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My Big Scottish Road Trip


Talisker Bay, Skye


And here we are. Another Scottish season, another road trip. I covered a lot of miles this time, heading north-west to Skye, all around the island, over to Raasay, back to Skye, along the North Coast 500 to Torridon, then across to Inverness and Nairn, down Loch Ness, and all the way back to Glasgow. I saw a lot of different scenery, from the windy sand dunes of Findhorn to the craggy mountains of the Cuillin, the forests of Ross-shire, and the dreamy length of Loch Ness snaking its way through the Great Glen.


Loch Ness


Skye felt like a lot. It’s the second largest Scottish island, but its twisting turning coastline made it feel expansive. Almost everywhere you look, you see a vast stretch of water. It became a bit overwhelming, and when I left, the dense, quiet forests of the north felt like a comforting embrace. But just as soon I began to miss the islands. Skye felt truly Hebridean - relaxed, remote. I kept on the move, tracing the many-fingered peninsulas of the island, but as I passed lonely white cottages, clinging to the clifftops, I imagined them standing still through time.


Duirnish, Skye


My trip was timed well. The combination of international travel restrictions, coupled with the fact that it was early in the season, meant that Skye was a lot quieter than it would usually be. Skye is monumental. I imagine it like an open palm, with many long fingers jutting out from a central point. And each of these peninsulas has their own distinct character.

The Quiraing, Trotternish, Skye


I started with Trotternish in the north, with its steep, dramatic cliffs, and bizarre rock formations. I hiked up the stony trails to reach the Old Man of Storr, and walked along the steep ledge into the heart of the Quiraing.

Ord, Sleat, Skye


There’s Sleat in the south, rocky hills leading to tumultuous green slopes. The narrow twisting road that leaves the A851 to pass through the scattered settlements of Tokavaig and Tarskavaig is probably one of the most remote, perilous roads I’ve ever driven on, but the rough beaches with clear views across to the Cuillins are incredible.

Fairy Pools, Glenbrittle, Skye


And then there are the Cuillins themselves - two parallel mountain ranges right in the middle of Skye, the rounded but bulking volume of the Red Cuillin contrasting with the jagged edges of the Black Cuillin. I walked up into their foothills in Sligachan and Glenbrittle, and as I rounded the coast near Suisnish, their ridges dominated the entire skyline.

Sand, Applecross, Wester Ross


I visited the relaxed villages of Waternish, and the community-feeling Dunvegan. I walked along white-sand beaches, and looked out over jaw-dropping landscapes. I swam in beautiful sunlit pools, and made my way over ancient sheep paths. I climbed the corrugated hills of the Fairy Glen, and walked the Skye Bridge from Kyleakin to Lochalsh and back again.


Fairy Glen, Trotternish, Skye


My week on Skye seems like a blur. On my winter road trip, there were only 7 hours of daylight. Now there are over 14, and I find myself up at dawn everyday, walking and driving and seeing until sunset, fitting in 8 hours of sleep and doing it all again.


Neist Point, Duirnish, Skye


I accomplished a lot. Even though Skye is only Scotland’s third most popular tourist attraction (after Edinburgh and Loch Ness), it’s pictures of Skye that grace the cover of every travel guide, every postcard. Skye has some incredible sights, and I saw a lot of them. From the bizarre pinnacles of the Quiraing and Storr in the north, to the bridge at Sligachan, the lighthouse at Neist Point and the hills of the Fairy Glen, my Instagram is now filled with classic shots that say ‘oh look, I’ve been to Scotland’.


View of Dun Caan, Raasay, from Plockton Coral Beach


I feel like there’s this expectation that Skye is incredible. That every single moment will be pure magic. I’m sitting on the beach, eating supper and playing guitar, with a mountain range and ocean view that anywhere else would be absolutely incredible. And yet I feel like I need more, like this is not enough. Like this is just a moment to get through on the journey to elsewhere, but not as though this moment is incredible in and of itself.

Sligachan Bridge, Skye


It’s frustrating, because I don’t want to feel that way. The pandemic has been such a pause in the midst of constant rush. I think back to the months surrounding my transition to Scotland, when I was constantly travelling, both for work and fun. There were a few weeks where I didn’t even buy groceries because I wasn’t ever home long enough to eat them. I love the pace of the pandemic, taking time to revel in the present. But even now, when it’s still very far from over, I can feel that pace slipping away.


Farigaig Forest, Loch Ness


Shortly after returning to Glasgow, I gave a class at my Synagogue during the festival of Shavuot. We looked at the story of Abraham, and how he set off on his journey without a clear destination in mind. G-d says to him:


לֶךְ־לְךָ֛ מֵאַרְצְךָ֥ וּמִמּֽוֹלַדְתְּךָ֖ וּמִבֵּ֣ית אָבִ֑יךָ אֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַרְאֶֽךָּ׃

Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you. (Breishit/Genesis 12:1)

Ord, Sleat, Skye


Abraham specifically is not told where he is going, only that he is going. He follows the path, never quite sure of where he will end up, yet he continues on the journey.

East Sands, Nairn


Scottish people are big on munro-bagging. A munro is a mountain which is over 3000 feet high, of which there are 282 in Scotland. Over 6000 people have ‘bagged’ them all. I’ve not bagged any.


Fairy Pools, Glenbrittle, Skye


Author Nan Shepherd, whose book The Living Mountain is an intimate exploration of and love letter to the Cairngorm Plateau, writes that “to aim for the highest point is not the only way to climb a mountain.” She writes of hours spent examining the way the water streaming down the mountain has frozen in the winter, and the lightness that she feels when breathing the mountain air.


The Cuillins, Skye


She continues. “Yet often the mountain gives itself most completely when I have no destination, when I reach nowhere in particular, but have gone out merely to be with the mountain as one visits a friend with no intention but to be with him.” She sets out on the mountain not to reach the top, but simply to walk. She’s not setting out with the ambition of adding another peak to her collection, but merely to experience, to see, to walk, to be.


Findhorn, Moray


So I come back to my original point, about having accomplished a lot of things on this trip. But I don’t want travelling to be about accomplishing. I want my journeys to be something that I experience. It’s not about ticking sights off of a list, bagging munros, or collecting instagram-worthy postcard shots, but about having experiences that shape who we are.


Storr, Trotternish, Skye


I had put so many expectations on myself for this trip - that I would see all the sights, experience this magical destination, see the real Scotland. Visit the Isle of Skye - the quintessential Scottish experience! And yes, the stony pinnacles of the Old Man of Storr will stay with me for a long time, as will the sun-drenched mornings roaming amongst fields of sheep. I will remember the birchwood of Hallaig and the lighthouse at Neist Point and making scrambled eggs in the middle of nowhere all as quintessential moments of my Scottish journey, but they are not the only ones.

Duirnish, Skye


Because as incredible as my road trip was, it was also incredible to come home. I immediately started pickling - grating radishes and fermenting ginger and soaking garlic buds in vinegar. Then I got to the gardening, repotting my tomatoes sprouts which had been carefully looked after by a friend. I resumed my long walks in the forest, where I’m learning to identify different edible plants for foraging. I’ve been working on my spinning, my knitting - there are so many things to do.


Erbusaig, Kyle of Lochalsh


And then there are the people. Seeing my friends felt so good. Falling back into routine, saying hi to the neighbours. Returning to my incredible Synagogue where we celebrated Shavuot in person, where nearly 30 children gathered for the first time in almost a year-and-a-half.


Torridon, Wester Ross


I saw some incredible things. And then I drove back over the Skye Bridge and carried on. All of these moments are key parts of making up my experience here in Scotland. Whether I’m visiting the hill on the cover of the guide book, or simply at home, all of these moments guide me on this big Scottish journey.


Duirnish, Skye


Dunvegan Coral Beach, Skye


Fairy Glen, Trotternish, Skye


Staffin Bay, Trotternish, Skye


Shieldaig, Wester Ross


Plockton, Kyle of Lochalsh


Kyleakin, Skye


Neist Point, Duirnish, Skye


Duirnish, Skye


Dunvegan Coral Beach, Skye


Trotternish, Skye


East Sands, Nairn


Torridon, Easter Ross