How to prepare for a winter road-trip in Scotland
As someone who undertakes frequent Scottish road trips at all times of year I have had the misfortune of experiencing more than one winter weather setback. Having been stuck in snow blocked roads, caught behind road accidents and diverted by landslides I've learned a few techniques that have helped make life easier by careful planning to avoid similar situations and helping me survive endless hours in the car after been caught up in unavoidable incidents. As the weather starts to worsen I thought I would share with you some of my tips for planning and surviving a winter road trip in Scotland.
It should go without saying to make sure your car has a winter service each year and before you set off make sure your oil, antifreeze and windscreen wash is topped up. It is better to use winter specific windscreen wash and carry an extra bottle as the salt and grit from the roads generally means you have to clean your windscreen more than normal. Check your tyres, including your spare and ideally take out some road-side assistance.
Here are my five other tips to help you plan ahead and potentially avoid any travel setbacks
1. if you are planning a long trip in a rural area then it is sensible to make sure you have a full tank of fuel as delays or diversions can lead to a longer than planned journey and petrol stations in rural areas can be hard to come by and have limited opening hours. It is useful to make a note of petrol and garage locations along your route in case you do encounter any problems.
2. Check the weather forecast not just for your destination but also your intended route as the conditions in Scotland can be dramatically different even over short distances. Before setting off I always check the Traffic Scotland website for any incidents or road closures and I personally recommend downloading the Traveline App which will keep you up to date with all road and transport information.
3. If you are not familiar with your route and don't have access to a SatNav then printing off a map of the general area you will be travelling to will be helpful if you do have to take a diverted road and need to work out new directions.
4. Let someone know your route and your estimated time of arrival as in rural areas you may not have a phone signal to let them know you are delayed. If you don't turn up when expected it will be easy for them to check for any incidents that may have caused your setback and if you do run into trouble without a phone signal at least someone will know where to look for you!
5. Make sure your mobile phone is charged up and that you have stored any emergency numbers you might need such as your vehicle recovery company or insurance company with your membership numbers.
Most of all allow extra time for your journey so you won't have to rush in difficult driving conditions, pay attention to roadside information boards and try and stick to main roads that will be gritted and clear of snow.
There are a few things that I would recommend keeping in your car throughout the winter as a survival kit if the worst does happen. Hopefully you won't need them but from personal experience being stuck for hours it is best to be prepared! Things I have in my own survival kit include
Thanks to Peter Johnstone for leaving a comment with these additional suggestions
Thanks to Val for also suggesting
Before setting off I also fill up a flask of hot water which can be used for drinks to keep warm with a couple of sachets of hot chocolate.
What would you do if you had 6 weeks in Scotland on your own?
This is the third year I've had to face this dilemma since moving to the Isle of Bute and starting a term time job. Unfortunately my husband, friends and family aren't as lucky as me with their holiday allowance and this means I have to find ways to amuse myself for weeks on end. Luckily, I'm quite happy to travel on my own and this year I have had a craving to go on a more adventurous journey rather than my usual series of shorter trips.
I thought a lot about going somewhere exotic, however since I have started writing about Scotland, I always find my thoughts drifting to new adventures on my doorstep. Also, I have been on long trips in different parts of the world before but never in Scotland so this seems like the perfect opportunity to go on an exciting journey around my own country for a change.
So, back to my original question, what would you do if you had 6 weeks in Scotland on your own? Here is what I have decided to do...
I've always loved exploring the Scottish coast and find myself drawn there at every opportunity. Rather than the brief seashore trips I'm normally restricted to, I've decided to go on an extended 6 week circular journey, travelling thousands of miles around the entire mainland coast of Scotland, joining up the fishing villages, sea stacks, lighthouses, sandy beaches, rugged cliffs, hidden coves, mysterious caves, tourist towns and deserted corners.
I'm excited for all the areas I'll be visiting for the first time but also looking forward to gaining a new perspective on familiar places and making sense of the diverse landscape of the Scottish coast.
I plan to mainly wild camp during my travels, not just because it keeps the cost of such a long trip down, but also because I like the freedom of being able to sleep in awesome places. Also, as I've never been solo wild camping before, this adds a personal challenge which is an important element of any adventure!
I have set points that I need to reach at the end of each week but other than that I'm flexible in my plans as I want to leave a large part of this journey up to serendipity (another essential element of any adventure!) so I don't have a set itinerary for each day. The only conditions that I've set myself are to stick to the coast as much as possible and to camp at the most extreme parts of the country, Mull of Galloway in the south, Dunnet Head in the north, Buchan Ness in the east and Ardnamurchan Point in the west.
I've also factored in a few days in Dornoch mid trip when I'll be spoiled in a lovely little self-catering cottage. I've never been to this part of the country before so I'm pretty excited about exploring somewhere new.
I should add that I won't be completely alone as my lovely lurcher Willow will be joining me, she loves the beach possibly even more than eating and sleeping, so a coastal trip should make her very happy! This does mean I'll be limited to dog friendly places along my route so I've downloaded the excellent Dugs N Pubs App with lots of suggestions.
I'm heading off at the start of July and I plan to start my journey in Ayrshire before moving south to Dumfries and Galloway, then crossing to the east coast and working my way north.
If you have suggestions of dog friendly places to visit or amazing places to camp along the coast get in touch. Also it would be lovely to meet some of you in person, so if I'm in your area give me a shout :-)
I really hope you will enjoy following my journey around the coast of Scotland on social media on the hashtag #ScotCoast and I hope to do some short blog post updates along the way but as I'm not sure of the logistics yet I won't promise anything!
What would you do if you had 6 weeks in Scotland?
If you're suffering from January wanderlust and in need of a little travel inspiration then this is the blog post for you. Make 2016 the year you visit Scotland and immerse yourself in mountains, castles, sunsets and deserted beaches which just happen to be rated among the best in the world!
Wildlife, history, architecture, outdoor pursuits, art, culture, music, breathtaking scenery and men in kilts, whatever your interests then Scotland is sure to satisfy your travel cravings. I could go on and on but I would probably never stop so here are 16 pretty pictures to celebrate 2016 that will hopefully tempt you to immediately book a trip to Scotland ;-)
Lochranza Castle, Isle of Arran
Isle of Bute looking towards the mountains of Arran
Kiloran Beach, Isle of Colonsay
Isle of Colonsay
The only thing cuter than a Heilan' Coo is a baby Heilan' Coo
Dunskey Castle, Portpatrick
If you're planning a visit to Scotland you will no doubt be wanting to experience as many things as you can within your budget. It's still possible to have a fantastic holiday in Scotland even if your finances are limited so I thought I would share a few of my tips to help make your money go that little further.
I have broken down my tips into two parts and this blog is designed to help you save money on transport, attractions and souvenirs. Watch out for part two which will have advice on saving money on your accommodation, food and drink.
Scotland is a small country and pretty easy to get around by car, however fuel prices in the UK can be costly and any savings you can make when filling up your tank will help you travel that bit further for that bit less. The cheapest fuel prices are normally found at supermarket petrol stations and it is possible to save up to 10 pence per litre over your out of town and rural garages. The main supermarkets with petrol stations are ASDA, Morrisons and Tescos.
If you are travelling by public transport then look out for off peak travel, all day tickets and multi journey tickets which can be more economical than paying for single journey tickets. For example if you were take a return train journey between Glasgow and Edinburgh for the day, travelling at on peak times it would cost £22.50 yet an off peak ticket would only cost £12.60, off peak times can vary so check the websites or ask at the ticket office.
The main transport providers that you will probably use during your journey are Scotrail for trains, City Link for long distance buses and CalMac for ferries. You can compare ticket prices online and order in advance.
If you are travelling in Glasgow then the Subway is a cheap and easy way to get around and if you are travelling in Edinburgh then the new tram system runs from the Airport and through the city centre, again you can check the website links for the best value tickets.
There are often travel discounts on national and local transport routes for senior citizens and students so it is worth carrying your ID and asking at the booking office.
In larger Scottish cities you can also get around by taxi with a choice of either a black cab or private hire car although only black cabs can be hailed in the street, private hires must be booked in advance for a designated pick up location. Black cabs can be costly to travel in so it would be worthwhile getting the number of a local reliable private hire company from your hotel which will work out much cheaper. It's acceptable to ask your accommodation or restaurant to call a private hire taxi on your behalf.
The cheapest and best way to see a place is by walking around, even the main cities have compact centres which are easy to explore on foot. Stop by the tourist information office and pick up a free city centre map and if you get really lost a friendly local will be happy to point you in the right direction!
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
Many people travel to Scotland to view the beautiful scenery and there is no denying that it has some of the most stunning landscapes in the world. However, Scotland has much more to offer those looking for a memorable adventure, there are some things that you can't do anywhere else in the world. Here is my list of 10 things that you can only do in Scotland, just in case you need another reason or ten to visit...
1. Take the world's shortest commercial flight - The flight between the two Orkney Islands, Westray and Papa Westray takes a mere 47 seconds!
2. Bag a Munro - A Munro is a mountain in Scotland with a height over 3,000 ft. Climbing to the peak is known as 'Munro-bagging', the aim is to 'bag' them all (282 at last count).
3. Play at the world's oldest golf course - St Andrew's Old Course is the oldest golf course in the world with the game first played here as long ago as 1400.
4. Enjoy the view from the tallest, fully rotating free-standing structure in the world - at 127 metres high, The Glasgow Science Centre Tower provides panoramic views of up to 20 miles across the city of Glasgow.
So you love Outlander and have fallen for all things romantically Scottish. You have booked your trip in the hope of finding your own kilted Jamie who will whisk you off across the hills and glens to live happy ever after in your cosy Highland home.
Okay, maybe that's a wee bit of an exaggeration (or maybe not!) but let's just hypothetically say you're coming to Scotland to admire more than the scenery. As a Scottish woman I totally understand, it is in my DNA to find men in tartan skirts more attractive than well cut, tight fitting jeans. However, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but a kilted man in 21st Century Scotland is an elusive creature and unless you know where to look it is possible that you may be left disappointed.
Now, if you are willing to hunt them down you will be well rewarded as they seldom roam alone, meaning you are likely to find a large pack gathered in the one spot. If you are one of those people who are hypothetically coming for purposes of this sort or know a friend of a friend who might be interested then here is my guide to five places you are guaranteed to find a kilted man in Scotland.
Follow me as I search for the best and most original travel experiences in Scotland.