6 day Scottish Road Trip Itinerary

“I feel a sort of reverence in going over these scenes in this most beautiful country, which I am proud to call my own, where there was such devoted loyalty to the family of my ancestors – for Stuart blood is in my veins.”

Queen Victoria, journal entry in 1873

This quote represents quite nicely how I feel about Scotland, although my blood is that of the McKenzie’s rather than the Stuarts. I’ve always been proud of my Scottish heritage, with such a large family that I’ve been close to my whole life. Although I did feel slightly uncomfortable walking around the highlands with the name McKenzie and a truly southern English accent!

This trip came about because we wanted to go away for a week to celebrate our anniversary. We debated cheap beach holidays then settled, somehow, on Scotland. A Scottish road trip has been something we’ve wanted to do for a while now, so we thought why not?!  We chose to fly and rent a car rather than drive all the way up from Sussex, seeing as we weren’t planning to dive or anything. That’ll be another trip!


Day 1

We landed in Glasgow at about 3 pm with only our hand luggage and made our way to the car rental place via the shuttle bus provided.  We got given our car, after they tried to swindle us out of an extra £10 a day for the next model up, and we set off. At home we have an almost 16 year old fiesta so a brand new Citroen C1 felt just fine to us! We also didn’t have a sat nav, only the road map I’d bought so we were doing this old school. Leg one of the journey was to get to Fort William for the night. The drive took about 2 hours and we went through the stunning Loch Lomond National Park and Glen Coe. I made James stop so I could get this shot:


There was even a little snow up there still! We didn’t stop again and arrived at our Fort William guest house in good time, a lovely little place over looking Loch Linnhe just before you get into town. Being here, of course I had to take James to see Ben Nevis. I climbed it years ago with my parents and sister, so it was nice going back although I’d forgotten that you can’t see the summit from the road, it’s hidden behind the surrounding landscape. We tried to get a table for dinner at the on-site restaurant but they were full so we ended up in a pub on the high street which was wonderful! The Grog and Gruel is a traditional feeling place with a great menu of pies, burgers and haggis, but also pizza and tex-mex food. After a little walk up the high street we headed back to our guest house for an early night ready for the long day I had planned next. Not before we’d taken some photos of the glorious sunset though!

Day 2

This was by far our busiest and, I think, most enjoyable day. Breakfast was huge, with a Scottish cooked breakfast but then also cereal, toast and a waffle maker on the side! Lucky for me James doesn’t like black pudding so I got double helpings all week. We set of at 9 am with our first stop the Glenfinnan Viaduct, more famously known as the Harry Potter bridge. Unfortunately we weren’t there at the right time to see the steam train but it was very impressive nonetheless and we had it to ourselves.


The structure itself is concrete I believe but the multitude of arches and mountains in the background make it just breathtaking. There is a walk you can do from here to get a better view from the other side but we didn’t have time, we had a ferry to catch!

Next we had to get to the ferry port in Mallaig, a picturesque journey following the railway track. We were there for the ferry to the Isle of Skye, the bit I had been most looking forward to. We left the little port town for our hour crossing to Armdale. The feature image at the top of this post is some of the scenery we had along the way. There’s something so peaceful about layers of mountains fading into blueness like that. It makes you remember how small you are and how insignificant your worries are to the world.

Upon arriving in Skye, we immediately headed north, towards Uig and the mysterious Fairy Glen. This whole island is beautiful with it’s own small mountain range and dramatic scenery. I should say, we were so incredibly lucky the entire week to have glorious sunshine, which made everything so much more inviting. We made it to Fairly Glen by accident actually. James took a wrong turn (which I’d probably told him to take…) so I had to use my phone to get us back on track when I realised we we’d just passed the glen. Even once we arrived in the spot on the map it took us forever to find it. It is not signposted and there were no hoards of tourists to show us the way. To save you time if you ever venture that way, park near the small pond on the right hand side and make your way over the ridge behind the pond. There’s sort of a path, and it will lead you to the glen. When we arrived, eventually, we found circles of rocks that are either meticulously cared for or they are moved regularly. There is also a mound you can climb to get a beautiful view of the whole thing.

The hills here are totally different to the rest of the area. Like they have wrinkles in them, while the surrounding land is smooth. Even when we drove away we could still pick out the place from a distance. Our next stop was the Quiraing. This was a place I’d read about and couldn’t wait to get to. It’s an area in the north east of Skye with some incredible views of the enchanting landscape. We donned our walking boots and set off on what turned out to be a 3 hour hike. But it was so worth it. The path is clearly marked and you begin setting off towards some imposing rock formations, with a stunning view behind you. Then you are led round the back of the mountain for what feels like forever before you start climbing, emerging at the top with a lookout over the sea, my favourite view of the whole trip. The top is a bit marshy, even in the good weather we had so be careful, and there isn’t a well marked path here so just keep heading roughly south until you start to see the descent. From here, you get another breathtaking view of the Quiraing. The descent is tricky and steep, full concentration required.

By now it was about 5 pm. I’d really wanted to climb to see the Old Man of Storr but we just didn’t have time. You can get a reasonable view of it heading south from the Quiraing to Portree but if you stop at the marked car park, you can’t see a thing unless you actually do the walk. In the main town of Portree, we stopped for dinner. At least one fish and chips meal is obligatory on any Scotland visit. My final activity for the day was to go and watch the sunset from the Neist Point Lighthouse, the westernmost point on the island. Everything in Scotland is much further away than you think it’s going to be because of the tiny single roads everywhere. Passing points become your best friend in an attempt not to lose the deposit on the car squeezing by other vehicles, but this slows you down incredibly. We arrived at the car park with probably about 10 mins to spare and I literally ran to find a good viewing point. We didn’t have time to get to the lighthouse itself which is another 20 minutes or so walk away, and with the amazing weather, it seemed everyone else on the island had the same plan as me so the crowds were pretty large. It was a beautiful place, I just wish we hadn’t been so rushed.

Not only was it a mad dash to get there, it was also a mad dash to make it to our hostel and collect our key before the office shut. And now with it being dark, the roads became even more treacherous. James was amazing, driving as fast as he could with my dodgy directions, getting us to the hostel only 5 minutes late. Thankfully the guy knew we were coming so he’d waited, but he did not seem impressed. We slept very well that night, so exhausted from the day.

Day 3

The next morning we had breakfast at a lovely little cafe across the road with wonderful coffee and gorgeous mountain views. Our first stop this day was the Fairy Pools in south west Skye. This was more than worth the drive. The walk is as long as you choose to make it although the best views of the pools are a little way up. The river is winding and so pretty, with crystal clear waters. I couldn’t resist taking a paddle, the water was so cold, my feet were numb within 2 minutes! If you only have time to do one thing on the Isle of Skye, I’d highly recommend going here. It’s the perfect family walk too.

Then we set off back towards the mainland over the Skye Bridge with our next stop being Eilean Donan Castle. This was the busiest place we’d been to so far, with several tour buses. But listed as the most beautiful castle in Scotland, we couldn’t really drive by so close and not visit. I’d done very little research about this place before we arrived so I was stunned to learn that in the 13th century, this castle was owned by my ancestors, clan McKenzie/MacKenzie! It was very surreal walking where they’d once walked.


From Eilean Donan, we headed towards Gairloch on the west coast. Our drive took us partly along the Coastal Road and was so pretty. Surrounded by mountains, Lochs appearing as if out of nowhere as you turn a corner and barely a single car on the road, we felt as if we were in the middle of nowhere, which was exactly the aim of this road trip. The drives between each destination were as much part of the fun and we made several stops along the way to admire the views.


That night, we’d booked into one of the only hotels we could find in the area, the Gairloch Hotel. It was the strangest place. From the outside it looked amazing, then you walk in and it’s like stepping back into the 90s. All the decor was outdated, and our room was at the end of a long, winding corridor like something out of a horror movie. The room itself was nice and big and clean, but the TV was a tiny 10×10″ thing and the bathroom had some loose fittings. Dinner was an even stranger experience, there were three things to pick from the menu which were then brought out to us within 5 minutes. The waiter also tried to tell me I was ordering wrong by asking for wine before the food…

Needless to say we got out of there as soon as we could and took a walk along the beach to the pub down the road. The walk along the road would have taken about 10 minutes, we decided (after a bottle of wine) to climb over the rocks which took considerably longer and was much more fun. And there was the bonus of another sunset.


Day 4

Day 4 our goal was to get to Inverness. On the way we stopped at two waterfalls and Loch Ness. There are plenty of gorges across the central highlands and the waterfalls that come with those are all free to visit and worth the time. The two we saw had suspension bridges over the river for a good view of the falls.

Just outside of Inverness we stopped at Loch Ness. We ended up parking in a little village that was actually quite a way from the loch. It took us about half an hour through a little residential area and a woodland to reach Loch Ness. Even once we got there, there wasn’t a great deal to see. Despite being the most famous loch, it’s not the prettiest, it’s just one of those things you have to see. That evening we walked into the city from our guest house. We went to take a look at the castle and wandered round the cobbled streets before ending up in a Chinese buffet restaurant (I know, I know). After eating, we walked into a small pub, full of locals that all stared at us when we entered. It was a nice place though, good for people watching and very amusing when a french couple came in to try whiskey for the first time.

Days 5 & 6

Our last two days were spent in the two national parks, the Cairngorms and Loch Lomond. Overall we preferred the Cairngorms. It felt like a bigger space, more wild with more to see. We visited Loch an Eilein, a beautiful walk through peaceful pine forest.

In the Loch Lomond national park, we climbed Ben A’an, a fairly arduous walk for people with our low fitness levels. The view from the top is stunning though, overlooking Loch Katrine.

On our last morning, the day of our actual anniversary, we went to Loch Lomond itself, and walked around the grounds of Buchanan Castle. A lovely way to end our tour. Scotland is an amazing place and visiting slightly out of season in May, meant that we had almost every place we visited to ourselves, adding to the feeling of vastness you get everywhere you go in the highlands.

Although we spent about the same as if we’d gone abroad, exploring your own country is so important and we’d thoroughly advocate anyone to do it.


5 Days in Bermuda on a Budget

Last year, we were lucky enough to visit Bermuda, a tiny island in the middle of the Atlantic. This came about because of a competition we won, giving us flights and 5 nights in this stunning location (the only thing I have ever won, or will probably ever win again). Before October 2015, Bermuda had not been on my radar at all. Everyone has of course heard of the Bermuda triangle and for me it conjured memories of watching The Sword in the Stone as a child, when Merlin jets off there at the end of the film. But it never felt like a real place, just a far away and mysterious island that I’d likely never see.

But as I started researching our unexpected destination, I realised it was very real, with so much to offer! The first thing I learnt (because it was the answer to the competition question) is that Bermuda is actually an archipelago made up of 181 islands. This seemed unlikely and even when we were there I still didn’t believe it until we climbed to the top of Gibbs lighthouse. Apparently every rock with any bit of vegetation counts, no matter how small.

View of NE Bermuda from the top of the Gibbs lighthouse

So we arrived fresh from our British Airways flight to be picked up by a taxi from the Bermuda Tourist Board and taken to our hotel on the opposite side of the country, a 1.5 hr drive. We stayed at Cambridge Beaches Resort and Spa which has an over 13’s policy, and our Water View room was about the same size as our 1 bed flat back home in London…

So we felt slightly fraudulent, in a beautiful room with a stunning view, surrounded by people who’d paid thousands of pounds to be there, drinking our free welcome bottle of wine on the terrace too scared to go and find out the prices at the bar! We did take a walk around the resort though in time to see the sunset.


Anyway, getting to the point of this post, how do you survive in Bermuda when you are on a tight budget? Well, it’s very hard. I should explain, last year James and I were both students with no holiday plans because we couldn’t really afford it. Then we won a trip to a very expensive place… The whole island has a dress code. Beach wear is only acceptable at the beach, and most restaurants request sports jacket and summer dress type attire. At any other time in our lives, this would have been amazing. Just not last year.

So the first morning, after an enormous breakfast, we went to the hotel reception and bought a 3 day pass for the islands public transport, costing $44 each. This seemed like the best way to get around and included all buses and ferries. There are several ferry routes around the islands and this is by far the fastest and most convenient way to travel and lets you see a lot more of Bermuda than by road. I had our day all planned out. We took the hotel shuttle bus to the Royal Naval Dockyard and caught the ferry to St. George’s. This was the first settlement back in 1609. Walking around the pretty town you get a real sense of Britishness. The streets are cobbled with little shops everywhere. We went for lunch at a place we’d seen in the hotel welcome pack, Wahoo’s Bistro and Patio. It had a lovely view over the water and we both ordered the cheapest thing on the menu at $22 each. The waitress didn’t seem impressed with us. After eating, we ended up in the town square just as some locals were starting a re-enactment of the tradition of dunking. A woman had been accused of nagging her husband and was sentenced to 10 dunks (I know…). She was placed on a seat at the end of a large see-saw contraption and James was roped in to help hold the other end with 3 other unsuspecting bystanders. The whole spectacle was very amusing and drew quite a crowd. James and the others let go of their end to dunk her, then grabbed it to pull her up again.

From St. George’s, we got the bus to the Crystal Cave in Hamilton parish. This is an absolutely must do itinerary item for any trip to Bermuda. There are two caves you can visit, which we did, costing $30 (or $22 for 1 cave). Crystal cave is probably the most visited and slightly more impressive although Fantasy cave has some rare stalactite formations which was fascinating. The water was so turquoise and clear. You aren’t allowed to swim here though. Because we went in May, slightly before high season, we almost had the caves to ourselves. It was so cool and peaceful and the guides are very knowledgeable on the geology of the area. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit.

Close to the caves there is the Blue Lagoon. This took a bit of exploring to find, it isn’t signposted at all. Google maps to the rescue! Thankfully this is free to visit and very pretty. Here, you are allowed to swim but we hadn’t brought any swim stuff and didn’t fancy stripping down in front of the few people around. There were some fish in the water and it could make for an interesting snorkel perhaps. From here, we got the bus back to our hotel, stopping at the supermarket down the road to pick up some dinner. This was our attempt to save money and we certainly felt like proper students having our picnic on the balcony.

Days 2 and 3 we spent diving. We chose to book with Dive Bermuda because we have a friend that works there. This was our treat, it wasn’t cheap. We spent $300 each for 4 dives, not including equipment rental because we’d taken our own, again to save money. That was a fun bus journey at 8 am! At $75 per dive, this is about double what we’d pay in the UK and if I’m totally honest, I wasn’t too impressed with the quality of the diving. We did two wrecks, each one barely a mile offshore directly out from the dive center. Considering there are roughly 700 wrecks around the island, we felt a bit cheated just being taken to the closest ones. The water was 21-23 °C and there wasn’t half as much life as we were expecting. The corals weren’t too inspiring either. Having looked forward so much to this part of our trip we were quite disappointed. The dive center itself was very well run and the staff were great, we just wish they’d taken us to some more interesting wrecks. I suppose that’s partly our fault for not researching it better and requesting where we wanted to go. Apart from the visibility, I definitely prefer UK diving. The most interesting thing we saw was an octopus.


After our first day of diving, we went for a walk along the famous Horseshoe Bay beach. If you keep going, you get to some rocks which you can climb to get to Angle beach, then Jobson’s cove and eventually Warwick Long Bay. The further east you go, the pinker the sand gets and the less people there are. I spent several minutes trying to get a photo portraying the accurate sand colour.  If you look closely, it’s actually individual grains of pink sand mixed with white sand. There is an artist who collects the pink grains and makes beautiful pieces of jewellery with it.

It was also this day that we climbed the lighthouse. I hadn’t previously checked the opening times and we were lucky to arrive 10 minutes before closing (5pm). If I remember rightly it was only $3 each to go to the top, by far the best value attraction we found. It was cloudy that evening so the view wasn’t as stunning as it could have been but even so, it’s pretty impressive being able to see all four corners of the country.

On our last full day, we had planned to rent bikes and cycle the length of the old railway. I’d read this is an amazing way to see the island, but we felt like this would be a lot of effort after an already very active 3 days. So instead we got the ferry back to St. George’s and walked around the forts that are dotted at that end of the island. We started at Gate’s Fort, and made our way along the north east coast to Fort St. Catherine. On the way we stopped at the famous glass beach of Building Bay. There wasn’t as much glass as I’d expected but it was worth a visit nonetheless. The whole coastline there is simply stunning. Green grass giving way to unbelievable blues of the ocean, every step of the way. Every now and then there are little paths leading to the rocks. The whole journey took us about 4 hours but we were taking our time and made a few stops. At Fort St. Catherine, we stopped for a drink at a beach bar. We didn’t go inside the fort because we didn’t feel it would be a good use of our last dollars. It’s the only fort on the island you have to pay for. Our last stop before heading back to St. George’s was Tobacco Bay, again a famous place. Of all the beaches we’d seen, it was the noisiest. There was a beach hut playing music and it seemed like a tourist attraction more than a beach. It was pretty though.

Our last night in Bermuda we were taken out in the capital, Hamilton, by our friend, Matt. It was messy and I’ll not elaborate except to say that going out with the locals always guarantees a good night. I spent the following morning on a sun lounger waiting for our flight and feeling very sorry for myself.

All in all, we enjoyed our trip to Bermuda but won’t be going back until we’re in a position to not worry so much about spending. My lasting impression of this place is that it’s the best possible combination of England and America. Everyone is super polite, there’s a real sense of pride about being Bermudian, and all the houses are painted in bright colours like a picturesque countryside village. Our taxi driver told us its a requirement to repaint your house every 5 years so they always look pristine! But then at the same time, everyone has an american accent and there’s something distinctly non-British about the place that I can only attribute to the american influence. The whole country felt almost too perfect to be true. I remember clearly saying to James it felt like we were in a film set. We did find out that there is actually quite a high crime rate, but this never affects the tourists and walking around we just did not see anything at all that hinted at it.

This is not a typical backpackers destination. We took £600 worth of dollars with us and came back with about $5… and we were being mostly very frugal and careful. Not including what we spent on diving. But if you like beaches and golf, its a wonderful place. Thinking back now I have mixed feelings. I’d like to go back someday but I feel like we went at least 10 years too early to really make the most of it. But it is a beautiful country and we were so grateful for the chance to visit.


The Magic of the Red Sea

My first trip to the Red Sea is something I will never forget. We touched down in Sharm el Sheikh with our diving friends, eager to experience Egypt. The first thing that hits you is the heat. From the air conditioned airplane you walk out into what feels like volcanic heat. A shock if you have never experienced such heat before. Then there’s the struggle to get through the airport and buy your visa from one of the guys not charging an extra $5, then out into the car park to find your transfer vehicle. But that’s the charm of travelling is it not? And the following day when we got our first glimpse of the sea, it was all worth it.


50 shades of blue. That feeling of an overwhelming urge to jump in the water overcame me immediately. Having only dived in the UK and Mediterranean before, this was a complete revelation to me that the water could be so clear and so blue. All our kit was loaded on to the boat by the Egyptian crew, who throw cylinders around like it’s a game, and we set off. That first dive in the crystal clear water is so clear in my memory, as if I’ve just come back from the boat. It was just a check out dive for the guides to assess our levels and the reef was maybe 10 m below us. Descending to the colourful reef and being able to see every single diver, brings me even now so much joy just thinking about it.


If you are reading this as a diver, you will know there is no better feeling than that of weightlessness when you are only diving in a shorty 3mm wetsuit. Having trained in the cold UK water, we were used to cumbersome drysuits, three layers of clothing underneath, hoods, and in my case dry gloves. So this was a totally new experience for everyone in our group. Your head is no longer encased in neoprene so you can move it freely to look at things. You feel so light floating there over the fish, in the fish. It’s just magical. You can hear nothing but the gentle stream of bubbles from your regulator. Total peace. In 28 degree water with 50 m visibility at least. I cannot urge anyone enough to try scuba diving if you haven’t already. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever done before.

And then there’s the life. More fish than I have ever seen even in an aquarium. Everywhere you look there’s little orange anthias, silver sergeant majors, trigger fish, brightly coloured wrasse, clown fish, the list could go on. When you are close enough to the reef, you glide through the hoards of fish darting about you and they let you through like a parting curtain, close enough to touch and yet somehow always just out of reach. As a biologist, I am always fascinated by life on the reef and love to look closely for the small creatures; nudibranchs, corals and hermit crabs are some of my favourites.  For more underwater life photos, check out my instagram page @macro_scuba .

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On some of our deeper dives in the Ras Mohammed National Park, we were lucky enough to see schooling jack fish and barracuda. The school is several meters high and wide, completely dwarfing any diver. They are not too scared of divers either meaning you can get fairly close for a totally surreal experience.

Also on our trip we got to do a couple of night dives. The difference a few hours and the darkness makes is just astounding. A totally different set of life is seen at night. The turtles and the parrot fish go to sleep, the latter creating a cocoon of mucus around themselves, and the octopus and spanish dancers come out. In the dark there is no visual reference of your position in the water so you are reliant on your depth gauge and good buoyancy. It can be slightly unnerving at times. And if you hide your torch light you are immersed into blackness with only the disco-like flashes of other divers torches around you. What we weren’t told, is that lion fish are attracted by torch light. Although seen during the day, these fish are often more active at night and you must be careful not to get stung by one following your light!

Leaving the harbour for our night dive

All in all, Egypt was an incredible place. The people are so, so friendly and helpful and although there is heightened security at the moment, never once did I feel unsafe. It is a beautiful country with so much to offer and such a lovely atmosphere. I can’t wait for my next visit! Since this trip I’ve written about, James and I have been back to Egypt, which I will write about soon! For now I’ll leave you with some more photos from a stunning holiday.

Dolphins! Mother and baby
Shameless selfie
View from the surface
Best dive buddy
Underwater landscape
Snorkelling on my surface interval

Thinking out loud

So some of you may be thinking after reading my last post, why on earth have we started a blog when we don’t plan to go off travelling for another 4 months??!

Well, I got a little over excited, as I’m sure many of you can relate. I was procrastinating trying to avoid writing my PhD thesis and decided to come up with a name for our blog, which turned into designing a logo, and now here we are. (As I write this I am yet again procrastinating…but it’s a Sunday so that’s ok.)

To fill the time between now and October, I’m going to be sharing some of the trips we’ve been on in the past but for today, I want to talk a little about mine and James’ travel expectations.

Seeing the world is something we’ve always wanted to do, although we didn’t know we were both thinking it until January this year. On our way home from an exhausting trip visiting family over Christmas, I jokingly said next year we should spend the holidays abroad. We started talking about it and decided that actually, once I finish my studying, this is the perfect time to go off and travel. James would be looking to change jobs in September anyway so what’s a six month break?

And I’m terrified.

Of what exactly? I don’t know. The unknown I suppose. Which I’m reliably informed is totally normal. I’d love to hear your stories of how you felt before your first big trip! Please comment below so we can read them!

We are lucky in that we both have supportive families who all think this is a great thing. And they all offer advice on what to expect, from tips on how to avoid getting ill, to how this is going to change our perspective on life. A little while ago I was watching Dara O’Briain and Ed Byrne in their three part series ‘Road to Mandalay’. At the end Dara said something which resonated with me and it’s that travelling doesn’t owe you anything. You come home with incredible memories of the times you had and how you felt in those times but to expect it to make you into a new person is, in most cases, a little too optimistic.

I may be totally wrong. I have no idea what’s going to happen or how things will change and that’s all part of the excitement. But unless we decide to never come back and keep travelling forever, I expect that in 10 years time, this period in my life will feel like a beautiful dream.


Next time… The magic of the Red Sea



We are James and Maxine and together we are going to write about our adventures across the globe. We hope you’ll join us!

We are a couple from London and met 8 years ago at our university scuba diving club. We have so far travelled to Egypt, Malta, Bermuda and the Canary Islands for our diving but have a long, long list of places yet to visit. It’s not all about diving though and we generally love the outdoors, hiking, exploring and testing our sense of adventure!

In four months time, we are setting off on a six month trip. James is quitting his job and we are heading to Asia, first stop – India.

Sign up to follow our progress and join the adventure…