Out of the 27 countries, I have visited Scotland is my favourite by far. The first time Matthijs and I went there, we created a ridiculous schedule to see as much of the country as we could in just three weeks. Needless to say, we desperately needed another vacation when we came back. So four years later we tried to do better by leaving out the islands and spending a bit more time in places we had been before and liked. Still, it was quite a lot.
Why this country is my very favourite, you wonder? Well, the people, the weather, the beaches, the mountains, the woods, the lakes, the pubs, the quirky campsites, and the food to name a few. In the six weeks I've been there I haven't found a thing not to like. Well, maybe that puffins are quite good at hiding. And that you need at least several months to see everything. But the upside of this is that I'm already looking forward to the next time we can travel here. Whenever that may be.
The first half of our vacation we drove part of the North Coast 500 in the Scottish Highlands. We took the ferry from IJmuiden to Newcastle, picked up a rental car, and drove to Inverness. The following day we planned to hike at Ben Loyal, the queen of Scottish mountains, but failed to see her due to mist, and drove further to the coast where we spend a couple of days. We explored Smoo Cave, walked along the cliffs and beaches, travelled back in time to the 1960s where we drank a cup of tea, and visited an art gallery where the owner recommended us to watch the sunset at Balnakeil beach. That was the longest sunset of my life because we went there around eight, and the sun only set at eleven-thirty. Still worth it, as you can see in the photos below. See if you can spot the little fox the sun created on the clouds. From here we went back south again, spending a couple of hours burning in the sun and spotting birds on Handa Island. To this day I'm not sure how we ended up on a boat with bird enthusiasts, since I don't know the first thing about birds and don't particularly care for them. But I enjoyed the hike and we finally got to see puffins. Then we spent some time in Ullapool, feeling a strong urge to take the ferry to Lewis and Harris again, but we had different plans this time, so stayed on the mainland. We spent an afternoon drinking cider and playing games in a pub, bought too many books to carry at the local bookshops, and considered going to church, but forgot to set an alarm. And then we drove further south to the Cairngorms, taking some time to explore Glen Strathfarrar in the morning before we met up with a lovely soul at Aviemore train station. But that is for the next story.
Before I let you go, I'd like to share one more thing I love about this country: it is so quiet. In the Netherlands, you almost always hear cars, even when you're in the middle of a forest. And if it's not cars, it's something or someone else making noise. Silence is not a thing. In Scotland, it's completely the opposite. You can drive or walk for miles without seeing anyone. That, combined with being outdoors for weeks, helps calm my mind tremendously. I even got to a point where I translated my experiences into poems. The words just came to me. And that is something I had only experienced once before. Well, that's it for now. Enjoy exploring the Scottish Highlands through my photos. And if you know a place in Scotland I should definitely visit in the future, I'd love to hear about it.