Sheep graze in fields outside of Strathcarron.

This past weekend I went to visit a family through the HOST program who live in Shieldaig, Scotland. I had booked a flight from the Gatwick airport to Inverness through EasyJet, and although I arrived an hour before departure time, they said the check-in desk was closed and that I couldn't board. Meaning I just wasted £80. This doesn't make any sense, as when we left for France last weekend, we bought our tickets, checked in and boarded the plane just 10 minutes before departure time. This was through RyanAir though, which may have been the key difference. In any case, this was rather infuriating and I'm going to try to have them refund my money soon.

This was on Friday, so I looked for other flights heading out of Gatwick to Inverness, and there was this other small airline which would have charged £214, so I didn't do that either. I was frustrated and my only choice was to book a sleeper train from London Euston to Inverness that night. For £117. Luckily SUL will reimburse me to a degree for these costs as I had to do this program because of SUL. Anyway it was pretty miserable, as was the sleeper train because apparently you have to pay much more to get a bed or even a reclining chair, which I did not do. I didn't sleep at all, and arrived at Inverness at about 8:30 a.m., then took a train from Inverness to Strathcarron. The picture above is from the train ride.

The HOST family picked me up at the Strathcarron train station and drove me to their house in Shieldaig. It was a very beautiful area.
My hosts live in that white house off to the left.

I climbed some mountains and walked around. I accidentally dropped my phone off into a ravine. So I had to buy a new one. And then I accidentally lost a blank CF memory card off a cliff.

The weekend was very expensive.

My hosts run a bed and breakfast year-round and are actively involved in restoring the forests in their approximate 1,500 acre estate, which like most of the Highlands in the region, are bare (the picture below is an example of this). The region was once the ancient Caledonian Forest of the Highlands, but now the native forest is nearly gone and its regeneration is especially difficult because of local farmers' sheep overgrazing the area, as well as red deer. It's a very relevant is topical issue up there because the Scottish government pays locals yearly for keeping sheep - this is done as an incentive for people to make a living up in an area with an otherwise low population. Every sheep that a farmer buys and keeps, the government pays a bit more. These farmers own vast estates in the Highlands and overgrazing is rampant.

My hosts own no sheep, and have fenced there area to prevent neighbors' sheep from entering, as well as red deer, so that their reforestation work can be fruitful.

Me by the mountains in Kinlochewe, the Scotland Highlands.