Friday, August 12, 2016

Scottish Highlands

I prefer to consider myself more of a traveller, than a tourist. That's not to say I'm so alternative that I don't make an effort to 'see the sights' but I generally shy away from any form of organised fun like tours or hop-on-hop-off buses.

However, after trying to work out how we could manage to see the Scottish Highlands (long an item on my bucket list) in one day without falling off a cliff, I gave up and handed my money over to a man with a minibus. 

His name was Don. He had a heavy Scottish accent and said things like "I cannae" (I cannot) and "wee hen" (little lady). He told me lots of things about William Wallace and Rob Roy but to be honest, I'm still wondering who they are because I couldn't quite catch all the details. 

We started the day in a very civilised manner, with a whisky tasting. 

I'm joking of course. 

The village of Deanston was our first stop - it grew up around a large fabric factory but since that's disappeared all that remains to attract tourists is the Deaston Whisky Distillery. I'm not in the least bit interested in having whisky at any time, let alone 10am in the morning so Bo and I opted for a scrambled egg roll at their cafe. 

To be honest this first stop had me half regretting my choice to take a tour but we were soon on our way. The weather was decidedly British. As in, it was drizzling in the most irritating way and grey grey grey. But it turned out to be a blessing. 

As the scenery slowly changed from rolling farmland to towering peaks, I found the way the mist swirled around the tops of the mountains kinda magical. 

I have been struggling to describe my feelings as we sped our way through those twisty mountain roads. Most unsatisfyingly, the word I came up with was - disturbing. 

The highlands are untamed and unforgiving. They rise from the earth and soar steeply into the sky, and little tendrils of clouds reach down to caress them. The landscape is otherworldly and wild when it's cold and raining and I feel like there's ancient magic in them.

Soon we arrived at the breathtaking Glencoe. There is no gentle beauty here. It's savage and fills me with a deep sense of foreboding and wonder. As weird and morbid as it is, I think I would die out there. The earth would just swallow me up or I would just disappear into the mist. 

I love the look of those veins of water rushing down the mountains. Magical. 

As soon as we had had our fill of being rained on, we got back on the bus and headed to Fort Augustus to catch the Loch Ness monster. 

It was a decided change of pace. Again, I don't actually know the significance of Fort Augustus - but it was quite cute and quaint. Basically just a jump off point for the main event...

A boat cruise on Loch Ness!

The water of Loch Ness is the colour of Coke. It's because all the water running down the mountains becomes darkened by the peat, and when it gets to the Loch it's blackened like strong tea.

This of course accounts for the low visibility of the Loch. The darkness in turn means that the water temperature does not fluctuate much and this...well it does something to the local marine life.

A gentleman who talked us through the sonar imaging that the boat uses to navigate the Loch truly believes that Nessie is real. His theory is that it's not a dinosaur but a really really big fish.

By the way guys, in case you were wondering, I did see Nessie. I'm currently in negotiation with Hollywood and National Geographic but hey, I won't be greedy. Here's the proof that the Loch Ness Monster exists.

After getting over my initial shock and fending away the local press who had turned up to ask us about the sighting, we started our return journey to Edinburgh.

One the way, we stopped at Pitlochtry to have the best ice cream I've ever eaten. No exaggeration guys. I don't know what was in that raspberry ripple but holy hell it was good.

When we finally reached Edinburgh, my eyes were rolling into the back of my head with exhaustion. I didn't mention this earlier but it takes a solid four hours to get from Edinburgh to Loch Ness so I'm really glad we opted not to DIY. Bo and I probably would've killed each other trying to navigate through those mountain ranges!

We were cold and famished so we sought out sustenance at the first decent looking place we could find. It was a pub called 'The Conan Doyle' - famous for (get this), being NEAR the birthplace of Arthur Conan Doyle, author of Sherlock Holmes....Jesus Wept.

It was however warm, with adorable decor and actually really yummy food.

Boton opted for the Cullen Skink (haddock soup) but they had run out so the waitress said if we wanted to try something 'Scottish' (I'm pretty sure she was Spanish btw) we should go for the haggis. Boton shrugged and said he'd try it.

He hoovered it up with relish, after I had tried a bite. He asked me what was in it and with foreboding I told him that I'd tell him after he'd finished. Needless to say, he was not terribly impressed with my final reveal. Sorry love.

We also finished off a very solid beef pie, and something called Hunter's Chicken.

It was ten by the time we got back to our rooms. I could barely bring myself to undress as tired as I was but I was soon snoring away. Thus ended my final day in Scotland. Such is life on a whirlwind Europe trip and I probably missed quite a few exciting things in Edinburgh but as always one needs a reason to return another time no?

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