Rural Scotland - Part 1 - Orlando / Florida Guide
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There’s never enough time to see all of rural Scotland, but if you take the sleeper train you arrive ready for the mountains, forests and lochs on an extended break.
When wilderness was being handed out, Scotland undoubtedly got given an oversized portion. From lochs to mountains, forests to glens, you can’t seem to go for more than 30 minutes without running into another chunk of camera ready, wild landscape, just waiting to be explored.
This is even more so when you head north. Inverness sits at the mouth of the River Ness, which feeds into the Moray Firth and forms part of the 100km long Great Glen that cuts diagonally across Scotland. The city is a gateway into the Highlands, with varied wilderness available in every direction.
It’s not just visitors who are discovering the appeal of the UK’s most northerly city. Since 2001 the population of Inverness has risen by nearly 10%; it has also been ranked as the top Scottish city in terms of quality of life. It’s not hard to see why this may be, from here there are boat trips and kayaking on the Caledonian Canal, the tempting hills and forests that rise nearby and the Cairngorms National Park which is only a short drive south.
The opportunity to get outside is on the city’s doorstep and it is practically mandatory when you come up this way. The only problem is deciding where to go first. Head south-west along the Great Glen and you’ll hit the 37km long expanse of Loch Ness, the freshwater loch famed for its alleged resident plesiosaurus. However, whether you believe in monsters or not is unimportant as it still remains a spectacular spot with tree covered hills flanking the loch on both sides. Walking is the best way to experience it and there are routes along the shoreline and among the peaks above.
If you prefer forests then visit the National Nature Reserve of Glen Affric, 50km from Inverness. It is home to the ancient Caledonian pine that would have covered most of Scotland’s Highlands 5, 000 years ago and it offers a glimpse into what an ancient wilderness was like. You can easily while away a day by strolling one of the many well marked tracks to take in waterfalls and look out for osprey, otters or red and black-throated divers. If you want more birds and wildlife, head further south-west from Inverness to Britain’s biggest national park, the Cairngorms. Here mountains, including five of the six highest peaks in the country stretch in every direction. It’s also home to the renowned RSPB reserve of Abernethy Forest as well as a host of interesting villages and whisky distilleries.
To truly discover the Scottish wilderness would take months. However, if you only have a few days, the best way to get a bite sized portion is to catch the train to Inverness on a Friday night. This allows for a mini break that packs a big wilderness punch.
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