A 2-week backpacking trip through the Scottish lowlands
 as part of The Great Outdoors Challenge.

The basic idea of this challenge is to cross Scotland - anywhere along the west coast to anywhere on the east coast, and you have approximately two weeks to finish. One of the main parts of the challenge involves planning your own way, which is why I'll be relatively sparse with specific details of my route, but this is the gist of it.

Landed in Glasgow to beautiful weather with a day to kill before starting my trek.

Headed into the city.

Staying at a hostel for a night, with an early 4+ hour bus taking me to my starting point. Will be living out of this pack for the next 2+ weeks.

But for now, I've got some gear to pick up (fuel + food), and need to kill some time so the jet lag doesn't hit me too hard.

Guess it makes sense that all types of lanes are switched to the left.

I liked that signs had both walking and biking travel times.

Agree or disagree, one helluva way to package the message.

Took me a little bit to realize that the street signs were on the buildings themselves. Don't think I'd seen that before.

Bright and early the next morning for my 6a bus up to Shiel Bridge (my starting point).

Spotted these while on the bus right out of the city - they look cozy!

There were many hills like this in Scotland - spotted with patches of woods, sometimes bordering fences that demarcated property lines.

After a long bus right and a nice little walk, I arrived at my official starting point. Time to start hiking!

Little lamb!

Scotland doggy :)

Tiny frog dude in a little bit of water along the path.

Random fighter jet flying low through this valley - was super loud as it passed.

A trail marker for some falls, but it actually led me away from where I needed to go. That's why I'm a big fan of frequent sanity checks while hiking - checking your maps/navigation tools can save you big!

One aspect of planning your own route is including FWAs, or "Foul Weather Alternatives", in the event that inclement weather makes certain ascents/descents too dangerous. Climbing up and over this munro was my original plan; however, I was feeling a lot more fatigued than I expected to, and didn't have much of an appetite, so I decided to go with my FWA here to save me some time + effort. This turned out to be an excellent decision...

My view while (trying to) eat lunch.

Gotta keep on keepin' on.

Finally made it to my destination for the evening and set up camp. Unfortunately, I had been feeling worse and worse as the day went on - I spent that evening feeling extremely feverish, and I was unable to take in any food or water without throwing up. I was very dehydrated, but ultimately was able to keep down a few swallows of water at a time over the course of a few hours as I tried to sleep. Some very gracious hikers shared their electrolyte tablets with me, which I'm sure helped me get through the next day. Definitely some Type 3 fun.

Was feeling better the next morning, but far from okay. Managed to keep down a Snickers and some nuts, which was a relief. The next several days I pretty much had no appetite, despite really needing the calories.

To add insult to injury, my phone decided to go into a boot loop that morning, so this is the last photo I have from today. This is a youth hostel that some other TGO hikers were staying in/around.

I spent the day running my phone's battery down as much as I could in the hopes that a full restart would be enough to fix it - thankfully I was right! Also, a great example of why having navigation redundancies is super important! I had my GPS I could rely on, as well as paper maps + compass.

Just outside the Cougie lodge, run by the absolutely wonderful and generous Melanie S. She ended up giving myself and another hiker a ride to the next town the following day, as I was in no condition to hike and needed a full day to rest.

Myself and other hikers enjoying the hospitality and warmth of the lodge - and our furry companions!

Early the next morning - the pups kept me company :)

While staying at Morag's Lodge in Fort Augustus, I met the lovely Jean-Marie, who had amazing stories from all over the world, and was currently biking through Europe.

Taking off from Fort Augustus the next morning, I was feeling a lot better. Still not 100%, but I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Accurate representation of what I felt like...

...but it was an absolutely beautiful day, so I couldn't complain!

Today was one of the biggest elevation-gain days of the trip, so I was thankful we had good weather. It's hard to tell from the picture, but it was surprisingly cold.

This is one of the many bothies scattered across Scotland. It actually started raining not too long after arriving for a short rest, so I was quite thankful for the shelter!

Small group of fellow TGO hikers!

I am freezing in this picture, but the bout of cold rain had finally passed so I was pumped!

Even when it's sunny, the rain can come out of nowhere!

Sharing some meals inside the bothy.

My cozy sleep spot for the night.

Foggy and cold the next morning - one of the best parts of sleeping in a bothy instead of in your tent outside is you don't have to worry about dealing with a soaking tent in the morning.

What my water looked like every day as I was still utilizing the electrolyte tablets from a few days prior.

Gray squirrels are invasive in Scotland, and there are a lot of efforts underway to protect the red squirrel.

Heading into Laggan, which was some people's destination for the day, but I was aiming for Newtonmore that day.

The first full meal I'd eaten in days - it felt so good to have a normal appetite again!

Today promised to be a beautifully cloudy day.

Steve (the man wearing the red jacket in the video below) told us that he had refurbished this house with some others back in the 60s! Pretty remarkable.

One of the many parts of the hike where there was no trail to follow - you just had to know where you were headed and make your way across sometimes very marshy land.

Almost to my destination for the day (thank goodness - my legs were dead). I had a spot in the yard of a small hostel.

Mick eyeing some baked goods made by the lovely Ali (one of the TGO coordinators) before we set out for the day.

Mmmm, worms.

Catching up with more TGO friends!

A big part of the TGO is knowing when conditions are unsfae and turning around or waiting.

Made it to the bothy (after losing the trail to some washout and needing to wander through some woods for a while), so this was a sight for sore eyes.

We were living in the lap of luxury at this bothy!

Clean water from up in the hills - no walking out to a stream needed.

And we're off for the day! Gotta keep the feet dry (well, if you can).

Mick used to be a botany professor, and so was always imparting some neat facts about the nature around us. Here, he's demonstrating a (simplified) rule of thumb about how you can estimate the age of some trees... hugging them! (Each wingspans' length you have to circle is approx. 100 years)

Enjoying a nice lunch by a little stream.

Lindsay loved taking pictures of Sir Dave the Beaver...

...especially when he was in fun poses :)

This was a fun water crossing! I elected to try to hop across on rocks to see if I could keep my feet dry - I managed to soak my feet at the very end, alas!

Mick took this opportunity to get a nice refreshing foot wash.

The bothy in sight! (This was a long day)

True luxury!

Beautiful start to the morning!

(and cookies!)

Sweet little doggo wanted all the love.

Time to head off to Braemar!

Made it to Braemar - time for some good eatin' :)

A lot of TGO hikers camp out at this RV park; some people snag hotels, but they're pretty limited and get taken far in advance.

When hiking, you jump on every opportunity to wear some clean clothes!

I don't think I actually remember seeing ducks around.

Today was probably one of the hardest days of the hike (not including when I felt like death for 2 days). It was cold and rainy, and there was a lot of steep elevation gain + loss today. I also was still pretty physically exhausted from being sick a few days prior. So while today's hike was beautiful, I definitely was not having a good time for most of it - but that's how it goes sometimes!

Snagged a Snickers and some warm tea here!

Smilin' through the pain :)

Finally made it to the top! It was super windy and cold up here, so I took a few pics and then started on the long descent.

I had to be really careful on these stone steps, as the rain made things really slippery.

This copse was the destination for the day - almost there!

Enjoying the dryness and warmth of the bothy.

The next morning had some beautiful fog.

Today was a lot of walking across hilly, marshy land - there wasn't any trail to follow, so we had to keep checking in with our navigation and make sure we had the right bearings. We gave up pretty early on staying dry.

We took a short rest and ate a quick lunch at this bothy - gave us some time to dry out our socks, which lasted for about 5 minutes!

I was dreaming of this food alllll day.

Post-dinner/snacks hangout!

The beginning of my penultimate day of hiking - a fair bit of climbing and some biting wind, but it'd prove to be a beautiful day.

It's a *bit* hard to convey via photo, but this climb was steeeeep.

Double-checking nav to make sure we stay on track.

We took a short break at the top of this small rock outcropping and enjoyed the view (and a break from the wind).

The clouds cleared and the sun felt delightful.

Relaxing lunch spot near a stream.

Pictures really don't do them justice, but these trees were so pretty.

A lovely local shopkeeper told us about this gem of a field we could use for a camping spot - flat, dry, and near a stream? 10/10.

I met Pete for the first time earlier that day, and he was a great traveling companion. One of my favorite parts of hiking around the world is the lovely (and sometimes not-so-lovely) people you get to meet!

Final day of hiking! I had quite a lot of road walking ahead of me, which I wasn't looking forward to, but at least it was dry!

We may have needed to cross a barbed wire fence or two to get where we needed to go - it was the first of several lies my maps told me that day.

Finally escaped the marshy woods and made it into the Land of Turbines. Pete and I split up here, and I set off on my final stretch to Stonehaven.

This maze of dirt roads was actually much harder to navigate than I anticipated - my maps were showing paths that were so impassable, they definitely hadn't been used in years, and so figuring out where I could actually go to avoid wasting time was a challenge. Signs like this were a welcome sight as I neared the end.

I'm free!!

The start of several hours of road walking. Yay...

I was pretty dead when I got to the Park Hotel (the TGO finishing location), so I passed out pretty immediately for a few hours after my shower.

Off to enjoy the rest of my Scotland time in Edinburgh - the TGO dinner at the hotel was great, and so was sleeping on a proper bed :p

A quick snap as I landed in Edinburgh and jogged to catch a bus to my airbnb. I was ready for a nap!

My cute little bedroom for the next few days.

I saw this and had to know more.

I went to the Scotch Whisky Experience (a bit of a tourist pull, admittedly), but it was actually quite cool! They've got an impressively eclectic collection.

Of course I had to go back!

I still wasn't used to how bright the sky was even late into the evening (this was around 9:30p).

Spent a good part of my last day enjoying the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, and the museum on the grounds - highly recommend if you're in the area!

Happened upon a local play showing that evening as I was walking around - decided to round out my time in Scotland with some theatre!

And just as a final little quip - I'd never flown on a plane that boarded from the back, so that was new for me.