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.
Recently I have found myself receiving more invitations to speak about how to work with a Scottish travel blogger, coupled with a growing amount of inquiries from businesses and destinations that are interested in working with a travel blogger but don't know where to begin. From my own experience and chats to fellow bloggers it seems that there is a growing interest within Scotland to work with local travel bloggers but a lack of information available about how best to go about any potential partnership to maximise the chances of a successful marketing campaign.
I have been running my Scottish travel blog for almost 3 years now and throughout that time I have gained a huge amount of experience working on a wide range of collaborations with every size of business from global brands to small local startups. I have also worked on blogger campaigns with numerous destination management organisations, event organisers and accommodation providers. This first hand experience has given me a good understanding of what is needed to create a successful digital campaign and just as importantly, what elements can reduce the effectiveness of a campaign.
I decided that the best way to address the numerous queries and lack of information out there was to create a comprehensive guide to working with a Scottish travel blogger, based on my own experience and that of fellow bloggers. I had started out writing it as a blog post but quickly realised that the amount of material that I wanted to include to make it a valuable reference would have made it one of the longest blog posts ever! Instead, I have decided to make it available as a word document that I can e-mail out to anyone that is interested. This guide focuses only on working with travel bloggers based in Scotland rather than international bloggers as there are very different considerations involved and less flexibility.
Having created and worked on highly successful campaigns throughout Scotland which have positively benefited businesses and destinations, it is important to me that I dispel some of the misunderstandings about collaborating with Scottish travel bloggers and show the potential value in working with the right blogger. Working with a skilled professional local travel blogger can help you reach your target audience, provide an authentic and trustworthy voice to deliver your message, raise your online profile, help you stand out from your competitors and most importantly bring you new custom.
My comprehensive guide is split into three sections to cover the things you need to think about before, during and after a campaign to maximise its potential effectiveness and covers the following categories
My guide will be ready shortly and you can request your personal copy now by
e-mailing Susanne at
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
Blogging and social media has connected me with amazing new friends all over the virtual world and I have been lucky enough to meet some of them in real life. Glen Moyer is one of those friends and despite living on opposite sides of the Atlantic we have kept in touch through our common interest of all things Scottish.
However, this is not the main reason that I regularly make the effort to touch base with him. Glen is one of those people that doesn't just talk about his dreams, he has been proactive and made personal sacrifices to follow them, a quality I hugely admire in anyone. His dream of moving to Scotland may not yet have come to fruition but that hasn't dampened his spirit of persistence and passion to reach that end goal.
Where will your dreams take you?
As he explains in this guest post, his passion needed a new outlet and that has come in the form of a podcast, talking all things Scottish. I hope his new venture is a success and I hope his dreams comes true, oh and listen out for a future Scottish travel blogging guest that you might have heard of...
Under The Tartan Sky: The podcast that is “all things Scottish, from bagpipes to whisky.” - A guest post by Glen Moyer
Scotland’s greatest poet, Robert Burns, once famously wrote,
My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here, My heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer - A-chasing the wild deer, and following the roe; My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go.
While I am a writer, among other roles, I do not have Rabbie’s way with words, nor experience chasing the deer, but my heart too is in the Highlands. From its shimmering lochs, to its majestic glens, Scotland has stolen my heart.
I am not alone. There are an estimated 50 million Scot Diaspora spread around the world, and when combined with Scottish ex-pats, who can guess the exact number of those who long from afar to stand beneath a fluttering Saltire, or to stare into the mists and listen for the echo of the pipes, or to walk the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond?
In 2014, The Year of Homecoming for Scotland, I followed the pull of my ancestors and visited, not once, but twice. My 8th great-grandfather, Robert Gabriel Barnhill, was born in Glasgow in 1627. A century later, Alexander Breckenridge, an Ulster-Scot, emigrated from Ireland to the American colonies, and two and a quarter centuries later I came along in Texas. Scotland is not just in my heart, but also in my blood. Now my dream is to retrace my ancestors’ journey, in reverse, and immigrate, to make Scotland my home. It is a feat easier dreamt than accomplished…
To mark my “homecoming” I began a travel blog, “A Glen in Scotland.” (Perhaps Rabbie would like that play on words?) I adopted a personal mantra, “Texan by birth, Scot by ancestry.” My blog was an outlet by which I could share my passion for Scotland with my friends and family. It was quickly populated with stories about my adventures from the banks of the Clyde to Kilt Rock on Skye. At other times I wrote of similarities found between Scotland and my native home of Texas. However, by its very design, with my return travel to Scotland being limited, my blog posts soon became all too sparse. My passion needed a new outlet.
I mentioned “other roles” beyond writing. I was a radio/television broadcaster for the first decade of my adult life. Having more recently done some “internet broadcasting” aka “podcasting” for two organizations, I thought, “why not a podcast about Scotland?”
2014 has been a strange year for me, full of ups and downs and major changes. It is the first full year I have lived away from Glasgow, the first year in a long time I have not travelled abroad, I also started a new job in January and of course in 2014 I also started 'Adventures Around Scotland' which has grown more than I could ever have predicted.
As the year draws to a close I am one of those people that likes to reflect back and look forward, set goals and begin anew. I think it is important to take time out to acknowledge changes that have taken place and where exactly your life path has guided you over the last 12 months. Although it is impossible to plan for a year in advance as fate always springs surprises, it is possible to set some small goals and a short term destination to give your life some focus and direction.
One of my biggest decisions I have to make will be on the direction that I take this blog. What started out as an enjoyable hobby has turned into a major commitment which takes up a large part of my free time. When I started writing about my travels I never really had a plan, I simply enjoyed sharing Scotland with the world. I have been taken aback at how much the blog has taken off and I now have the dilemma about where I go with it next year as keeping up my day job, fitting in travels and managing growing social media accounts, e-mails, networking and pr requests on top of my actual blogging has become more and more demanding.
Many people would think this is a good position to be in and I'm definitely not complaining but the only way to grow my blog further is reducing my hours on my day job which I do enjoy and it pays the bills, however my job also means that I have to turn down travel opportunities and potential earnings from my blog as I just don't have the time.
In an effort to work out my priorities and what I really want to accomplish in 2015 I am taking some time out over Hogmanay for a digital detox.
Everyone chooses to begin a New Year in various different ways and over the years I have started mine off at the usual parties, concerts, ceilidhs, dinners, family get togethers and on occasion I have done something different as the bells signal the 1st of January like fly to SE Asia or celebrate in a snow storm on Rannoch Moor with a whisky (cold but memorable!).
As the last days of 2014 appear on my calendar I have been desperately trying to figure out how I want to acknowledge this changing year and I have decided that it is time to get back in touch with the outdoors and beautiful wild landscape of the country I call home.
This may not sound very original but for me it is long overdue. 2014 has raced by with a new job, new home and ever growing blog which has left little time to truly relax, connect with nature and appreciate the simple things in life. It may sound an over romanticised image but I really do find sitting by a stream, walking through a remote glen or spending a night under the stars to be the best tonic for the mind and soul. With depleted energy and general lack of focus at the moment I can't think of a better way to take some time out and just breathe and be.
You may think that I do this all the time as my travel blog and photographs are full of beautiful, wild places around Scotland. In reality, I am usually taking notes, looking for a WiFi or 3G signal to upload images and posts or packing as much as possible into a day for a travel article. Whilst my blog has brought me many amazing opportunities, it has also distracted me from truly enjoying and being mindful of my surroundings (for anyone that thinks blogging is easy I can assure you it is HARD WORK!)
Adventures Around Scotland may be less than a year old, however I have enjoyed more amazing travel experiences than I could ever have imagined and visited so many beautiful places around Scotland, many for the first time. It has been hard to narrow months of blog posts into a few highlights, however the ones I have chosen really stand out for me and still bring a smile to my face when I think back, always a good sign!
I've decided to split my favourite adventures into my top 5 experiences and top 5 places I visited during 2014, I've included links to all the relevant blog posts if you feel inspired to check out any of these places for yourself.
MY TOP FIVE TRAVEL EXPERIENCES OF 2014
1. The Commonwealth Flotilla
My most memorable experience of the year and a true 'once in a lifetime' moment had to be taking part in the Commonwealth Flotilla. Sailing up the Clyde with tens of thousands of people lining the banks of the river, waving and cheering, was a sight I'll never forget. Read more...
2. Standing on top of the Forth Bridge
Earlier this year I wrote a blog post with my Scottish Bucket List. One of the things I really wanted to do was climb to the top of the Forth Bridge and little did I know that a short time later I would be enjoying the view from the top of one of Scotland's most famous icons. Read more...
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!
Follow me as I search for the best and most original travel experiences in Scotland.