Like so many tourism professionals around the globe, we find ourselves in the unwelcome position of having spare time on our hands in peak season. Amongst all the adapting to the new normal & new protocols to be ready when things do change for the better, we’ve also been reconnecting & rediscovering. In a period of the year when usually we’d be welcoming guests and delivering trips to last a lifetime, we’ve been taking time out to experience more and more of what lies on our very own doorstep right here in the UK. It’s been a little luxury at a time of crisis to be able to experience a ‘British summer’, albeit a most unusual one – as a tourist and not a supplier! As tough and worrying a time as it currently is right now, we are always happy to share some moments of positivity, joy and inspiration from the ASA family with you to brighten your day and remind you as always, we are #strongertogether
We are pleased to announce that Visit Britain have recently confirmed ASA are ‘Good To Go’.What this means is we can assure our customers we are fully compliant with all Covid-19 industry standards and regulations and will endeavour as always to put the health and safety of our valued customers to the forefront of everything we do.
We felt compelled to share a tale of epic discovery with you; based on the recent travels taken by Fiona, our Head of Operations in Edinburgh. In July, Fiona took to the open roads of Scotland with one mission in mind… to experience the REAL Scotland – in all it’s natural glory. Here she shares her incredible photography skills as she documents her journey of solo intrepid travels, peppered with curiosity, wonderment and a great big helping of extreme bravery (wild camping anyone?!)….
“Like a lot of people I have found myself with more time on my hands during the pandemic, so one of the things that I decided to do to occupy my time was to tick off two Scottish road trips from my bucket list whilst I have the free time to do so, and more importantly now that it is safer. After Scotland was officially back open for business on July 15th, I gave it a few days to get back up and running then decided to pack up my car, take myself on a little adventure and complete two beautiful road trips that Scotland has to offer – combining the North East 250 #NE250 and the North Coast 500 #NC500. I gave myself seven days to complete the trip, treating myself to a couple of hotels along the route, but mainly wild camping and with the beautiful weather we’ve been experiencing the last few months and the quieter roads, there’s no better time. As I was doing the trip on my own, I decided that this time around I will focus on making this a nature and outdoors themed road trip, but next time when I’m with friends or family I will make the most of having a designated driver and make use of all the distilleries along the way!
The first day of my trip started on a Monday, going from Edinburgh via the town of Braemar, Cairngorms National Park and Royal Deeside before settling for the night in the city of Aberdeen. After stopping in the quaint town of Braemar for a quick stretch of the legs, I continued on to hike my first munro, otherwise known locally in Scotland as “munro bagging”. A munro is a mountain that is higher than 3,000ft, there are a total of 282 munro’s in Scotland stretching across the mainland and also some of the islands. Whilst in Aberdeenshire I decided to hike the most easterly munro in Scotland, Mount Keen and although I experienced the true Scottish weather during this walk, seeing every season (sunshine, strong winds, rain and sleet!) I managed to complete the walk, bagging my first munro with a cheeky dram of whisky at the summit to celebrate. After a good night’s rest at the Jury’s Inn Aberdeen, the second day of the NE250 I had planned to be a beaches and wildlife day, since the north eastern Aberdeenshire coast is famous for its long beautiful golden sandy beaches, lighthouses and numerous wildlife such as seals and dolphins. The day was spent beach hopping, with two of my favourite beaches being Newburgh Seal Beach/Forvie National Nature Reserve where you can see hundreds of seals relaxing on the golden beach of bobbing in the water and secondly Rattray Head Beach, again a beautiful golden beach hidden away down a single track road and I was lucky enough to have it to myself for a couple of hours, apart from your local friendly seal!
Overall I was truly blown away by the natural beauty of the beaches and how clean and vast they were. I enjoyed the beaches so much that I even decided to spend my first night wild camping at one of the beaches close to Banff, the first time I have ever wild camped, stocked up with snacks and supplies it felt wonderful to fall asleep to the sound of the ocean.
For anyone planning to do the NE250 route, here are a couple of must see stopping points that can’t be missed in my opinion; Balmoral Cairns, Newburgh Seal Beach, Cruden Bay, Pennan and Bow Fiddle Rock.
If wild camping isn’t your thing and you prefer a warm bed then here are some accommodation suggestions that would also make great bases along the journey; Mary Cutler House, Jury’s Inn Aberdeen, Macdonald Aviemore Resort.
Having done a long coastal drive in the rain passing many pre-historic sites, puffins, hairy highland coo’s, surviving the Whaligoe Steps and before I knew it I had reached John o’ Groats, the most northerly point on mainland UK – so now the only way to go was west. I decided to bag another munro whilst in the region, this time the most northerly munro of Scotland, Ben Hope and just about managed not to get eaten alive by midges. So far the wild camping was also going well and not scary at all. Near enough everyone along the route was doing this in campervans, motorhomes, tents, cyclists and motor bikers pitching up everywhere, so I met a some lovely people along the way, however it’s important to remember with wild camping to leave no trace afterwards.
Then just like that, I was back in Inverness the start and end point of the official NC500 route, and after wild camping for the last four nights with a few wild swims in the sea and Loch Laxford, I was ready for a warm bath and proper night sleep in a comfy bed at Kingsmills Hotel!
For anyone planning to do the NE500 route, here are a couple of must see stopping points that can’t be missed in my opinion; Whalighoe Steps, Duncansby Stacks, Smoo Cave, Sango Sands Beach, Achmelvich, Stac Pollaidh, Gairloch, Torridon, Applecross.
Again, if wild camping in the unpredictable Scottish weather is not for you then here are some accommodation suggestions to rest your head for the night during the trip; Kingsmills Hotel, Ness Walk, Macdonald Drumossie, The Torridon Resort, Smoo Lodge, Inver Lodge, Forss House Hotel, Kinlochewe Hotel.
After clocking up just over 1,000 miles on my car in seven days; I had the most amazing time on my mammoth Scottish road trip, from the ever changing scenery and weather along the way, the friendly mix of people I met. It was a trip I will never forget and cherish for a long time to come……and I’ll be back before I know it to certain areas to explore their beauty even more!