Scotland 6: Day 22

03.20.18 | Thurso Hostel | 20:20

As I entered the hostel kitchen this morning, there was five guys sitting around eating breakfast in silence. Since I don’t do silence very well, I was the first one to speak up, “Where are you guys from?”. I got the chat going, as I tend to do. When I spoke with Samson, a guy who is originally from Uganda, he told me that he could tell I was from America before I told him. I asked if it was because of my accent. He said, “No, Americans will talk to anyone and they don’t know how to sit quietly.”

All the guys stated laughing, myself included. And what can I say? It’s true! I’d rather chat and make a friend than the alternative… although I’m not really sure what the alternative would be- since I’m always talking to strangers.

I left after three bowls of cereal (they are small bowls, so please don’t think I’m an over-eater). I was walking through town and thinking that I really wanted to get my hair died again. The “steel blue” that they gave me in Glasgow was now just looking white. I wanted something brighter and more toxic. So I was thrilled when I found an open salon with an available chair. So now I’m a redhead. The best part is the fact that she only charged me about $14!

I walked to the beach, since it was turning out to be a perfect spring day. It was a bit windy, yes, but the sun was out and it felt so good! After about an hour of walking around, I decided that I did still need my other coat layer and scarf after all. I walked back to the hostel to grab them.

On my way back to the beach I decided to stop and find some early lunch. I found a great little cafe/ sandwich shop. It was lovely! Their version of a club sandwich, which was close to the American version, only they added barbecue sauce. It was quite delicious!

The rest of the afternoon was spent on the beach again. I would explore the shore, watch all the dog-walkers play, and I even got some reading in. I’m reading this book called “60 Degrees North” that I bought in a gift shop in Lerwick. So far the book seems to be quite fascinating. It’s a true story about this guy who is from Shetland and he travels all around the world to see what the other places that lie at 60 degrees north have in common with Shetland. It’s a lot better than it sounds.

I found a small steak/seafood restaurant right on the beach. I ordered a swordfish steak. So good! It had little pieces of chorizo sausage and the green purée that they used to decorate the plate was pretty awesome! I wish I would have taken a picture of the front of the restaurant because it was incredible! I will definitely be back on future visits to Thurso.

Scotland 6: Day 23

03.21.18 | Thurso, Scotland | 08:21

Last night my roommate was a guy called Josh, who is from Texas. I asked him if he knows my sister Melanie, and he doesn’t. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure how close he lives to her. Josh has brought a big surfboard. He loves to surf and has heard that Thurso is one of the best places to surf in Europe. I knew people came here for surf competitions, but I didn’t know it had that reputation!

Thurso Station | 10:21

The train doesn’t get here for the next two and a half hours or so. I was going to go to a really good Chinese restaurant that I remember from my previous visits here, but the lady who sold me the train ticket told me that this particular restaurant no longer has a dining room where you can sit and eat. They’ve gone to carry out only. I’m not in the mood to carry my Chinese food in this rainy weather. I’ll just be glad that I had a good breakfast. It dawned on me that I have some cookies in my bag- cookies for lunch!

Thurso > Inverness | 14:09

On these trips, I always try to take notes on the things I see. This is how I discovered Pitlochry, years ago. It was a stop on my way up to Inverness. I took a picture of the sign and later did some research. It’s not one of the many towns that I love when I travel through Scotland.

Thus far today, I haven’t found many towns on my way from Thurso that I’d like to stop and see. For me to enjoy a visit, the town needs to at least have a pub. Not that I’m hanging out in pubs all the time, but that shows me that there’s enough life there that’s the locals need a place to gather- usually that is done at the pub.

Inverness Hostel | 22:22

The saddest thing about Inverness is that the fish & chip shop that I would always go to is now closed down. Very sad, indeed. I did manage to find another one, that was almost as good, but it’s just not the same.

I just got back from a visit to the cinema, where I saw the new Tomb Raider movie. It was so much better than the Angelina Jolie version- no offense, Angie, if you’re reading this. I just liked this girls version of Lara Croft so much better. It was a much more relatable character, and she didn’t have that stupid smirk on her fact that Angelina always has. I’m proud that it was around two miles walk each way. Perhaps not the safest thing to do by myself at night, but I did manage to get home safely. If anyone had tried to rob me, they’d have been sorely disappointed. I know bad things happen, but so far I’ve been very blessed in my travels.

Scotland 6: Day 21

03.19.18 | Ferry Terminal | 13:41

Today it finally feels like springtime (at least it does in Stromness)! As I left my hotel this morning, it was perfect! Just a slight breeze, but no need to wear anything bigger than a light jacket. This is the part of Scotland that I’m excited for- hopefully I won’t have to wear my scarf any more.

Sadly, I only spent one night here and am now headed back to the mainland. I haven’t done a whole lot of exploring today, because I had to do laundry. I’m out of socks, and I’ve been wearing this same pair of pants for the last 3 days. That means it’s overdue. This is a great area, and there’s so much more that needs to be explored.

Instead, I sit in the the terminal, even though my ferry doesn’t leave for a couple hours. I already walked down to the CoOp to buy some laundry soap, and I’m not in the mood to drag my big ole backpack anywhere else. So today is going to be a movie day. Once I leave on the ferry, it should only take about an hour-and-a-half to get to Scrabster.

Thurso Hostel | 21:14

It’s so great to be back in Thurso! When the ferry arrived at Scrabster, I decided to walk all the way into Thurso. The walk was a pretty good workout, since I had my huge pack on my back. While making my way down the road, it was great to call and speak with my parents.

Scotland 5: Day 40

04.09.16 | Thurso > Invergordon | 13:09

Yesterday’s sunshine was very short-lived. Today, Thurso feels more like late February than the beginning of April. After a fast look at the ocean in the rain, I made my way to ‘Reid’s’, which is the place I’ve been eating my breakfast the last three mornings, for one more meal. A steak puff and some hot chocolate- the same thing I’ve had every morning while here. This has become my morning ritual in Thurso.

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Since the hostel required me to be checked out before 10:00, I had no place to go, other than the train station. It’s too cold to be the tourist, and with my heavy pack back on my back, I didn’t want to wander too many places either. For the past three hours, I have been pacing the cold train station. I didn’t want to sit because I know that this train ride to Invergordon is going to be a three-hour tour.

Invergordon Hotel | 19:58

Invergordon is a very sweet little town. The population is just over 4000 people, so this is about the size of Thatcher, Arizona, the town where I grew up. In other words, I can relate to Invergordon. Take Thatcher out of the desert, put it in a more wet climate and add some older buildings. This is Invergordon. At least that’s my opinion so far.

There’s not much here as far as entertainment, however. I went to google maps and put in ‘cinema’ and the nearest one that came up is in Inverness. One of my friends in the states googled “Invergordon Scotland Entertainment” and I guess the have some kind of Country and Western celebration in July. That’s awesome! Too bad it happens to be April!

After dinner, I walked down the main street in town to find something sweet to take back to the hotel with me. I asked the cashier at the convenience store what people do for entertainment on a Saturday night here. She told me there was a great pub nearby, and proceeded to explain the directions. Since I don’t drink, this was off-putting, but maybe there’s live music or something there. I may go check it out in awhile. Otherwise, I think it’s a Netflix kind of night.


Back to the beginning of Scotland 5 | Forward to Scotland 5: Day 41

Scotland 5: Day 39

04.08.16 | Thurso Hostel | 13:30

This morning I followed the Thurso river to what was supposed to be a big Salmon hatchery place. I must have misunderstood. There was nothing there but a dammed part of the river. There may have been salmon in it, but I couldn’t tell. The way it was talked about, I was expecting an actual built facility. I guess not. It was a short, but scenic walk.

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I have two new roommates. They are a father and son from Fair Isle, which is a tiny Island between Orkney and Shetland [map]. They are biking around the U.K. and are on one of their last stops before going back home. The son is young and full of so much energy, but the father is a bit aged and set in his ways (that’s the nice way of saying it).

They’re nice and there is love there, but I can see that there is a bit of tension in their relationship. I’ve gathered that the father has recently divorced the mother and are now living separately. I was sitting on my bed earlier, and the father asked me if I felt disconnected to the world since I’m staring at my laptop.

I told him that I definitely wasn’t disconnected from the world. I told him that this isn’t a scenario where I’m sitting down at the dinner table, ignoring my family or loved ones. This is a scenario where I’m traveling in a country alone, staying in hostels by myself and have chosen to spend a few minutes watching a movie.

He went on about how horrible he thinks it is that people are constantly on their phones and electronic distractions in this day and age. I do agree with him, but I know this frustration comes to him because he really hasn’t kept up with what is going on nowadays. Yes, it can be overdone- but these electronic “distractions” are how we shop, communicate with our loved ones, plan, and so many other things. It can’t help that he is in his upper 60’s (from the looks of things) and that he has chosen a place to live such as Fair Isle.

I’m not knocking his choice of location. I, as much as any person understands that want and the need to live rural, but I also understand that there is often a lack-of-progress in such places. That’s not a bad thing at all. I just think it’s easier to acknowledge that the world has ALWAYS changed and like it or not, is going to ALWAY change (hopefully for the better).

14:51

I found out (a little too late) that today there was a surfing competition. I thought I’d go check it out for a few minutes. When I got to the bay, I regretted not having my scarf or hat. The wind has kicked in, it was hitting me in the face. It was like a constant ice cream headache.

I took one picture of some surfers swimming in, and decided to head back to the hostel and bundle up a little better. Then I heard the announcer over the loud speaker at the event say that there was only 5 minutes left of the competition. I guess I missed it.

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19:06

Dinner was curry again. Just like the last curry, it tasted delicious, but this one had no spice to it. I’m too afraid to ask for hot though because I did that once at and Indian restaurant up on Shetland, five years ago, and they made it so hot that I couldn’t eat more than one bite. Such a traumatic memory!


Back to the beginning of Scotland 5 | Forward to Scotland 5: Day 40

Scotland 5 Day 38

04.07.16 | Thurso Hostel | 21:15

I decided this morning to explore the east side of the bay this time, hoping I’d get further along than my visit to Scrabster yesterday. I tried to reach the ocean. Soon, the farm road that I was following turned and headed off in the wrong direction and I found myself getting further from my goal. Still, it was a beautiful walk!

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Tonight I went to see Superman vs Batman for a second time, ignoring my nephew Sam’s advice on Facebook (wait for it to come out on DVD). I actually liked it a lot better this time. Last time, if you recall, I was half asleep throughout the entire film. That was a tough watch for me. I hated it for that reason. I actually like it now.


Back to the beginning of Scotland 5| Forward to Scotland 5: Day 39

Scotland 5: Day 37

04.06.16 | Thurso Hostel | 16:15

This morning was a perfect morning! I wandered into town and found a “breakfast roll” for breakfast. Like a pig-in-a-blanket, but instead of just the sausage, there was sausage, egg, bacon and beans. I wonder when and why Scotland decided that beans is a breakfast food. I’m not mocking them, but beans are everywhere here- especially when it comes to breakfast choices. Don’t they know about gas?

I went for a long walk to the ocean. Oh, how I love the ocean! I wandered for about three hours, walking very slowly toward Scrabster along the beach while listening to podcasts and conference talks. This is such a beautiful place! I didn’t realize this before, but Thurso happens to be the northernmost city on the mainland of the United Kingdom. File that one away for later.

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When I made it back to the hostel, it started raining and it’s pretty much been doing that all day long, or at least up to this point. I get it April showers bring May flowers. No prob. A nap was in order. I probably got about 20 minutes of sleep and have spent the rest of the afternoon indoors.

18:06

I just got back from an early dinner. I found a really great Chinese food place, and since I hadn’t had any lunch, I ordered way too much! You know the expression “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach”? Yeah- that. It was pretty great food, even though there was zero spice to it after ordering a dish that was supposed to be spicy. No worries, though.


Back to the beginning of Scotland 5 | Forward to Scotland 5: Day 38

Scotland 5: Day 36

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Pigeon at Waverly Station in Edinburgh.

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Waverly Station

04.05.16 | Edinburgh > Inverness | 09:40

It’s sad that most of my entries discuss the condition of the wifi. When did that become a thing? How did we survive as a species before the early ’90s when the internet wasn’t available to everyone? You know- before Al Gore invented it. Keeping with this theme: The internet on the train going north is horrible. I have to swap to a different train as soon as I reach Inverness. I hope things will improve.

If you’re following along with a map in hand, you may be wondering why I went from Inverness, all the way down to Edinburgh for a week and am now going all the way back up north. When I was booking my stays, one of my friends asked if he could join me for part of this trip. He told me when he was available and I had a thought that if he was only going to see two places, Inverness and Edinburgh would be the places to see. I’m not sure how much of a country boy he is, and these two places would give him a great feel for Scottish culture.

So I backed Inverness and Edinburgh up next to each other, booked my rooms and transportation and then my friend decided that he couldn’t join me after all. So, onward and upward- the next stop is going to be Thurso.

I’ve been to Thurso once, the last time I visited Scotland. It’s a lovely little city, right on the ocean. Someone once told me that that was a good place to surf. I would add: Yeah- if you want to freeze to death. Apparently, where the Atlantic meets the North Sea, there are some killer waves. I’ve never surfed so I cannot confirm or deny that claim.

Inverness > Thurso | 14:09

I had about two hours to kill when my train got to Inverness, so I thought I’d trudge over to The Godfather’s and enjoy a fish and chips. I use the word ‘trudge’ because my backpack is pretty dang heavy. Maybe ‘trudge’ isn’t the right word. I’m open to grammatical suggestions.

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Now I’m on my way- the couple sharing the train seats with me are also going all the way to Thurso. I haven’t gotten all their deep, dark secrets yet… they’re way too quiet for my taste. When I do, I’ll be sure to update you.

Thurso Hostel | 20:14

I love this hostel. I’m attracted to hostels that are old and just a little run down. As long as they’re clean, that is. I like their quirkiness. It’s like going to visit grandma’s house. The perfect example is the hostel I stayed in when I was in Hobart, Tasmania last year. Brilliant! This one isn’t as old as that one, but it tries. When the train arrived in Thurso, I remembered the directions from the station to the hostel. Not bad after only having been here once! I wanted to go see the ocean immediately but was very hungry. More than five hours on a train does that to a guy.

I went to the first restaurant I saw, right near the hostel. So tonight was curry again! I love it so much! I may be spending a little extra time in the loo tomorrow, though- totally worth it! A good curry burns going down, and then again coming out. That was crude! I’m sorry! You can quote me, though.

After sitting and eating, I could feel my body wanting to fall off to sleep. The ocean will have to wait until tomorrow morning. Sorry- no pictures from Thurso tonight. I’ll take some tomorrow. Think I’m going to call it an early night.


Back to the beginning of Scotland 5 | Forward to Scotland 5: Day 37

Scotland 4: Day 27

Thurso, Scotland | 22:04

Today was a bit of a bummer. It rained and rained, and other than grabbing lunch to go, I didn’t get out until about 17:00 or so. I found dinner at a pub/restaurant. It was good, but not great. After dinner, I’d planned on walking back to the beach but remembered that I needed to get my check-out information before the front desk/chip shop closed. I also wanted to visit the barber.

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The ground level of the hostel is a chip shop

I’m not an expert when it comes to dying my hair. I wish it would last longer, however. It’s only been a few days, and I can already see brown roots. I have a newfound appreciation for those who keep their hair an unnatural color, but keep it looking natural. That takes talent (and more money than I like to spend). I was on my way to get my head shaved tonight but couldn’t find an open barbershop.

Since Minesh and Paul are gone, I didn’t want to go hang out in a pub by myself, so I stayed at the hostel. Today was basically me- sitting around watching TV and a movie on the iPad.

Scotland 4: Day 26

Inverness > Thurso | 10:53

I just had to say goodbye to Inverness. I love this place, but it’s time to see some more of Scotland. I’m excited to go north. My destination is Thurso, which is almost as far north as you can go while staying on the mainland. Not sure what there is to see or do there, but I guess I’ll find out.

I slept okay last night. At about 01:00, my roommates came in. They were very loud and somewhat rude. They kept turning on the light, then leaving the room, so I’d have to get up to turn out the light, then they’d do it all over again. I finally (nicely) told them to knock it off, and they did. While I was getting ready this morning, I might have been a little louder than was necessary.

Thurso, Scotland | 16:54

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Thurso, Scotland: Walking to my hostel.

I can now say I’ve been to Thurso, Scotland. Thurso has about 9000 people and seems like a lovely town. I checked in at my hostel and met my roommate. He’s a 60+-year-old Scot who doesn’t have much to say to me. Here’s how it went down:

Me: Hello. How are you?

Him: –

Me: I’m Dave from the states (I usually don’t introduce myself as ‘Dav’ when I’m abroad because that just opens up an entire conversation. I don’t mind the extra chat, but ‘Dave’ is a time-saver.).

Him: –

Me: Okay, well, I’m going to get some dinner.

I wonder what this guy’s deal is. I mentioned him to some others staying here, and they told me he’s like that with everyone. Maybe he’ll open up to me tomorrow.

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My Room at the Hostel

I walked to the local beach, which was quite lovely. There were people (mostly kids and teens) out playing in the surf, and they have a nice little setup here. What a beautiful ocean! I’m not sure if this is considered part of the North Sea or if it’s considered the Northern Atlantic. Afterward, I explored that town for a while.

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I also met Minesh, who is from India and Paul from somewhere here in the U.K. They’re on a bike ride that started at John O’Groats, and they will ride to the bottom of England. That sounds fun and exhausting! I’d love to do something similar one day.

23:06

I had a great time hanging out with the guys tonight. They’re fun guys and I found out that they’re doing this ride to raise money for a charity- something to do with muscular dystrophy or something like that. That is very commendable! I hope they raise a ton of money! 

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Minesh and Paul

I have two new roommates now- two brothers from England. I’m not sure why they’re up here. Hopefully, we can chat tomorrow.