Julie and I chose Scotland as destination without any reflection. That was a choice among others. We just wanted colorful landscapes, nature and wilderness, silent and peace and that’s what Scotland offered us. We needed to get a bit of rest and inspiration for launching our first project together : Where’s the F’s website.
What’s the review of this first travel ? We should keep our spontaneity (even, encourage it) and our travel schedule as a plan B. We learned that meeting new people is the best way to discover new wonderful places.
Edimbourg was already half-asleep when we put both feet on the Scottish ground on that Sunday evening. After some minutes (just to get used to the Scottish accent) we finally took a bus to the city center, where we would sleep at night.
One month before Christmas, Edinburgh had already put its red and green lanterns and Christmas trees. Just at the bottom of Edinburgh Castle, in the Princes Street Gardens, a christmas market already invaded the city for the pleasure of Edinburgh citizens ! Cheesy sausages, spicy burgers and buttered peanuts : it smelled so good that we couldn’t resist. It was not so easy to make our choice. But we were hungry and we needed to sleep. No time to lose between the wooden cottages. One burger later, we were in bed !
Waking up early in the morning (by the melodious singing of seagulls), we didn’t take much time to visit the city. We had a train to catch !
First stop : Dinnet, Aberdeenshire
After 4 hours in the train and buses, we finally arrived in Dinnet, the city lost in middle of nowhere, next to the Cairngorms National Park, at 2 hours from Aberdeen. Nobody was waiting for us. Our first reflex was to call William, our couchsurfing host in Dinnet. Of course, nobody answered. Nobody in the streets, no one to tell us the best way to find our path to our home for tonight except the waiter of an old restaurant which was definitely the only hotel in the area. At least, we knew where we could sleep if we never find our host’s house.
Were we lost ? Nope! The brave and fearless Julie didn’t hesitate any longer and pushed the old wooden door of the typical Scottish restaurant and asked where was the Dinnet Cottage. I forgot to say that our host was living next to a manor. For us, it sounded like he was a lord staying in a castle.
« Follow the road, it’s not far away … » That type of indications isn’t generally very helpful. But Dinnet is a big crossroad. Two streets, four directions, it was impossible to get lost. So, we followed the road until we saw a sign marked « Dinnet Cottage ». Yeah, we found it !
Again, things could have been easier … Indeed the sign led us to a muddy path through the woods. As an ultimate warning, it was written « private property - don’t go ahead ».
At this moment, Julie and I wondered if we would really be sleeping in a true manor for the next three nights. Was it the right house ? Should we take this private road ? We hesitated, asked again our way to a lone walker and finally, decided to take that mud path that led us to manor’s gate. Suddenly, we heard the sound of a motor of a huge 4x4 Defender covered with mud that was driving towards us. William welcomed us with a warm and smiling « Hi » without any trace of Scottish accent. As he told us we were not supposed to be there and we should have been waiting for him near the road sign.
Discovering the green and hilly Aberdeenshire
Next morning, William, our host and Sam, one of his friend, chose our first hike : Glen Muick and its big breathtaking hills. Climbing these hills really took my breath away. On my way to the top, I really thought I lost my lungs.
We walked all day long between the loch and the hills among the deers and the birds. The landscape was amazing and despite the misty weather, we really appreciated that first hike. Our photos will tell you more than we could say.
Close to the top, we stopped to eat and to gather our strength. At a distance the mountains were getting covered with mist. Bad sign. We then remembered what a man quoted us at the airport : « If you can see the mountains, it’s going to rain. If you can’t, it’s already raining ».
So guess what ! The quote was right, it rained but fortunately, it didn’t rain that much and it didn’t last. We walked back quietly to the main road where William was supposed to be waiting for us at the end of the day. That night, we dried our clothes in front a open fire, drinking sweet english beers and eating the fabulous pasta of Julie.
The next morning, we visited Dinnet and its closest loch in the Muir of Dinnet National Nature Reserve. Compared to Glen Muick, that hike was a bit annoying but it was relaxing to walk peacefully between the wildlife of the reserve. While we were going back home to work on our last photos, William called us : « We are going duck shooting ».
Did we hear it wrong ? Duck shooting ?
We hurried up and jumped into the Defender without asking more about the duck shooting. As the sun was going down, we were heading to a shooting party ! Rolling a cigarette with one hand, driving easily with the other, William talked us about his two passion : fly fishing and hunting.
William gave us rubber boots which were far too big for our feet. We were just as dwarfs in the Lords of the Ring. It was really hard to walk that way between the tall grass and reeds on our way to the hunting hedge. As soon as we got there, we heard two gun shots.
A few moment later, we got our dinner ! At home, William showed us how he used to cook the duck. We filmed him and then, shared ou last dinner with him talking about his life as a ghillie in Dinnet, his lifestyle and the fly fishing.
Fort William, a short break before the Isle of Skye
We only booked one night in Fort William. Just the time to climb on the top of Dun Deardil. We woke up early in the morning. The mist wasn’t gone yet as we left the hostel. The fog was so thick that we almost didn’t see a thing as we started our walk towards the hill. When we reached the top the clouds surrounded us and there was no city underneath. No trace of humanity, we were alone on earth.
On the road to Isle of Skye
A different place but quite same situation. As usual after few kilometers, Julie was already heading the way far from me. The slope was so steep but I thought I would never reach the Ben Chracaig in Portree. I chose to stop, sat on a rock and took a look around me. There were rabbits, sheeps and birds all around me. I really enjoyed to observe them as I waited for Julie to come back from the top f the hill.
While we were eating our lunch, we talked about our project Where’s the F and our next adventures. « What should we do … What would happen if we get there… And what about if … » I noticed Julie that she should be more realistic and rather say « we will do it » rather than « if we could do it ». That « if » sounded to me as it was just a dream as we were sitting, two lonely people on the top on the Scottish hill.
When we went down to the city, walking along the bay we saw two men drinking tea sheltered under a huge rock. As Julie and I a few moments ago, they were having a deep discussion too.
The sun was slowly going down and we were getting cold. The sunlight on the bay and on the harbor was marvelous. We took some great pictures that night. In an other way than usual.
Back where we started
We left Portree two days later without knowing where we would sleep in Glencoe. We were supposed to meet a couchsurfer and sleep in his house but we had no news from him since few days. We gathered informations about some hostels and written down the bus timing for our next step (Loch Lomond) in case of there would be nobody waiting for us in Glencoe.
At the bus station, there was a huge guy with long curved hair, he was walking towards us wearing big rubber boots. It was Sam. He spoke to us slowly with a strong Scottish accent. Things wouldn’t be easy. He told us that his parents were managing a christian center of outdoor adventure. The choice was ours : we may sleep in the dorm room or the living. Cool.
The next day, we went for a hike and one of Sam’s friend, Rebecka, joined us. She use to be a English teacher in Colombia. And she just came back in Scotland few days ago. As many Scots men who travel a lot around the world, she realised, each time she comes back, how beautiful her country is. Rebecka was so gentle, she was always smiling and we started to climb the mountain laughing… but not for long. The climbing was hard and as I was taking photographs, I started to lose ground. Our Scottish friends were walking fast ans I was far behind.
When we got to the top, it got colder and the temperature suddenly dropped. That was snob everywhere and surrounding landscapes became improvise and threatening. We sat for a while and drunk Disaronno (a liquor that tastes frangipani) patting ourselves on the back.
We went down the hill and it got harder. As the night was falling, we had to hurry to fetch our bus at 8 pm. Our new friends filled our pockets with cheese crackers, dried apricots and cereals and waved goodbye.