As I write this, I’m sitting on a front porch in Virginia in the early morning with a cup of coffee. Jet lag is a pain. As I sit here, I can’t believe that my time in Glasgow has come to a close. The last few weeks felt like a race to end, but then the end came so quickly!
I’m so lucky because my last weekend in Scotland, my wonderful group of friends took a “Last Hurrah” trip into the Scottish Highlands and Isles. It was such an incredible trip! The base of our trip was that we wanted to take the Jacobite steam engine out of Fort William. If you don’t know, this steam engine is the one used in the Harry Potter films as the Hogwarts Express. It travels across the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct, which was also featured in the HP films. This was super cool for me, not only being a huge HP nerd, but also because I always thought the beautiful scenery during the train scenes was CGI! But nope! That’s a real train and a real route through the Highlands.
So the journey starts in Fort William, so we had to take an early bus out of Glasgow to make it to this northern town. Fort William really is charming though. It sits at the foot of the Nevis mountain range and on the shores of Loch Linnhe. It is quite popular for hikers other outdoor sports! We stayed for a few hours in Fort William before taking heading to the train station for our journey.
I had never been on a steam engine before. It was so cool to hear the ‘Chug-a-chug’ of the engine as it plowed along and to smell the burning coals in the air. It felt like we had been transported back in time! Also the views along the way were incredible. I tried to take as many pictures as I could, but sometimes you just have to set the camera aside and enjoy the views. Crossing the viaduct was one of my favorite parts because it is such an ancient-looking piece of architecture and because so many hikers waved and took pictures as we went by!
The Jacobite Steam Engine travels all the way to the coastal town of Mallaig, which is was our home base for the weekend. Mallaig is a small fishing town and really picturesque. It is only a ferry ride away from the Isle of Skye and some smaller isles. Once we arrived, we took a short nature walk that gave us some incredible views of the docks and isles. We then got some AMAZING fish and chips and sat along the water to watch the sunset. All in all, it was a pretty incredible day.
The next day, we had quite an excursion planned. We got up super early to catch the ferry out to one of the smaller isles called Rúm. There’s only one ferry in the morning and one at night so we were working on a tight schedule! Rúm is a pretty small isle which only a few inhabitants. It’s beautiful landscapes though have made it popular with hikers who are willing to make the trek out to it. We spent the first part of the day getting familiar with the small town center where there is a general store, a post office, and a community center. The lady working the general store gave us some ideas for walks we could do. First we did a short nature walk around some of the farms which showed off the rugged mountains in the middle of the isle. Then we decided to take on a longer hike to the other side of the isle. The general store lady told us that there was a beautiful sandy beach called Kilmorry that would be a perfect place to have a picnic and go swimming. It was 5 miles away, so we set off! The landscape along the hike was unbelievable. Despite how small the isle was, it has such a variable landscape. Along the hike we saw temperate rain forests, grassy farmland, sandy coasts, and rugged mountains.
The best part though was when we finally made it to the Kilmorry beach. I have never seen such a beautiful place in my life. And it was completely deserted. We had a blast on the beach for the afternoon. We brought a BBQ with us and had a small picnic. Then a few of the braver souls decided to go for a swim. It was freezing at first but warmed up pretty quickly in the sun.
We spent the rest of the day traveled back to our hostel in Mallaig and heading straight to bed after a day of hiking nearly 15 miles. The next morning it was time to pack up and take a train all the way back into Glasgow. We had to start saying goodbyes in Glasgow, but having had one last adventure together made it easier. Then, a few days later, it was time to board my flight to come back to the states.
Although this is the end for Learning Glasgow, it’s definitely not the end for Learning the World. I may have to settle down for a little while, but my year abroad was just the start of my adventures.