Scotland 2016 – Day 1

First things first.  I am not in Scotland (yet).  I’m in London.  After what has to have been my worst travel experience to date, I am spending the night at a mediocre airport hotel close to Heathrow.  Oh, you want to hear the story?  Don’t mind if I do…

Last night’s journey to London Heathrow

Everything started out fine.  I got to Logan Airport on time, went through security, and boarded the plane a little before 7PM last night.  The flight was scheduled to leave at 7:20PM, and we pushed back from the gate around 7:30.  Then we stopped.  And sat half-backed-out for about 15-20 minutes before the captain came on to let us know the thud we heard was actually a blown tire.  (I didn’t actually hear anything, but I’ll take their word for it.)  No problem… it will be about 30 minutes to replace the tire and we’ll be on our way.  FIVE HOURS LATER (I’m not making this up), we finally left the ground in Boston after midnight.  By that point, they had wined and dined us and we were all great friends sharing the common predicament of knowing we would miss our connections in London.  Not so bad for the people headed to Glasgow or Rome.  Not so great for someone heading to Inverness where there is one flight per day.  

Scotland 2016 007
Somewhere over England

Of course, once we got to Heathrow, there was no place for us to park, so we spent another half hour waiting for a gate to open up.  We finally got off the plane around 11:15AM.  If you’re keeping track, that is nearly 12 hours on the plane.  Off I go to the flight connections desk.  Along with everyone else.  It took another hour and a half to get my flight sorted out.  Long story short, there are no other flights (or connections) to Inverness today, and tomorrow’s flight is already oversold.  (My one guaranteed option for tomorrow was an early morning flight to Belfast connecting to a turboprop to Inverness.  You might remember the entire reason I booked with British Airways was to avoid taking a turboprop.  No go for Laura.)  So I now have a guaranteed seat on Saturday’s flight to Inverness, with the possibility of going tomorrow if any seats open up.  I have to go back to the airport in the morning to try to fly standby, but if not, it will be Saturday before I get there.  

I politely asked if I could pick up my luggage and was told it would be waiting for me on the carousel when I got down to baggage reclaim.  30 minutes through immigration and I was standing at carousel 8 watching a bunch of bags go around and around, none of them mine.  Another line?  Why not!  This one was at the baggage counter where a shift change was about to happen.  This probably seems like no big deal, but apparently the entire staff has the same hours, so there was a long period of time where no one was actually manning the baggage counter.  I finally got to the front of the line and was told my bag was taken to the “drop chute” because I hadn’t claimed it.  Eventually, they found someone to go retrieve it and I was on my way.  

Park Inn
Park Inn London/Heathrow

Thanks to British Airways, I have a hotel room for the night with dinner and breakfast included.  And I have to say, the restaurant menu actually looks pretty good!  (Edit: The menu looked great; the “delayed flight voucher” entitled me to a lackluster buffet in a back room with other displaced passengers.  However, the dessert buffet made up for the rest of the meal!)  Unfortunately, I had to call both the rental car company (who told me they couldn’t just hold a car for me indefinitely) and the original hotel for the night (who told me their cancellation policy is 28 days so I would be charged for the night anyway).  I’m hoping when I get home I can find some sympathy (in the way of cash/vouchers) from British Airways to take some of the sting out of that part of it.

Anyway, aside from all of that, my first day of vacation was pretty boring and uneventful :).  I am beyond exhausted at this point.  Had I gotten here earlier, I might have gone into London or somewhere else for a while, but I didn’t get to the hotel until about 3:30PM.  I plan to spend the rest of the day reading, watching British television, eating dinner, and then heading to bed.  I have to be up early for my standby flight in the morning!  

Scotland 2016 – Day 0

ScotlandToday’s the day.  In a few short hours, I’ll be on my way across the pond again for a long-awaited two-week visit to northern Scotland.  I wasn’t supposed to be going to Scotland this summer.  I had long been planning on a trip to Germany and Austria for this year’s summer vacation.  But upon the suggestion of a stranger on TripAdvisor last summer, I started looking at pictures of the Isle of Skye and the Outer Hebrides online.  It was one of those times where my heart made the decision before my mind had a chance to catch up.  I knew without a doubt I would be heading to Scotland after seeing those pictures and reading about this remote part of the world.  And I never doubted my decision.  After waiting until I was reasonably sure we wouldn’t be having any more snow days, I booked the trip.  Then, of course, we had two more snow days.  Good thing I left myself a few days’ cushion after the end of the school year!  

One thing you should know about me is that I am incredibly claustrophobic.  I have gotten better over the years, but I still get myself pretty worked up when I am in a small space.  (I used to avoid elevators like the plague!)  So I was all set to book my flights through London on British Airways, and I decided to double-check to see if there were any other connecting flights to Inverness from Boston.  Lo and behold, Aer Lingus had a flight through Dublin, transferring to a regional airline turboprop.  The thought of stopping in Dublin appealed to me; the turboprop did not.  After searching for pictures of the interior of the plane and sufficiently driving myself crazy, I decided (despite the significant savings) if I was that nervous just thinking about it, I should stick with my original plan.  A layover in London it is!

Scotland Map
Map of my journey to Scotland

So I’m off to Inverness, Scotland.  Inverness is a small city/large town in north central Scotland.  I considered flying into Edinburgh or Glasgow, but not being a city person, I decided I’d be much happier skipping them altogether.  My flight lands in Inverness at 11:25 BST tomorrow morning, and I plan to pick up the rental car and hightail it out of the city.  My first stop is Torridon, a small village on the Applecross Peninsula, for two nights.  The whole area has a population of about 400 people.  My kind of remote place!  From there, I will head to the Isle of Skye for four nights, then ferry out to the Outer Hebrides, where I will spend six nights before heading back to Inverness and eventually back to Boston.  I’m not a city person at all, and this trip is far enough off the beaten path that I expect to enjoy lots of solitude and relaxation.  I’m looking forward to walking on beautiful white sand beaches, eating afternoon scones at quaint cafes, and hiking to iconic vistas.  (I think it goes without saying that what I’m most looking forward to is drinking English cider!)  Although I’m not a city person, I do like my creature comforts, so I’ll be staying in larger towns and villages so I can (hopefully) also enjoy some live music and pub culture in the evenings.  If you click on the map above, you can see my route through the Scottish Highlands and Islands!