Scottish Highlands, Day 1
After I spent a couple days in Edinburgh, I booked a 3-day tour through the Scottish Highlands and up to the Isle of Skye. We met about 9am to take-off on our journey. I was surprised to hop on the bus and only see 6 other people plus our driver Pete, which actually turned out to be great. There were Natasha and Ashley from Calgary, Dave and Grace from Toronto, Sam from London, Umbreen from Edinburgh, and me. It was a really good group and we all got along and got to know each other pretty well by the end of the 3 days. We began our journey heading up to Doune Castle. This was all of our group except for 1.
We drove past several lochs (Gaelic for lake). Most have funny names like Loch Lubnaig. When we stopped for a coffee break, I was surprised to see a bull in the field next to us. His name is Hamesh and apparently he’s one of the main tourist attractions in that part of Scotland, probably because there aren’t too many bulls around there.
This is one of my hardest posts to write because I have a million pictures from the tour, but I have to go back and figure out what they are. I tried to write down most of the things the driver told us so I could come back now and match the list to the pictures. After a while, though, it was like here’s another loch, here’s another mountain, etc. I believe this next one was Loch Tulla.
These were the Falls of Dochart.
This odd-shaped mountain is called Buchaille Mountain, and it’s formed like an almost-perfect triangle.
It was a really nice day our first day on the tour. Too bad it didn’t even begin to make up for how crappy, rainy, and cold it was on the 2nd and 3rd days. This next group of mountains is called the 3 Sisters of Glencoe, with the 3rd behind the other 2. There was a whole story behind this that our driver told us, but I don’t remember the whole thing. It was something along the lines of the 2 younger girls wanted to get married, but couldn’t until their oldest sister had first. They went behind their father’s back and ran away to another country to get married to a couple of Italian guys. Their father eventually found out, got really mad, hired a witch, and had them all turned into stone mountains for the rest of eternity. Something like that.
We passed Ben Nevis, which is the tallest mountain in Scotland at 4406 ft, but I can’t seem to figure out which picture that was. Next was Loch Lochy (one of my favorite Loch names).
An interesting fact about Scotland is that there are over 600 golf courses in the country, giving it more per person than any other country in the world. Since golf was invented there, I guess it makes sense. If anybody likes Scotch Whiskey, there are around 95 whiskey distilleries operating at any given time and they all have their own distinct whiskeys. Our driver Pete was kind of a whiskey connoisseur, so we learned some interesting facts about some of his favorite whiskeys. It takes a minimum of 10 years to distill a whiskey before it can be sold, so some of the newer breweries that have been open only 5 or 6 years still aren’t selling anything yet. That’s a heck of a lot of startup costs. Naturally, the longer a whiskey is distilled, the more expensive it becomes. This next Loch has a very interesting shape. It’s actual name is Loch Garry, but is called Loch Scotland by everyone. It’s pretty easy to see why.
This castle in the distance has been featured in several huge movies such as Highlander with Sean Connery (a Scot himself), The World is Not Enough, and more recently, Made of Honor. It’s called Eilean Donan Castle (I finally got the spelling right after about 5 tries because it is spelled completely different than it sounds).
That was about it for the first day as we headed onto the Isle of Skye. We stayed in Portree that night which, even though it’s the biggest city on the Isle, is still only a small fishing village with a main square, a few restaurants, and a lot of bed-and-breakfasts. Our group all stayed in different places after going to dinner together that night. It was a long day.