I may not have mentioned that Kat & I were getting around Scotland without a car. Public transport all the way, baby! This wouldn’t have been a problem, if we had known not to trust the very convincing internet.
|Kat while hitchhiking down the road in Glen Brittle|
We had our fancy (and totally worth it) Explorer Passes for CityLink. These passes allowed us to travel on CityLink buses, the main company in Scotland, for 5 out of 8 days. It turned out being a very good investment, because we a) didn’t plan our trip, and the flexibility to hop on to any CityLink bus was comforting and b) almost none of the drivers’ marked the pass, even when presented to them, so we probably got a lot more out of the pass than we were supposed to. Ah, Scotland.
But I digress. We had arrived in Portree with the intention of staying for a few nights and using it as a home base of sorts to visit Old Man of Storr and a few other possible hikes. We really liked Bayfield Backpackers, the hostel where we stayed, and it was there that we ended up meeting some truly wonderful travelers and making friends. Again, though, I digress.
Portree. So, our lovely hostel didn’t have room for us for 3 nights in a row, and we really wanted to stay put. We wandered around town for awhile knocking on doors of B & B’s in the hopes that there’d be a room that wouldn’t charge 30 quid for each of us a night, which would equate to $60. Stupid exchange rate.
Alas, we had no luck. But everything happens for a reason, and so on to the internetz we went. Our next stop that we had wanted to make was Glen Brittle, which was where the Fairy Pools were, and a bunch of other hikes. Was there a way to get there?
Yes! said the Internet. Bus 53 leaves from Portree to Glen Brittle twice a day during the summers! Lovely, we said. Let’s do that!
So we booked the hostel in Glen Brittle, and the receptionist at the hostel said he’d look up the bus times, as we couldn’t seem to find when it actually left.
We returned from watching the Olympic opening ceremonies to find a note to us from the hostel reception. “Couldn’t seem to find the bus schedule. Try Tourist Info tomorrow a.m.”
No problem, we said. We rose early, did some grocery shopping, and ate some yogurt while loitering outside the Info office. At 9:00 sharp they opened the doors and in we marched, determined to make it to Glen Brittle, armed with the knowledge of the Internet. Bus 53. (See!? This looks like a relatively legit source of info, right?!)
Us: We’d like to get to Glen Brittle.
Them: Do you have a car?
Us: Nope. But we have Explorer Passes! (insert expectant and optimistic smiles here)
Them: Well, there is no bus that goes to Glen Brittle.
Us: Oh, really? We read online that Bus 53 goes right there from here…
Them: You must be mistaken. That bus does not exist.
Us: Are you sure? It said it only ran in the summer, perhaps… (insert initial fade of our smiles)
Them: Sorry, there’s no bus to Glen Brittle. You can take a bus to Carbost. That’s about 8 miles from Glen Brittle.
Us: Okay…well, what are the rates for renting a car?
Them: The guy who runs the cheap place is in Glasgow for the weekend, so that’s out.
Them: 60 pounds.
Us: (insert furrowed brows) Hmmm…that’s a bit pricey for us. Do you think we can call the hostel? We already have reservations to stay there, perhaps they can pick us up or something.
Them: Probably not, but we can call.
Louise, Glen Brittle Hostel Co-Manager: Hello! I hear you’re having some trouble getting to us.
Us: Yes! What’s your advice?
Louise: Are you experienced walkers? Do you have packs?
Us: Sort of…
Louise: You can walk from Sligahan, but it’s quite a trek and I don’t recommend it. Take a bus to Sligahan Hotel and hitchhike from there. Many travelers get here that way.
And so my first hitchhiking experience began. We took the bus to Sligahan Hotel. The weather was overcast, as Scotland weather is wont to be, and after situating our bags, we started walking. I converted my pack into a backpack rather than rolling it, and as the rain started to fall, we pulled on our ponchos and trudged along the road.
Maybe 10 cars passed us, some of them looking more remorseful than others. A handful of cars were full up, but some just kept going. I can’t really blame them, although we were definitely not very threatening-looking, with our wet hair. I wished so much that I had Hermione Granger there with me to apply that water repelling spell on my glasses.
The eleventh car drove by and passed us, too, and I wondered, as it disappeared around the curve, whether we’d end up walking the many miles to Glen Brittle after all. We had heard hitchhiking in Scotland, and particularly in the islands, was easy and very safe. Lo and behold, the bright red tail lights of the car illuminated and it maneuvered slowly backwards towards us. We had a winner!
Of course, we got picked up by a Russian. Maybe I smell like borscht or something, because man, after I started dating a Russian they seemed to come out of all sorts of woodwork in my life. Yet again, I digress.
Sergei was a PhD neuroscience student studying in Cambridge, on the Isle of Skye to camp and kayak. He was on his way to the Talisker Distillery in Carbost, and the turn-off for Glen Brittle was on the way. We assured him that it was fine if he dropped us there. The backseat of his car was down and replaced with camping gear. A kayak graced the roof rack. We made small talk until the turn off, and he even got out of the car to help us with our bags, apologizing that he wouldn’t take us to Glen Brittle proper.
We parted ways and again started walking, still with a number of miles left, but at least much closer than we were.
Only about 10 minutes or so passed when another car pulled over; a Czech couple on vacation were on their way to a trail that happened to be across from the hostel, so we got a ride all the way to our final destination.
Total travel time: approximately 1.75 hours, maybe 2.
We arrived at the hostel just before Louise was finished cleaning; the kitchen and rooms close from 10:30ish to 5, and so we left our gear in the common area and waited for some of the weather to improve.
We managed to squeeze in 2 hikes that day, including one with another Russian who was staying at our hostel. My sweat must smell like borscht or something…