Road Trippin’ in Scotland – To Conclude

So today my Highlands road trip comes to an end as I head to Edinburgh then back to London. I woke up early that morning and it was so peaceful in the campsite, everyone was either still asleep or went out already. I walked around to have a look at the place in day light before I take off, and it’s truly a wonderful site and my extremely short stay didn’t do it justice but hopefully there will be a next time.

I had ran into a nearby fish and chip place the other night so I passed by for a quick breakfast before hitting the road. I had roughly a little less than two hours of driving till I get to the airport in Edinburgh and since I started really early that day and had more time than I needed, I decided to take it slow and marvel at the landscape in the Loch Lomond Park while driving through. There was absolutely no need to rush myself this time.

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I was driving through the Loch Lomond Park in the early morning and when I passed by the loch I was mesmerized by those reflections of green ❤

So I put on some nice music and drove calmly by those serene morning sceneries enjoying the melodic sedative feelings that were besieging me that day. I can’t really remember what I was listening to that morning but I have always enjoyed singing out loud to whatever music I had on. I enjoyed my weird and epic playlists as my sister calls them and have to admit that Coldplay played a major role in those playlists 😀

Oh God it was so peaceful and quiet that morning which made it all so surreal and I felt heartbroken to be leaving! Ultimately, I reached the airport, dropped off my red Fiat 500x, and headed to Edinburgh to enjoy the few hours I had before the train took me back to London for the weekend. Edinburgh couldn’t have been any more welcoming, it was sunny and beautiful when I arrived. I walked around, had some food, and enjoyed some really good live rock/bagpipe music. I felt really bad that day when I was driving out of Skye and now that I was leaving Scotland, the feeling was immense. I guess it means that I had such a blast and that’s basically the whole idea, right?! Great times are bound to come to an end, they can’t last forever but they are indeed curved into our memories till the end of time.

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Why ask someone to take a picture when you can take a selfie 😀 – Edinburgh 

What a trip that one was and it wasn’t only because of the new places I have seen or what I have done but also because of how it remolded my personality. My first hostel experience when I was in London a couple of weeks earlier wasn’t that great! It left me feeling utterly out of place and for the first time ever I wasn’t at all comfortable about my veil, I got concerned about performing my daily prayers in the room that I didn’t pray at all during the whole trip! That felt so bad I have to say, being forced to skip prayers so it won’t get any more awkward! The experience in Scotland was the total opposite, all my hostel stays were great, the people were super nice and accepting and though I didn’t feel comfortable enough to pray in the room still, but being treated without prejudice helped shake off the feeling of not belonging.

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I ran into this tiny waterfall on the way to the Old Man of Storr – Skye

One of the best encounters I had that time was during my second night in Edinburgh. I was moved into a long stay female dorm where an Argentinian opened the door for me and once she saw me she asked where I come from and seeing me veiled and everything she told me oh God I have lots of stuff to ask you about. I was so tired that night wanting to sleep badly, but we ended up talking for almost two hours discussing religion, points of view, and how everyone of us saw things from a different perspective. It got even more interesting when an Algerian-French lady joined the conversation.

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My road companion 😀

It was such a great opportunity to clarify some misconceptions about Muslims and Islam. To show that not all of us are the extremists who are talked about in the media and that most of us are as normal as anyone else but dressed differently.

That encounter was a good exercise to learn how to cope and accept our differences. It surely strengthened my conviction in myself, who I’m, and what I stand for and that one should always seek acceptance instead of feeling apologetic about oneself as a person just because of being different. Isn’t this how it’s supposed to be in the first place? To be received and accepted as human beings for who we are with disregard to race, skin color, and religion. We should be appreciated for our own ideals, intellect and characters because this is what a person is all about and nothing else.

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Scott Monument – Edinburgh 

The obstacles I went through during my first day, though they kind of broke me down a little, but they also toughened me up to a great extent. I was able to think my new situation over and find a solution to the mess that has happened in spite of how gloomy I felt back then. That was a very important lesson to learn, to know how to turn things around and always being able to see that break in the clouds.

A few years ago, I had a very serious car accident while driving back to Cairo from the North Coast on the highway. I didn’t get injured physically but psychologically I always faced insecurities when it came to driving on highways or even going past a certain speeding limit. It took me a year to have the courage to drive my car again on that same highway or even to be confident enough while driving through the city. Going on that road trip melted away all the self-doubt I still had buried inside of me due to that accident. For the first time I was driving a car other than mine, worried only about traffic rules and not being in a different car. I felt more confident to press that gas paddle a little, and get rid of the fear of going over a 100 km per hour! And though I acted all girly sometimes asking for help every now and again, those long drives were a great factor in strengthening my grit.

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Eilean Donan Castle  

I can keep going on and on about the returns of this trip forever, all the encounters, great conversations and the awesome people I met along the way made it all so special. Wrapping it up here is causing me tremendous nostalgia. It was one of the greatest trips I have ever had, a trip that caused me a severe case of post vacation blues 😀 I can’t curb the urge to go back to Scotland, to re-familiarize myself with what I have come to know by now and to discover that that is still unknown. But above all, I can’t wait for my next road trip 🙂

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On my way to Storr – Skye

 

 

Road Trippin’ in Scotland – Part 5

Today marked my last day in Skye and the Highlands all together as I would be heading to Edinburgh the following morning to drop off my car and bid Scotland farewell. I had two planned hikes for the day followed by a long drive to my accommodation afterwards so I needed to start quite early that morning. While checking out at the hostel I had the pleasure of meeting Gordon, one of the hostel’s personnel. Such a nice guy Gordon was, he went through the day’s plan with me offering advice and guidance. He gave me directions to where I was going next on a paper map of Skye in case the navigation went crazy on me which it sometimes did!! The best assistance he offered me was regarding the night’s accommodation, it was crucial for me to stay somewhere as close as possible to Edinburgh to spare myself a long and tiring drive the following morning.

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The end of the road of Lealt Falls – Skye

I was planning on spending that night in Glencoe but it was actually fully booked and I couldn’t find any room to spend the night. Gordon suggested staying somewhere else closer to the Loch Lomond National Park, the place was only a 1 hour and 40 minutes drive away from Edinburgh and that was just perfect. He was of such a great help while I was making the arrangements for the accommodation, I almost had no signal on my phone and it was impossible to make calls. I needed to get them through using the hostel’s landline which was willingly made available for my usage. The network is quite bad in Skye specially the more you go up north so be prepared for that. May I also say that his recommendation for breakfast was excellent! Thank you so much Gordon for such a great start of my day 🙂

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The harbor in Portree at sunrise – Portree

And so I took off after having a nice breakfast while sitting on a bench in the downtown area enjoying the crisp morning breeze. I had a final look at the harbor with the sun reflecting on the still waters as I walked myself to the car to start on my drive up north to The Old Man of Storr.

It was cold and got kind of gray when the road opened up towards Storr, it turned rainy on me later but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the day. The Old Man of Storr is nearly a two hours hike, was a little tough on my poor knee at some parts but it was totally worth it. The views from up there were incredible, a 360 degrees feast for the eyes.

There were hardly any signs to guide the ascent and I had to improvise following the dirt road scrambling myself up to the Old Man. I couldn’t reach the very base of it though as it was steep and quite difficult to climb with a bit of a drizzle as well. Unfortunately, I came to know later that there was an easier way to climb to the Old Man itself other than the scrambling I did on the wrong side of the pinnacle! Urg!

I had a very wet and muddy descend and by the time I made it to the car my hiking pants were soaking wet and I was freezing. I needed to stay in the car for nearly half an hour with the heating on to warm myself up and allow my pants to dry out before I go further up the road to the Quirang.

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The Old Man of Storr with the pinnacle and spiral to the upright corner of the photo – Skye

The landscape surrounding the Quirang was unrealistic, those vast and grandiose hills at different elevations with ponds scattered around just blew my mind. I couldn’t resist not turning my head in all possible directions as I was ascending to take in the view that was enveloping me.

That time, I decided to hike light leaving my backpack and DSLR in the car, taking only the GoPro and mobile with me along with a bottle of water. I kicked off the path following the track as it went up and shortly after I have started I met Narges and David.

We started on a casual conversation and ended up hiking the trail together encouraging one another actually to go on the longer 3 hours route. I was actually glad having met them because when the hike ended I felt that it wouldn’t have been as nice if I had done it alone!

It was drizzling already when we started and the path was very muddy and hard to follow, it would have been difficult to figure out which way to go if I was on my own. David had one of those walking the Highlands books that described the walk and even with the help of that book we got confused at some points, especially when the book advised us to follow the “clear” track, a track that wasn’t that clear at all!

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The Kilt Rock – Skye

We were the only ones doing that part of the trail so we had to rely on our sense of direction and the quite misleading info provided by the book. By that time it was raining already and that made the uphill climb to the summit quite difficult, it wasn’t easy to ascend on puddles and boggy heathers but we ended up making it to the flat summit and we kind of improvised our descent to the parking, a declivity that got slippery over those wet heathers. It was such an enjoyable hike nonetheless, we parted ways at the parking as they were heading to Uig and I needed to drive myself out of Skye to north Loch Lomond for the night’s accommodation. That was a little more than 5 hours of nonstop driving, a drive that took me throw Glencoe and Fort Williams.

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A high-point view of the Quiraing

The sceneries on my way back to the mainland and off Skye were as grand as they were coming in. Massive hills covered in green and tall trees with waterfalls gushing from everywhere, I was driving that wending line that found its way through their rugged presence and was greeted every now and then by a still mass of water. That drive was the perfect ending to my Highlands visit; I drove by a calm sunset and was welcomed afterwards by a big bright moon. Of course the photographer in me so wanted to stop and catch a photo or two but I compelled myself to better have that scene saved in my memory. We are not supposed to tangibly capture everything our eyes see I believe; sometimes it’s best to keep sights safely locked up in one’s recollection.

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With Narges & David who offered me water when what I had ran out, and snacks to keep me going for my long drive. It was a pleasure meeting you guys 🙂  And of course you can notice the permanent problem of my glasses getting foggy due to humidity 😀

And so I kept on driving to reach my destination; that was the longest and toughest drive in the whole trip. I was tired, yearning for a hot shower and a comfy bed and those one lane single carriageways drove me nuts. I had to utilize my Egyptian driving skills overtaking few cars at a time because I wasn’t able to keep my eyes opened any longer, I just needed that drive to come to an end and it did safely thank goodness!

The campsite I was staying at was just perfect; thank you Gordon! I had a camping hut all for myself, and when I checked the location in the morning I was in love. The site is located almost on the outer north premises of the Loch Lomond & Trossachs national park and has a few walks around the area where you can just go on foot leaving your car behind. I wished I had my tent to camp there and stay for longer but maybe next time. Highlands, this is not the end, I will be back-Terminator-style 😀

That night in the camp I had the best hot shower I ever had throughout the trip, I was clean and hungry because of course I forgot to have a proper dinner but I was ready to have a good night sleep since in the morning I had to say goodbye to the Highlands and Scotland altogether with kind of a broken but yet happy heart!

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 When a wide angle lens is not wide enough to capture the view – The Old Man of Storr, Skye

Road Trippin’ in Scotland – Part 4

Skye was by far the highlight of the road trip, the part I longed for the most. I had an early start that day in hopes of reaching Portree right away but the nearly 2 hours something drive took me longer than I anticipated. I was there an hour or so before sunset time not because of a dreary drive like the one I had to Inverness, but simply because it was so scenic that I couldn’t help but stop every now and then in awe of the surrounding landscape. And every time I stopped I would tell myself this is the last time, just continue straight to Portree afterwards but then comes another viewpoint/walk sign and I would stop again and again.

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Loch Cluanie – Stop 1

Loch Cluanie was one of the halts I made along the way, it was so beautiful that I ended up making 3 different stops along its shore. A little more driving down the road and I came across Eilean Donan castle, it looked like a castle out of a fairytale and so I stopped for a quick visit. Less than half an hour of driving later, I passed the sign of the Lochalsh Woodland Walk and without second thoughts I took the turn that led to the parking. I just couldn’t control myself especially that by that time the sun was finally able to find its way through from among the clouds and the weather was becoming perfect. That short walk between the long woodland trees with the sun beams creeping in was a dream, and the views of Lochalsh were wondrous, it was totally worth the time.

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Loch Cluanie – Stop 2

After all the stops, I eventually drove myself over the Skye Bridge to the final destination of the day, where I will be spending the night, Portree. This small town was packed by the time I arrived, it was hard to find a parking spot and a place to have dinner!! I had to wait for more than an hour just to order a pizza for dinner; with people waiting outside bars and restaurants to get a table, pizza was the quickest option available at the time!

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Loch Cluanie – Stop 3

It was kind of problematic to find accommodation in Portree or the nearby area I noticed, I kept on running into people making calls to check for availability. I heard Skye had few rainy days that forced campers to switch to indoor accommodation, so unexpectedly all places got fully booked. That got me worried to be honest, I feared that I won’t be able to find a place to spend the night and that I will end up driving somewhere far for accommodation. The network in town was really bad as well, it was almost impossible to use the internet to look for accommodation and unfortunately the place I chose to have dinner in had no wi fi, what a bummer! Luckily, I had a hostels guide that a friend gave me before my trip and with the aid of that guide I was able to secure a bunk bed in a female dorm in one of the town’s hostels, it probably was the last available bed too!

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Eilean Donan Castle overlooking Loch Duich

The hostel was very central, close to the downtown square and only a few steps away from the Visit Scotland Information office. I shared the room that night with students from China and Japan whom I happened to accidentally talk to while walking around the downtown area, and a French girl, Isabelle, who plays the bagpipe. Did I mention that there was a bagpipe band playing live music in town that evening? There was one yes and I was able to hear them while in my room. I just love bagpipe music and being able to hear it almost everywhere I went to was very delightful.

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Lochalsh Woodland Walk ❤

Anyway, Isabelle was something; she was touring the Highlands as well, solo, and doing it via public transportation since she is not old enough to rent a car. She was fun to talk to and of such a great help as well. I was hesitant about which walks to do the following day, which was actually my last day in Skye, and while I was talking with her about it she brought out this Highlands walks book and we started going through it to decide which walks I should go for. She even helped me in figuring out my way on a paper map she had since the network was too bad to use Google maps and the car navigation I had only dealt with post codes and town names and used to go nuts on me when given something else.

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Part of the landscape I drove through on my way to Portree

She was so impressive for her age, she knew how to navigate road maps and use coordinates to find specific locations. I’m not sure if I’m that good in handling coordinates and road maps to be honest, I can find my way around a city map but never used a road map to travel around before considering that this is my first road trip ever! I’m glad I was able to have that small talk with her that night, such a remarkable young lady.

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Downtown Portree the next morning ❤

So, pizza for dinner, a live bagpipe show in downtown, and very exciting conversations with such cool people. That was me calling it a night, I needed to have a good night sleep as I was going to have some serious hiking and driving the following day.

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At Loch Cluaine 🙂

 

Road Trippin’ in Scotland – Part 3

The drive to Inverness was quite a pain; part of the road was a one lane single carriageway where I got stuck behind trucks and buses and that made the journey even longer. It was so exhaustingly boring that I just sped up and overtook all those slow vehicles once the road turned into a two lanes one. When I did that I thought I was conforming to the 115 km speed limit on the navigation system, a limit that I didn’t even reach for quite an hour, but I found out way later that I was actually doing 115 miles at the time!! You see, the car’s navigation system had the speed limit in kilometers while the speed dial of the car was in miles. I always wondered why the speed limit on the navigation system kept on blinking, now I know! Absurdly, I only apprehended where the confusion came from when I was driving my car back to the drop off point few days later!! Thank God I didn’t get a speeding ticket, it would have been a very expensive one!

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Just outside Inverness on my way to Loch Ness

Part of the pain of that drive was running out of gas. I had a little less than half a tank when I started and thought it would be enough to take me to Inverness or at least it will suffice till I find a gas station but I was wrong. I assumed that I will come across a gas station or a sign leading to one anyway since this is a motorway, so why the need to worry, right? Frankly, I didn’t! There were hardly any signs; the navigation couldn’t direct me to one, and I kind of freaked out once that red light in the dash board got turned on. I had to use the mobile GPS to guide me to the nearest gas station and thank God there was a signal on the road.

Though the fear of the car stopping suddenly on me for becoming dry didn’t materialize, I was still irritated when I reached the gas station that I directly asked for help to have the car fueled. Where I come from, we don’t do it by ourselves, there is always someone to do it for us and since I haven’t done that before and was too agitated to afford a slip up, I just asked for help. I sounded so clumsy and clueless that day especially that later on I stopped to ask for help on how to turn the lights and the defogging on! Why would they replace the light control arm with a button, huh?! I have no idea what got into me that day and my act might come as a shock to those who know me 😀

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One of the view points along Loch Ness

I eventually reach Inverness after such a wearing drive longing for a little rest and something to eat but as usual I couldn’t find a parking spot and kept on going around in circles having no idea what to do! And since driving in towns with the traffic and all made me nervous, I decided to not take a break but to continue driving to Loch Ness. The drive along Loch Ness was beautiful, you have the loch to your right, the forests to your left, and you just find your way amongst that setting. I was able to have some sun for an hour or something which was great but unfortunately it went all gray on me later!

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Another view point of the loch

There are a couple of view points along the loch where you can stop to admire the view or even to spend some time out on one of the available public benches. Besides the view points, I also had the chance to go on two walks around the area. The first was the Change House Walk which is a very short one that starts by the side of the loch then takes you into the forest. The walk offers highpoint views of the loch and you can also find a bench or two up there to sit on and take in the view. A short drive from the Change House Walk lies Farigaig with its forest trails that start at the information office parking. That was the second walk I did which turned out to be the creepiest thing I have ever done.

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One of the high point views of Loch Ness along the Farigaig forest trail

For starters, I was the only car in the parking, hence no one was doing that walk but me. It was raining already when I parked and got slightly heavier by the time I started the walk. For some reason I went for the longest trail out of the available 3 with almost no network and to top it off, I had around 3 hours before it gets entirely dark. What was I thinking?!! It was so quite up there that the sounds of birds/animals coming from the woods freaked me out; the trees were huge and covered in moss, their thickness made it even darker than what it already was in some areas. Part of the trail literally took me into the woods amid those massive trees, the entrance to that path was quite dark and it took me some courage to walk into it. I felt as if I’m walking into a dim tunnel with no idea of what lies ahead of me.

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Such a perfect spot for e bench  ❤  Change House walk 

The trail marks were not that clear, the map was kind of useless, and I kept on walking forward following the dirt road assuring myself that I can always walk my way back to where I started if it gets worse. And though I was still freaked out a little, I kept on walking ahead as the stubborn person in me didn’t want to call it quits and only kept on going further. And so it was, I kept on moving forward till I reached a small pond at which the map started to finally make some sense, phew! A couple of steps later and I came across a sign that lead to the parking, hallelujah!! I couldn’t have been any happier with the sight of my parked red rental car which was still the only one in the parking!

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Lochan Torr an Tuill, the little pond that gave me some relief

I was advised to spend the night in Fort Augustus but I wasn’t able to find female dorms accommodation when I got there and had to search for an alternative location. Luckily I was able to find accommodation in a hostel on the west side of the loch not very far from where I was. That hostel was simply amazing, the location was perfect and the property has its own private access to the loch’s water’s edge; the only hostel in the area that has such a privilege I was told. The guy from the reception was really nice and very helpful, he offered me advice for the upcoming two days of my trip and for the next time I go to Wales and according to him, I may have been the first Egyptian to ever stay in the hostel, such a pleasure that was 🙂

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On the Way to Fort Augustus 

I was famished by the time I was there considering the fact that I had nothing to eat since breakfast. I have no idea why I always end up skipping the food part of the day whenever I travel!! I didn’t even try haggis for God’s sake, who would be in the Highlands and wouldn’t have some haggis? Guilty as charged!! And as my hunger escalated, I kept on thinking that I should have stopped by that fish and chip place in Fort Augustus and had something to eat first before I head to the hostel. A little too late for regrets unfortunately and I only had the hostel’s canteen to extinguish my hunger that night.

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The hostel’s loch side

Before I went to sleep that night, I got outside to the lakeside just to have a look at the loch when it’s completely dark and the presence of it was dominating! It was pitch black but I was still able to sense how huge the loch is. It was such a peaceful and quiet moment of clarity where I only had to humbly surrender to this tiny place I occupied in that frame of a scene I was in. It was a gentle reminder to how large the world is and how little space we occupy in it. But when you think of it, is it about how much space we occupy? Or is it what we do with that space that matters the most? A mere philosophical thought!

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Loch Ness

The only roommate I had for the night was a Canadian who was driving herself through the Highlands as well; we exchanged information and stories about what we did so far especially how confusing it was to be driving on the left. It seems I wasn’t the only one having problems in that regard which came out as quite a relief. And so, another day well spent was coming to an end making room for the big drive to Skye the following morning. Hurray!

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🙂

Road Trippin’ in Scotland – Part 2

You can’t be in Scotland and not pay the Highlands a visit; you absolutely have to especially if there is time for it. While I was weighing my options up regarding such a visit, I was hesitant between booking a tour and driving through the Highlands myself. Most of my friends thought I should definitely book a tour and forget about driving altogether because why bother myself driving on the left and be alone when I can go on a tour, spare myself the trouble and meet new people in the process.

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Market street in downtown – St Andrews

Well, they surely had a point but since I’m not really a tours kind of a gal and having my own road trip was kind of exciting, a little worrisome at the same time I need to admit, I decided to drive. It has been a while since I did something for the first time and a road trip would have to come into being eventually, right? Plus I had little practice two weeks earlier in the Lake District, so what can go wrong, huh? I know I punctured the tire back then but come on it can happen to anyone, what’s a trip without a little adventure; let’s see how it will work out this time.

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The view of the coastline from the Castle with the Cathedral in the background – St Andrews

So, my original 5 days plan got reduced to 4 after the ordeal I had earlier on Friday and that definitely affected the itinerary I had in mind. I ended up changing the route, skipping some places and adding new ones. The starting point was pretty much the same though; Edinburgh airport to pick up the car, automatic gear of course, then head to the Kingdom of Fife, St Andrews in particular. Fife is not exactly Highlands I know but it was a nearby point to start towards the Highlands from and a good opportunity as well to get myself acquainted with driving on the left before those long drives come barging in.

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The Martyrs’ Memorial with views of The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and the famous Old Course (the oldest golf course in the world) in the backgound – St Andrews

The drive from Edinburgh to St Andrews is quite a short one actually and the scenery along the way reminded me of The Lake District a little. When I arrived it wasn’t easy for me to find a parking spot; one of the things you worry about sometimes if you are travelling by car. I kept on driving in circles for a while till I was able to find one and was irritated already by the time I did so. Driving in the city got me stressy every single time, the traffic and the roundabouts confused me a bit and made me nervous. Driving on the left can be a tad intimidating when you are not used to it. I’m systemized to be looking at my left while taking turns and back then I needed to be looking on my right. It was baffling occasionally and caused me a problem or two with some unfriendly folks. But honestly people, you need to take it a little easy on us righties. I’m Egyptian and driving in Cairo is frenetic so try to picture driving on the “wrong” side of the road in such traffic and maybe, just maybe that picture can offer us some sympathy from your side.

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The remains of the priory wall and the archways of the cathedral that are known as the Pends – St Andrews

St Andrews is such a charming town; the buildings, the streets, and the coastline were simply charming. As I started walking through the downtown I came across the Visit Scotland information office and thought why not ask them about a thing or two, I was so glad I did because they turned out to be very helpful. They offered me suggestions about things to do/see in town, dinner, accommodation, along with a map and an accommodation guide to Fife that came in very handy.

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The ruins of the St Andrews Cathedral – St Andrews

I only had half a day in St Andrews but I was still able to have a glimpse of its beauty. I walked through the downtown, visited the remains of the Cathedral and Castle, and strolled by the coastline all the way to the oldest golf course in the world which is located next to the beach. I had hints of sun every now and then, the weather was great and I totally enjoyed the chilled walk about.

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My dinner at The Doll’s House, one of the recommendations I got from the Visit Scotland people. I had very delicious mushrooms and baby spinach gnocchi and some ginger beer with it (my latest addiction since my UK trip in August :D) – St Andrews

I didn’t have any previously made bookings for the night and since St Andrews can be a costly place to stay in, I decided to spend the night somewhere else. So with the help of the accommodation guide I got and the recommendations I received, I ended up spending the night in Crail at a guesthouse that overlooks the coastal path walk.

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The ruins of St Andrews Castle, the only cool things about it are the secret passages and dungeon – St Andrews

The drive from St Andrews to Crail was picturesque, it went along the Fife Coastal Route and was such an enjoyment on its own. The guesthouse came out as a great surprise, it couldn’t have been any better. All rooms had a sea view that included May island, mine was at the top floor and the view outside my window was breathtaking. By the time I was there, the sun was almost setting but I was able to catch the last of its rays while walking around the harbor and part of the town’s coastal path. There was hardly any one on the street but the walk along the beach was so peaceful and refreshing.

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The view from the harbor – Crail

Although I was so unlucky with the sunset that day, I had the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen the following morning. It was so remarkable that I actually disturbed my sleep 3 times to catch it at different stages and I’m not even a sunrise person, I’m more of a sunset junkie.

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The sunrise from my window ❤ – Crail

My very short stay at the guest house was so pleasant, such a cozy place it was. The room was amazing and the breakfast was just perfect to get me started. Not mentioning that the owner was a really nice guy who offered my great advice about where to go and what to do next. He even gave me maps and marked a thing or two for me, he was such a great help and host. I felt sad when I was leaving, I wished I had the time to stay more at this lovely place, a constant problem that accompanies short duration trips, but it was the time to take it further with my road trip. It was the day to crossover to Inverness, the surrounding area of Loch Ness and Nessie 😀

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Part of the town’s coastal path – Crail

Road Trippin’ in Scotland – Part 1

A couple of weeks after my first trip to England I had an opening for a 9 days break during the Eid Holiday and since I still had a valid visa to the UK, I thought why not fly back but only to go up north to Scotland this time. I have always wanted to visit Scotland and I guess that was the time for it. By the time I worked the idea up, flight prices have skyrocketed already and the best worst- still expensive- scenario was a one stop flight through Bahrain to London followed by a train to Edinburgh. It was the most expensive flight I have ever booked but I ended up paying for it because I didn’t feel like wasting my last decent break for the summer staying in Kuwait. It was either pay or stay and I decided to pay because I knew I will end up feeling bad if I stayed. And so, I had my bookings finalized making sure everything is set and good to go for my next trip. A trip that turned into quite another adventure from day one; looks like adventures follow any time I go to Great Britain.

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The backside of the Edinburgh Castle as seen from Johnston Terrace

My journey to Edinburgh started with me flying from Kuwait to Bahrain, I reached Bahrain only 45 minutes before my second flight, the one taking me to London. As I wasn’t able to get a boarding pass for that one when I was leaving Kuwait for a reason I only came to know later, I needed to get one from Bahrain. So I went to the counter to collect the boarding pass then bam, no boarding pass for me because the airplane was packed! Apparently the airline company has overbooked the flight and seat priority was given to those who checked in online. And since I didn’t check in online to secure one before the flight –totally my fault as the airline company representative kept on telling me- I ended up with no seat on a flight I have booked 3 months earlier!! I thought I have secured a seat already by paying for that ticket but apparently that wasn’t enough, the payment wasn’t enough and I should have checked in online to make sure I do have a seat on a flight I have purchased. Ridiculous, isn’t it? I don’t think this is the idea behind online check in at all.

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The Writer’s Museum

No one offered an apology for the inconvenience that went down on me by what happened, it got more frustrating when they put the blame on me. I was missing my flight because of them but it looked like I was the one to be blamed for it. It got even worse when they couldn’t find me a seat on any flight leaving to London that night. They offered me a seat on the 10 am flight departing the next morning without any consideration to the train I will be missing because of this slump. I was going to miss my train and pay a little fortune to buy another ticket and the customer care personnel was indifferent about it. I wasn’t offered any compensation whatsoever not even the mileage voucher I was entitled to have, an info I came to know about later as well. I was just asked to send an email with my situation and wait till I was gotten back to. Well, they did get back to me later with only an acknowledgement confirming the receipt of my correspondence which didn’t include an apology even and that was the first and last time I heard from them!!!

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The Mercat Cross in Parliament Square facing the High Street in the Old Town of Edinburgh where important civic announcements used to be made

They seriously managed to ruin the first day of the trip for me! Nothing was going as planned that day and my mind got immobilized. I couldn’t believe what was happening as I haven’t experienced anything like that in all my travels before. I felt extremely down for how things turned out to be that I couldn’t sleep well that night. However I had to accept the fact that I won’t be in London on Friday morning and think about what needed to be done to accommodate the new developments. I decided to sleep on it; tomorrow is another day and I thought I better do the thinking in the morning with a fresh mind. So before heading to the airport the next day, I had to contact my accommodation in Edinburgh to inform them with my yet to be known arrival time, email the airline customer care, and the train company to check the possibility of waving my nonrefundable economy ticket to another time.

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A bagpipe musician in Royal Mile ❤

I finally landed safely in Heathrow and started on my way to King’s Cross to figure out something to do with my expired train ticket. The Virgin Trains people at the station said my best shot is to talk to the train officer, explain the situation and see if he/she can allow me on the train, otherwise I will have to buy a new ticket for the worth of 128 pounds. There were only two remaining train trips leaving London to Edinburgh that night and I had to catch one, I was so determined on spending the night in Edinburgh and wouldn’t go for anything else. The information desk lady was kind enough to wait with me for the officer who showed up 5 minutes before the train departs when I was already being eaten by suspense.

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It has been said that philosophy students used to rub the big toe of the David Hume statue for knowledge but now everyone rubs it for luck 😀

I felt so defenseless at that specific moment; I was exhausted, hungry and couldn’t stop thinking about what needed to be done next. I was actually on the verge of shedding a tear, not out of being helpless, on the contrary, it was simply out of mere tiredness and frustration. I got so overwhelmed when the officer agreed to let me on the train after showing him the e-ticket that says I should have landed in London at 6:30 am that day. I couldn’t believe it, I thought I was going to pay those 128 pounds for that one way ticket but I didn’t. What the officer did was by far the best thing that happened to me that day or maybe since I started on the trip. I was finally able to take a breather as I was eventually on my way to Edinburgh as I hoped I would and without paying for an expensive one way ticket as well. I can never be grateful enough to the information desk lady and that train officer, thank you so very much for turning that day around for me.

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The view of Edinburgh on the way up Arthur’s Seat

And though I was no longer eligible for the seat I booked on that trip earlier and ended up standing for 3 hours till I was able to find an unoccupied one,  I was at last on my way to Edinburgh where I will be spending the night and that was all I could think of at that moment. I was dead tired and couldn’t feel my back nor my swollen feet. I had to rearrange the accommodation and car rental bookings at that time and for the meticulous and punctual person that I’m, that was such a disturbing start for my trip. It surely turned my plan a little upside down, but I was so grateful that this charade was finally coming to an end.

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The statue of Greyfriars Bobby, it’s believed that one should rub its nose for good luck as well

It wasn’t easy for me to effortlessly accept what happened that day but easy or not I had to handle it. I had to come to grips with it and think of how I should turn things around which I eventually did. I was relieved and at ease after I managed to rearrange everything but I need to admit that it was quite difficult for me to be cool with those proceedings. It never occurred to me how things can unexpectedly go south no matter how planned and well organized they can be and at such a moment there would be absolutely nothing to do about it except embracing the changes and get by. What a lesson that one was; a lesson well learned!

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Inside the unique Tron Kirk which is the location of the Royal Mile Market

By the time I reached the hostel, it was past 12 at night and I was like a walking zombie and couldn’t keep my eyes opened. As I was checking in explaining to the guys at the reception why it took me so long to be there, the were so curious, one of them asked me: “when did you leave your home last night?”, that was 8:30 pm which is 6:30 pm Edinburgh time, the guy’s reaction was like “wow, it took you more than 24 hours to be here”; touché! Most importantly, I was finally there dragging myself to my bunk bed ready for some needed and well deserved sleep.

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The Heart of Midlothian which was the location of an old tolbooth where people used to pay their taxes. Later on it turned into a prison, the heart was where public executions took place. People would usually spit on the heart as a sign of contempt, now it’s done for luck 😀

It was astonishing how I literally forgot everything once I had my head on the pillow that night and fell asleep, I woke up in the morning as fresh and energized as I should be as if nothing has happened during the previous 24 hours! It was finally the fun time of the trip where I got to walkabout the city to explore it. I kicked off the day with one of Sandemans New Europe free walking tours of Edinburgh recommended to me by the hostel staff. I have never been on such tours before and was quite skeptical about it to be honest but it was just mind-boggling 😀 I had a blast, the tour was great and the guide was simply awesome. He was so funny and very theatrical when telling stories adding zest and making them all the more enjoyable. That tour was such an excellent start for my day, it gave me the chance to meet some nice people and see the city.  The day just kept on getting better afterwards as I walked myself through Royal Mile into  Aurthur’s Seat enjoying the amazing weather I was being offered.

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Hannah and Nina, we met at the top of Arthur’s Seat and walked our way down together all the way till Calton Hill

Aurthur’s Seat is a green setting in the midst of a concrete jungle, it offers stunning views of Edinburgh from all directions including the sea view, not a super easy climb but it was totally worth it. That lovely day came to a beautiful end with a warm sunset over the medieval city from the top of Calton Hill followed by dinner with a family from Saudi Arabia who stopped me as I was walking myself back to the hostel to ask for directions. I totally enjoyed myself that day and the fiasco that happened on friday was ancient history. I was content and ready to call it a day itching to what was coming up the following morning; my first road trip ever, through the Highlands of Scotland.

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The sunset as seen from Calton Hill with a view of the Dugald Stewart Monument