I had my first solo travel adventure for a large part of my spring break! I left on the morning of Friday, February 22nd, and returned to London in the early afternoon on Thursday, February 28th. During this week, I traveled to Dublin, the Cliffs of Moher, Galway, Edinburgh, and through the Highlands of Scotland to the Isle of Skye. The break was filled with some much needed nature-hiking, self-compassion practice in action, and falling in love with new places. It also consisted of rooming in a 24-person room in a hostel in Dublin and running into a friend in Edinburgh who I haven’t seen since probably freshman year of high school. After a month and a half in London, it was so refreshing to get out of the city, but after only a week away it was so wonderful to come back to London.
I flew out of Gatwick in London arrived in Dublin around 4pm and arrived at my hostel around 5pm. I had my first self-compassion in-practice moment when I bought the wrong train ticket to Gatwick from the London Victoria station, but I made it to the airport more than on time, made it through security no problem. When I got to Dublin, I flew into a different terminal than the last time, but was still able to find my way to the bus station, purchase my ticket, and make my way into the city. It was shockingly smooth. I stayed at this adorable hostel in the city centre called Abbey Court. After checking into the hostel, I ran some errands including purchasing a padlock for the locker under my bed and grabbing some snacks – a bag of granola, a sleeve of Digestives, and a can of Pringles – which would accompany me on the rest of the trip.
The hostel was prime location in the city centre, was reasonably priced, and had really good ratings. However, I decided to go with the cheapest room option, which was 24-people packed into one room. For the most part this was fine, except for when I had to wake up at 6:15am to catch my tour bus leaving at 6:45am and people were rolling into the room at 5:30am. It was an experience. I did watch P.S. I Love You for the first time this night in the hostel though, which set a big mood for driving through the Irish countryside the next day.
As mentioned, Saturday morning I rolled out of bed bright and early to catch my bus for the Cliffs of Moher tour. It was a pretty close call as I was pulling up to the meeting spot as the group was leaving for the bus – still made it on the bus, but wow was it close.
It was about a 3 hour drive from Dublin to the Cliffs of Moher on the opposite coast of the country. We drove through the beautiful Irish countryside, which was full of bright green fields, lots of gray stone walls, and so many sheep.
We only had 1.5 hour at the Cliffs, but I made sure that I took a nice walk down each side of them. It was wildly windy and I was kissed by the sea many times, but it didn’t start raining until after we made our way out!
Our next stop was this beautiful view from what our tour guide called the Mini Cliffs. By this point, I was absolutely exhausted. As we made the drive from the Mini Cliffs to Galway, I took a big fat nap. I tried my best to stay awake the whole trip because the coastline was just as pretty as the countryside, but the lack of sleep from the 24-person hostel room caught up from me. When I woke up, we were in Galway, which is a really cute coastal town – I was a Galway Girl for the day, or at least the 1.5 hour we were there, too ? I went to the museum of Galway which talked a lot about Irish Independence and made my way down their shopping street. It was beautiful! I got myself a mango gelato and continued to wander down the street on my own – I ended up running into a really awesome live strings performance. Before I knew it, the 1.5 hour was up and I made my way back to the coach and we headed back to Dublin. With a relatively early flight the next morning, I had another chill night even though I was still in the 24-people room.
Sunday, I flew to Edinburgh! I flew in the tiniest plane that I’ve ever been in – I think there were maybe 50 people on the flight, with rows of two on each side of the plane. I’ve never gotten motion sickness before, but I had to keep my eyes closed the whole ride or I would have gotten nauseous. Navigating from the airport to the city centre was super easy, the coach was only 4.50 pounds. My hostel was right next door to the Edinburgh castle (casually) so it was really easy to find. I stayed at the Kick Ass Hotel, which reeled me in with that kick ass name.
After checking in, I met an old friend for lunch and basically the rest of the day. When I was in Dublin, she’d posted on her Instagram story that she was in Edinburgh and we ended up figuring out we’d be there at the same time! It was Maddie, who’s an old dance friend – I don’t think we’d seen each other since I quit my studio freshman year of high school. But we had such a lovely day together – we grabbed lunch at a pub and walked around the city. She showed me the graveyard where JK Rowling got some of the name inspiration for Harry Potter – I got to see Tom Riddle’s Grave. Spending the day with Maddie was such a nice reminder of how small the world really is and that you’re never really alone even when you’re traveling alone. I peeked into the Elephant House, which is the birthplace of Harry Potter, but it was absolutely bumpin and I only wanted to get a coffee so I didn’t end up staying. I absolutely fell in love with Edinburgh that day though. Walking those streets felt like you were living in Harry Potter yourself.
Monday 25/02/19 – Wednesday 27/02/19
I should have done some more journaling during the highland tour, because honestly the 3 days kind of blended together. They were so jam-packed that by the time I got home I was too exhausted to write anything and usually went to sleep immediately. I’ll do the best I can to recall the trip though!
Day 1, we left the Highlands Experience office in Edinburgh at 8:30am. We slowly but surely made our way out to the Isle of Skye. Along the way we stopped for snacks, and stopped for several photos.
We stopped several times in in Glen Coe – we’d stop at several Glens during the 3 days. A glen is a narrow valley, especially in Scotland or Ireland and Glen Coe is a glen of volcanic origins. On this day, we fed deer carrots and admired the beautiful mountains and waterfalls from a distance. We had some lengthier stops to take in the sights, but we didn’t actually do any hiking.
We also stopped at Glenfinnan, which was one of the most “Scotland” looking places I’ve ever seen, looking at the Loch between the highlands.
We ended the night by stopping at the Castle of Eilean Donan at sunset.
We arrived into the Isle of Skye around 6:00pm, to the tiny town of Kyleakin (we’re talking like Deerfield small), where 3 of us checked into a hostel and 3 checked into a bed & breakfast – I was one of the hostel-stayers because it was cheaper. The room I stayed in was a room of 8, but it was just me and another man on the tour – a 35-year-old from India. It was kind of an awkward pairing, but we got along just fine. He asked me about my dad a lot and I shared with him that my dad had traveled to India when he was in college, too. He showed me his baby daughter. I think we became pretty tight friends. We got less-than-great Indian food at 1 of 3 restaurants in the tiny town with the other guy who stayed in the hostel.
Day 2 we basically traveled around the entire Isle of Skye. It was full of some incredible hiking. I saw 3 of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in my life on this day: the Fairy Pools, the Fairy Glen, and Quiraing. Do yourself a favor and just look up each of these 3 places, because I’m not sure my pictures do them justice.
Day 3 was a lot more laid back and chill. We left Skye and made our way to Inverness, back toward the east of Scotland. We toured Castle Urquhart and took a boat cruise down Loch Ness. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any luck spotting Nessie.
One of my favorite parts of traveling is to learn the history of the places that I visit. On this day, we also visited to battlefield of the Battle of Culloden. Here, we got to stand on the front lines where the Jacobites made their final stand against government troops. A Jacobite is a supporter of the deposed James II and his descendants in their claim to the British throne after the Revolution of 1688. Drawing most of their support from Catholic clans of the Scottish Highlands, Jacobites made attempts to regain the throne in 1689–90, 1715, 1719, and 1745–6, finally being defeated at the Battle of Culloden. There was a memorial at the Visitor Centre that had bricks pushed out of the wall. On one side there were 50 bricks standing out of the wall, and on the other side there were 600. This is supposed to represent the 50 British soldiers who died at the battle compared to the 600 Jacobites.
There were a few other photo stops on the way home, mostly a few more waterfalls. We ended up getting back to Edinburgh around 6:00pm.
By another weird coincidence, my roommate Fanta was also in Edinburgh that day with her friend Rachel (I’m not sure what it is with people I know being in Edinburgh when I am), but we met up for dinner and drinks. We went to a cute pub and then a taco restaurant (where I got my first taco in so long). We called it an early night because we all had relatively early travels the next day, but it was so nice to see Fanta even though we’d only been apart for 5 days!
I had a 9:00am train back to London – I took the London North Eastern Rail to Kings Cross in London. It was about a 4 1/2 hour train ride through the British (but mostly English) countryside. While it was so great to get out of the city and get into the outdoors, especially after traveling alone for that long, coming back to London was such a relief. It’s comfortable and familiar, and is starting to feel like home.
Then I ended spring break by having my old roommate Kyra visit for the last weekend of spring break! We checked off a whole bunch off the London bucket list, including cute little things like walking through Hyde Park and biking down the Queen’s Walk. We also ate so much really great Indian food.
Solo travel was a really incredible experience. It challenged me to be patient and kind to myself, because I was the only one who’s there for me when things go wrong. It is also so empowering, because I was 100% independent and on your own. It honestly just made me feel like a badass. I definitely would do it again and recommend it to all of my fellow travelers ?