Penny’s Birthday Grove

So, November is here, whether we like it or not. Which means it’s officially Autumn and Winter will soon be here (no, we’re not talking about the C word!)

November for me has always been greeted with a mixture of feelings; I dislike the fact it’s getting cold, I dislike that it’s getting darker at night and less hours in the day – although sometimes I don’t mind the early dark nights – but I love the colours on the trees.

But, there is one thing that is ‘personal’ about November…

November, is also the month I was born! It’s my birthday!

And this year, I’m doing something very different; I’m planting trees!

Okay, so, technically, I won’t be the one physically planting them. But after moving to Inverness (you can read about that here and here) I came across a great charity that is planting trees to re-wild the Highlands; Trees for Life.

Up on the Highlands of Scotland used to be a vast forest; the Caledonian Forest, spanning the right across, with only select areas now remaining. Trees for Life is an ambitious, award-winning conservation charity that is rewilding the Scottish Highlands, planting trees and encoraging wildlife to return.

So, rather than writing a wish list full of new books, DVDs, music, things for my new flat, tech, etc, for my birthday, I set up a website on Trees of Life for people to consider donating a small fee to this Grove to help rewild Scotland, restoring balance to the ecosystem and combating CO2 emissions. I have already paid to have one tree planted, each new tree is only £6!

Click here to donate to Penny’s Birthday Grove

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I also recently had my hair cut off for charity! Read about it here!

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6 Months in the Highlands – Thanks, COVID-19!

In one of my previous posts (here’s the link), I talk about moving to the Highlands. It was just a small ‘travel’ post really, with a few pictures, intended to be a precursor to future travel posts.

But it didn’t quite work out the way I planned.

And… I *might* be moving again!

Pre-Covid-19

On Feburary 24th, I had my first day at my new job – but it was in London. I travelled down to London from the southern part of Scotland where I had been temporarily living. I got to the hotel, realised it was the wrong one, so ordered a taxi to the correct one, and the next day was my induction training.

My induction training lasted two days; Monday and Tuesday, although I didn’t see much of London in that time, so no cool photos to show you guys (sorry!). By Tuesday evening, I was on a flight to Inverness.

Wednesday morning, I started my first day in the office.

I took with me, one medium/large suitcase, my laptop bag and a work laptop bag (which I collected from the induction day).

I have been living out of that suitcase for 6 months!

For the first few weeks, I had planned to get settled at work and get a feel for the area. Once I knew the best area to live, public transport routes (currently car/bike-less, don’t judge!) and how much I could possible afford, I was going to find a nice place to rent.

A few weeks in, I started looking at places, I viewed two flats, and contacted a lot more for other potentials…

Then Covid-19 hit.

Post-Covid-19

For the first few weeks before the UK was put into official lockdown, I was given the option to work from home, the last week before lockdown, I did. I found it cool and novel – I’ve always wanted a remotely working job!

Then lockdown officially started 23rd March. Shops started to shut (except for essential shops). People weren’t allowed out except for 1 hour exercise (this wasn’t set in stone, apparently, but it was ‘advised’ to limit to an hour). We had to have letters to say we were keyworkers if we got stopped by police.

I was classed as a keyworker, but was lucky that I had a company laptop so I could work from ‘home’. And, I was equally lucky that the host of the Airbnb I had booked was more than happy for me to stay with her until lockdown lifted. I pay her a small fee a month, instead of booking continuously through Airbnb – and it works out a lot cheaper.

The novelty of working from home wore off quickly. Especially since I couldn’t go anywhere! I was inside for work. I was inside on days off. Summer came, and I was inside for that too. The only time I could go out was for walks/exercise or shopping. That was the only time I could see bits of Inverness; the area I was really looking forward to exploring! When lockdown restrictions eased a little, I started to go a little further afield. Which is the next section…

University of the Highlands and Islands

This is something that is pretty close to where I have been living for the past six months. When I first moved, pre-Covid-19, I would walk through the grounds to get to the office. Post-Covid-19, I would either walk through to get to Tesco to do my shopping, or just go for a walk to get my hourly exercise.

Although it’s not exactly a destination to pack your bags to go see (unless you’re starting a course there!), it certainly is a lovely place to walk around when the sun is shining!

Culloden Woods and Battlefield

I went to Culloden Woods/Forest a few times, it was suggested to me by a colleague from work. I had no idea what to expect, I couldn’t find any information on it. But, to do something different to my usual walk around the University grounds, I went here on a day off instead.

First time I went, I was happily exploring; following the path, taking in the sights, smells and sounds, and I came across a sign that said ‘Culloden Battlefield Trail’. It didn’t tell me how far it was to the Culloden Battlefield, but I at least figured the walk might be intersting, even if I didn’t walk all the way there. But, I did end up walking all the way to the battlefield!

And, I was glad I went, as although I was only there for a little bit, it was a really interesting site. It’s the site where the Jacobite Rising came to and end in 1745. There is a visitor centre (which was closed due to the lockdown) which holds a cafe, museum and shop, there is an old cottage (Leanach Cottage), clan gravestones and memorial cairn (be careful not to walk on the grass on this bit, there are real remains there – I found that out afterwards and felt really guilty!) and then there is the battlefield itself with the different flags to represent the two sides of the battle, and there are markers dotted around with more information.

Second time I went, I visited more of the woods and forest, this time around it was really foggy and I got some really interesting shots in the fog.

Long walk to North Kessock

I add emphasis on the ‘long walk’ here, because I was out for six hours! I walked all the way from Cradlehall/Westhill, through Inverness City Centre, over the Kessock Bridge and into North Kessock and Craigton… then back again. I was sore for a few days afterwards.

Again, I got some really interesting shots. North Kessock is a lovely little place, right on the edge of Beauly Firth, I found a lovely little swing seat on the edge by some woods, there was a fog coming in which hid part of the Kessock Bridge. I saw a few sights walking through Inverness too.

Inverness Castle and the Islands

When lockdown started to ease, and the shops started to open, I decided to go back into Inverness to do some shopping. But the main part of my walk into Inverness was to see Inverness Castle! No trip to Inverness is complete without at least seeing the Castle!

Unfortunately, the Castle was closed, but not because of Covid, but because it’s undergoing some renovations, so I wasn’t able to go inside. When I get back to the UK after my contract abroad, and if I get my old job back in Inverness, I am looking forward to seeing it again, hopefully go inside this time!

As well as Inverness Castle, I also had a wander along the River Ness. A little further down is what’s called ‘The Islands’ or ‘Ness Islands’, which, as the name suggests, is a colletion of islands on the River Ness. There are a few bridges across them so you can walk along them, and they have a few trees and lights up along them (which I can only imagine look nice in the evening).

Motorbike Ride to Nairnshire

One day, I had the pleasure of catching up with an old friend from college. He was coming up for a tour of Scotland on his motorbike and decided to pop in to see me. He brought his spare motorbike helmet and we took a trip out to see Nairn, an area I had hoped to see when I first moved up, pre-Covid-19. And yes, I am aware there is still a Covid risk, but luckily he had already had Covid and had the anti-bodies. There was no risk of spreading.

We went to Fort George to begin with, it was closed, but we were still able to walk on the pebble beach and around the old Fort. We then got back on the bike and headed to Nairn Beach, where we wandered about, sat and caught up, had lunch and then headed back. We stopped at Sueno’s Stone – a 9th Century Picto-Scottish standing stone, Clava cairns and the viaduct close by.

My next adventure

I can’t talk too much about my next adventure. I have mentioned it a few times, so it’s not exactly a secret. But I don’t want to dedicate a whole blog post to it just yet, as it hasn’t been officially confirmed.

However, I will say; I was recently given the opportunity to go to anther country, with the company I work for!

At the moment there are a few issues with Covid-19; the borders being closed and, I have a few issues with my visa. But when things have been sorted, if I am still able to go, I will give you more updates!

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I’m moving to the Highlands!

Hello my little demons,

Some of you may know that I have been looking for work, and it’s been a tough few months trying to get back on the career ladder. But this week, all my hard work has paid off!

And, what better place to move to? The Highlands!

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(c) All photos are my own. Copyrighted to myself, Penny Hooper. Photo above: somewhere in the Cairngorms, Scotland.

I took a little trip up there for an interview, and from where I currently am, it was a long train journey, yet I managed to do it within a day. But what a long day that was!

I set off early in the morning, got on the train, headed for Edinburgh first, had a quick train transfer and then up through the Highlands, arriving just before lunch time.

82453141_2912592158967058_2641919286683107328_n(c) All photos are my own. Copyrighted to myself, Penny Hooper. Photo above: inside the train, somewhere in the Cairngorms, Scotland.

The train took overall just over 4 hours to get to Inverness, where my interview was. I took some sandwhiches I pre-bought the day before, and a load of sweets to keep me entertained. I forgot my magazine I bought as I rushed out of the door to get my first train but luckily took my charger for my phone, so I could prepare on the train for the interview and just watching the world go by.

82220002_2912592265633714_4537422305847934976_n(c) All photos are my own. Copyrighted to myself, Penny Hooper. Photo above: Dalwhinnie Train Station, Scotland.

As the stops when by, I wondered what the areas were like, and wondered about the possibility of one day getting off at one of them to go explore. Aviemore is high on my list of stops, and Dalwhinnie was certainly a possibility, being a fan of the whisky.

When I finally arrived at my destination, I was there a little early. Giving myself enough time to get off, stretch my legs, have a quick look around if the weather was kind to me, have a tea-break and then find the bus to my interview.

81752257_2912592322300375_7767083402854924288_n(c) All photos are my own. Copyrighted to myself, Penny Hooper. Photo above: Victorian Market, Inverness, Scotland.

I headed straight to the Victorian Market opposite the train station, after doing a small bit of research into the area before hand. I figured that was the best place to find a range of cafe’s and it was indoors so I could escape the cold and/or rain when I get off the train.

It was smaller inside than I was expecting, but it was a cute little place. There were a few cafe’s inside, I found one where I sat upstairs in a little section and relaxed on a comfortable sofa for a few minutes with a pot of tea while googling where to get the bus from.

81877693_2912592472300360_8765863633629478912_n(c) All photos are my own. Copyrighted to myself, Penny Hooper. Photo above: Pot of tea at a Cafe in the Victorian Market, Inverness, Scotland.

After a long break warming up with a pot of tea and finding where the street is to get my bus, I decided to get up a few minutes early and go for a wander around Inverness, at least down to the River Ness as it wasn’t that far from where I was.

But as soon as I got out of the safety of the covered market, I realised it was raining – was a little difficult to know that where I was sat!

But I decided I had already made the decision to go, so I was going!

82181985_2912592582300349_1512224243658522624_n(c) All photos are my own. Copyrighted to myself, Penny Hooper. Photo above: River Ness, Inverness, Scotland.

The weather was terrible, it was freezing with a bitterly cold wind going through the town and it was raining. But I still managed to get to the river to have a very quick look and snap a few photos.

I didn’t stay there long though, as I decided to go back, see if there was an earlier bus or find somewhere else to go get a drink and sit down, or at least find somewhere warmer!

In the end I decided to just get on the bus and head to my interview.

I didn’t see much else of Inverness, I literally had my interview, got back on the bus and was lucky to get on the next train back home. I didn’t even stop to have dinner (I had a left over sandwhich I ate on the train!)

But, my hard work paid off… the long train journey and the cold Highland weather was worth it… I got a call the next Monday saying they’d like to offer me a position.

Now I’m just waiting for my start date so I can book temporary accommodation.

Keep an eye out for future travel posts from the Highlands!

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If you liked this blog post, please do check out my others:

Living in Australia – Part 2: My first Christmas away from my parents (Christmas Special!)

A small trip to Reading – Wokefield Mansion

Douglas, South Lanarkshire – A Hidden Gem

Living in Australia – Part 1: Breakup from hell and Brisvegas

Best places to visit in South Lanarkshire

Rose Garden Sanatorium – Chapter 5

Happy Birthday! But why do we celebrate?

Remember, Remember, the 5th of November…

The HALO Trust: Safe Steps – Challenge Complete!

I won! I came first in the Earnesty Writer’s Awards 2018 Paranormal Genre!

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