I had no idea Scotland would be so beautiful! I was blown away by the lush green hills, fluffy sheep everywhere and the snow-capped mountains.
We kicked off 2015 with a long weekend trip to visit friends in the Highlands, a large region in northern Scotland that is dominated by many mountain ranges and forests. The Highlands also are one of the most sparsely populated areas in Europe. I would have to guess there are more sheep than humans here.
As our train chugged along the rail from Glasgow to Aviemore, I couldn’t help but stare out my window in amazement. How come no one ever told me Scotland was THIS stunning?
Every scene looked like it belonged on a postcard!
Our friends, a Scottish-British couple, swore we got lucky with the weather as the Highlands generally receives a lot of snow during the winter. We had little snow on the ground near the village of Carrbridge, but we did have abundant sunshine, which led to spectacular sunsets and sunrises. I could still sleep in and catch the sunrise at 8:45 a.m. each day.
Our weekend included two hikes through the large Cairngorms National Park which covers 4,500 sq km of snow-covered mountains, green forests and picturesque lochs. The hikes I did were fairly easy, lasting about 3 hours, and took me through an ancient Caledonian pine forest, sheep-grazing fields and past Carrbridge’s most famous landmark, the Old Packhorse Bridge, from which the village is named. The bridge, built in 1717, is the oldest stone bridge in the Highlands.
Like I said, sheep were everywhere in the Highlands!
Meanwhile, my husband and our friend’s husband took a more adventurous 15km hike which took them to the knee-deep, snow-covered top of Meall Chuaich (map), a Scottish Munro, with a height over 3,000 feet (915 m). The national park is home to five of the United Kingdom’s six highest mountains, including 43 whose summits are considered Munros.
I’m so happy I decided not to go with them on that hike as I would have been climbing headfirst into bitter, winter winds and trudging through snow in my ill-equipped hiking boots. No thank you! Instead, my girlfriend and I had a relaxing hike through the nearby forest and ended our afternoon with glasses of wine on the porch at home.
After our busy Christmas trip through Spain and France, a chilled-out weekend in Scotland is just what I needed. The Highlands definitely impressed me and I hope to return to explore more of its scenic landscape.
Have you been to Scotland? If so, please share your tips/advice in the comments below.
(I loved these bright blue doors we passed by in the village of Carrbridge.)