Rural Scotland - Part 2 - Orlando / Florida Guide
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The wilds of Scotland can be enjoyed year-round, though winters can be very cold and snowy especially in the mountains. Spring, May to Jun, and autumn, Sept to Oct, are good times to go to miss the crowds and the midges while still enjoying good weather.
Personally, I think that by far the best way to reach the Highlands is to catch ScotRail’s Caledonian Sleeper train, as you travel at night you don’t waste any time. Running daily, it departs London Euston in the evening, with pickups at Crewe and Preston, arriving in Aviemore, for the Cairngorms, and Inverness the next morning. Journey time is around 11 to 12 hours with booking opening up to a year in advance.
Faster, if less romantic, is to fly, with Flybe and EasyJet both offering flights to Inverness from most UK airports. If you’ve taken the train then the most convenient option is to hire a car. All the major companies have bases in Inverness with the Europcar/Alamo only a five-minute taxi ride from the station, in the Thistle Hotel. Otherwise, the Stagecoach bus runs local services between Inverness, Aviemore and Loch Ness.
There are plenty of small welcoming B& B’s in the area. You could try Chrialdon House B& B, in Beauly, it is well placed for Glen Affric, Loch Ness and Inverness, with all these under a 30-minute drive. Rooms cost from £40pppn, based on two sharing. If you want easy access to the Cairngorms then try Docharn Lodge Guest House where rooms are from £85.
When you get off the train at Inverness which is the official Gateway to the Highlands starts with a walking tour. Head along Academy Street then turn left down Friars Lane to visit Old High Church, which dates back to the 15th century. From here go to Bank Street to take in views of the River Ness from Greig Street Bridge which was built in 1881. Then head to Church St to visit Abertarff House, the earliest surviving house in Inverness which was built 1593, then continue to Queensgate to admire the ornate decor at the Victorian Market.
Then end your walk with lunch at Leakey’s Bookshop and Café. Inside the converted Gaelic Church, it is packed with second-hand books, maps and prints but also offers tasty food and coffee. Once you’ve had your fill, leave the city and head to the forest of Glen Affric.
This is home to one of the largest patches of Caledonian pine in the country, it shows a snapshot of what Scotland would have looked like centuries ago. There are plenty of walking trails here to keep you occupied for days. One of the best is the trail to Plodda Falls, you stroll through the native trees to stand on a viewing platform and stare as the water cascades 40m below your feet. Also worth a stroll is the Viewpoint Trail at the Dog Falls side of the forest.
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