It's 9pm and we're on-board the Adventure Train from London's busy Kings Cross station. We're going to Scotland. To the mountains. In search of adventure. In search of wilderness, lochs and whisky.
It's no secret that I am deep into a full-blown love affair with Scotland, and for me, it all begins with the train. The train is the vehicle to the mountains that feed my soul. A friend recently described Scotland as my 'spiritual-home'. I'll take that!
My friend Max and I headed to the Cairngorms on a whirlwind trip to explore the highlands by bike, foot and water. Two nights on the train and two nights in Scotland felt like a week away. Check out our video below, all filmed on GoPro, edited by Max.
On day one, we spent 10 hours in the mountains - with Andy Bateman of Scot Mountain Holidays, wearer of the shortest shorts in Scotland and epic-knowledge-bomb-dropper - without seeing a single soul. We drank from the highest source of natural water in the UK. We saw the most consistent patch of snow in the UK. We ate sandwiches in sideways rain on top of a pile of rocks which marked the summit of a Munroe. We covered just shy of 40kms.
We put the world to rights, bantered with each other and slipped and slid on the wet ground. And then simultaneously as the weather worsened, our conversation and banter dropped off. We felt a million miles away from anywhere and for a while, we longed to be somewhere that felt warm, dry and familiar.
Hours later, in the warm, dry pub, we realised it was the moments on the hill that felt the worst, the ones where we thought "what am I doing here?" They are the ones that make us feel alive and encapsulate the adventure we came here for.
We live for creating stories, for moments that make us feel something different, something real and raw. We found these in Scotland.
The following day, our adventure took us to the waterfalls. We dressed in wetsuits and braved ourselves for the cold. If we had felt cold in the wind on the summits of the Munroes, this was a whole different ball game.
I feel at home in the water, but sliding down gushing waterfalls and jumping off cliffs was a little petrifying. We felt in great hands with the team from Active Outdoor Pursuits and had an absolute blast spending a few hours exploring the rapids.
We slid down chutes, jumped off cliffs and abseiled into a waterfall before jumping off and swimming until we found calm water. It felt other-worldly at times, and the cold wasn't as bad as we thought. We did take emergency chocolate bars tucked away in our wetsuits, which definitely helped manage the shock of the water!
At 9pm we boarded the train from Aviemore arriving into London at 7:20am. I watched the sunset from the train as we hurtled through Scotland and had breakfast in bed before we arrived in London.
Scotland, you have well and truly captured my heart and the Caledonian Sleeper is the adventure train I dream of jumping on when rushing about my busy life in the city. Here's the film from our whistle stop tour of Scotland if you didn't catch it at the top of my blog post:
The film from my last trip 'There's something about Scotland' is my explanation in one minute what it is that draws me back again and again.
If you're planning your own trip to Scotland, here's all the links to the places were stayed in, ate at and organised our adventures with. Check out Visit Cairngorms for all your needs and drop the lovely team a line if you have any questions.
The Caledonian Sleeper train www.sleeper.scot
Visit Cairngorms http://visitcairngorms.com
Scot Mountain Holidays www.scotmountainholidays.com
Avonglen - self catering in Aviemore www.aviemoreholidayhome.com
Active Outdoor Pursuits www.activeoutdoorpursuits.com
Multi-Sport Holiday Insurance (use SOPH16 at checkout for a 20% discount!!) www.holidaysafe.co.uk
For great food at the end of a long mountain day try:
The Winking Owl http://thewinkingowl.co
The Old Bridge Inn www.oldbridgeinn.co.uk