It’s a Story about Scotland - My first ever Solo Backpacking Trip

Tripoto
24th Jun 2019

No filter beauty of Scotland..Loch Cluaine

Photo of It’s a Story about Scotland - My first ever Solo Backpacking Trip by Poonam Valecha

When was the last time you did SOMETHING for the first TIME?????

And here I am done with my first Solo backpacking in Scotland... It wasn’t easy to convince myself for a Solo trip in a foreign land where I didn’t know anyone, but then you always have someone or the other who encourages, motivates, and guides you to do things stacked up on your Wishlist. One fine morning my phone blinks with a text from a friend, “I can guide you about Edinburgh” after reading my fb post. That’s where it all really kicked off……SOLO SCOTLAND. And I said to myself let’s do it!

24th June morning I took a train to Edinburgh from London King cross station where the iconic train scene of DDLJ was shot in which Raj offers his hand to Simran. How often do you get to re-live a scene from your favourite movie?

Photo of It’s a Story about Scotland - My first ever Solo Backpacking Trip 1/1 by Poonam Valecha
London King Cross

Since I booked my tickets just few days before starting my journey it costed me £110 for a return journey from London to Edinburgh on trainline.com, if you plan well in advance you can get return tickets for £ 60-70 and overnight bus tickets costs £10 one way. I chose train to save time and for comfortable journey and for the mesmerizing views of England countryside and as you approach Edinburgh you get to witness the hypnotic sight of the North Sea.

Day 1

Edinburgh looks like a city straight from the fairy tale and my first impression of the city was the rain washed cobbled streets, tight quarters, and Gothic buildings, which truly make its Old Town a UNESCO world heritage site.

Gloomy Monday Morning

Photo of Edinburgh, UK by Poonam Valecha

Ready for Day 1

Photo of Edinburgh, UK by Poonam Valecha

For my stay in Edinburgh I booked a bunk in High street hostel for just £9.5 per night in 10 bed mixed dorm. It is super clean, 5 mins walk from Waverly train station, just on the Royal mile, 5-7 mins walk to Castle; you get 20% discount on some eating joints with your hostel card and the best thing is that it is in the next lane to HIVE Pub which serves drinks and shots just for 1 pound each & it’s one of the place open till 3am even on weekdays. There are lot of hostels in the area and you can compare prices on Hostel world and booking.com

Photo of High Street Hostel, Blackfriars Street, Edinburgh, UK by Poonam Valecha

High Street hostel

Photo of High Street Hostel, Blackfriars Street, Edinburgh, UK by Poonam Valecha

# How to explore Edinburgh on budget:: the best way is to take SANDEMANs NEW Edinburgh Free Walking Tour You just pay them tip in the end if you like their tour. Mine was awesome with a super awesome tour guide named Jane. She was very informative had lot of stories and fun facts to make it a memorable 2.5hrs walk. She took us through the history of the Castle, the striking Scottish Parliamentary buildings, Greyfriars Kirkyard graveyard -- which is also a picnic place for locals in summers, statue of Bobby – the dog who also has a great story and well his namesake pub too is just outside the graveyard, the Royal Mile, Grassmarket and everything you can see on Royal Mile. The tour starts outside Starbucks on Royal mile at 10 am every 1 hr.

Royal mile

Photo of It’s a Story about Scotland - My first ever Solo Backpacking Trip by Poonam Valecha
Photo of It’s a Story about Scotland - My first ever Solo Backpacking Trip by Poonam Valecha
Photo of It’s a Story about Scotland - My first ever Solo Backpacking Trip by Poonam Valecha
Photo of It’s a Story about Scotland - My first ever Solo Backpacking Trip by Poonam Valecha
Photo of It’s a Story about Scotland - My first ever Solo Backpacking Trip by Poonam Valecha

Edinburgh Castle view from Princess street on a misty evening

Photo of It’s a Story about Scotland - My first ever Solo Backpacking Trip by Poonam Valecha

They also offer a few themed tours. There’s a 1.5 hour ghost tour in evening daily, Some new town tours on Thursdays and Saturdays, a Harry Potter-themed city tour daily.

Walking tour group photo

Photo of It’s a Story about Scotland - My first ever Solo Backpacking Trip by Poonam Valecha

And in this walking tour this Solo traveler made some friends on day 1 and then we decided to explore city on our own.

Next is Haggis in story—most talked about dish in the city and their national dish too. Well I don’t want to talk too much about Haggis as I was just not impressed.

Haggis

Photo of It’s a Story about Scotland - My first ever Solo Backpacking Trip by Poonam Valecha

Evening I decided to take a riverside walk along the Water of Leith which passes through Dean Village and Stockbridge. It is 15 mins walk from Royal mile thru Princess street to reach the Dean village but as I reached Dean village I got to know riverside walk thru was not accessible as the river was overflowing due to rains.

Dean Village waterside

Photo of It’s a Story about Scotland - My first ever Solo Backpacking Trip by Poonam Valecha

If you are a Scotch fan, then don’t miss Whiskey experience next to the Castle.

Whiskey experience next to Edinburgh Castle

Photo of It’s a Story about Scotland - My first ever Solo Backpacking Trip by Poonam Valecha

You can indulge in pub crawls in evening and spend rest of your night exploring Edinburgh nightlife and pubs. Must try pubs—the HIVE, Jolly Judge, Cold town house with amazing roof top section.

Pubs of Edinburgh

Photo of It’s a Story about Scotland - My first ever Solo Backpacking Trip by Poonam Valecha

Edinburgh is a very much walkable city between old and new town. You can also take a day travel pass if you don’t prefer to walk much for unlimited bus and tram travel for 4 pounds.

Houses of Edinburgh

Photo of It’s a Story about Scotland - My first ever Solo Backpacking Trip by Poonam Valecha
Day 2

Day2 was reserved for Castle, Arthur’s Seat and the Palace of Holyrood house. It was a very Sunny day, I could just manage a tour to Castle and some strolling on the Princess street where I indulged in some shopping and talks with the local people.

Edinburgh Castle

Photo of Edinburgh, UK by Poonam Valecha
Photo of Edinburgh, UK by Poonam Valecha

Scots are warm and friendly people and as soon as you tell them that you’re from India they are happy and delighted to talk and know more about the country. At that moment I felt I am not missing anything that I have not covered in this city as I met these awesome people and heard about their life’s journey and culture and food before leaving for my next destination---Inverness - the capital of Scottish Highlands. I am a true Bollywood fan and recalled that epochal dialogue from the movie Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani—Jitna bhi try karo, life me kuch na kuch to chootega hi, to jahan hain, wahin ka maza lete hai.

Sunny day in Edinburgh

Photo of It’s a Story about Scotland - My first ever Solo Backpacking Trip by Poonam Valecha
Day 3

Train to Inverness was my nap time as I had barely slept in the last 2 days. Inverness welcomed me with a hazy and drizzling morning. I walked to my hostel – the Inverness Student hotel which was probably the best stay of my entire UK trip. Window of my room opened to River Ness views and the hostel common area window overlooked a Castle. Such a nice cozy place was my hideaway for next 2 days.

River Ness view from my hostel room window

Photo of Inverness, UK by Poonam Valecha

Coffee with a view

Photo of Inverness Student Hotel, Culduthel Road, Inverness, UK by Poonam Valecha

I walked the length and breadth of River Ness and covered almost the entire city that day with my new companion—A tall handsome Canadian Army man travelling Solo in Europe. And we even cooked yummy prawns for dinner in hostel kitchen. By the day end he was fan of Bollywood music.

River Ness view from Castle

Photo of It’s a Story about Scotland - My first ever Solo Backpacking Trip by Poonam Valecha

Dinner cooked by new friend

Photo of It’s a Story about Scotland - My first ever Solo Backpacking Trip by Poonam Valecha

#Touristy stuff to do Explore Inverness Castle, Ness Islands, Loch ness for Monster boat ride, Urquhart Castle. You can’t go inside the Inverness Castle as it is used as Court nowadays, but you can get a picture clicked outside with a colorful Unicorn statue. By the way did I tell you that this fabled creature - Unicorn is their national animal.

Photo of Inverness Castle, Inverness, UK by Poonam Valecha

River Islands

Photo of Inverness Castle, Inverness, UK by Poonam Valecha
Photo of Inverness Castle, Inverness, UK by Poonam Valecha

Skyline at 11.45pm

Photo of It’s a Story about Scotland - My first ever Solo Backpacking Trip by Poonam Valecha

Can you spot my reflection in water?? its a blur picture after a long tiring walk

Photo of It’s a Story about Scotland - My first ever Solo Backpacking Trip by Poonam Valecha
Photo of Urquhart Castle, Drumnadrochit, Inverness, UK by Poonam Valecha

If you are a book lover stop by at Leakey’s bookshop on your way to walk across River Ness. It’s a paradise for you people with lots of cosy corners to lose yourself in.

Not to miss the Sunset over River Ness from Dores inn...A place where even Locals hangout for beach sunsets. The outdoor seating by the river there is just the besttttt place to be in the city.

Day 4

Next day was my full day tour to Isle of Skye—the most awaited part of my Scotland trip. As I was traveling solo so driving through the Scottish Highlands was out of question, although driving across Scotland does make for one of the best road trips.

I booked 1 day trip to Isle of Skye with fairy pools from Inverness from Getyourguide

We started from Inverness with our amazing tour guide dressed in traditional Scottish Kilt. He flooded us with his fairy tales and interesting facts and anecdotes about Why Scots hate Queen & England so much and his crush on Queen in his young days when he was in the army.

#1 Loch ness –unforgettable images of reflections on the water, Monster or No Monster stories, fairy sites of small bridges and mountains

#2 Kyle of Lochalsh with its slow pace life and amazing ocean view was our stop by for some great sea food tasting and entry point for Skye bridge

#3Fairy pools you can give it a miss

#4 driving thru Scottish Highlands in Quirang and to The Old Man of Storr. Best views of highlands one can get with stop by for Whiskey tasting at Taliskar Distillery. No trip to Scotland is complete without the ‘Whiskey experience’.

#5 Portree. We got sometime to spend in this a quaint little harbour town with picturesque colourful cottage houses on the harbourside

#6 On our way back we explored Eilean Donan castle and I was told by my guide that a song from the movie ‘Kuch Kuch hota hai’ was shot here. We were lucky to spot a traditional Scottish wedding there.

Reflections--Loch Ness

Photo of Loch Ness, United Kingdom by Poonam Valecha

Loch Ness

Photo of Loch Ness, United Kingdom by Poonam Valecha

Fairy bridge which takes you back in time - as told by my tour guide

Photo of Loch Ness, United Kingdom by Poonam Valecha

Kyle of Lochalsh

Photo of Kyle of Lochalsh, Kyle, UK by Poonam Valecha

Fairy Pools- Glacier rocks giving it green colour

Photo of Fairy Pools, Glenbrittle, Isle of Skye, UK by Poonam Valecha

Quiraing

Photo of Quiraing, Portree, UK by Poonam Valecha
Photo of The Storr, Portree, UK by Poonam Valecha
Photo of Portree Harbour, Quay Street, Portree, UK by Poonam Valecha
Photo of Eilean Donan Castle, Dornie, Kyle of Lochalsh, UK by Poonam Valecha

In the lawns of Eilean Donan castle

Photo of Eilean Donan Castle, Dornie, Kyle of Lochalsh, UK by Poonam Valecha

I returned to Inverness with my phone flooded with highland pictures and I slept for a few hrs before I caught my train back to London early next morning. As I reached train station I was damn hungry. I was short on time but stopped to grab a sub and I almost missed my train. Just reached 1 min before departure. I asked this man standing at the door whether the train was going to London Euston, he smiled and said ‘get in, you just made it’ and I felt somewhat like living up the legendary King cross station DDLJ scene except that there was no Raj (sighs)… no doubt I am a quintessential Bollywood Fan and as I got inside the door closing alarm started.

One with our tour guide- Gordon

Photo of It’s a Story about Scotland - My first ever Solo Backpacking Trip by Poonam Valecha
Photo of Talisker Distillery, Isle of Skye, UK by Poonam Valecha

Taliskar Whiskey experience with GOT collection

Photo of Talisker Distillery, Isle of Skye, UK by Poonam Valecha

It’s not the end yet to my long long Scotland story without the mention of this loving Indian couple I met in train who have been residing in Scotland for more than a decade. We talked about my solo trip, their love story, Mumbai, London etc etc over a bottle of exotic Scottish Wine.

UK trains

Photo of It’s a Story about Scotland - My first ever Solo Backpacking Trip by Poonam Valecha

And that’s a wrap!! See you soon with my next travel story.

5 Comment(s)
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Amazing description of trip with all the details . Keep travelling , Keep motivating , Keep inspiring
Fri 07 19 19, 12:15 · Reply · Report
You taught us to fill our life’s with adventures, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show. Go SOLO go FAR!!
Fri 07 19 19, 12:12 · Reply · Report
Excellent!! Keep it up! Very well written!
Fri 07 19 19, 10:19 · Reply · Report
Super..Very well written...I could feel I was there too
Thu 07 18 19, 23:38 · Reply · Report
Wow such a detailed itinerary
Thu 07 18 19, 22:50 · Reply · Report