Thanks to a nice 2-week spring break, I’ve finally had a chance to explore Scotland on more than a one-day trip—and it was amazing!
My boyfriend came out to visit, and we went to Inverness and Loch Ness, Portree (Isle of Skye), Glasgow, Loch Lomond, and Edinburgh. This was about as big an adventure for me as coming to study at St. Andrews in the first place, because I have never been solely in charge of planning a vacation before. Travelling: bus tickets, train tickets, walking distance, a combination thereof; hotels: cheap but safe, near to a bus stop, available; day plans: how much can we fit into one day, how much do we actually want to do, do I need to book any tickets in advance—it was a lot! But in the end, I do not think it could have gone better. The weather was sunny a lot more often than the weather sites predicted, our hosts were wonderful, the B&Bs were nice, we loved our meals, and we never missed a train or bus.
The public transportation system played a major role in how well the vacation went, because in Scotland you have to be 21 to rent a car, and I’m still only 20. The ability to take a train or bus to almost any major city in Scotland, and then get around the city even more with smaller bus systems, made the vacation possible. More than that, I was amazed by how much the public transport is respected here. If cars see a bus turning a corner toward them, they will stop early to let the bus have extra room to maneuver (necessary because the streets here are pretty narrow), and almost always once the bus pulls aside at a stop and then has to merge back in to traffic, it never takes them more than a couple seconds. In return, I’ve had bus drivers pull to the side if they are on a narrow road to let cars stuck behind them pass, and had many who drop their passengers off almost anywhere they need, not just at the major stops (this might be more common in off-peak season, but even so). All of this surprised me mainly because it is such a stark contrast to back home. In America it is difficult to get anywhere without your own car. Certainly, Scotland being a smaller country helps with the transport, but I rarely hear people traveling to other places in America by bus or by train. It’s all we can do to encourage ourselves to take public transit to work. Moreover, the buses back home (Seattle) are not treated with a lot of respect. Cars will dart around them as soon as they spot an opening, often dangerously, or will be hard-pressed to let them move over a lane when it’s rush hour. The drivers do not talk to their passengers as many of ours did. It is overall a much less pleasant experience.
The trip also gave me a great glimpse at how beautiful Scotland is. The trip took us in a decent loop around the country, so we got to see mountains, forests, large grassy plains, and an extraordinary number of lakes (“lochs”) and rivers. I think a big part of Scotland’s allure is that though there are plenty of crowded cities, you do not have to travel too far to find yourself in a forest or next to a loch with good hiking. Sure, it might be windy almost every day of the year, and the weather is just as likely to be glorious sunshine as it is steady rain, but the splendor of the water and mountains makes up for it for me.
After such a wonderful break I am less than excited to run back to my classes, but it was a much-needed break from school and a good reminder about some of the reasons why I was excited to come explore Scotland: it is full of great people and beautiful scenery. I hope to have more chances to do travel in the future. The crazy thing is there is only four more weeks of classes! We get two full weeks to study, and then finals are spread out over two weeks as well—and during one of those two study weeks I hope to travel a bit more.