Travel, Uncategorized

Riga, Latvia 

Walking in and out of the picturesque streets, it would be hard not to think you were living in a medieval fairytale.

Riga, the capital of Latvia and the largest city in the baltic states, is a city that may not be the most popular destination for tourists. To be honest, before I left for Riga my parents had to ask me about 4 or 5 times where it was and what it was like and still never had a scooby about it prior to me leaving. However, for those who have experienced it’s beauty and charm would argue the case all day long that visiting Riga should be up there at the top of your bucket list and after visiting I couldn’t agree more.

The city that boasts a population of over 640,000, was voted European capital of culture in 2014 alongside Umeå in Sweden. With so much to see and do with such little time, I decided to stay in the old town for the 3 nights that I was there and man am I glad I did!

The old town is honestly like something out of a fairytale, with an eventful history spanning over 800 years it’s a place you can feel the history in every street that you walk down. The streets are filled with bars, restaurants, cafes, hotels and shops and a landmark is never more than a 5 minute walk away. Famous for it’s Art Nouveau/Jugendstil architecture It’s easy to see why the old town is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.

I stayed just round the corner in a hostel from St Peter’s church, a Lutheran church dedicated to saint Peter. With a great view of it from my room I honestly couldn’t help but stare at it, even in passing I would stop for a minute or two to check it out every single time I passed it. It truly is a remarkable and astonishing building.

Another landmark which overlooks the old town is the freedom monument. A monument that honours the soldiers who were killed in the Latvian war of independence. Again, this was another landmark I couldn’t help but stop and stare at every time I passed it. Even for someone who has no ties to Latvia in anyway whatsoever I still felt a great amount of respect and pride for the Latvian people whilst looking at the monument, although perhaps being a Scotsman who longs for independence could have played a part in that.

One of the things that stood out for me about Riga was how cheap everything was. €7 for a decent meal at a restaurant, €3 for a pack of cigarettes and €2 for a beer! Ill say that again, €2 for a beer! Absolutely magic. To put it into perspective I read that if you want to save money you should buy a bus ticket for €1.15 at a designated area before getting on a bus, as you will then have to fork out €2 for a ticket if you buy it on a bus. When I read that all I could think was that people think that €2 for a bus is dear? That’s a bargain compared to back home. I also got a taxi from the airport to the hostel when I arrived aswell which cost me €12, for the same journey length back home it would have cost me more than double, potentially treble that. So it was happy days!

With so many landmarks, museums and gorgeous streets, there is so much to see and do in Riga. To be perfectly honest though I believe that if you’re travelling yourself, then 3 days is the perfect amount of days to visit. If you’re travelling with friends however I’d recommend staying a bit longer.

If you ever get the chance to visit then do it, I honestly can’t recommend Riga enough to you. It’s one of those cities that leaves a smile on your face when you think about it and it’s one of those cities that will always be with you.


Oh and for smokers, at Riga International Airport (RIX) after security there are plenty of smoking areas for you to enjoy a wee fag so you don’t have to wait ages for a cigarette. Hope this helps.

As usual, happy travels!

Cùm gàidhlig beò! 

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Travel, Uncategorized

Why I’d recommend staying in a hostel 

As someone who has stayed in lots of different hostels in lots of different countries, I can honestly say that I would be lost without them. They are more than just an alternative to hotels, they are quite honestly an asset to people like myself who love to travel but are restricted when it comes to money.

I write this today whilst sitting in my room in the red nose hostel, in old town Riga. In a single room which has cost me £55 for 3 nights. I decided to opt for a single room instead of sharing which would have saved me £35 because it was a deal I couldn’t refuse. A room to myself with a shared bathroom, something I can live with. A bargain. A night in a hotel for the same amount of time would have cost me well over £100, and the only difference being is that I would have a bathroom to myself. Again, that’s something I don’t mind doing without.

The room I’m currently staying in 

The hostel itself is a money saving gem that makes life so much easier if you’re like me and travelling on a budget. An excellent location, within 5 minutes walk from the main sites, shopping centre, and with pubs, bars and restaurants all around it it saves the need to spend lots of money on transport. The room may be fairly basic but the hostel in general has everything you really need concerning your basic needs including a kitchen and washing machines. Which again is perfect if you’re on a budget.

The view from my room 

Most people tend to have preconceived ideas when it comes to hostels, the hostel films probably not helping those preconceived thoughts much either. The thought of sharing a room with strangers can be a daunting prospect. The language barriers, the clash of cultures, the lack of privacy, the “are they going to murder me in my sleep” thoughts, we all have them. It’s natural. The funny thing is that 90% of the people that you’ll share a room with will be in the same position as you and more than likely share the same thoughts. I can honestly say that in all the times I’ve shared a room in a hostel I’ve only ever had one bad experience, and that was one person who was really noisy when I was trying to sleep. That’s my only negative experience, and it isn’t really that bad if when you think of it.

You don’t always need to share with someone though, like I mentioned above I’m currently staying in a room by myself at a much lower price than a hotel. So if staying yourself is your preferred option or if you’re not quite ready to take the leap to staying with strangers then it’s always worth a wee look to see if you can get a deal on a room in hostel.

If you’re looking to meet people on your travels, hostels are a great place to start. The beauty of hostels is that you never know who you’re going to meet, that’s one of the things I love most about them. When I was in Berlin I went out on a pub crawl with others who were staying at the hostel, and for two nights I never got back to my room until 4 & 6 am. I ended up becoming good friends with a group of English guys and a group of Irish girls, some of who I still keep in contact with more than a year later. The people I met in Berlin made it the best holiday I ever I’ve ever went on, that’s when I truly fell in love with hostels. In my experience I’ve found that the people who I’ve shared a room with have usually been sound. They’ll engage in conversation with you whether it be small talk, in depth conversations or even a simple hi. Everyone is different. As I said earlier though, the majority of people are in the same boat as you so it makes talking to them a little bit easier.

Probably the greatest thing that can come out of staying in a hostel is the confidence you get from it. Once you prove to yourself that you can do it, it opens up so many different windows for you for your future. After that dreaded first night is out the way, you’ll feel amazing. You’ll feel like a new person and begin to discover so much more about yourself and your limits than you previously knew, it’s honestly a life changing experience. And once that fear you once had about sharing a room with strangers disappears, it will put you in a better position than ever for any future travels you may have or aspire to go on.

Happy travels and as always,

Cùm gàidhlig beò! 

Travel, Uncategorized

Bratislava 

Bratislava is a city unlike any I have ever been to before. It boasts a population of 450,000 and is the capital of Slovakia, the only national capital in the world to border two countries, with those being Hungary and Austria. The beautiful buildings, landmarks and streets that make up the city makes Bratislava look like the kind of city you wouldn’t see out of place in a fairytale.

For a Scotsman in a European city there was only one thing that stood out the most for me though, it is really cheap, like seriously cheap! You tend to find that when you travel abroad you have to limit yourself to a budget for each day, but in Bratislava even when you’re living like a king or Queen you have the potential to underspend which is awesome! I was eating meals, drinking several pints in different restaurants and bars and my cheque was rarely over €10 each time which is phenomenal!


Before I got there I was a bit worried as I had a preconceived idea about eastern Europeans being rough and the cities being rough places, that was ignorance on my part. Once I got there, I discovered that the people were some of the friendliest you could meet with the vast majority being able to speak at least some basic English. Perhaps the most ironic thing being that I have felt safer in Bratislava than I have in the majority of cities I have visited.

What is there to do?

For a relatively small city there is plenty to keep you busy with, with the old town in particular being full of landmarks, sites and views that will make you fall in love with Bratislava:



There are numerous places in Bratislava such as Bratislava castle, Michael’s Gate, St Martin’s cathedral, Slavín, Roland fountain, Man at work, Devin castle, Bratislava zoo, Slovak national museum, old town hall etc and so many more. One of the perks about Bratislava is that it is a relatively quiet city, unlike many other cities where you struggle to walk down the street due to the number of tourists. There are very few quese and most of the landmarks provide you with breathing space, unlike in other cities.

I am currently sitting writing this in the Kava bar just off Zamocka Street, a smashing wee hipster cafe that appears to be pretty popular with the locals. It’s moments like these that I love when I’m abroad, chilling out watching the world go by, embracing the culture. There are plenty of little gems like these throughout Bratislava, be sure to check one out if you get the chance!



A walk down by the river Danube or a walk over the most snp is also a really enjoyable walk, giving you spectacular views of Bratislava. The Slovak pub is also a must when visiting, with amazingly tasty food and drink available for very cheap prices it’s easy to see why it has such a great reputation. The food is honestly out of this world!


How to get there

Bratislava airport (BTS) is the airport which serves the city. Situated about 5.6 miles outside of the city centre, there are several buses that go between the airport and the city centre. If you take the number 61 bus from the airport it will take you to the main train station, Hlavna Stanica. The number 93 bus will take you from there to the city centre. An hour ticket for the bus will cost you around €1.30, remember what I was saying about it being cheap?! If you do decide to take the bus make sure you buy your ticket before boarding the bus and make sure you get it validated when you get on, as at occasional stops a conductor will get on to double check tickets so you’re better safe than sorry!


Travelling to Vienna

I would highly recommend taking a day trip or an overnighter to Vienna whilst you’re in Bratislava. With the cities being so close it’s well worth the while taking advantage of. There is a direct train from Bratislava (Hlavna Stanica) to Vienna central station (Wien Hauptbahnhof) called the city shuffle which lasts around an hour and a half. I purchased a one way ticket from Bratislava for €12 and a one way ticket from Vienna for €10, so it’s very affordable. The two cities are unique in their own ways, Bratislava being the small, cute and cheap city and Vienna being the big, mesmerising expensive city. I will do a post on Vienna at a later date.


Bratislava is a wonderful little city that if you get the chance to visit, you should definitely go to! From the narrow streets of the old town to the spectacular sites and views it is a city that you will be sure to fall in love with. Happy travels!


Cúm Gàidhlig beò!

Places to visit Scotland, Travel, Uncategorized

Pittenweem

“Pittenweem, Pittenweem,
She’s every fisher laddie’s dream;
She guts the herrin doon by the quay,
And saves her kisses just for me.”

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Ahh Pittenweem (Baile na h-Uaimh in Scottish Gaelic), the beautiful little picturesque seaside village which sits on the coast of the kingdom of Fife. Sitting 11 miles south of St Andrews, the small fishing town with a population of around 1,700 people should be on your bucket list if you’re ever in the vicinity. Famous for its fish which are popular with families all across Scotland, it’s a village with a fascinating yet dark history.

What started off as an early Christian settlement many centuries ago, it was awarded the status of a Royal burgh by King James V in 1541. In 1705 it was the scene of a famous murder, in which a woman named Janet Cornfoot was falsely accused of being a witch and was lynched to death by a mob of locals. It’s history regarding witches is well worth a look into, as it’s very interesting.

The village is one that I hold close to my heart, with several of my relatives living in the village it’s a place where I spent a good number of days as a child visiting. It is also the place where my brother and my papa were laid to rest after they both sadly passed away, my brother loved it so much as a bairn that my parents decided it would be the best place to honour him. So it’s a place that holds a sentimental value to me naturally.

Onto a cheerier note though, if you’ve ever watched the visitscotland promo videos there’s a good chance you will have seen Pittenweem. Which brings me onto my next point, what to do?

The main place to go is the harbour, the views of the village from the pier is incredible. It is such a beautiful view, with the boats, shops and houses in the background it gives you a homely/calm feeling. It’s the type of view you would expect to see on a postcard. If you do visit the harbour then make sure you get yourself down to a place called the ice cream shop, the ice cream is truly phenomenal and with the amount of sweets available which are too good to turn down you’re sure to have a sugar rush for days.

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The ice cream shop at the harbour

Pittenweem priory was an augustinian priory which was built in 1318. Built over the ancient sacred cave associated with Saint Fillan, there is a stairwell linking the grounds to the cave but this has been closed off to members of the public. Although the site is now a parish kirk for the church of Scotland, the beautiful building still stands and is very impressive to visit. Most of the fortified east gatehouse still stands which can be dated back to the 15th century, as well as the gate house which is described as “one of Scotland’s best-preserved late medieval houses”.

St fillan’s cave is a hidden cave located on Cove wynd down next to the harbour. Being used as a chapel from the 7th century, it became popular with smugglers who used it for centuries but due to them using it as a rubbish dump the cave went off grid for a long time. In 1935 a horse fell down a hole which led to the rediscovery of the cave, and after being cleared of the rubbish it was refurbished and reopened to the public in 2000. The cave has a locked gate, but a key and an information leaflet are available from the Cocoa Tree Cafe which is close by at 9 High St. It costs £1 for an adult and kids go free. The church also occasionally holds services in the cave.

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St Fillan’s cave entrance on Cove wynd

There are several shops located throughout the town, as well as several beaches. If you’re ever lucky enough to visit when it’s sunny (which is a rarity for us in Scotland) then grab an ice cream and go sit down at the beach, it’s honestly sheer bliss.

 

Pittenweem is a lovely wee village which is the perfect place for a wee day away or a stopover. It is a wonderful example of a traditional Scottish fishing village and the type of place your bound to fall in love with. Happy travels folks!

 

Cúm Gàidhlig beò!

 

Places to visit Scotland, Travel, Uncategorized

Kilmartin

Kilmartin or Cille Mhàrtainn (in Gaelic) is a bonnie wee village in the Argyll and Bute area of Scotland. Famous for the Kilmartin Glen, which is said to have one of the “richest concentrations of prehistoric monuments and historical sites in Scotland”. Seriously though, this place is an archaeologists heaven.

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It’s a village that you won’t often find on the majority of mainstream guides, just like many of the hidden gems in Scotland it isn’t one of the must see places you’ll read or hear about on the tele or online. For someone who travels all over Scotland regularly I only discovered it by accident just recently, and it was honestly the best accident I’ve ever encountered.

What is there to do in Kilmartin?

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Kilmartin Parish Church 

Kilmartin is littered with things to see or do, literally. Kilmartin Glen alone contains over 350 monuments scattered within a 6 mile radius. It’s the location of a number of important Neolithic, bronze age and iron age sites. This includes Temple wood, which consists of North and South stone circles with a burial cist in the middle. It is estimated that these were in use around 3000 bc! Aswell as Temple wood there are several burial cairns, chambered cairns, standing stones and cup and ring marked rocks all within walking distance.

Carnasserie Castle is a ruined tower house approximately 2km north of Kilmartin. It was built around 1565 and 1572 and after being blown up by royalist forces in 1685 it fell into disuse. It was taken over by historic Scotland and is superbly preserved. It is completely free of charge to go in and explore.

The medieval hill fort of Dunadd is another must see site. Believed to be the capital of the kingdom of Dál Riata (an ancient Kingdom of the Scotti tribe) it has been traced back as far as the 6th century. It is free of charge to explore.

Kilmartin parish church dates back to 1835, though there had been previous churches on the site before it. It is home to the Kilmartin stones, 79 ancient grave stones with some dating back as far the 9th/10th century. There has been a lot of theories regarding the stones and having a connection to the Knights Templars, but these theories are unproven. The church also harbours the Kilmartin crosses which are traced back to the 9th/10th centuries. It is open for visitors between 09:00 and 16:00.

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Kilmartin House Museum 

Kilmartin house is an award winning museum which interprets the monuments in the area. It has a collection of excavated artifacts that have been found within the area. It cost £6.50 for an adult and £2 for a child. It is open between 10:00 and 17:30.

The last on the list to visit is Kilmartin Castle, which was built around 1580. It stands above the village and up until recently was up for sale for around a generous price of £400,000.

Getting there

It is based around 8 miles North of Lochgilphead and 30km south of Oban. It is accessible by the A816 which runs through the town. As always I recommend travelling by car, it has so many more pros than cons. If you’re travelling by train, the closest train station is Oban so you would need to get the bus from Oban to Kilmartin. Travelling by bus is a lot easier, there are lots of buses that go to Lochgilphead from Glasgow and many buses that go to Oban from all over Scotland. There are busses between Lochgilphead and Oban daily which pass through Kilmartin.

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If you love history, or are interested in Scottish culture then Kilmartin is the place to be. For a small village it is absolutely packed with jaw dropping sites, monuments and artifacts. It’s a place you will definitely not forget. Happy travels!
Cúm Gàidhlig beò!

Places to visit Scotland, Travel, Uncategorized

Inveraray

Scotland never fails to disappoint when it comes to scenery and history, and Inveraray is a fine example of this. Situated in the Argyll and Bute area of Scotland, Inveraray or Inbhir Aora as it’s known in Gaelic is a unique little town that is hidden away with the closest town Garelochhead being about 14 miles away.

Home to around 650 people it is a small town, but with several landmarks and attractions, the beautiful jaw dropping scenery and the history it boasts of it is a hit with tourists and easy to see why.

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The town was built in the 18th century and is described as “being one of the best examples of an 18th century new town in Scotland”. The town consists of many shops, coffee shops and restaurants. It also has a few popular tourist attractions, which brings me to my main point:

Things to do

For a small town Inveraray certainly has its fair share of things to keep you occupied.

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Inveraray jail is probably the most popular attraction. Built as a 19th century prison and court house it was used as a prison from 1820 until 1889, and carried on as a court house until 1954. It has been converted into a museum now showing what the living conditions were like for it’s prisoners, some as young as 7! It also tells you about individuals who were sent there and gives you an insight to their crimes and punishments. You can either get tickets for it online or at the door, buying online will save you a few bob. Prices are £9.50 for an adult, £5.85 for a child (under 5’s go free), and £8.95 for senior citizens and students.

Inveraray castle is next on the list. The home of the Duke of Argyll, Chief of the Clan Campbell the castle is open to tourists who wish to explore it. The castle has been around since the 1400’s, but the iconic castle you see today was built in the 18th century. Visitors can explore the castle and the gardens, learn about the history of the castle and of Clan Campbell. Prices are £10 for adults, £9 for students and senior citizens and £7 for kids with under 5’s going free.

The two above are the main attractions in Inveraray, but there is plenty to do in and around the area. Why not take in the scenery of the beauty that is Loch Fyne? The longest sea Loch in Scotland. The spectacular scenery overlooking the loch will leave you breathless. With several pubs, restaurants and shops you certainly won’t be stuck for things to do.

When travelling around the Highlands of Scotland I always recommend taking a car to do it, there are just so many places that offer you beautiful views to not stop off at. If you aren’t travelling by car then your next option is the bus. There are a number of buses that go to and from Inveraray from a number of places around Scotland. There isn’t a train station within at least 10 miles of Inveraray so the train isn’t really ideal.

There a good number of hotels and campsites located in and around Inveraray.  There is also a caravan park and plenty of spots to wild camp at. If you are wild camping though remember and check the Scottish outdoor access code before you go.

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If you’re looking for places to visit in Scotland then Inveraray should definitely be up there on your list. With not only the town itself being something special, the drive to and from also offers you some of finest and stunning views in Scotland. If you have any questions or would like to tell us about your experience of Inveraray then please comment down below. Happy travels.

 

Cúm Gàidhlig beò!

Travel, Uncategorized

Dusseldorf

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Rheinturm tower

When most people think of places in Germany to visit, Dusseldorf isn’t probably top of their list. Cities such as Berlin and Munich usually take the limelight with tourists. But like many non mainstream destinations, Dusseldorf is a hidden gem. A city enriched with culture and history, it is one of these places that you should definitely consider visiting in the future.

The capital city of the German state North Rhine-westphalia, Dusseldorf boasts of a population of over 600,000 making it the 7th most populated city in Germany. It is well renowned for its fashion and trade fairs, infact it is known as the fashion capital of Germany. it is also an international business and financial centre. In 2012 mercers quality of life survey ranked Dusseldorf the 6th most livable city in the world, and once you get there? It’s easy to see why.

I visited for a few nights with my friend recently, and to be honest I wasn’t really expecting much but for cheap flights and cheap accommodation it was an opportunity too good to turn down.

Things to do

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The most famous and iconic landmark is the Rheinturm tower, which stands at 280 metre tall and dominates the skyline. The telecommunications tower has an observations deck with spectacular views of the city and surrounding areas, it also hosts a revolving bar and restaurant . It costs €9 for entry, but if you’re looking to save a wee bit of cash then it is only €5 if you go before 11am or after 10pm.

If you want to experience the culture or nightlife then the place to be is Alstadt, the old town. The area consists of many bars, clubs and restaurants and is the place to be at night if you fancy a wee swally. It is also full of different shops so if you want to do a bit of shopping then you should definitely check it out.

There are lots museums in and around the city, with the majority of them being dedicated to art. There are countless ruins, parks, gardens and landmarks scattered throughout the city. Away from the attractions and onto the streets there are plenty of hidden gems, such as the free bookshelves in the streets. The policy is “take one, leave one” meaning that anyone can take a book to read, which I think personally is a brilliant incentive. The German markets are definitely worth a visit aswell, from fruit stalls to rides and attractions they’re sure to keep you entertained or busy.

Getting there

There are two major airports that serve Dusseldorf. Dusseldorf international airport (DUS) which is about a 10/15 minute drive from the city and Weeze airport (NRN) which is around an hours drive away. There is a direct train from DUS to Dusseldorf but not one from NRN. If you are travelling by train from Weeze airport you have to take the shuttle bus to the train station in Weeze, take a train to Kevelaer and then take another train to Dusseldorf. Remember if you are taking a train to make sure you have a ticket before you get on, you can’t purchase them on the train. The train conductor also doesn’t appreciate the “I’m a tourist, I never knew” patter, as we found out…

There are direct busses from both airports too, we never took the bus as it was a tad pricey but looking back now I wish we had as it would have saved a lot of time and hassle.

Dusseldorf is a great place to visit, whether it’s for a day, a week or a month it will not disappoint you. It is a city that will surprise you at every turn, and leave you wanting to go back. So if it’s not already then you should add it to your bucket list, you’ll be glad you did. Happy travels!

Places to visit Scotland, Travel, Uncategorized

Glen Etive

Places to visit in Scotland 

Glen Etive

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As someone who travels through the Highlands of Scotland on a regular basis, I honestly cannot help myself but stop every single time I pass and gaze at the beauty that Glen Etive has on show. It truly is an amazing place.

Glen Etive or Gleann Èite (the Gaelic spelling) is a glen located in the Scottish Highlands. The name Etive is believed to mean “little ugly one” from the Gaelic goddess associated with Loch Etive, which would leave you to believe that those Scots back in the day had a cracking sense of humour as nothing could be further from the truth.

It became semi famous in 2012 after the James Bond film Skyfall filmed a scene there, that left a lot of viewers asking the question “where is that?”. Moving from modern day blockbusters to ancient folklore now, the Fachen is also known as the dwarf of Glen Etive. This being a creature with half a body, a long black mane on it’s back, a mouth extremely wide and having such a terrifying appearance that it’s believed to induce heart attacks for those unlucky enough to see it. So er, try not to stumble across one if you can!

For those avid mountaineers and hill walkers, you’re spoiled for choice at Glen Etive. There are several peaks all around that fill up your view, I’ve made a wee list below:

  • Buachaille Etive Mòr (1,022m)
  • Ben Starav (1,078m)
  • Meail a’ Bhùiridh (1,108m)
  • Beinn Fhionnlaidh (959m)
  • Buachaille Etive Beag (958m)
  • Beinn Sgulaird (937m)

 

The river Etive which runs through is also a popular destination with kayakers. It is supposed to be one of the most challenging whitewater kayaking routes in the whole of Scotland. With grade 4 rapids, and a countless range of waterfalls and pools.

Travelling to Glen Etive can be easiest done by car. Approximately 11 miles to the southeast of Glencoe on the A82 is the road in and out of Glen Etive. It requires a good bit of concentration and observation skills though as it’s very easy to miss, and I mean very easy to miss. If you’re not travelling by car then your best bet is to get a bus to Glencoe and embark on good ole fashioned walking or cycling but with that being said it may take you a few hours, but surrounded by the beauty of the Highlands? I can’t imagine a nicer walk.

There are cottages and campsites available in the area but luckily as “wild camping” is legal in Scotland if you’re planning on camping then you can pretty much do it anywhere you like (within reason) make sure to check the Scottish outdoor association code below before you do though.

http://www.outdooraccess-scotland.com/Practical-guide/public/camping
Whether you’re visiting or just passing by, Glen Etive should be a place on your bucket list. A place you should stop and just take in and embrace the beauty in which the Scottish countryside has to offer.

Travel, Uncategorized

Solo Travelling

So you have your heart set on going somewhere but you have a problem, no one wants or can go with you. The very thought of passing up this opportunity or missing out on your dream trip can be horrible, and leave you in a devastated state with a bunch of what ifs playing on your mind for the rest of your days. But why should the fact no one can travel or join you make you miss out on what could be an amazing life changing experience? The answer is simple, it shouldn’t!

For several years I was always finding cheap getaways online and finding trips abroad which I was desperate to go on. I never did half the things I wanted to do or go to 90% of the places I desperately wanted to go to for the simple fact that, well, I didn’t want to go on my own. This held me back so much. It was killing me inside knowing that I love travelling and had a chance to visit so many different places but just couldn’t because “my friend’s couldn’t”. But not that long ago, in a spur of the moment decision I booked up a single return to Berlin. I just did it, I decided in that moment it was now or never and just went ahead with it. Shizer! That put me in a position where I had to go, or else I would lose out on money, the trip and also further potential bookings. This was a massive step in the right direction and I would emphasise that if you’re ever in that position then go ahead and do it, you will look back in the future and thank yourself for it.

Now of course the very thought of travelling alone can be daunting and scary, it’s only natural to feel that way. It’s funny that when we see a potential opportunity our minds simply focus on the negative elements rather than the positive ones. That was my problem, I grew up in a rough area so my first thought was always “what happens if someone jumps me or mugs me or something even worse?”. Obviously there are some dangers out there in the big bad world, but I’ll go into more detail further down the page.

If you are seriously looking at solo travelling then honestly go ahead and do it. The biggest regret you will have is not doing it. Honestly, you’ll be surprised at what you can achieve when you step outside your comfort zone.

Meeting people:

One of my biggest fears about travelling alone was about meeting people. What if no one speaks English? What happens if they don’t like me? What happens if I have nothing in common with anyone? These are all genuine fears but there’s no need to panic. On my first solo trip I went to Berlin which is an awesome city! But I had all those negative thoughts about meeting people, I spent a lot of time being anxious before I left and when I got there. Fast forward 12 hours from when I first got there and I was like a zombie crawling in the door of my room at the hostel at 05:30 in the morning after having an absolutely amazing night and meeting some awesome people!

There are a good few ways to meet people when you’re travelling, here’s a little list of some:

  1. Pub crawl – I’ve discovered on my travels that many hostels/hotels do pub crawls within the area you’re visiting. Even if the place you’re staying at doesn’t there is sure to be one nearby. Pub crawls will cost you some cash but they are definitely worth it.
  2. Go online – with apps such as tinder and grindr, meeting people close to you is now easier than ever. If you want to try and get to know people prior your arrival why not try searching Facebook for the place you’re staying at to see if there is anyone else like yourself that has written on it. Online forums are usually filled with people looking to meet people, they’re definitely worth a look in aswell.
  3. Face to face Conversation – the hardest but at the same time easiest way to meet people. Staying in a hostel, especially in a shared room you are bound to engage in conversation with the people you’re sharing with. If you smoke, if someone is out having a cigarette at the same time you are why not try and start a conversation? Don’t be scared to talk to people in bars or clubs, or attractions. Making small talk with people can be hard but it can sometimes lead to good friendships.

Travelling by yourself can have it’s perks. The freedom of being able to do what you want, whenever you want, however you want can be amazing! Being able to just get up and do what you want without having to worry about if your friends want to do it or not is great. But, at times it will get tough. If you are going to somewhere where English isn’t the main language it can pose a whole lot of problems. Transportation, currency, and a whole load of other things can cause problems too. When travelling alone you have to make sure you are well prepared well in advance. Here are a few useful tips for planning your trip.

  1. Language – if it is a foreign country you’re visiting, try learning a few useful phrases before you go. Or take a back up list on your phone or on a piece of paper.
  2. Transportation – definitely worth a look into before you go. When I arrived in Berlin it took me over an hour to get the right train, after asking about 10 people and spending about 20 minutes on Google trying to find the right train to take. If you research what trains, buses, trams etc.. You need to take and their times before you go it will save a lot of time and stress for when you get there.
  3. Emergency supplies – when I travel, I always take a few extras just incase of an emergency. I take a small torch, rain poncho, hand warmers and a small first aid box. There is an extremely low chance I’ll need them and they take up a little room but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Taking things such as toilet roll and a pen and paper can always be handy depending on where you’re going aswell.
  4. Documentation – to be on the safe side it is always best printing out confirmations or bookings you have made. Taking more than one copy for things like your boarding passes is ideal aswell, if you keep them in separate places then in the small chance you lose them you should have a backup waiting for you.
  5. Know where you’re going – I know this sounds kind of obvious but it is important you do as much research before you go as you can. Finding out the distances between where you’re staying, attractions, means of transport amongst other things should give you a rough idea. Looking on things like Google maps and perhaps taking a few screenshots or printouts should also help you should you become lost or lose your Internet connection.
  6. Staying safe – regardless of where you’re going, you have to always keep your wits about you. Do a little reading into the area you’re going, see what places people tell you to avoid or that are high in crime. Find out if any crime in particular is common at certain places and be sure to avoid venturing into any neighbourhoods or alleyways that look dodgy. If you’re out after dark always try and stick to well lit or populated areas, and make sure you know where you’re going.

Solo travelling is honestly a life changing experience, you will be amazed at how much you learn about yourself and how much your confidence grows from doing it. You will not regret it, you’ll look back in the future and simply thank and be proud of yourself for going ahead with it. It took me years to finally pluck up the courage to do it, and since then I’ve been a further two times with another two booked for later dates. It is such a big step but it’s definitely worth it. Sometimes you’ve just got to decide to do it, otherwise you’ll look back in years to come wishing that you had. I hope this has helped and if you are going to go on a solo travel of your own, Happy travelling!

If you are looking at travelling and would like to save as much cash as you can check out:

https://outsideofthewell.com/2016/01/12/travelling-on-a-budget-2/

Travel

Travelling On A Budget

 

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Okay, so you want to travel. Travelling is awesome! But, like myself you have a problem. Your skint. Or you want to go and do certain things or go to certain places, but your budget is restricting you. Stupid money. However it is possible to travel on a budget, seriously! I’ve drawn up a list of hints and tips that will hopefully be useful if you’re planning on travelling.

Maybe there’s a week you want to go, a week you have your heart set on. Unfortunately, if it’s an event you’re planning on going for you’re probably going to have to splash a little more cash than you normally would. Airlines and hotels etc will be aware this event is on, meaning that they know there will be a surge of people looking to book up. Ultimately leading them to put the price up. Real nice of them eh?

However, if you’re just looking to travel or go on a short holiday then flexibility may be your key to saving a fortune!

 

Flights

 

  1. I recently pondered buying a return ticket from Glasgow to Vilnius for less than £40, for a couple of days or even a month before it could have cost over £200… I know, not much of a difference eh? The secret is you have to be flexible with your dates, it can be the difference between a £1 and a few £100.
  2. Airlines are always chopping and changing their prices, booking in advance can save you some cash but so can leaving it to last minute. Be careful though with the latter as you may end up leaving it too late and the price may rise instead of dropping. Not exactly what your wanting.
  3. Try every option you can, look at nearby airports in or out of the country you’re planning on going. Say you want to visit Vienna, flights to and from maybe overly expensive and way out within your ideal budget. But say a flight to Budapest is pretty damn cheap. Budapest is 1hr 30 away from Vienna. There’s a direct train and a variety of buses that connect city to city. If you go down this route it may be a little extra hassle but if you’re saving a good deal of money it can certainly be worth it. Plus you can tick another city off your to do list!
  4. A great website for comparing flight prices for different airports on different days is www.Skyscanner.com. This is what I use when booking my flights, it is an actual life saver!

 

Accommodation

 

Depending on what city or country you’re visiting, you’re going to need somewhere to sleep. Unless you don’t sleep, in which case you need help. But I’ve made a wee list on the three main types of accommodation you should look into.

 

  1. Hotels – okay, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that a 5 star hotel is probably going to cost a few bob more than a 1 star hotel. So if you’re looking to live a little lavish for the duration of your stay, depending on where you’re staying you may wish to rethink that. Hotels can be weird yet wonderful, the trick is to try and find one as soon as you can. Don’t leave it to last minute! Hotels in certain places can go like hotcakes, so you might find yourself on to plumbs if you hold off. A long story short, I paid €120 for a hotel in Dublin after a night out that (let’s just say) got a little wild. That was the cheapest accommodation available at that time, and I mean in the whole of Dublin city centre! If you’re going to a city such as Bucharest you can get a 4 star hotel for as little as €35 a night, or a 1 star from €18 and so on. The key is to find out if you’re willing to pay more for that little extra bit of quality, or you’re just happy having the basics in a hotel. But it just goes to show you can get good deals out there.
  2. Hostels – ahh, my favourite kind of accommodation. People can be very pessimistic about hostels, the thought of sharing a room with a whole bunch of strangers can be terrifying and unpleasant. In my experience however, it can be so much better and beneficial to stay in a hostel. Especially if you’re solo travelling. Like recently, I managed to find a hostel in the centre of Vilnius and for 3 nights it was €16. €16!!! That is like £12 for three nights, which is pretty freaking good! On the same date as I mentioned in the hotel section I searched for a hostel in Bucharest, one straight away came up for €6.24 for one night! If you’re wanting to save money and spend as little as you possibly can, hostels are the best way to do it. Sharing a room with a group of strangers can be daunting, but if you engage in conversation with them then you may end up with a friend for life. A lot of the people who stay in hostels are solo travellers from around the world. Different hostels have different activities you can partake in and get to meet new people, some people leave notes on notice boards looking for people to accompany them in either sightseeing or to the pub. If you want to meet new people or want to hang out with people during your stay then hostels are the best way for it. As well as sharing rooms, hostels also offer single rooms and double rooms and so on. The majority of these rooms are a lot cheaper than most hotels. Using Bucharest again, on the same date I found three hostels offering a double room for €22. Another wee tip for using hostels is if you’re travelling in a group of 4 or 6 or whatever, you can buy every bed available in a dorm if you can. This means you are all sharing a room with each other with no strangers, and for also a shed load less money.
  3. Alternative accommodation – Apart from hotels and hostels there are a wide majority of other types of accommodation. Websites such as http://www.homestay.com, http://www.onefinestay.com and many more offer you not only the opportunity to embrace the culture and get some valuable local knowledge but also offer you very cheap prices. www.helpx.net is my favourite alternative accommodation. HelpX offers you the chance to live with locals for free, as long as you’re willing to put in a bit of work. People from all over the world advertise on helpx. The tasks can vary from looking after a dog for a few hours, to working on a farm for a day. It is exciting as well as adventurous, plus it looks good on a cv!

 

Simple ways to save

 

There are many many ways you can save money whilst travelling or on holiday. I’ve put a few wee bullet points on different practices/methods below.

  • Baggage – if you’re planning on going away for a few days then ask yourself “Do I really need a suitcase?”. If a simple bag with a few essentials is all you need then forget the suitcase and just use a decent sized bag. The majority of airlines allow you a generous amount of cabin luggage. If you just use a cabin bag then you can save yourself £30/£40 quid. Which is quite a lot of money.
  • Research travel before you get there – when me and my friends  arrived at El Prat airport in Barcelona the first time I went we realised we had a problem, None of us knew how to get to where our hostel was. We ended up getting a taxi which cost around €40. The second time I went I got a bus to the same part of the city which was only about €6. Search before you go to find the best travel methods, don’t rely on improvisation because you may end up scunnered if you do! A good wee tip is to use the tour buses that operate. The majority of them go to the major parts/landmarks of the city, so using it as a personal taxi can save you a fortune and the hassle of having to get individual forms of transport to and from where you want to go.

I have listed a few things that should (hopefully) help you save a few quid. The best advice however I can give to you is to research thoroughly the place you are going, all the information you need is online but unfortunately you may have to dig deep for it. I wish you all the best for your travels and if you have any additional tips or if any of what I have wrote has helped you then please leave a comment. Happy travelling!