We are pleased to present a new Solo Travel Destination Post from Angela, a member of the Solo Travel Society on Facebook. Angela lives in the United States and submitted the following report about the Highlands of Scotland. Do you have a solo travel destination that you would like to recommend? Submit your description here, along with a few photos, and share it with fellow travelers!
Solo travel rating: 1 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult. Please see chart below)
Languages spoken: English
Reasons to Visit the Highlands of Scotland
When I was offered an opportunity to house-sit alone in a stone cottage on an 500 year old estate in the middle of the Scottish Highlands I hesitated to accept. I was leery about the isolation and the distance from the big cities, and the nearest grocery store was 12 miles away! But after in-depth research and self-reflection, I shook off my fear and doubt and embraced the potential for much needed solitude, and the forced self-reliance that comes with solo travel. The potential for a new and different experience trumped any reluctance and I accepted full-heartedly, because once you make a decision to travel solo, fully committed is the only way to go.
I arrived in Edinburgh via London, collected my rental car and mentally prepared myself to drive on the “wrong” side of the road. For the next 3 hours. In the dark. Alone.
Once I was outside the city limits the drive was comfortable and very scenic. I had my GPS and road trip music which was helpful in soothing my nerves. I was on my way!
At the highest point there was snow still lingering on the mountain tops and the clouds hung low, but it did not take away from the brilliant natural beauty of the highlands.
I stayed on the Ballindalloch Estate about 40 miles north of the nearest sizable town of Aviemore, a ski resort and tourist town. In the highlands there are an abundance of things to do, sites to see, places to eat, and whiskey distilleries to visit.
My favorites are:
- Cairngorms National Park Hiking, biking, bird watching, and more. With numerous entrance points, some accessed via larger towns with connecting services from the big cities and some access points 10-20 miles from the nearest highway, there are limitless options for active, casual, and short trips in and throughout the park.
- The Speyside Way, a 60 mile long trail running through the highlands along the River sand completing on the northern coast, the trail is mostly smooth, wide and paved, good for running, walking and biking the entire distance with camping spots intermittently along the way.
- Whiskey Distilleries Visit any of the local distilleries. There are dozens to choose from in various sizes, tours, and operating seasons/hours and some offer tastings, souvenirs, and dining with your experience.
While driving the Malt Whisky Trail, stop at any of the villages along the route for coffee, whisky tastings, and shopping. There was not a single bar, cafe, restaurant, or shop that did not offer friendly service, and good food and drinks along with great conversation. Do drink Scotch, eat Aberlours Famous Shortbread, see everything! For me, my favorite stop was in the village of Tomintoul (the highest village in Scotland). I visited the information center, the Whisky Castle and Highland Market, the Tomintoul Distillery, the Richmond Arms B&B for dinner and a pint, and walked along the river Avon.
My recommendation is to dedicate at least a week in the highlands to explore – and that still wouldn't allow for a thorough visitation. A car is a necessity although you can ride out with a day tour or overnight tour. There are public and private bus options, but you are limited to their schedules and pickup/drop off locations.
Overall my trip to the Highlands of Scotland was fun, fulfilling, and safe for my first experience as a solo female traveler and I would recommend it to anyone considering “dipping their toes” into the solo travel pool!
Solo Travel Destination Rating System
Safety – 1 (1 very safe, 2 safe in most areas, 3 be cautious at all times.)
Language – 1 (1 English is first language, 2 English speakers easy to find, 3 English speakers rare)
Navigation – 1 (1 easy to navigate by transit or car, 2 poor transit, car necessary, 3 not easy to get around)
Culture – 1 (1 Similar to North America or Western Europe, 2 Different from above but relaxed and easy, 3 Challenging)
Average Rating – 1 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult)