Twelve years ago today I went on a date. A lunch time date because I had to be up at 5am the next morning for work, but lunchtime turned into late afternoon and evening. We talked about food, cars, sport, fitness, music, nature and being outdoors and laughed about the fact he didn’t even own a mobile phone! I didn’t know it back then but this was where a love affair with Scotland began.
For a London lad he had had his fair share of Scottish adventures, Scout camps, trips with friends to bag another Munro and climb ridges and I also discovered he could cook! He had some questionable taste in music but I also realised we both had the same passion for the outdoors as me. He was definitely a keeper!
It wasn’t until May 2009 that we finally got around to our first holiday together in Scotland and my desire to make some impressive memories of my own included taking Ben Nevis as my first Munro. When I first suggested this I was promptly (but carefully) put back in my box and told that maybe we should have done some training beforehand. This wasn’t him wanting to quash my excitement, more look after me. However, I think after seeing the weather report at half ten on a Sunday evening saying that it was to be big blue skies, even the Dude couldn’t resist.
Was it worth the early start? The eight and a half hours spent getting up and down? Every sinew of my being aching for days after? Damned straight it was.
For me, that week was an excellent introduction to Scotland. As you can see from the photos we had brilliant weather, I met my first heilan coos and managed to get myself up and down the Ben.
After this I would have to wait until February 2011 before crossing the border for my fix of fresh air, mountains, my first Scottish island and a trip to the capital.
“Scotland? At this time of year?” If I had a pound for every person that said this to me when I mentioned we were going away I could have paid for the cabin and the fuel twice over! But for our ten day trip it rained for just one day.
The Dude is quite infatuated by Skye and the Cuillins and regaled me with tales of “big days out” and was excited to show them to me, so we drove north and over the bridge for the day. Picnic and flask, binoculars and camera, sunglasses and music, a perfect day out and introduction to the Isle of Skye.
Our next stop was two nights in Edinburgh. We walked everywhere, taking in all the sights about town and spending very little time in the accommodation. The castle, Carlton Hill, the royal mile, Princes Street…. So much to see in such a short space of time and we flitted about and if I am honest with you I wouldn’t be able to tell you much about any of it. Not because I didn’t enjoy it but because we tried to fit too much in. Not knowing that in just four years time I would be living less than an hours drive away!
Just twelve months later and we’re back and this time based in Plockton, just a short drive from the Skye bridge and so had the best of both worlds on the mainland and an island. Back again during winter months and another surprisingly good spell of weather. This gave us plenty of opportunities for walks, photo stops and looking for wildlife. Back in 2012 I was still relatively new to photography and as much as I loved it maybe my skill and eye for the light was yet to develop. I look at my photos and feel that I have maybe let the view down but remember how I felt when I was there and in the moment. Standing with the wind in my face in awe of the Cuillins and the power of the sea showing it’s force. Magnificent. And that is how I remember this trip.
It would be two years before we managed to get a road trip to Scotland again but bloody hell it was worth the wait. What a year this was! Another winter pilgrimage and this time to the Isle of Mull. Again with fabulous weather and even a picnic on the beach during our day trip to Iona. With turquoise waters that rival a more tropical climate it really did feel like a piece of heaven. Being out and about all day and not seeing another soul (except the postie) is fabulous. We spotted hen harriers, otters, deer, seals, golden eagles and white tailed sea eagles during our stay and this started a love affair with Mull for us. It’s a special place.
I didn’t have to wait too long before my next visit because I had been chosen as a volunteer to work at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. So I spent a month in Glasgow, working in the Press Centre at the Hydro. The atmosphere was incredible for the whole games and once again, the weather pulled it out of the bag bring us sunshine for most of it. Even as I write about this I can’t help but smile when I think about all the memories I have by giving my time for free to be a part of it. The Dude even plays a part in this too because without his support and encouragement I probably wouldn’t have done it. He came to Glasgow and spent five days here exploring and soaking up the atmosphere too. This friendly, crazy, vibrant city will forever hold a piece of my heart because of the games. And for this, I am grateful.
This next trip in 2015 was when the real magic happened. After spending another fabulous week in Mull I was sad to leave. I don’t mean holiday blues, I mean I don’t ever want to leave! So with a lump in my throat I asked the Dude if we could move. Six months later we are packing our whole world into a box luton van and waving goodbye to Herefordshire for our next chapter here in Perthshire.
So, from the (late) twenty somethings who found each other at work and had a lunchtime date, to the residents of Alba who have now turned forty and continue to have a love affair with Scotland, Moving for a change of lifestyle and slower pace of life was perfect for us and we have seen so much already but this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Here’s to many more adventures and sharing them with you guys.