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Scotland

May 2016

After five South and Central American countries last year, it was time for some back to the roots traveling: a week of hiking and exploring the Scottish Highlands!

Edinburgh

Of all the walks we did, the one on our first day in Scotland's capital was for sure the longest. Probably even by elevation, as you barely walk a horizontal street in Edinburgh's old and new town. But it's worth every step, as there is so much history, architecture and even nature to explore in this tranquil town of almost half a million.
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Arthur's Seat

To get an idea of what to expect in the Highlands, we could not resist climbing this 250 metre hill in the middle of the city. Even more impressive than the panoramic view from the peak are the Salisbury Crags – a series of nearly 50 metre high cliffs that rise from Holyrood Park to overlook Edinburgh.
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Royal Botanic Garden

After walking almost the whole town on day 1, we decided to take it easy on our second day. If you are more into action holidays, the Royal Botanic Garden might not be the perfect thing for you. At least it was way less boring than the documentary we watched about it a couple of weeks earlier – when we both fell asleep… The old Victorian palm houses were even really interesting!
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The Queen?

On our way back to the city centre we were passing the Balmoral Hotel with hundreds of people and dozens of policemen lining the street. The first guy I asked for what he was waiting for, gave me a very British answer: for the pedestrian light to turn green. We found out that it was actually neither the Queen nor somebody else you should know, but the Gumball 3000 race to arrive in Edinburgh. We went for a pub instead.
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Underneath the City

Before leaving the city behind, we visited the only thing we haven't yet walked in Edinburgh: the catacombs underneath the old town. They are several stories deep and were used for almost everything you can imagine. As cheap accommodations for those not missing a window view, as prisons, as wine cellars for the most expensive port wines or for storing illegal autopsy bodies for Edinburgh's desperate medical students.
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Cairngorms

Time for the Highlands. As we only had one week, we decided to spend two days in the Cairngorms National Park. Our lovely Bed & Breakfast in Kingussie was the base camp for exploring the region with some shorter walks.
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Ruthven and Glen Tromie

Our first walk started right in front of Kingussie. After leaving our small rental car behind at the ruins of Ruthven Barracks, we crossed the obligatory sheep-run before making our way up a small hill with open heather moorland – which really offered the 'get away from it all' feel we were looking for.
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Meall a' Bhuachaille

After our little Highlands warm-up the day before, we were desperate for more. Meall a' Bhuachaille it should be, an 800 metre peak close to Loch Morlich and the town of Aviemore. After passing a beautiful valley the path climbs uphill, offering a great panorama of the endless plain in the north and the snow covered peaks of the central Cairngorm mountain range in the west. The closer we came to the peak, the more exposed we were to the extrem wind blowing over the Highlands on that day. Lucky us, that some good souls have built a big heap of stones on top – the perfect place to hide in this open mountainscape.
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West Highlands

Just 50 miles south-west of the Cairngorms you'll find a similar, yet completely different landscape: the West Highlands and the coastal region of Argyll. If you plan the same trip: don't do the loop via Loch Ness – at least if Loch Ness is your only reason to do so. Seriously, just don't ;)
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Steall Falls and the Nevis Gorge

After a longer than expected drive on Scotlands windy roads, we were happy to finally get our feet out of the car in the Nevis Valley close to Fort William. Ben Nevis was not on our list, even though UK's highest mountain would not have been the most difficult to climb. Instead, we went for a rather short walk the Steall Falls and behind. It takes you through a fairy tale forest and over an adventurous steel cable bridge before you eventually stand in front of this amazing 120 metre high waterfall.
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Lost Valley

After checking in our last B&B of this trip in Ballachulish, we started out for a short walk into the Lost Valley. A beautiful and wild side valley of Scotland's most famous Glen Coe, sharing the same bloody history.
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Pap of Glencoe and Sgorr nam Fiannaidh

The Pap of Glencoe was the goal of our final hike – an outstanding peak overlooking the sea of Loch Leven and named after, well, it's shape: a nipple… We tried the uncommon direct path uphill, before loosing track and following the remaining animal trails. The good thing about a mountain as conical shaped as the Pap: All trails finally lead to the top. The view up there is breathtaking, almost unreal. It offers an unbelievable panorama of the north-eastern coastline. Just one outlook is blocked by the Pap's neighbouring mountain: the Glen Coe valley. That's why we made a spontaneous decision on our way down: let's climb this mountain of Sgorr nam Fiannaidh, too. Before you ask: I have absolutely no clue what that means or how it's pronounced… At 967 metre more than 200 m taller than the Pap, Sgorr nam Fiannaidh watches over Glen Coe valley to complete our 360° scenic overkill of that day :)
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Bye Bye

How short a week can be… Thank you so much for an amazing week, Scotland, with all your overwhelming landscapes and shaggy natives!
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© 2017 Benedikt Altschuh