Photographer of Families, Small People and Delightful Places. Travel and Lifestyle Writer and Blogger. Lives in Newcastle, Loves the North, Often Accompanied By A Beagle Named Holly Bobbins

Saturday, August 22, 2020

The Great Scottish Adventure, Scotland by Rail - Part 1

The river ness,inverness, scotland by rail part 1, mandy charlton, photographer, blogger


Around a month ago I travelled the Lake District by public transport and on Monday I set off to the do the same thing in Scotland, it's a journey that will take me more than 260 miles (as the crow flies) or 416 miles (driving distance) to the town of Thurso on the far north coast of Scotland. The great Scottish adventure is something I've always wanted to do, I've been to Inverness twice and every time I get off the train there I wonder just what it's like on the Far North Line.  Although I've yearned to do it for years, I've never had the time or flexibility in my schedule, 13 years of wedding photography doesn't leave a lot of time for anything else but as we all know, 2020 is a very different kind of animal.

Running Philomena's Boutique has given me a much more flexible schedule and with the girls, both grown up I'm no longer needed to be around, even Holly Bobbins has other plans and she's off to the Lake District with my friend Robyn and her family, I've mentioned previously she's a very special dog.  

The Schedule

I'm actually still at the planning stages (and yes, I know, I leave on Monday) but this is the plan so far and I'm going to include the costs, I'm really good at planning travel and often end up with absolute bargain rail fares and hotels - 

Monday - Newcastle to Edinburgh - £13

                 Edinburgh to Inverness - £25 first class

Mon-Wed a guest house stay in Inverness with breakfast included £94 at the Ardentorrie Guest House ( I booked through Booking.com and saved £30 by paying in advance at their genius rate for frequent travellers).  I always check the hotel or B&B's websites before I book as sometimes you can save a few pounds by booking direct and sometimes it's cheaper to go through a hotel booking site, it just depends so do shop around and if you can do it in an incognito window (one which doesn't save cookies) you are more likely to get bargains

Wednesday - Train to Thurso - £35 return ticket, you can do it for £26.40 but the weekend trains were bus replacements so I decided to just stay until Friday.

Wed-Friday - guest house stay - Thurso House, a guest house which you literally open the front door and you're on the beach - £140 (Thurso and Wick were both expensive for accommodation because they're small and it's the summer holidays, in winter you could knock around £20 a night off that price)

Friday - Wednesday - Staying at the Craigmonie Hotel in Inverness so I can base myself there but also explore the whole of the Highlands - £260 including a full Scottish breakfast

Wednesday - Inverness to Newcastle - £45.50

So I make that £612 for a 9-night trip which is cheaper by far than going overseas and the biggest solo adventure I've ever done in my whole life.

Now I should also point out that me, travelling alone is cheap, I can access single rooms, I rarely eat out in the evenings and I take my own bamboo cutlery and just pick up salads and snacks from the supermarkets.  When I was in the Lakes, I rarely even ate lunch and walking is cheap, you can see the most amazing things on big walks and it costs next to nothing.

If you are young you can cut down on costs further with a railcard if you're a student or if you have kids, or even if you're over 50 in some cases, Scotland has a railcard for the over 50's (4 years and counting...).  If you wanted to travel at real bargain prices, you could even stay in a hostel but for me, I'm 46, I'm travelling on my own and I do have chronic anxiety so it's one step too far.  There are also options for bus tickets like in the Lake District but I haven't decided if I'll need one, probably at least one of the days as I want to go to John o Groats although the town of Thurso is actually farther north, it's just that John o Groats gets all of the credit and that's where the "end to enders" start, I should say now, I neither have the time or the fitness to walk from John o Groats to Lands End, I know I like a challenge but...

Whilst some things are the same as the Lake District this time, there's one big difference and that is, I'm taking you all along with me.  I'll be writing each and every day about my adventures, I didn't take my Macbook away when I went to the lakes but I want to write on the go.  When I try and write things afterwards, I get bored, I'm the first to admit that by the time I get back, I'm already planning my next adventure, always keep moving forward I guess.  I also just write better in the moment and so you will be able to follow my adventures on here and also on Instagram where I'll be using Instagram stories as I go about my daily walks and wanders.

I haven't decided when I am coming home yet but I do have a small commitment on the 6th September so I know I have to be back before that, in all probability I'll take 7-10 days and I have some Airbnb  (if you sign up to Airbnb via that link we'll both get £16 off our next journeys) credit to use for the final leg if I don't want to stay in a B&B.

Great British Adventure Map, Marvellous maps, scotland by rail, mandy charlton photographer, blogger


Money-Saving Tips for Travel

* Don't just have the train companies app you're travelling with, sometimes you can find hidden bargains on the Trainline app
* Before you book on Booking.com also check the hotel website in case they can offer a better price, companies pay a lot to be listed on Airbnb etc so sometimes the best prices are going direct but also sometimes it's the exact opposite as sometimes the various aggregator sites have hidden discounts too
* Use Honey, Quidco or similar so you can also get cashback on your purchase, these little things all add up.
* If you are travelling slow, also check the local bus routes as they can work out so much cheaper than the train and Scotland is so beautiful you'd have so much thinking time as you amble through the countryside passed lochs and mountains.

Because I'm going next week, if I do eat out during the day I will definitely be taking advantage of the governments Eat Out to Help Out scheme which is also available in Scotland, if you're just having a sandwich, soup and cake it's pretty easy to bag yourself a lunch for around a fiver.  There are also lots of ways to save on attractions, sometimes regional guides in tourist information shops have vouchers for cheaper tickets.  I'm generally just going to do lots of walking and the best thing about that, it's free, also in Scotland, there is the right to roam which opens up all kinds of possibilities.  Generally, I just stick to well-known routes though as I may be a seasoned traveller but I also have chronic anxiety.

Whatever next week brings I will be writing about it every day, and each day I make it to places I've never been is another virtual kick in the teeth for anxiety, it doesn't matter what happens in life as long as we keep moving forward and that is exactly what I plan to do.

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2 comments

Helena C. said...

What about kashback apps - I totally agree! Little things are very important and can add up to a huge amount of money!

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