As a result of the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Switzerland, special conditions were announced in Britain at the end of August for those travelling between the two countries. Scotland had already announced a ten-day quarantine period, which we had anticipated, but when England followed suit, we quickly changed our holiday plans at short notice and managed to make it across the border before the new restrictions came into effect.
Because of the uncertain times, we chose to book a one-way ticket so that we could decide to return home when the time was right. This proved to be six weeks later and we spent three weeks in the north of Scotland.
Once we arrived in Scotland after a week in England, we had to adhere to the quarantine rules and so we were restricted in what we could do. Keeping largely to ourselves, we spent most of the time with Jo’s parents for the first week. I broke my work routine for a daily walk with Jo through the nearby golf course and woodland along the river Averon. It was nice to walk without a strenuous goal and to get to know the forest a little. Neither of us had visited the secluded path before, so it was a lovely find and a place which is easy to reach during future visits.
Since joining Say Hello at the beginning of 2019, my work life has changed greatly. Although the practicalities of the job remain the same – I still design and programme websites – there is much less pressure to be 100% productive every minute of every day. I’ve also become less reliant on the routine of heading “to the office” and I’ve become used to working at home, or in a temporary space. In Scotland, this is using my laptop on a small office desk set up in the spare room. My headphones go on and I’m up to speed – usually programming, because of a smaller screen size – within a very short space of time.
Once our quarantine period was over, Jo and I began to take advantage of being in Scotland. In between days working, we headed for days out where we were unlikely to run into many other people. It’d been a while since I’d visited Scotland during the holiday season. Where the roads into the wilderness are largely abandoned in the short days of winter, they’re becoming more and more busy in the summer and autumn months. Not least because the pandemic has forced people to holiday in Britain, but also thanks to the increased efforts of local tourist organisations to push trendy holidays along the North Coast 500 – a highly-picturesque “ultimate road trip” around the northern coast.
There’s a reason why this remote part of the British Isles does nothing but gain in popularity. In winter, the landscape is damp and cold, and visiting makes me feel as though I’m at the end of the world. Certainly a long way from the packed landscape of the Bernese Oberland, and a million miles from the packed townscapes of where I grew up.
Once the weather is a little warmer, the days when little rain falls are beautiful beyond description. Sure, there are billions of midges about and you can quickly be chewed into an itchy mess within seconds of leaving the car. But if you get the ideal combination of dry, sunny weather and strong winds, as we had a couple of times, a day in the northern Highlands will remain with you for a very long time to come.