Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Let The Highland Games Begin!

Hot Blonde Cousin and I, always in search of adventure, had long since planned to head north to the Isle of Skye post-Harry Potter bliss. Though we have been to Scotland together twice now, I kept seeing pictures of this gorgeous island in the Highlands and couldn't wait to check it out. What with visa nonsense and scheduling stress, we weren't positive for a while that it would ultimately happen but at long last we booked our travels in the course of a mere afternoon. Our plan was to fly to Inverness EARLY Saturday morning, spend the day there, take a bus tour to the Isle of Skye on Sunday, then fly back to London EARLY Monday morning so that Cousin could head to work. I outline our itinerary primarily to emphasis how many days in a row we had to wake up at approximately 3am.

For whatever reason, my flights lately have been peppered with weird lines and security checks. I suppose this makes sense considering current immigration crises and random acts of terrorism, and for those reasons I do not remotely complain. I am, however, constantly amazed when discount airlines in particular seem to have bizarro rules, be located in strange places, and no one actually explains anything to make things move along more quickly. Perhaps this is a surprise to no one but myself, though I digress... We landed in Inverness at 8:25am, so you can imagine how early we had to deal with all of that. Luckily, Inverness airport is a quick 30 minute bus ride or 15 minute cab ride from the city centre, so we were walking toward our B&B well before 10am. That being said, we had plenty of time to wander the small city before we could even officially check in.

Once we dropped our bags off and had an abundance of help from the owner of the place, we decided to do the full circuit of the town before anything else. This included seeing Inverness Castle, which is decidedly less grand than Edinburgh Castle, particularly because it is now used as some sort of government building rather than preserved as a tourist trap. I for one prefer the tourist trap because I just can't get enough of castles. We also checked out Leakey's Second-Hand Bookshop which boasts an amazing collection of beautifully bound oeuvres. We traversed bridges and walked up the River Ness over to the Ness Islands, very fortunate to have the weather stay fairly sunny though colder than I would ever choose a July day to be. 

The best part, however, was that Cousin had seen signs for the Highland Games taking place that very afternoon. To be completely honest, if we hadn't had this engagement planned, we probably would have had a leisurely lunch and a bit more time in our B&B before heading out on the town. Inverness is perfectly lovely but very small and I suspect most people use it as a home base to explore the surrounding countryside. So, happy day for us that we had such a rare experience to look forward to! There were bagpipes, traditional Scottish dancing, and most impressively the Heavy Events which included the hammer throw, the caber toss, and the Inverness Stonemason Challenge. The caber toss was particularly impressive and the Stonemason challenge, which apparently began in 1822, involves lifting an 18 stone boulder over a 5 foot bar. These men were heavily inspiring to say the least. What with the random spurts of rain and cold that haunted us, and one too many youth track events, I was quite ready to head back to the B&B at day's end.

We had booked a table at a well-known pub for dinner and treated ourselves to some delicious steaks. Since the host had somehow forgotten our reservation we also received a free drink on the house before we went out to enjoy some traditional Scottish music at a venue called Hootenanny's. This was about the time of day that exhaustion plus tipsiness plus one too many caber tosses caught up with me and we finally went back to our room to crash before our main event the next day.

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