Travel and tourism have become casualties of coronavirus lockdown, but one travel writer has found a new way to highlight Scotland's beauty, writes Deborah Anderson

FOR a travel blogger whose livelihood centres around the great outdoors and finding hidden gems in the beauty of Scotland, lockdown has proved somewhat difficult.

But Kay Gillespie, who is known for her blog, The Chaotic Scot, has found a new way of showcasing what the country has to offer while connecting people through a new group who have a love for and desire to discover Scotland when restrictions are eventually eased.

“I am so passionate about Scotland and everything it has to offer and I absolutely love discovering places and telling people about them,” said Ms Gillespie, from Edinburgh.

“Sadly we are not able to do any of those things at the moment. As lockdown loomed I had to cancel some planned trips to quirky accommodation spots, but I hope to be able to pick that up at some point.

“I was really beginning to miss the great things about Scotland and had been posting a few things on my blog, but at this time I decided to take it one step further and set up a Facebook group called Dreaming of Scotland.

“This group is a place for us all to dream about Scotland to share our memories and our experiences and our travel wish-list for the future. Within days 1,000 people had joined and now we are up to 2,000."

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Members of the group have been posting pictures and memories of their travels and have become a little community.

Ms Gillespie added: "I asked people to share a post with one of your favourite things about Scotland and tag their posts #dreamingofscotland. People have been sharing pictures of places they have been to and some where they would like to go. As people are at home in lockdown we have had seen some pictures of beautiful parts of Scotland.

“It is almost as we are in a little bubble and it is somewhere to escape what is happening around us. I have been very careful in how I post so that it doesn’t look as if I am encouraging anyone to go out and explore. However, I think when restrictions are eased, people might want to share tips about places they have been to.”

The blog has been received with enthusiasm and positivity with people happy to post pictures of their trips to inspire others. Ms Gillespie hopes it is one way of spreading the message about what Scotland has to offer.

"I think people will probably turn to domestic tourism when we come out of lockdown," said Ms Gillespie. "We have no idea how long it will take to see things return to the way they were. Often I travel at quieter times of the year when there isn't so many people about. Maybe I will see more people on my travels if people are able to take trips later in the year."

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Ms Gillespie had been working as a passenger experience leader at Edinburgh Airport when she decided to take up her new venture permanently.

She had been writing her blog since 2013 and was also a tour guide for spell. She even admits she hadn't travelled that extensively in her own country, so she felt she was able to give a guide to places seen through eyes for the first time.

Ms Gillespie added: "I loved immersing myself in Scotland’s scenery and history, and seeing visitors’ reactions when they experienced it all for the first time. I also loved that it was me who was showing them.

"I knew I wasn’t going to be a tour guide forever, but I was certain that my passion – and my purpose – was to promote Scotland. Fast forward 10 years, and that’s exactly what I’m doing. In April 2013, I started my Scottish travel blog.

"In June 2018, five years after launching the blog, I left my day job in Edinburgh to travel Scotland and write about it. Now I’m a full-time travel blogger and itinerary planner, and I’ve never looked back.

"I take my audience on a journey with me, to inspire their own adventures in Scotland. Thanks to the internet, I get to share Scotland every day with people from all over the world. When I was a tour guide, I had a microphone and a captive audience during all those scenic drives. These days I have several electronic devices and The Chaotic Scot."

One unique aspect to Ms Gillespie’s travels is that she discovers the country using public transport and can reach even the remotest places with a little bit of planning.

She added: “I don't drive, so I show people how to travel Scotland on public transport. I love finding cute and quirky places to stay in Scotland, from historic inns and converted bothies to glamping pods and shepherd’s huts and I have visited 57 Scottish islands so far. I'm an island-hopper for life.”

And just where does the name for her blog come from?

"I regularly live up to my ‘chaotic’ name," admits Ms Gillespie. "I’m a consistent champion at forgetting things, losing myself and my things, sustaining injuries, and generally making an eejit of myself. If I can travel solo around Scotland on public transport, anyone can."

As well as running the blog, The Chaotic Scot also runs a travel itinerary business but she is now looking to next year before she can plan trips for clients.

“I tend to have a lot of clients from North America and with travel restrictions that just isn’t possible just now. I think I will be looking at trip planning for 2021 now. I am just looking forward to sharing my love for Scotland and telling people about places they can discover."

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