Often when people think of visiting Scotland they think of cities such as Glasgow, Edinburgh and of places like Ben Nevis and perhaps Loch Lomond in search of the elusive ‘Nessie’ . Few however consider trekking further north to see the true splendour and grit of the northern Scottish highlands, I would encourage anyone visiting Scotland to travel North up to the unspoiled and tranquil islands of the Orkney’s, or to the quaint island of Stornoway. This area of Scotland is unlike the rest of the country and is equally as influenced by Scandinavia as it is by Scottish culture. When you head up to the far reaches of Scotland there are some things that you will need to bear in mind and here are some tips to help you survive.
Let it be known that this is a very cold part of the World, the average annual temperature is a bristling 4 degrees and in the blissful Summer months most of these areas will reach a a high of just 13 degrees, not exactly sunbathing weather. Before you go it is imperative that you pack warm and insulated clothing and layer-up, the last thing that you need is for your fun to be spoiled by a touch of frostbite because you were poorly prepared. The average probability of rain or snow in these regions is around the 50% mark and if you were to remove July and August from the equation then the figure sits at just above 68% which I’m sure you’ll agree means that precipitation is somewhat likely. To combat this, make sure that those warm clothes you’ve packed come also feature some waterproof boots and clothing. Don’t let the weather put you off this stunning part of the World as when that sunshine illuminates the mountains and the mist ascends to display stark lands filled with Heather and Deer, it will be worth living through the perpetual rain that preceded it.
The locals in these regions are not entirely remote, however they have lived essentially apart from modern culture and society for a long time and as such have an altogether different way of doing things. Don’t expect super-fast broadband, perfect infrastructure for travel on regular ATM’s as such luxuries don’t always exist in these parts, and nor do the locals want them to. It is important that you try your best to blend in to this way of life and relax into a different manner of doing things. Something else to watch out for here is the accent, the dialect up here is thick and throaty and even those among you who can speak perfect English may find the locals a little difficult to understand. To be surprised when you don’t understand, either nod and agree regardless or simply ask them to repeat themselves, they are used to this from tourists and will not be offended at all.
Such is the vast and open landscape of northern Scotland animals roam freely and if anything look at us as foreigners or strange beings as opposed to the other way around. Be prepared, especially if you are driving, for random stops to allow a herd of cows to pass, or several sheep casually strolling in the road and blocking your path. The best way to approach this is with calm, don’t attempt to move them by beeping your horn or anything crazy like that, part of settling into this new land is accepting things such as these so just relax and let them pass.