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Hey Loves! I’m Caitlyn the girl behind ChemGradBoom. A blog about taking life with a little salt, a slice of lime and shot of tequila or life of a graduate student, whichever version you prefer!

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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

North Coast 500 Guide

So for our 9 year anniversary (HOLY CRAP THIS YEAR WILL BE 10 YEARS), I wanted to venture out and try the NC500 road trip around Scotland. It has been compared to Route 66 in the US and was even voted as one of the best road trips in the world (with it only being open since 2014).

While I would suggest making this road trip for a few more days then we did, we still managed to see some fantastic sites and even camp on a secluded beach one night. This was an absolutely amazing road trip, even though I spent a majority of it glued to the wheel, as the roads in the highlands are teeny-tiny!!!

Overall we spent 3 nights away and 4 days exploring.  The first day of driving was a major one - making it all the way from Edinburgh to Big Sand on the west coast for a night at our AirBnB cabin!!!

A typical view along the drive. 

My original game plan was to make some highlight videos of the whole trip, but unfortunately, I managed to delete all of our Day 1 Footage !!! Talk about an epic fail!

Overall the trip was amazing, and I would do the whole thing (at a slower pace) if I had the chance to. As for this post I am sharing all the need to know things - and for the look back later for the more detailed post sharing what we did each day (with some videos for you as well).

What is the North Coast 500???

The NC 500 is a loop that heads around the Scottish Highlands beginning and ending in Inverness. While the route was always there, they have now promoted the route along with adding/updating some bits of the road to make it much easier. 

For the loop, you can either head up and north for the start and work your way around counter-clockwise or the direction we took which was clockwise heading west and then north and around. 
I would highly recommend heading west as this route allowed some amazing views through the whole ride! 
John O' Groats aka the most northerly point in mainland Britain. 

Getting around on the NC500

Along the route, we saw countless cyclists, Rv-ers, some hikers and quite a lot of vehicles enjoying all the Scottish Highlands had to offer. While we rented a car (the smallest one at that) if I were to make this trip again, I would love to rent a campervan and genuinely enjoy the journey. 

How long does it take to drive the NC500?!?

We made the entire trip in a little over 1000 miles over 4 days. This included the drive starting in Edinburgh. Overall I would suggest taking a slower pace and enjoy all the sites (as we did have to rush or skip some things I would have loved to see). 

The route in total is 516 miles!!!!

A stop at Dunrobin Castle the stately home of the Clan Sutherland. 

What we planned ahead!?!

As for the trip I made the map below with highlights, beaches and things I definitely wanted to see. As for pre-booking we made the trip in June (kinda last minute at that) but managed to book two AirBnB's for the first and third (final) night. We planned to camp on the second, and it was something that I would highly recommend doing. 

As for sites, we didn't pre-buy tickets and found that when something looked interesting, we could head in. Even for the high season, the crowds weren't terrible, and overall we enjoyed the freedom to do and see as we pleased.

Where we stayed for night one. An amazing little cabin in Big Sand!!!

Best things to do on the NC500

While in Scotland, you must drink whisky and visit local distilleries, don't worry the Highlands have some amazing ones. Also spotted along the route are some amazing historic sites, castles and ruins, all while being surrounded by the incredible scenery I have seen so far! If you have more time, there are countless hikes you can try, including some that take you to some of the prettiest beaches in the world (seriously they post all the time about them).

All along the route, you will find castles, ruins, scenery all of which are amazing!

Well over the next few weeks I will be sharing the rest of our NC 500 road trip along with some videos of all the adventures. I must say that this was possibly one of my favourite things since being here in Scotland and is still a road trip that I would consider doing again and again with no doubt in my mind that each time would be different.

For more information about the North Cost 500 check out --- 

Visit Scotland   //  North Coast 500 Website  //   Undiscovered Scotland 

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Monday, February 19, 2018

Hello 2018 ...

Well so much for the 'I am going to be back to regular blogging which I put well over 6 months ago'. Yep, I am terrible or maybe just lacked the motivation to get back into the habit of blogging.

Well really I just lacked the motivation for quite a lot in my life - PhD, getting healthy (gym life and eating habits), along with the blog all kinda fell by the wayside.

Not really sure how to explain it but the lack of motivation, but it seriously sucked these last few months. Not only the lack to push through with all the work that I had to do/needed to do in order to stay on track but I have just had an interesting last 6 month even if it hasn't been a productive one.

Let's start it off with a review of the last few months ---

  • I transferred jobs, after a discussion regarding my schedule/holidays with my previous job I was told that they weren't willing to accommodate my request. As someone who was there for almost 2.5 years and as the only part-time student employee it was disappointing, to say the least. In the end, I am now in a much better position and working under my old boss, so everything turned out for the better!

  • I spent a week in the hospital (yay for UK life). Towards the start of December, I finally headed to the doctor as I was having some lingering issues from a terrible migraine from a few weeks prior. Side Note: MIGRAINES SUCK!!!! Turns out a migraine was the first indicator that I had a blood clot in my brain - insanity. All is well though now, in fact, I am almost off of my blood thinner treatment and should be good to go. Will say this that while the hospital absolutely sucks, even more so due to the daily blood samples (I literally passed out on the first day when they were taking like 9 vials, and then the following day freaked out for 30+ minutes) everyone who treated me was fantastic.

  • I headed home for the holidays and it was amazing to see all my family and friends. It had been two years since I got to spend Christmas with my family and it was absolutely amazing to be there with them all, especially given the fact that going home was questionable due to the previously mentioned medical issues.

  • I have extended my PhD studentship til the end of 2018 (Dec 31st to be exact) giving me more time to get my ass into gear and finish writing. I literally have dragged it out for as long as possible, but recently seem to be on the up-and-up with writing. All I need to do is send off chapters and ask for legit feedback from my supervisors (or anyone who is willing to read my drafts). One of the main things I worry about is the 'argument' for why the research was being done and if the ''flow'' of the story is working. That is right -- the flow of the story, seems rather odd but that is essentially what the first few chapters of your PhD thesis is/needs to accomplish.

  • Lastly, I have been in the process fo applying for jobs/fellowships/internships. While I may not be done with my PhD just yet, I am well aware that if a position is available that is interesting to not let it pass by. Even more important hopefully the idea of getting a job will push me even harder to the finish line of submitting! 
So there it is an actual update of everything that has been going on over the last few months. Let's hope that now the first post is done that this will mean there is more to come! I do have some fun trips to share. along with the blog being a way to not only get in the writing habit but write about things that I truly enjoy writing :)

How has everyone's 2018 been so far? Also what tips do you have for getting motivated for when the spark is just gone, I would love to hear what you do to get inspired. 

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