Driving Through the Highlands

Glancing at my calendar yesterday, it hit me that tomorrow, it will have been three weeks since I flew back to the States. Three weeks, that is, without updating my faithful and patient readers on all the cool, non-farming, non-disillusioning stuff I did while I was away!

Allow me to rectify that oversight starting now, with a Scotland omnibus similar to my Trial By Fire post a month ago.


guesthouse /ˈɡɛsthaʊs/ 1. a private home or boarding house offering accommodation, esp to travellers.

On my last day of volunteering, my host mentioned, casually over morning tea, that I hadn’t put in enough workdays to stay for the weekend. (I guess it would have been too much to tell me that two weeks earlier when I had told them of my changed departure plans.) Rather than move rocks over the weekend or provide all my own meals as he suggested, I booked a guesthouse about an hour away in Elgin.

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View from my room.

Highlights of Staying in a Guest House

  • A real bed to sleep on after four weeks in a camper.
  • Traditional Scottish breakfast every morning.
  • Sidewalks.

I’m quickly realizing that my days of budget travel in my 20s are long gone, and my next vacation is gonna be in style!


driving /ˈdraɪvɪŋ/ adj 1. demanding a high or unreasonable rate of work from subordinates. … v 2. to send, expel, or otherwise cause to move by force or compulsion.

After moving rocks and packing up my things on that last day of volunteering, I picked up the rental car I had booked several weeks earlier for my last weekend there. Unlike Germany (Land of a Thousand Train Lines), there are many places in Scotland that are inaccessible by public transportation. Besides, it’s just narrow country lanes in an unfamiliar car on the wrong side of the road. What could go wrong?

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Highlights of Driving in Scotland

  • Freedom. I could come and go as I pleased, like an adult, after a month of feeling trapped like a curfewed teenager on the croft.
  • Strength. After failing so miserably at everything on the croft all month, it was that much more empowering to succeed at left-side driving.
  • LANDSCAPES. Especially driving back north from Balmoral, I was glad to be the only car on the road so I could go slowly and take in the breathtaking views.

I am happy to report that I caused zero accidents and hit zero wildlife, although I had the opportunity to hit one roe deer, one possum, three pheasants, two house cats, and a black lab.


Balmoral /bælˈmɒrəl/ 1. a castle in NE Scotland, in SW Aberdeenshire: a private residence of the British sovereign.

In my two-weeks-till-departure post, I mentioned I would try to get to Balmoral, and fortunately, my co-WWOOFer was game. So, with her help (i.e., gently reminding me I should keep to the left), we navigated to Balmoral and got to see Her Majesty’s vacation home.

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Highlights of Balmoral

  • The gardens. I could have spent all day among those flowers.
  • The drive. Honestly, those landscapes again! This is the kind of nature that makes you understand where the Romantic poets were coming from.
  • Picking up an adorable stuffed corgi for my nephew, which may or may not still be in my possession.

Next time (you know, when I’m traveling in style), I’ll dish out for the safari tour of the grounds, but just getting to be there on such a beautiful day was kind of a dream come true.


HIghland Games (functioning as singular or pl) 1. a meeting in which competitions in sport, piping, and dancing are held: originating in the Highlands of Scotland.

When I booked my flight to Germany, I made it for a Monday morning instead of, like, a Friday or Saturday, because there was a Highland Games on Sunday that I was determined to attend! Throwing the hammer? Tossing the caber? Yes, please.

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Highlights of the Highland Games

  • Falconry demonstration for the little kids with a barn owl flying from arm to arm. I tried to be happy for them instead of jealous.
  • Massed pipe and drum corps from several area groups. United States, why don’t we have pipe and drum corps in every small town?
  • All the Triumphs at the antique car show portion of the event. Be still my heart.

What’s awesome about this event is that it felt like the summer festivals you find in any small town in the western world. Booths selling things like scarves and food, antique cars, local music. But every region has its own twist. In this case, that twist included bagpipes and cabers.


Before I left for this adventure, I told my friends it’s a testament to how much I love Scotland that I’m willing to go work on a farm just to be there. Given how it all turned out, I’m debating whether or not that’s still true. What I am sure of, though, is that there will be a next time—there always is for me—and when it comes, I’ll confidently take the driver’s seat and direct my own way.

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2 thoughts on “Driving Through the Highlands

  1. When you’re homesick for Scotland, consider visiting me in October for the Highlander Festival. We have clans in kilts doing traditional Highland games 🙂

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