Visit Scotland

For those of us in the northern hemisphere summer has started. In the UK the end of the school year is on the horizon and the universities are all but winding down.  Many are looking forward to a summer holiday and a well earned rest.

If you haven't yet planned yours and are looking for inspiration then how's about Scotland?

For me it's the destination of choice and it's great for health. On the one hand there is the Scotland from the biscuit tin lid - wild, rugged, jaw-dropping scenery, with serene lochs,  glens and castles. Then, by contrast,  there are fashionable cities with some of the best restaurants and hospitality.  If you're really lucky you may get it all in one place!  Somehow, Scotland never ceases to surprise.

I'd like to share with you a very special railway journey that I took last year  from Glasgow to Mallaig.  For those out there who are Harry Potter fans you may already be familiar with the other part of the line - Fort William to Mallaig. I started my journey just a few miles out of Glasgow at  the sleepy  Arrochar and Tarbet station. 

Following the west highland way, before long,  the train takes a steep incline to the  Bridge of Orchy and from there the journey leaps into the realms of imagination; with  rugged scenery,  herds of deer  running wild, billowing clouds and weather patterns that change by the minute.

En route some of  the old station buildings have been turned into walker's hostels and,  if you're lucky,  you might catch  sight of a heritage train or two.

Going over Rannoch Moor was an experience never to forget. One of the last unspoilt areas of  wilderness in Europe,with an almost terrifying quality. Given the nature of the terrain, how the railway line was ever constructed is nothing short of a miracle. At this point parts of the line cross marsh land and actually sits on rush matting!

There are several stops along the way where walkers get out to take in the pristine air quality and savour the remoteness first hand.  I'm an urbanite foodie and  got off at Spean Bridge to try out a restaurant that I'd heard about, only to find that it only opened in the evening. Feeling hungry, yet undeterred, I tried out the coach stop cafe down the road (before coach loads of tourists arrived) and was surprised to be presented with one of the best salads that I've ever had. Scotland can be so like this. You can be in the most remote place and yet you'll find some of the best restaurants.

Fort William is the ultimate destination and stands in the shadow of Ben Nevis - a mecca for serious walkers and climbers.

I was actually looking for a proper old school compass and, to my surprise,  was spoilt for choice - as every other shop seemed to be selling mountain/walking  equipment. However, it was the gorgeous tartan and surprisingly fashionable clothing and accessories that stay in my memory. (Sorry, the fashionista in me is never far behind.)

The homeward bound journey was like a dream through time -  with sunlight through clouds and an ever changing, romantic terrain back to Arrochar and our wee cottage by the loch.

 If you want a holiday with a difference visit Scotland!

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