As summer approaches and holiday plans to far-flung destinations populate the screens of starry-eyed students on every floor of the library, I have been reflecting on my last four years living in Edinburgh.
When I first came to visit the School of Geosciences, blue skies smiled down on the cobbled mish-mash rooftops of Auld Reekie and my heart was sold. Panoramic views from the top floor Meteorology lab of multiple volcanoes deep in the city centre only served to seal the deal. Head over heels, I knew Edinburgh was the place for me.
Four years later, I still enjoy the twisting closes and the way your eyes are drawn up, down and around as you wander through the Old Town, dodging chocolate stalls and fancy dumplings on a Saturday morning in Grassmarket.
There is much more to Scotland than the surface beauty of the capital, however. Throughout my time as a student, I have regularly managed to sneak off across the country to escape the hustle and bustle of university life.
And what awaits you when you do. To step into lands carved by glaciers during the last ice age, mountain belts formed from the collision between England and Scotland (we weren’t always a union!), otherworldly islands forged by volcanic eruptions and white sand beaches taken straight from a Caribbean postcard – it is a geoscience student’s dream!
My first experience took some fellow geoscientists and me on a road trip over the sea to Skye. We climbed Cuillin Hills in bracing wind and chickened out of an icy dip in the mystical Faerie Pools, before returning to the cosy fireside at our hostel for a raucous night and Hallow’s Eve ceilidh.
Winter in the Highlands is a fierce but magical time, as I found out on my first trip to the Cairngorms, mid-February post-fresh snowfall and sub-zero temperatures. Under the shadow of one of Scotland’s tallest mountain range, frozen over Loch Morlich was the perfect setting to wander thigh-deep in snowdrifts and take night-time walks back to our cosy cabin under a full moonlit sky.
Summer came around and I decided I wanted more – setting up camp on the banks of Loch Linnhe to live for two glorious months. Whilst working in Fort William, or as some call it ‘the gateway to the north’, I found time to take daily dunks in my back door pool at Inchree Falls, wander blissfully up Glen Nevis and climb the ‘Ben’ and countless other hills, cycle through the Great Glen (a major faultline) and sail a yacht through the infamous whirlpool the ‘Corryvrecken’.
Now, I’ve turned from feet to wheels, and have recently found myself whizzing down the Duke’s Pass in the Trossachs, along the hazy Fife coastline, lochsides in Argyll and the scenic road to Salen on Mull.
For me, being able to explore the stunning Scottish landscape just a stone’s throw from Edinburgh and put my gathering geoscience knowledge into reality has been a highlight of my degree. There’s nothing quite like noticing the drumlins, moraines, sills and erratics from the side of a wind battered Munro.
And all in a weekend’s work!