A couple of weeks ago, I escaped the city for a long weekend away in the beautiful hillside of Strathglass, just outside Inverness. It was the first weekend of minus temperatures (or at least it was the first time I felt them this year). When I awoke on the first morning, white frost had covered the grass around the cabin I was staying in. The little pond outside had frozen over.

Even just the first 12 hours there had felt magical. I spotted a doe and her fawn, as I stepped outside to try and get a glimpse of the aurora borealis. That evening, I played cards with my partner for three hours straight. I read a book and had a glass of wine, the fire from the wood burner heating my toes.

Whenever I find myself in places like this – places far away from the hustle and bustle of city life – I feel a sense of calm. Additionally, whenever I find myself in such a state, I realise how much I love it; need it even. It is in those moments of bliss, I find myself thinking: could I not make this permanent? That maybe – maybe – it is time to swap city life for something a bit more serene in the countryside.

Because I have some family ties and work commitments that make me leave the city fairly regularly, I’ve had these thoughts before. I thought them when looking out of my relative’s window at the sea, two of the Small Isles in the distance (she has to have one of the best views in Scotland, surely). I fantasised about it when walking along the one tarmac road that Knoydart has got, every local I came across waving from their car. I dreamed about it when driving through the backroads around Dingwall. I regularly dwell on it staring out the window during my weekly train commute between Glasgow and Dundee.

It’s obviously not an isolated thought that only I experience. During the pandemic, it was easy to spot – even just anecdotally – the shift many people were making away from cities and into the suburbs and rural areas of Scotland.

Numbers published by The National Records of Scotland (NRS) in 2022 then confirmed these observations. According to data, population numbers in Scotland’s cities fell in the year up to June 2021, while remote areas saw theirs increase.

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What speaks for living remotely? The beauty, of course. I don’t have to tell anyone how beautiful rural Scotland is. We all know. And given the fact that my current view is another row of red sandstone tenements in the mirror image to the one I live in – as well as the occasional glimpse of our neighbours' lives through the windows – I would lie if I said that I wouldn’t prefer it to be the Small Isles or a quiet field.

Then there’s the calm. Oh, the calm. That night I stood on the porch of the cabin of Strathglass, the silence was almost deafening. A far cry from the busy street I live on that has people shouting at all hours of the day or sirens rushing by on the way to the nearby hospital.

Then, I guess, there is the logistical perspective. Some remote places can offer you more for your money. Costs to rent or buy in Edinburgh or Glasgow have been through the roof recently. While I have been fairly lucky with the former, in that I have been renting the same flat for a number of years now, the quest for the latter (although now successful) has been a horrendous few years of saving and then months of flat hunting.

But, just as so many other things in life, there are downsides to all the above. As you can tell from my overly floral descriptions, my idea of countryside has very much become romanticised. I associate it with comfort and bliss, but without the drawbacks it may bring.

For one, while rent might be cheaper, other aspects can be quite expensive. Whenever I find myself in the supermarket – the only one for around 40 miles – in the small Highland village my relative lives in, I gasp at the difference in price and choice to what I get in the city.

Then, rural life may be quieter, but that can also mean a vast difference in the number of things to do, particularly in winter. Cities, on the other hand and as the saying goes, never sleep; even during the dreary months.

Cities also have so much to offer. I will definitely not say that they offer more culture than quieter places, but what they do is offer it in one easily accessible hotspot. Cities are full of the best restaurants, museums, and entertainment. While they don’t always rank the highest in "best places to live" (a most recent one by Rightmove had Galashiels, Inverness and Dumfries as its top three while Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen came 9th, 10th, and 12th, respectively), it is these things that propel city neighbourhoods in their ranking.

Perhaps that is why there seems to have been somewhat of a reverse shift. As the struggle to get housing in them shows, cities have actually had demand increase again post-pandemic (a report by Citylets talking about the steep rise in such in 2021, even labelled it Demandemic). Although, the more likely answer for this, rather than people falling out of love with the countryside, is that life is not the same it was in 2020-2021 and that people are drawn to cities again because they have to be: for work; for school.

But, to me, the thing that keeps me here, the thing that always wins over any thoughts about moving away is that I just really, really love living in the city – Glasgow in particular.

I tried to leave before. It was a bit of a different scenario, as I had actually decided to swap it for a bigger city, Germany’s capital of Berlin. That move never happened and the main reason was that I, even before I had arrived, couldn’t let go of Glasgow and found myself weeping in my dad’s kitchen.

The grass is always greener (it probably actually is beyond the metaphor and in real terms in rural parts of Scotland or, at the very least, there is more of it than in Glasgow), but when push comes to shove I can’t deny that I am hopelessly in love with what I have.

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I love all the things I said cities can offer in general, but I particularly love my city’s charm. Because as much as I fantasise, dream, and dwell on anything else, the second I come back home to Glasgow, I go "this is the place". It is home.

Maybe my love will fade. Maybe, one day, it won’t be enough to keep me here. Or maybe, like fine wine, it will age and transform. Maybe our bonds will grow even stronger, as I build up more memories on top of the decade I have already spent in Glasgow.

For now anyway, no matter how often I maybe let my thoughts stray, my heart is in the city.