Monday, July 14, 2008
Highlander and the Lochness Monster! Ooohhh!
Alright, here it is, the BIG one, a recount of Saturday's trip to the Highlands: the experience that has changed me forever into a walking talking brochure for visiting Scotland. Seriously! Do it, just visit, see the Highlands, you will love it! Alright, no more commercials for Scotland (I think). We shall return to your regularly scheduled blog. So Saturday morning I woke up on my own at 5:45 in the morning, a whole hour earlier than I had meant to wake up which was surprising since I'd been struggling to get out of bed for class this entire week. I guess my body new instinctively that something exciting was happening that day and just couldn't wait to get to it. I tried to fall back asleep but I was seriously excited and just had to wait in anticipation of my day. We met up at the service center to pick up our breakfasts which we had ordered the previous night, and found that there were only five, when we had ordered ten, and there were in fact twelve of us going on this bus trip. I don't exactly know what's going on at the service center in Pollock Halls, but they are kind of a mess. Everytime someone went to sign up for a tour they got a different story, so we were all a little bit unsure of how the morning would pan out, but thankfully we were all signed up properly and ended up pulling together and sharing the breakfasts. I hadn't really planned to eat their breakfast so I had a few vegan snacks up my sleeve (ok actually in my backpack, but you know what I mean;) Our bus driver drove us around Edinburgh picking up guests at other hotels who planned to take the 12 hour long bus tour and then we transferred to our actual tour bus. We had the best tour guide/bus driver. He had a truly great accent, wore a kilt and was just an overall charmer, which made his commentary all the more delightful. Early on we passed by Doune Castle which was used in the movie "Monty Python and the Holy Grail."
We drove for an hour up to the town of Callander all the while passing by these beautiful fields, lit up by the sun and hearing about the battles fought by William Wallace, Robert the Bruce and other Scottish characters. It was really neat to be able to pass a field or town and know that a certain battle or monumental historical figure had actually been there. Our bus driver was a huge Braveheart fan, and told us all about how the movie was inaccurate to history, but he loved it anyway. So most of his commentary would go, "Well in the movie Braveheart, Robert the Bruce betrays William Wallace, which worked great for the movie, but in real life..." I was sitting in the back seat with Rach, Laura, Victoria and Sue, and somehow the four of them managed to sleep the entire way to Callander. Granted it was not too long after dawn, but I couldn't shut my eyes, I was so taken with everything that I saw. But everyone woke up when we arrived in Callander to get coffee, go to the bathroom, see the view and meet Hamish. Hamish is a Highland bull and apparently very famous around Scotland, his photo is on a ton of travel brochures. He was very sweet and would come up to the fence where we were standing for a visit. He kind of looked like Hamish from the Braveheart movie too with his massive body weight and red hair (that actor is now portraying Mad Eye Moody). I took a few shots of Callander (breath taking beauty that can't be captured on film) and a group shot as well. It looks like the coffee was starting to kick in for my travel buddies. I scoped out the gift shop for a few minutes and I found this fabulous necklace full of purple celtic greatness. It was a little similar to Rach's celtic cross find, so we modeled our necklaces back on the bus. And here is a short video I took for you on the bus. You get to see the countryside on the way to the Highlands passing by, AND even better, you get to listen to our tourguide talk about Braveheart (his favorite topic after whisky).
Isn't that great? Did you feel like you were on the bus too?
The closer we got to the Highlands, the more beautiful the scenery became, here is the progression of beauty leading up to our stop by in the Pass of Glencoe by the three sisters mountains.
It just gets better...(as Cara would say)
By the way, the Scottish word for lake is loch. We go to pass a ton of lakes, including one called loch loch (bc I think they ran out of names for loch) so its just lake lake:-)
Back to the photos.
When the bus finally stopped at Glencoe, I literally hopped off the bus. This place just made me feel euphoric, like I could spend all day there (I get that feeling a lot here). I just wanted to skip around and rejoice in the cold fresh air, and the surrounding mountains and greenery. It's funny how much I love trees and mountains considering I'm a pisces and we are supposed to be especially prone to loving water and being moved by seascapes. And I'm a double pisces with my sun and ascending in the sign, but for me, I'll take trees and mountains any day. It was in those moments standing there that I truly wondered if anything in the world could possibly be more beautiful than this.
Top Row: Ana (Spain), Rach (Australia), Me, Gulay (Turkey)
Bottom Row: Nora (USA), Victoria (Greece), Sue (USA)
Then on we went to Fort Augustus to see the Lochness Monster. Apparently we also passed by Hagrid's Hut from the Harry Potter movies but I didn't see it.
Fort Augustus was a really cute little town, surrounded by the mountains, and home to the great lochness monster.
A couple of people from our group took a short cruise around the lake, but we decided to just walk around and explore for ourselves. We didn't spot Nessie, but we came pretty close to her.
We played around by the edge of the water, and the Rach and I tempted fate and actually got into the water. I can safely report that nobody on our trip was eaten by any mythological creatures that day.
And in other important news at Lochnes, I found a bracelet to match my necklace.
We returned to our bus to head over to Urquhart Castle. Rach got stuck in the bathroom on the bus-actually we all did at one point. It was so small and you had to walk down these tiny stairs to get into it. The bus ride was incredibly swervy due to the landscape, so getting in and out coul be a challenge. Unfortunately Laura got a bit of motion sickness throughout the trip. Next is a quick shot of our tour guide Grass (sounds like Grosch), and Urqhart.
Here is some more of the Scottish countryside while we traveled to Inverness and Pitlochry, a small Victorian village.
I really liked bein in Pitlochry, it had the most authentic feeling to it. There weren't souvenir shops at every corner, and they even spelled things a little differently like plaice instead of place. It wasn't very Americanized at all, which I appreciated. And we found all sorts of charming little features there, including Sweeny Todd's Barber Shop!
Well I hope you enjoyed your tour of the Highlands!!
After we arrived back in Edinburgh, Rach and I got ready for a night on the town, ending up at a dance club called Espionage. All I'm going to say about this was that being in that club was not all that different from being in a club back home. I somehow seemed to think that Scottish charm extended to the club scene, but as Simone, the other student host told us (the day after), that place is a meatmarket.
And here is another travel tip. If a cute and charming Scottish lad offers to drive you around town on his rickshaw, for free...don't listen to him, it's a trickshaw and he'll charge you in the end. However, I definitely enjoyed the ride. Coming up next the climb and exciting descent down Arthur's Seat!! I hope you enjoyed, this blog entry. Hamish does too!