K it's gone now.
So as anybody who is Facebook friends with me(sigh) may know that a while ago Google deleted my most recent post "Exploring Edinburgh: A day of Thrones". After weeks of sequestering to Google for it's return I'm done waiting. I will continue to post trip blogs while the trip is still fresh in my mind. And I will back them up on my hard-drive. Not just on Google. Lesson learned.
One full day left in Scotland. Knowing ahead of time that I would only have three and a half days to experience the whole of Caledonia, I decided to follow a lead that Tony from my Stonehenge tour had given me. He said that Rabbie's tours were a great starting point for highland adventures. They were also cheap. And Hilarious. Day three was a full, 12-hour Scottish Highlands Tour. And it sealed the deal to make Scotland the most memorable part of my vacation.
Started out in Edinburgh at around 8:15ish. Had a stressful time getting on a bus to arrive to the departure point on time and, once again, was about the last one on. Our tour guide was Yali. Another Gaelic Badass, born in the Highlands, who has worn a kilt in lieu of pants most every day of his life. I've really been having good luck with my tour guides.
|Dude can rock the plaid.|
|As close to a plan as we can get.|
First thing of note we saw was Stirling Castle. Quite an important crag-fortress that has seen it's fair share of royalty crowned over the centuries.
After stopping for a quick coffee in Calender, we had reached the very edge of the highlands. The landscape began to shift pretty damn dramatically. Rolling plains and farmland quickly gave way to rocky, barren hills and wooded valleys separated by long slits of lakes called Lochs. Watch the movie Rob Roy for a nice little tour.
|Keep your eyes out for Liam Neeson!|
|That Scottish wind is a fierce lady. Cold and biting...|
Driving through Rannoch Moor we approached some truly stunning bits of highland. Amid the stormy clouds and evergreen tree farms rose jagged peaks that evoked an adventurous spirit of an older, harsher time.
|Buachaille Etive Mor...Go ahead now you say it.|
|Prime real-estate. Nice and exposed to the brutal winds, dependably terrible storms and marauding Scottish clans. This is not a happy place. This is an awesome place, but not happy.|
From here we drove through Fort William and diverted a bit off the planned path. We stopped near Spean Bridge to see the Commando War memorial; a striking statue dedicated to the British Commando forces that trained here in WWII. A cool statue, with some damn impressive scenery to boot.
|That's Ben Nevis in the background, the tallest mountain in Britain.|
|Yali said that on one of his tours, he met one of the soldiers this is based off of. Then the whole company bought him a beer.|
Next we headed toward Loch Ness, arguably the most famous stop on the journey. Fort Augustus was a tiny little collection of houses and shops set up around the loch.
Here we stopped for a brief (like 10 minutes) lunch of Scottish fish and chips.
|Suckin down some brew and fish with me new tour buddies Susan and Isabel.|
The Massacre of Glencoe was sad but this tour was sadder. The only part of the day I didn't enjoy. The boat ride was un-exciting and the tour guide, while nice enough, didn't really have much interesting to say. He basically summed up the various theories about the Loch Ness Monster, told us about that one time he saw a seal and thought it was a dinosaur, and drove us back to the shore.
|See the fun? Do ya see it?|
|Laggan dam. Pretty dramatic, it kinda just jumped out of nowhere.|
|It's the house from "Monarch of the Glen!"|
After this last diversion, we set off to our last stop, the town of Pitlochry. A nice little Victorian tourist town. After a quick coffee (and some awesome carrot cake!) we headed back toward Edinburgh.
The harsh landscape of the highlands faded away into the rolling hills and plains of the lowlands. We got back into Edinburgh about two hours later then we planned but to sweeten the deal by dropping us off at one of his favorite pubs. The Queen's Arms.
|Beer, Books & Friends. No better way to end an evening.|
After we said our goodbyes to Yali, my new friends and I hit the town, going from pub to pub to club to bed. I was damn sad that It took me so long to meet these people, but even sadder that the next day I would be leaving this fair nation. Four days was not nearly enough, yet I feel that twenty years would still leave me wanting. Of all the places I visited in this month abroad, Scotland is first on my list of "Places I must revisit before I get a steady Career/family/future."
The next morning I had breakfast with one of my new friends and then sped through town with luggage in tow, late for my train.
Then I stopped. I stopped on the Royal mile and took it all in one last time. I missed my first train so I could listen to the bagpipes and the flutes, to laugh at the Scottish old ladies gossiping and breath the damp peaty air.
A summation: Scotland is awesome. The people are warm and friendly, the history is vast and fascinating, the sights are many and won't cost you the kidney you paid in London.
Next is my weekend with Jessica in York. It's all down hill from here.
Thanks for joining. See ya soon.
Here's the link to my album for this blog:
|4-7-11 Scotland Highlands Tour|