Thursday, April 24, 2014

From Hangover to the Highlands

Scotland Day #2: 7am after 3 hours of sleep is Never. A. Good. Plan... And yet, we got up, scarfed our Scottish breakfast (smoked salmon over creamed scrambled eggs, yum!), and proceeded to the next stage of our journey... A two-day bus tour out of Edinburgh, through the Scottish Highlands, and stopping at many an amazing castle and loch en route. A Scottish friend of mine in Paris had recommended doing this and we were so thrilled we took his advice. We ended up choosing Timberbush Tours for a variety of reasons and had a really excellent time. It gave us an amazing opportunity to see so much more of the Scottish landscape than we ever would have just wandering around one or two cities. The bus was much smaller than anticipated, which turned out to be greatly to our advantage in the end, and our tour guide has also apparently been doing this sort of thing for over ten years. Whether it's draining on him or not, he still enthusiastically relayed stories and history mixed in with traditional Scottish music playing on the sound system. He seemed to enjoy the character of a spooky, foreboding, sometimes surly sometimes rather crass Scottish storyteller. We were told no cell phones, and while mine wasn't really working anyway, I admit it was a sincerely nice change to spend hours not even paying it any attention while drinking in the scenery around. 

After picking up passengers in Glasgow, we passed through Stirling and caught a glimpse of the landmark castle situated there. The first main attraction, however, was Wallace Monument, in honor of course of William Wallace, made famous to ignorant foreigners through the movie Braveheart. Tragically, that movie has a billion flaws and discrepancies, though cinematic nonetheless. As I have already mentioned several times, the weather was stunning so we were happy to escape the bus whenever possible and breathe in the magical Scottish air. At lunchtime we stopped at a fairly non-descript touristy lunch spot, but also home to Hamish The Highland Cow... If nothing else, this great furry beast made quite an impressive sight. The only regret I have for the entire expedition is the fact that it is currently the height of springtime and while I saw many a spring lamb or "lem" as my sister-in-law and I so daintily croon, I was never close enough to squeeze one up and steal it away in my pocket... boooooo...

We then proceeded on to more scenic delights, stopping at Glencoe to take a plethora of pictures in the sunshine. Glencoe is reportedly one of the most famous glens around Scotland and home to the 1692 massacre of the MacDonald Clan (See? I can learn things!) It really was a beautiful mountain range and got us all excited for the next bit of our tour, and of course a personal highlight of the afternoon for me... Glenfinnan Viaduct. I'll be honest in noting that I'm not overly aware of the real history of the structure. I, as so many others before me, recognize it for what is has now become: the path on which the Hogwarts Express makes its way to the school in Harry Potters films... And yes, I really did hope that it would be making a surprise trip in April so that I could pull a James Bond and jump onto a moving locomotive... No regrets in life, my friends, no regrets...

As our day of breathtaking images came to a close, we settled into the village of Fort William for the evening. Rather small and quaint, there is not a whole lot to do in this little town, but it was a perfect stopover for our extra-tired souls. We were incredibly lucky to have been placed in a really lovely b&b (the tour books it for you), right overlooking the beautiful loch before us. The other passengers were at various lodgings throughout the town. I actually haven't mentioned them much because it wasn't an overly social bunch, though there were a few notable travelers. A Finnish woman, a girl from Bali, and a cute little Austrian man who always looked a bit lost and worried, were the solo compatriots. The rest were couples, some more friendly than others. For example, I told a young British couple how I had unicorn masks ready for Loch Ness (more on that tomorrow) but while the man seemed mildly entertained by my existence with a smile and a brief remark, the woman either thought I was insane or has zero sense of humour slash adventure. I choose option b. 

Beyond exhausted, we wandered the main road in search of an early dinner and ended up at a fun little establishment heralding traditional Scottish fare. Almost every person you meet in Scotland, whether putting on an act for the sake of tourism or truly interested in your well-being, all have an air of genuine welcome in their tone. Though a rather sleepy nightlife, it seems we could have sought out some live music circa 9pm but instead were happily resting in our comfy beds by 10, all ready to wake up bright and early again for the next morning. Sunday brought us to the main attractions of our tour and promised to be another rollicking day of adventure...


No comments:

Post a Comment