mountain

The Ultimate Scottish Road Trip

With the help of a Lonely Planet Guide, my friend Alex and I planned the Ultimate Scottish road trip over an amazing coffee at my favourite cafe one afternoon in Cambridge.

I was already going to be in Edinburgh for work. So our trip began from the Scottish capital, and this is the route we took:

Edinburgh -> St Andrews -> Perth -> Glencoe -> Fort William (Ben Nevis) -> Oban -> Isle of Barra -> Eriskay -> South Uist -> Isle Benbecula -> North Uist -> Isle of Berneray -> Isle of Harris -> Isle of Skye -> Glenfinnan Viaduct -> England (around Penrith) -> Cambridge

Click here to see the route on a map.

We wanted to make the most of Scotland’s “wild camping”, so we pitched our tent whilst on the Outer Hebrides. We stayed on a campsite whenever we were on mainland Scotland. The network coverage is close to non-existent on the Outer Hebrides, so be prepared and don’t rely on Google Maps on your smart phone. Luckily, my friend Alex decided to go “old school” and brought an actual detailed map of Scotland which also had campsites labelled (just in case we couldn’t find anywhere “wild”).

My favourite place that we pitched up was on the Isle of Berneray which over looked a beautiful beach with white sand and turquoise water. We had an amazing sunset and sunrise here also – the epitome of wild camping in Scotland.

In terms of logistics: we bought all our ferry tickets on the day. However, in preparation we had taken notes of the times of the ferry departures, but thought we should just go with the flow and see how we felt like on the day. If we were in a spectacular place, we didn’t want to leave in a hurry. Buying ferry tickets on the day didn’t change the price and for us it worked out well. We managed to get on all the ferries that we wanted to, although the ferry from the Isle of Harris to the Isle of Skye was a close call, we almost didn’t get on because nearly all the spots were all pre-sold. But luckily we had gotten to the port early enough where they allowed a few spontaneous cars on…

If you love seals: make sure you go to Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye. For only a fiver, you get to go out on a small boat and see the seals – there were so many of them! I’m a little in love with these creatures as you can tell from the number of shots I took…

Climbing Ben Nevis was an absolute delight. For those of you who aren’t from the UK, it Scotland’s highest mountain standing at 1344m. It was a relatively easy climb, but be sure to bring walking poles for the way down (your knees will thank you!). It took us about 3.5hrs to go up and only 2hrs or so to come down. We hiked at a very leisurely pace, where we stopped quite often for photo opportunities.

All I can say is that I definitely recommend road tripping through Scotland. I’ll leave you to decide while you browse through some of the shots I captured while on this epic experience. Ultimate road trips are “ultimate” because of the amazing things you get to see and experience as well as the person/people you get to do this with – so make sure your buddy is as awesome as mine (Alex my friend, you are AWESOME!!)

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Colca Canyon, Peru: an animal expedition

We were woken up very early in order to get to the Colca Canyon and to get a good spot at the Condor crossing before the waves of tourists arrived. En route to the canyon, we had a little break at a truck stop where our guide recommended for us to buy cocoa tea – which basically was cocoa leaves in hot water. Surprisingly it was nice, but I think by this stage I had gown accustomed to the “cocoa” flavour. After about a 2.5hr drive, we arrived at the canyon.

Our initial impressions were not that positive. We could see maybe, 2 condors in the distance and we were not very impressed. However, we were told to be patient and to get a good “seat” along the cliff and simply wait. And so wait we did… it actually paid off!! Our guide had told us that the condors fly according to the thermals and this is EXACTLY what these huge beasts did. They were about 3-4m wide, clearly very large birds. Our guide also explained the features of males compared to females and juveniles vs adults. We sat there on the edge of the cliff for about 2 hours – I was in awe of these amazing creatures. They actually came very close to us – yes, I did get a little scared at some point when they were directly above us! A group of 5 condors were flying in a mesmerising pattern and they kept a whole bunch of us entertained.

Our guide took us on a little walk – I was actually quite breathless as we were at around 5600m above sea level! The canyon was absolutely beautiful, and I think the nice weather played a huge role in this great experience…

On the way to Chivay (small town semi-close to the canyon), we drove past a field of wild vicunas, alpacas and lamas. Our guide explained that vicuna wool was the best quality followed by alpaca then lama. It was such an amazing sight – it looked like something out of National Geographic! We actually pulled over and were busy taking photos and absorbing these gorgeous animals! Apparently vicunas are nationally protected animals, because the wool is so valuable, the animals have become very sought after. So the Peruvian government is slightly worried that these animals in the future may become extinct…

We stopped at another “truck stop” and we were told that they make fresh pisco sour here. If you EVER go to Peru, you will hear pisco sour everywhere! It’s basically an alcoholic shot with egg white and limejuice. BUT at this truck stop they made it with a local fruit (the name escapes me…). There was also non-alcoholic ones available – I ofcourse opted for this option. It was nice – it was basically fruit juice. Once we got to Chivay, our guide took us for a walk, up a look out. There were so many stray dogs in this town – one even befriended a friend on the tour and actually did the mini hike with us!

The Colca Canyon was definitely worth waking up über early for! The animals that we saw were unique to Peru – which made the experience all the more interesting!!