Rolling (Solo) on a River Cruise Through Scotland

Cruise, Scotland — By on November 23, 2011 at 12:19 am

Scotland River Cruise

Lost Girl Sophie McGovern had never traveled solo, but after a serious relationship ended, she decided to book a river cruise—and a one-way ticket to self-discovery.

A rugged, well-chiseled hunk stands on a windswept hillside, the dazzling blue of the loch below rivaled only by the azure of his eyes. And look, what’s that he hugs closely to his thick woolen sweatshirt? Why, it’s a tiny baby lamb…

Okay, okay, this was only one of the travel  fantasies that had crossed my mind when booking my Scottish river cruise, but having gone through a bad break up (and feeling overtired from a demanding job) the truth was, I was just hoping to re-find myself.

Why this trip? Well, there was something in the gorgeous greens and purples of the highlands that had always called to me, and the trip promised castles, lochs and austere mountains. I’d never been on holiday alone, and hadn’t taken any time out for self discovery since my early twenties. The trip consequently felt nerve-wracking at first, but this was soon replaced by an unfamiliar buzz of excitement as the plane neared Inverness. Seven days of gorgeous views, new horizons, new friends and magical islands were ahead of me—I didn’t want to waste a minute of it.

Exploring Inverness, the traditional Scotland of my imagination beckoned me from shop windows and Old Town streets. I invested in some beautiful local crafts and took my time wandering, enjoying having nothing urgent to do. That night we boarded our ship for the next five days. Dinner seating left me with interesting company and plenty of excited chat about the trip to come. During the evening I wrote my first few tentative lines in a journal; something I hadn’t had the time or inclination to do for months.

The Caledonian Canal banks provided beautiful scenery for the first stretch of our water bound adventure. Once a route for naval and merchant ships, it was easy to imagine bygone times as we passed picturesque canal side villages, lock gates and rolling hills. Emerging onto the first loch was a humbling sight. Mountains ablaze with purples and ambers cast reflections into calm, pristine water. The stories shared with us at Loch Ness had me desperate to believe, and the setting certainly encouraged my imagination. Also steeped in myth are the bankside remains of Urquhart Castle.

Day four’s West Highland Railway trip was a wonderfully traditional way to travel into the heart of the highlands, taking us over the soaring viaduct of Harry Potter fame. Glenfinnan lay beyond, a village lost to time, nestled in the valley. Continuing up Neptune’s staircase we journeyed to the Sound of Mull on the western coast. Castle exploration and ancestral insight awaited us on the Isle of Mull in the Outer Hebrides. The whiskey distillery tour was intoxicatingly educational.

As the trip drew to an end, I had gone some way to reconnecting with a side of myself that had been lost over the previous years—the enthused, creative side which craves adventure. I returned fresh and invigorated, already planning the next chapters in a new era of self-discovery.

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Sophie McGovern is a writer and freelance journalist. Originally from Scarborough, she has travelled throughout Latin America, North Africa and Europe, and currently lives on a house boat near Bath. Her articles are featured on various websites including Heading There, Lonely Planet and Southbank Centre Literature. She has a Masters degree in Creative Writing.

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