural poses…


We drove to Buckie, where we said farewell to Dave before beginning our drive back to Aberdeen. While we didn’t do anything particularly outstanding on our last day, it is still the day with some of my fondest memories. I guess sometimes it’s the little laughs with your closest friends that make the best memories.

The North Coast 500 was an enchanting but at times, challenging experience. However, it is one that I would happily repeat. With nicer weather and a little more time, I imagine we could greatly improve on our first experience. 

While the weather in Scotland is difficult to predict, our time is a factor we have greater control over. Making more to time to do what we love is something we can all benefit from, as it’s the memories we make in this time that will become our most valuable possessions.