When we book our holidays, long weekends away or even day trips we try not to plan them within an inch of our lives. I don’t make lists of the photographs I want to take or the Instagramable coffee shops I should visit. For me it’s important that I find my own version of a place not copy everyone else. Social media is an excellent tool but recently I have been disheartened to read about Insta-Maps, providing a guide on where to find the most scenic view for a selfie, in a bid to attract more visitors. I love a good old selfie as much as the next person but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t base my holiday on what Instagram says I should do! In another article I read, people have been risking their lives paddle boarding on a toxic lake in Siberia! It has become popular because of it’s turquoise and tropical appearance when in actual fact it’s deadly. I spotted these examples within a few hours of each other and it made me think about how we travel. We should yearn for meaningful experiences and not for social media likes. In this post I want to share with you a few ideas on how to find your Scotland.
Live like a local
I know this has become slightly cliché but I do think there is something in it. The whole “eat where the locals eat” and “speak to the locals” are really good ideas. If you are staying in a hotel or B&B then you will have the best of both worlds – you can speak to your host and ask for their favourite bakery and also ask the couple/family on the next table at breakfast for recommendations.
Find out if there is a farmers market on in the town or village that you are near. Speaking to local suppliers is a lovely way to find out where your food is coming from, putting a face to the product.
One of my favourite things to do is actually just put the map away and wander to my heart’s content. Letting my curiosity get the better of me, following the sound of the music in the distance or the waft of amazing food.
I have also read that if you visit a place of worship back home, take spin classes, do Cross Fit or wild swim then you should look that up too. Chances are there will be somewhere suitable or a group of people to join not far from where you are staying.
I also think signing up for a workshop or class is worth doing too. Crafts such as painting, silver casting, foraging and cooking classes are all available. Even mixing your own gin is an option!
Hire a tour guide
We all know time is precious and when you’re on holiday you want to make the most of your trip. What you don’t want to do is burn yourself out on a box ticking exercise.
This is where a tour guide comes in handy, one that can provide an itinerary based upon the interests of a small group. A list of your “must see’s” alongside local highlights added by your guide. Their knowledge of history, landmarks, people and events is incredible. You are likely to find that you learn far more from this type of relaxed and unscripted day.
In all honesty a local tour is the way to go (in my opinion). Personally I’m not a fan of being herded around the countryside with large groups of people to set photo stops. That said, if you are short on time and feel it’s right for you, crack on.
I’ve worked with a guide in the past and she told Dude and I stories of places we had driven through numerous times and were totally unaware of it’s history. This level of service and knowledge is exceptional.
Say yes more
Since the beginning of this year I have tried to say yes more. There have been things I wanted to try for a while now and somehow, 2019 seems to have seen them happen.
For me, giving wild swimming a shot was top of my list (next to golf but that still hasn’t happened). I have recently plucked up the courage to join an informal group online of like-minded people who swim in lochs and rivers. I can quite happily say it’s addictive.
I’m not saying you have to come to Scotland and go swimming in a loch but there are so many options available. Scotland is a huge playground.
Canoeing at Loch Tay, boat trips, walks, fishing, golf, Stand Up Paddleboarding and so much more. Bungee jumps? Yeah you can do that here too.
On the other hand
Be a tourist.
Visit the castles, distilleries, glens and lochs. Do it because of the history, scenery, wildlife and legends, NOT because of social media. It is possible to live like a local and be a tourist, I know it is, Dude and I do it all the time. I believe we should be changing the way we travel and experience places. It should be a more immersive participation than a whirlwind trip of photo stops and box ticking.
I am a big fan of having a base for a week and actually soaking up one particular area rather than hopping from one place to the next for two weeks. I feel that we should practice more restraint, slow down and switch off occasionally.
Before moving to Scotland I spent a month as a volunteer at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. I had met a few people briefly for training days or picking up uniform but strictly speaking I didn’t know anyone that I would be working with. It didn’t take long to make friends and all these years later we still stay in touch. I had the time of my life, despite working long hours and only having 3 full days off throughout the whole event. I didn’t care I wanted to make the most of this experience.
Since then I’ve volunteered at the European Games where I was based at Gleneagles for the golf and the World Gymnastics Championships in 2015 in Glasgow.
There are many other ways to volunteer or have a working holiday when you visit Scotland. Voluntourism is becoming more and more popular with people who want something more from their vacation. Helping in some way to off-set your carbon footprint too.
There are many organisations that use volunteers to help maintain wild places, footpaths and woodlands. A brilliant way of giving something back, learning a new skill and getting to meet new people.
Find your Scotland
I have always wanted my little Scottish travel and lifestyle blog to be inspiration rather than a “must do” list. I want to give you a taste of what Scotland has to offer and what it’s like to live here so that you are able to find your Scotland not the one social media says is the best.
Two years ago I wrote about our wanderlust and it’s impact on Scotland and how high visitor numbers can change places. Some spots have become “famous” overnight for their starring role in films and TV series. That’s cool, an’ all but be respectful. Many of these places have played a huge part in Scotland’s history and it’s important to remember this when visiting. Some places deserve the sombre mood and gracious silence. I have been moved to tears by the atmosphere at some sites and had grown women giggling about a fictional character just metres away from me. Not cool.
I no longer geo-tag my images on Instagram and for me I feel this is the right thing to do. Let’s spread the love across Scotland. #FindYourScotland