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Old 9th May 2017, 17:45   #1
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Default A wild camping & road-trip adventure in Scotland! The Flying Highlander

"What a jerk!! You went for a SOLO trip in Scotland, that too a 1400 mile drive and to top that you stayed in camps ?"

I replied "Yup ! Wild Camping by the way. No designated campsites"

The lady remarked "Are you nuts ? You must have been bored to death. C'mon spit it out !"
And I replied for the 'n'th time to the same question from the 'n'th curious friend. I hope my reply didn't bore her to death. Here's what I said -

It was the 1st long weekend of the year. Good Friday and Easter Monday gifting me with 4 days to travel. Not enough I thought. Booked my car on Wednesday and picked it up on Thursday afternoon. Plan was simple enough. Travel to the remotest of the farthest corner of the country. And that should be doable with enough rest within 5days and 4 nights.

I zeroed in on Isle of Skye, a picturesque island to the north-west of Scotland. And to avoid visiting it like a regular tourist, I had decided to take my camp, sleeping bag and camp stove.

Plan for the 1st day was to reach Edinburgh anyhow by nightfall and put up at a hostel. As usual, Hertz was my relied car rental stop. They gave me a decent machine to ride - Fiat Tipo hatchback. A 1.4l Petrol engine with 120bhp.

Day 1

Setting out at 2pm after leaving office early on Thursday, drove all the way to Edinburgh in 7hrs 20mins.

Checked into Kickass Hostel after finding a free parking close by behind the Edinburgh Castle. At only 10pounds a night, it was a decent place to stay in.

As always, the long drive and its fatigue could not keep me inside the hostel for long and I immediately went out for a stroll on the beautiful streets of the ancient city. Cobblestone streets twisted and turned and wandered into alleys and lanes as Neon bulbs lighted up the dreamy night.

A wild camping & road-trip adventure in Scotland! The Flying Highlander-img_20170413_222848_01-1280x720.jpg

I decided to close the day inside the warmth of an old pub with a beautiful name ‘The Fiddler’s Arms’, made more beautiful by the live music coming from the accordion which rested on the laps of a man sitting in the dark corner of the room.
Ahhh what a night !!!

I listened to the music, engrossed!
The only music that I will hear in the next few nights will have nothing to do with mankind

Distance Travelled – 377 miles
Stops – Coffee, smoke and fuel
Total Drive time – 8hrs


Day 2

The ‘Free’ on-road parking was until 7.30 AM and I was sceptical about setting out that early. But as is always the case with me, I lose all my sleep while am travelling and become an insomniac all of a sudden. So I started earlier than necessary. Bought a pack of water bottles and a crate of Pepsi Max from the only Tesco outlet in the vicinity. These 2 crates turned out to be my lifeline for the rest of my days.

By 7AM I had left Edinburgh.

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A wild camping & road-trip adventure in Scotland! The Flying Highlander-scotland-camping-018-1280x848.jpg

A wild camping & road-trip adventure in Scotland! The Flying Highlander-scotland-camping-013-1280x848.jpg

A wild camping & road-trip adventure in Scotland! The Flying Highlander-scotland-camping-022-1280x848.jpg

So now is the time to tell you where I was headed towards.
My plan was to reach the remotest of the furthest corner of the country. I was travelling towards Isle of Skye, an island to the north-west of Scotland. A small mountain range, or rather ridge called Trotternish Ridge that passes along the spine of the island with the Atlantic Ocean engulfing it from all sides. Until a few years ago, Isle of Skye was reachable only by a ferry. But now there is a beautiful Skye bridge over the sea.

I was driving along the A9 which flirts with the entire western border of the Cairngorms National Park. I had been to the park earlier and hence it was easier for me to not give in to the wonderful scenery and venture into the greenery.

Skye is a strange place where the blue ‘Sky’ is elusive. I had heard that it rained for 45 consecutive days last summer. And I was hoping for nothing less in a country like Scotland, that too in a tiny island (The entire length of Skye is within a mere 60 miles) to the north. Its famous for the Northerly gale blowing all day long and trust me its notorious. The entire time I was there, rain and sun had perfect harmony and understanding between them. They came in 5 and 10mins intervals. Sun – 5, Rain – 10. And you have to do everything while the sun lasts. And it was especially a pain as I had to camp, alone. But I will come to that.

A wild camping & road-trip adventure in Scotland! The Flying Highlander-scotland-camping-033-1280x848.jpg

The only proper town in Skye is Portree which is not surprisingly a popular tourist stopover in Skye. Although I consciously tried to avoid these ‘touristy’ zones all along my trip, it helped me buold up my resources for the night to come. I had ended up in Skye without a camp floor mat, a headlight, basic cooking utensils and knife and I had to find a place. In a village like Portree, it seemed difficult. But ahh what luck ! Right beside the car park, there’s an outdoor equipment’s shop called ‘Inside Out’. And this guy had everything to my pleasant surprise. He also showed me on a Survey map (Google maps donot work in this remote areas. You donot get basic mobile reception in most places in the island) where I could setup camp for the night. Even offline GMap won’t work once I moved inside the mountains. I printed the picture in my mind and hoped I would remember. The only departmental store in Portree was Coop and it helped me stocking up some food.

As I left Portree and drove towards Staffin, population grew thinner. You could not see houses in miles. Rain would come and go as per its schedule. The beauty of Skye is well known throughout the country and slowly you come to know why. But my time had yet not arrived. And to confess, I am outrageously biased at anything that is not India and Scotland to me has always seemed over-hyped. To every Scot and Brit I keep on saying “Wait until you see even the worst part of Himalayas” (worst part !!! what’s that anyways !)

But little did I know that my bias was going to get a jolt in the hours to come.

A wild camping & road-trip adventure in Scotland! The Flying Highlander-scotland-camping-027-1280x848.jpg

A wild camping & road-trip adventure in Scotland! The Flying Highlander-scotland-camping-037-1280x848.jpg

Staffin is a beautiful beach village. It has quaint cottages scattered between the hills and the sea. And it already seemed eerily haunted at 5 PM with not a soul to be seen anywhere. I took a wrong diversion on a dirt track and a few sheep blocked my way staring with blank eyes as they do. Trust me, they were the only living beings I would see until next morning. There were some village houses, farms and a few cars parked. But nobody seemed to live there. The sheep herd seemed to have never seen humans around.

I came back to the main road and in 5 mins the houses disappeared and I was driving by the sea with the hills now prying on my shoulder from the left. I remembered the OS map from the shop and knew it was the Quirang range to my left. The map had shown 2 lakes hidden behind the hills somewhere down the way and the shopkeeper had suggested to camp near one of the lakes if possible. He had warned it would require some trekking though.

I drove slowly for a few minutes looking out for a roadside space to park my car overnight. This is what is so special with Scotland. You can park your car anywhere and camp anywhere you like. That’s what wild camping is and it’s legal in Scotland. There are a few rules however. You cannot be in the vicinity of a road where cars ply, you cannot block anybody’s way or view even, cover your shit with soil and leave the campsite as you found it. So basically they are the rules that we follow anywhere in the world. Basic responsible travelling.

I had finally found my spot. For the car that is. I changed into my trekking outfit inside the car with no one to spy on you within miles. Packed up my bag and off I went, beyond the small bend that disappeared behind the hills. And pop ! I was in a no man’s land. A terrible gale threatened to blow me away along with my bag and camps at every step that I took. Soon a lake or ‘Loch’, as they say in Scotland appeared out of nowhere, nested in the mountains. The path I walked on was shrubs which had water locked underneath due to the incessant periods of rain. I tried looking for a dry and level patch and after a tiresome walk of around an hour, I found one by the second lake. With no humans to be heard or seen in miles, only the terrible sound of the gale brushing past your ears at breakneck speed, I set up my camp.

A wild camping & road-trip adventure in Scotland! The Flying Highlander-img_20170414_181039_01-1280x720.jpg

A wild camping & road-trip adventure in Scotland! The Flying Highlander-img_20170414_200244_01-1280x720.jpg

A wild camping & road-trip adventure in Scotland! The Flying Highlander-scotland-camping-043-1280x848.jpg


All my dream of making a cup of tea and watching the sunset while sipping on it crashed at the face of the wind and rain. The water would not boil for half an hour after which I gave up. The fire refused to burn and I had light it up every now and then. Even guarding it from all sides helped me none. A creepy darkness had wrapped its covers around me along with its violent noise of the wind and the heavy rain. It even snowed for a while as I sat there, holding the marinated chicken breast over the scared fire. A long vain effort to barbecue the meat did not yield much and I had to eat the raw meat with a cooked layer at the outside. But somehow, it all tasted good along with whatever I had to go with it.

My tent passed the ultimate test that night, withstanding the fiercest of winds. I was convinced that the gale will take the camp along with me inside it and drop us off at the sea. The poles bent inwards as my belief grew stronger and I tried holding the poles back from inside. But fortunately enough, the tent came out on the top.

With little to do I took refuge in a Jim Corbett Omnibus as the wind kept prowling, rain kept lashing on my tent that sat in the middle of nowhere by a mysterious lake engulfed in darkness.

Distance Traveled – 255 miles
Stops – Coffee, Lunch, smoke, fuel and innumerable Photostops
Total Drive time – 7 hrs (drive only)



Day 2

A wild camping & road-trip adventure in Scotland! The Flying Highlander-scotland-camping-038-1280x848.jpg

The night had passed and the sun's first rays over the Atlantic Ocean brushed against my tent. But in intervals. As the periodic rain and storm had not passed with the night.

I moved out and started making haste to kick-off my day. Soon I had packed back everything and moved inside my car after the short trek.

The route that I had decided for today would kiss the Ocean all along the day and circumscribe the island on narrow undulating roads with the hills and the blue ocean standing guard on either sides throughout.

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Today it was not about destinations, it was not about reaching somewhere. It was all about travelling. It was about driving slow, it was about looking all around more than looking ahead, it was about frequent stops, too frequent. Photos will speak more than words here. Else, how shall I describe how the roads dived into the sea, how the waves almost crashed onto the roads.

A wild camping & road-trip adventure in Scotland! The Flying Highlander-scotland-camping-052-1280x848.jpg

A wild camping & road-trip adventure in Scotland! The Flying Highlander-scotland-camping-054-1280x709.jpg

In the meanwhile my car was running on reserve. I had stupidly estimated the last day that I would find a fuel station on my way somewhere in Skye and neglected the fuel status below halfway mark. And now I was running not on petrol, but luck. Started applying all techniques possible to lower consumption to the minimum. The fuel marker vanished completely in a while and I was still in remote territories with nobody to even ask around, no mobile tower to consult Google. I was terrified for the first time. But I had to keep my cool as there was no one beside me on whom I could vent my tension. The roads were climbing up and down, winding up hills and coming down sharply and against all good habits of hill driving, I started coming down on neutral. Whoever reading this should never ever practice that as it can cost you lives. I have been utterly stupid and learnt my lesson. This should have never come down to this point. But now that it did I tried all tricks that I could think of and drove almost 5 miles in search of a fuel station or a mobile network. Finally I found one. One bar on my phone indicating a 2G signal. Frantically I searched for a petrol pump and after a long nerve wracking wait, a diversion route came up. And a downhill road took me to the Uig Filling station by the Uig dock.

Refilled and refreshed, we both now chugged on happily towards Dunvegan, the first proper village in miles. Dunvegan was the much awaited stop on my route today as I needed a washroom to complete my morning chores. Yes, I had not wasted my time with my waste management back at my campsite. I was too excited to start. But now it was taking its toll. Luckily Dunvegan parking site had a public toilet. A warm bath however was out of question. But I did slip into new clothes for the day

It was time for me to satiate my hunger for hiking as I wandered off into the village and then into the wilder outskirts.

On my way back to the car, I chanced upon a beautiful local handmade bakery shop.

A wild camping & road-trip adventure in Scotland! The Flying Highlander-scotland-camping-059-1280x848.jpg

A wild camping & road-trip adventure in Scotland! The Flying Highlander-scotland-camping-062-1280x848.jpg

Let there be more pictures and lesser words as I drove towards the Fairy Pools.

A wild camping & road-trip adventure in Scotland! The Flying Highlander-scotland-camping-064-1280x848.jpg

A wild camping & road-trip adventure in Scotland! The Flying Highlander-scotland-camping-076-1280x848.jpg

There was a long hike at the Fairy Pools which I immediately detested due to the huge concentration of quirky tourist who had come to do a routine site-seeing. So let me move on to the next pictures as I took a diversion from A87 towards Elgol. Why ? It just caught my fancy on the map.

A lonely road that danced up and down vigorously crawled its way through the vast expanse of highlands, grazing sheep and cattle and ended finally at a scenic seaside village of Elgol. I had lost my way in between and had stopped at a lonely roadside cafe.

A wild camping & road-trip adventure in Scotland! The Flying Highlander-scotland-camping-145-1280x848.jpg

A wild camping & road-trip adventure in Scotland! The Flying Highlander-scotland-camping-163-1280x848.jpg

A wild camping & road-trip adventure in Scotland! The Flying Highlander-scotland-camping-170-1280x848.jpg

A wild camping & road-trip adventure in Scotland! The Flying Highlander-scotland-camping-175-1280x768.jpg

Another long hike and I was driving back to the main road. Night was about to fall and I was yet to decide on my camping spot. Unfortunately, I was still not in a mood to station and wanted to drive on. And drive I did. Once on the main road , I continued south and was out of Skye in a while. I drove aimlessly down south for an hour and then realized that it was already night. I must eat and these northerners eat early and sleep early. Restaurants were closed and I had no place now to camp and setup my stove. Tried a few spots but didn't like them much. Alas, I headed back up, upto Skye again in search of dinner and a secluded place for a good night. Red Skye was perhaps the only restaurant open at 9 in the evening and they served me a nice plate of crispy Pork Belly. Once I was out it was dark. With my headlights piercing into an empty dark highway, I took a sudden diversion towards the sea on my left and wished to sleep in my car for the night. A few hundred meters and I was away from any man-made light or structures. The sea was beside me. And between me and the sea was something made by man. A graveyard. With graves older than 200 years. And a barren tree standing in the middle. I didn't know how to sleep. For much of the time sleep eluded me. I looked up towards the windows, the rear windshield expecting to see someone. As my eyes finally started closing down, I think I heard someone knocking on the windows.

A wild camping & road-trip adventure in Scotland! The Flying Highlander-scotland-camping-182-1280x754.jpg

A wild camping & road-trip adventure in Scotland! The Flying Highlander-scotland-camping-196-1280x848.jpg


Distance Traveled – 180 miles
Stops – Coffee, Lunch, smoke, fuel and innumerable Photostops
Total Drive time – 6 hrs (drive only)



Day 3

As a new day dawned on me and the horrors of the previous night lost in the early lights, I had no plans for the day ahead. I decided to rely on my whims today and started driving south, out of Skye. Soon I came across the famous Elian Donan Castle, a busy tourist spot by the day. But this early, there was obviously no soul nearby. The castle looked right out of a mystery book cover, perched on a lake with the feeble sun rays caressing it.

A wild camping & road-trip adventure in Scotland! The Flying Highlander-scotland-camping-201-1280x848.jpg

I drove on with a new zeal and kept smiling at the marvelous beauty that Scotland had to shower on me at every turn. I made my breakfast stop at Fort William, a populous and important town in the north that acts as a vantage point between the north and south.

After stacking up for the night with all the necessary resources, I decided to drive towards Loch Lomond National Park, one of the largest national parks around a central loch in Scotland. I had already concluded in my mind that I would camp by the shores of Loch Lomond for the night.

Although wild camping is legal in Scotland, Loch Lomond National Park has very recently started taking wild camping licence fee from campers so as to control and protect the nature.

The motorway that leads to Loch Lomond from Glencoe, A82 is perhaps the best road that I have traveled on in the UK so far, and trust me when I say that I have traveled most of it.

A wild camping & road-trip adventure in Scotland! The Flying Highlander-scotland-camping-215-1280x777.jpg

A wild camping & road-trip adventure in Scotland! The Flying Highlander-scotland-camping-222-1280x848.jpg

A wild camping & road-trip adventure in Scotland! The Flying Highlander-scotland-camping-239-1280x915.jpg


Loch means Lake, Glen means small river and Ben means peak. So the Loch Lomond is the lake which sits at the bottom of Ben Lomond. And I sat right opposite Ben Lomond as the the sun set on a quiet evening by the shores. I managed to befriend a small Scottish group who camped nearby and joined them in the campfire as night fell on us. They asked me to play some music and to my delight they were fond of 50s and 60s pop, jazz, Beatles, ABBA and we hummed and danced into the night with some barbecue chicken and marshmallows to go with.

A wild camping & road-trip adventure in Scotland! The Flying Highlander-scotland-camping-246-1280x848.jpg

So at the end of my first solo long road trip and camping, I realized how important it is for everyone to travel solo atleast once in his/her life as only then you get to meet your best travel partner.

Last edited by GTO : 7th June 2017 at 08:50. Reason: Taking live - thanks for sharing!
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Old 7th June 2017, 08:51   #2
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Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 7th June 2017, 10:41   #3
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Thanks for sharing the lovely pics and well written travelogue, pal.
I have spend some good time in Scotland (Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh) and your pics just made me feel nostalgic.
Though may not be right on the top of the places to visit, Scotland nevertheless is an extremely beautiful, peaceful and picturesque country sitting in the lap of nature and has everything to please a Nature lover.
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Old 7th June 2017, 11:00   #4
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Thank you for sharing. Your post brings back a lot of memories. I did the Skye trip more than 15 years ago,as a part of a three day self drive in Scotland along with a friend. We did a Glasgow- Inverness -Lochness (overnight) - then through the Skye bridge to Skye (the bridge has been open from 1995). Stayed in a wonderful B & B at Portree. On the return we took the car ferry from Armadale to Mallaig and came through Fort William to Edinburgh. Skye is truly beautiful. We also went to Kylerhia which is the location of the other ferry crossing to the mainland to Glenelg but did not do the actual crossing. Those days a lot of the roads were single track roads.

Last edited by TKMCE : 7th June 2017 at 11:02.
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Old 7th June 2017, 11:40   #5
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Brought back a lot of memories. I did pretty much the same route but cutting across Cairngorms. Scotland still remains one of my favorite destinations for driving - so much so that the next year I again went back to drive these mesmerizing routes - this time on a Jag Sports. I'd definitely do it again sometime in the future - those roads are almost like an addiction !
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Old 7th June 2017, 17:02   #6
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Wow, fantastic camping trip and pictures. Truly impressed. Would you be kind enough to share which tent you used on this trip? It looks a tad large, so I presume it was a 2- or 3-man tent.

Cheers!
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Old 11th June 2017, 10:22   #7
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Loved your narration. Scotland is indeed beautiful and north looks sparsely populated.
This is the 2nd Solo travelogue that I have read on team BHP. One day, I want to travel solo from Bangalore to North India. Inspiring read!
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Old 12th June 2017, 18:01   #8
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Hyangalavoyager lovely narration and amazing pictures. Loved every bit of it. Your travelogue put this drive on my bucket list. :-)
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Old 12th June 2017, 19:55   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hyanglavoyageur View Post
A graveyard. With graves older than 200 years. And a barren tree standing in the middle. I didn't know how to sleep. For much of the time sleep eluded me. I looked up towards the windows, the rear windshield expecting to see someone. As my eyes finally started closing down, I think I heard someone knocking on the windows.
.
That was scary, you must have had a Hell of an experience !
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Old 14th June 2017, 09:56   #10
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Lovely narration. Scotland is indeed a beautiful place. While I was in London couple of years back I drove from London to Scotland covering via inverness, Isle of Skye, Portree, Staffin and couple of other nearby places. I also went for a long drive along the coast completing the entire circle . I was accompanied with my wife and one other friend couple. This trip is one of the best memories I will cherish all my life.
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Old 19th June 2017, 12:18   #11
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WOW!

THAT is a camping trip!

I have been to Scotland once and was floored by how beautiful it is in summer.

Amazing pictures!
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Old 19th June 2017, 14:08   #12
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Fantastic write up. Made for a wonderful read. Brilliant pictures too. Can't wait to read the rest.

By the way, a picture that stands out is the one of the stand-alone tree amidst the graves. It looks like the one straight out of the horror movie 'THE RING'!
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Old 19th June 2017, 19:33   #13
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Amazing travelogue. Scotland's beauty is beyond words. The locales were just breathtaking. Thanks a ton !
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Old 20th June 2017, 23:03   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johy View Post
Wow, fantastic camping trip and pictures. Truly impressed. Would you be kind enough to share which tent you used on this trip? It looks a tad large, so I presume it was a 2- or 3-man tent.
Thank you for the kind words !
Its a 2 man festival dome tent. Not really made for such camping purpose (the weather was truly extreme), but did its job for me quite well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by aadithsince1980 View Post
Fantastic write up. Made for a wonderful read. Brilliant pictures too. Can't wait to read the rest.

By the way, a picture that stands out is the one of the stand-alone tree amidst the graves. It looks like the one straight out of the horror movie 'THE RING'!
Quote:
Originally Posted by #win View Post
That was scary, you must have had a Hell of an experience !
You bet it was scary !!! And by 'The Ring' picture you can very well guess the ambiance !!!

Last edited by ampere : 20th June 2017 at 23:24. Reason: back to back posts merged.
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Old 24th June 2017, 08:35   #15
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Mesmerising. Camping in open is indeed something to be done atleast once.
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