This year I am delighted to be teaming up with the Scottish Youth Hostel Association (SYHA) and joining in on their campaign to encourage people to go on a #SYHAdventure. In 2015 they are inspiring people to try something new or to visit places in Scotland they have never been before, each month they will also have a theme to give people ideas for activities, places to see and key events based around a stay at one of their hostels.
The theme for March is walking and I chose to head to their Glen Nevis hostel which provides a multitude of walking options for all abilities and is conveniently situated at the foot of Ben Nevis, the UK's highest mountain, for those wanting a more challenging experience.
I opted to follow two very contrasting walks, the first taking me through the start of The Great Glen Way and the urban environment of Fort William and the second journeying into the heart of the imposing natural surroundings of Glen Nevis itself.
DAY 1 - The Great Glen Way, Fort William to Banavie (4.5 miles each way, easy walking)
When you visit an outdoor haven like Fort William, flanked by mountains and a loch, it would be all to easy to head for a hike in the wilderness and ignore the urban pathways that weave through the housing estates. In fact had it not been for The Great Glen Way signpost and thistle markers encouraging me along I would have been guilty of this myself.
The Great Glen Way was officially opened in 2002 and spans 79 miles between Fort William and Inverness, the stretch I did was ideal for an easy stroll and exploring the area around the town.
Instead of dismissing the route I decide to follow the first part of this long distance walk from it's humble beginnings at the remains of the fort the town was named after to the famous Neptune's staircase in Banavie, approx 4.5 miles or 9 miles return, although you can walk as far as you feel comfortable and will still be rewarded.
After approx 1.5 miles I reached Old Inverlochy Castle, with just a slight detour off the route I arrived at the ruined remains of this former 13th Century stronghold. Abandoned in 1654 this was previously one of the most important castles in Scottish history and makes an interesting stopping off point. Retracing my steps and crossing the wooden Soldier's Bridge, the path soon leads you onward alongside the shore of Loch Linnhe with a picturesque Highland landscape opening up all around.
I was fascinated by the looming, hulk of a decaying old fishing boat standing upright in the rocky beach ahead. Making my way down for a closer look at this sad vessel I felt dismayed that it appeared so unloved and I'm sure the rusty old parts strewn across the shingle were not doing the environment much good either.
As I was busy taking photos of the towering craft, the sunbeams appeared from behind the clouds and lit up the rusty red timbers, giving the old lady a momentarily new lease of life.
Continuing the short walk to Corpach and the Caledonian Canal, the route follows the canal towpath towards Neptune's Staircase, with it's 8 locks rising up like well engineered stepping stones. Several years ago I sailed down the length of the canal and as I passed the places I had moored for the night and the tricky locks I had negotiated I smiled at the memories of what I still consider my best ever Scottish holiday.
I decided that this was a good point to head back to Fort William and with Ben Nevis continually towering in the distance my bed for the night at the foot of the mountain was calling.
With historical sights, picturesque backdrop and the opportunity to admire the engineering triumph of the canal, I found this route provided both variety and an interesting introduction to the area.
I recently visited Dundee to find out what Scotland's fourth largest city has to offer. I was invited to stay at the DoubleTree by Hilton which sits in six acres of beautiful landscaped gardens a few miles outside the centre of Dundee.
The hotel is comprised of a mansion house built in 1870 with a large modern extension which provides a contrast of old and new. As you would expect from an established, quality brand like the Hilton, the decor is warm and comfortable and every little extra has been thought of, even a welcoming warm choc chip cookie on arrival, yum!
There is a lounge bar, restaurant, business facilities and a fitness area with a small pool, sauna and steam room. The restaurant has been awarded an AA Rosette and there is also a choice of food available in the lounge bar if you are looking for a more casual dining option.
I didn't eat dinner at the hotel as I was out and about, however the quality of food and hot and cold choices at breakfast was excellent, only surpassed by the efficient and friendly service.
There is free WiFi throughout the hotel which thankfully worked well and plenty of free parking available.
I stayed in a deluxe room which had added extras including a refrigerator, air conditioning, sofa bed, super king bed, separate bathtub and shower and of course a fluffy bathrobe and slippers for extra pampering! I also enjoyed a nice open view from my window as you can see below.
1. Step aboard a fishing boat on the River Clyde, Glasgow
Book a cabin and stay the night on the MV Reliant, a converted fishing boat situated on the river Clyde in Glasgow. Read about my stay here.
This week I'm having a staycation which when you live on a lovely Scottish Island feels a lot like you're on holiday anyway. However with the dark nights drawing in and some spare time on my hands it has given me the opportunity to start researching some ideas for Scottish travel adventures in 2015.
If you are a regular reader of my blog you have probably gathered that I like to search out places that are a wee bit unusual and wanted to share with you some of the quirky accommodation that I have come across during my internet trawling. From old fire trucks to trains to gypsy caravans, there is no shortage of fun choices of places to spend the night in Scotland. I should really have called this blog post 10 quirky places I want to stay in Scotland! I'm not sure my budget is big enough to sample them all next year but I hope to at least visit a few and review them for you on my blog.
So here is my guide to 10 quirky places you can spend the night in Scotland.
2. Enjoy a sleepover on a traditional railway carriage overlooking Loch Awe
This self catering converted railway carriage has stunning views over Loch Awe towards the historic Kilchurn Castle. Visit website
3. Let your stress melt away in this converted fire service truck in Aviemore
This converted Commer Q4 fire service truck was rescued from the Manston Fire Museum in Kent and is now situated in the grounds of inshriach House, Aviemore. Visit website
When researching accommodation for my recent Outlander blog trip to Fife I firstly needed to find somewhere in a convenient place for visiting all the filming locations on my list. I also decided on self catering as I wanted somewhere that felt like a home from home to really immerse myself in the area and get a feel for living as a local in one of the historical towns I was going to write about. I also needed somewhere quiet, with all mod cons so I could do my research and blogging in comfort and without disturbance.
Whilst browsing TripAdvisor I came across The Tanhouse Studio Holiday Apartment in Culross which looked perfect as it was situated in one of the villages used for filming, was very reasonably priced at £55 per night, I only needed to stay a minimum of 2 nights and as it had excellent reviews it seemed to tick all the boxes.
The little studio apartment is situated above a double garage next the owners' house which is one of the large, old properties in the heart of the village. My first impression of the flat was 'WOW' as it is totally my style in bright fresh white with simple contrasting blue coastal decor. Although small it feels surprisingly spacious and the three windows provide plenty of light and amazing views over Culross and the Firth of Forth and you can even see the Forth bridges in the distance.
The owners, Gail and Douglas, were very welcoming and although they live in the adjacent house the flat felt very private but they are close enough should you have any problems (which I didn't).
The finish on the apartment is to a very high standard and everything provided was of excellent quality, John Lewis mugs no less! After a long drive the little welcome basket was indeed very much appreciated as it meant I could enjoy a cup of tea and a biscuit before heading out to the supermarket for proper supplies.
There is a small kitchen with all the cooking utensils, crockery and cutlery you need, a micro/oven, dishwasher fridge/freezer, kettle and toaster. There is also a handy seating area with table and chairs.
On my recent trip around Kintyre I opted for glamping wigwam accommodation at Machrihanish Holiday Park. This was partly due it's location, partly due to the reasonable cost and more importantly the fact that it is dog friendly.
Machrihanish is on the southwest coast of the Kintyre peninsula and makes a great half way point to stop off if you are spending a couple of days exploring the area.
The site is next to the golf course and a short walk from the beach, making this is a pretty and peaceful location. All the wigwams have lovely open views across the fields to the water in the distance. The views from the wigwams are probably some of the best in the holiday park as they don't face onto anything.
The west coast is famous for it's sunsets I found the perfect place to view one just south of the site and past the sea bird observatory (approx 5 mins in the car).
The Old Clubhouse bar and restaurant is a short walk from the holiday park. if you need supplies Campbeltown is approx 4 1/2 miles away and has 2 supermarkets and a choice of places to eat. There is a regular bus service between Campbeltown and the park.
I know first hand that travelling anywhere for any length of time can add up financially. As you may have guessed I love to explore Scotland at every opportunity and share all the wonderful places I find on my blog. Like most people I don't have a huge bank account and my travels are funded by my 'real' job but there is a way to stay in some pretty special places for cheap and even better for free!
Yes, I'm going to use the 'C' word, if you want to travel on a budget then it is time to embrace camping.
My most recent camping trip took me along the west coast from Ayrshire to Dumfries and Galloway. For 2 people and our four legged companion we managed to visit some pretty special Scottish places and our accommodation costs for 4 nights were only £36. The possibilities for camping are endless but this is a summary of my trip which you could easily do or seek out your own little haven under canvas.
We spent our first 2 nights in the lovely village of Maidens in Ayrshire with a beautiful harbour view, a handy picnic table, 2 minutes from a toilet block and a couple of minutes from the beach where we watched the sunset. Can you believe we enjoyed all this for free? We basically found a nice piece of public grass and pitched our tent.
This is classed as wild camping which is permitted in Scotland providing you follow some common sense rules. For more info have a read at the Visit Scotland guide.
People passing by kept commenting on how envious they were as we had such an idyllic place to stay for the night. Camping may not be for everyone but for me it's hard to beat if you're looking to save money and still have a great adventure.
There is a hotel in Maidens if you don't fancy cooking and it is nearby Culzean Castle and Country Park which is worth visiting for the day, you can read about it on my blog. As I sat on the rocks watching the sunset with our tea brewing on our little camping stove I did wonder if life gets any better than this?
When it comes to unusual places to stay a Cathedral is pretty far up there. If that wasn't enough what about staying on a Scottish island at the smallest Cathedral in Britain, some say Europe? I spent 2 nights bed and breakfast at theCathedral of the Isles, situated in the town of Millport on the Island of Great Cumbrae.
The rooms are actually situated in the North College next to the cathedral, built in 1851 it was originally used for students of theology. I must add that you do not have to be religious or of a particular faith to stay here.
There are a range of rooms from single to family sized, some are also en-suite. There is a separate bathroom, shower room and several toilets including one with disabled facilities. A common room with a tv, books, fridge etc is situated on the ground floor.
The rooms are basic and rustic but have all you need for a comfortable stay. This is probably not the place for you if you can't survive without mod cons as the kettle is the only electronic convenience you will find! The rooms have no tv, no wifi and I didn't even have a phone signal. However, in keeping with the ethos of the place, I embraced the quiet time away from outside distractions.
Follow me as I search for the best and most original travel experiences in Scotland.