With the smell of the North Sea in my nostrils, I feel a long way from central London, where my journey began amid the tangier aroma of delivery driver diesel. My plan was to go in search of the old road between London and Edinburgh: the one that had served the mail coaches, witnessed marching soldiers and highway robbery, and had an ancient and evocative name: the Great North Road.
Over the last 300-odd miles I’d been pretty faithful to the old road – or at least as faithful as you can be while avoiding dual carriageways and speeding drivers. The key is to find stretches where the new has been built next to the old, rather than on top of it: an orphaned mile or so at Tempsford in Bedfordshire, Stilton in Cambridgeshire or Cromwell in Nottinghamshire. On these forgotten high streets I find it remarkably easy to visualise a time when the mail coach was the king of the road – the horses’ hooves clattering and the guard blowing his horn.
While there’s some debate as to whether Georgia resides in Europe or Asia, we simply had to include this small settlement. A collection of tiny villages located at the foot of Shkhara mountain (5,193m), Ushguli sits at 2,100m above sea level and is therefore one of the highest inhabited settlements on the continent, but it’s also one of the most remote. »
Although Hoy is the second largest island in the Orkney archipelago, a small clutch of islands off the coast of Scotland, it’s still tiny by most standards. Despite covering just 55 square miles and housing around 400 people, this diminutive island draws intrepid travellers to its shores with the lure of adventure at the edge of the UK. »
Tucked away in the far north-eastern corner of Norway, the small town of Kirkenes lies at the very edge of mainland Europe. Just a few miles from Norway’s only land border with Russia, and 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle, the area is transformed into an icy wilderness during winter. And it’s this time of year that is best to visit, when travellers can observe two unique natural phenomenon. »
Standing all alone in the North Atlantic Ocean, the Faroe Islands are undoubtedly one of the most remote places in Europe. Made up of 18 major islands and countless smaller ones, the Faroes’ closest neighbours are Scotland and Iceland, both located over 200 miles from its shores. »
Scotland associates the mythological animal with dominance and bravery. They are portrayed with a white horse head, body, and mane, a singular horn arising from the top of its forehead, and a gold chain that wraps around its powerful body.
Western civilizations believed in the existence of unicorns for thousands of years—it was a symbol of purity, innocence, and power in Celtic mythology. The unicorn first appeared on the Scottish royal coat of arms in the 12th century by William I. In the late 15th century, Scottish coins featured an image of the unicorn, and it even appeared in artistic works during the Middle Ages, symbolizing the holiness of virgins, including the Virgin Mary. According to popular belief, only a virgin maiden had the ability to capture a unicorn because it was so enthralled by her virtue.
Ness Knight is gearing up for the biggest adventure of her life, to row the Pacific Ocean — solo — later this year. Yet she makes time for other adventures, like exploring Scotland. Next month Ness will head off to the Guyana with Laura Bingham and Pip Stewart to paddle the Essequibo River.
We often think of the British Isles as tame, wildlife-wise, and crowded. But neither is true of the Highlands, and that was part of Ness’s justification for going there. She is an adventurer, having crossed the harsh Namib desert solo, paddle-boarded 1,000 miles of the Missouri river, and cycled the breadth of Bolivia without spending any money – but in exploring wild Scotland, she believed, she could show her online followers that you don’t have to take a long-haul flight to go adventuring.
Ness worked her way clockwise around the north of Scotland, starting at Glencoe and moving on to Skye. From there she went to the Outer Hebrides, visiting the hilly, weather-battered island of Barra, before heading back to the mainland.
Please tread lightly, pack out your trash, and treat every person and location with respect.
Please do not bury waste or wipes – even those that are biodegradable. Always pack out bags, sanitary wipes, and feminine hygiene products to minimize impact on the environment and the spread of disease.
If you find any errors, have any tips, or see anything that might need improving, please let me know.