Sunday, December 8, 2013
Han in the Highlands.
My plan to go to Loch Ness originally started as kind of a joke, because obviously I was just going to spot the monster. But I've never made a better decision for foolish reasons. I may not have ever felt a strong personal connection to the Scottish Highlands, but I certainly do now. Driving through them, and the little bit of walking I was able to do, made my heart absolutely sing, which was certainly more melodic than if my tongue had tried.
I made this trip with Highland Experience bus tours, and a jolly guide named Stephen, who was extra nice to me since I was traveling alone. Once we crossed the boundary up into the highlands, he was very conscious of finding places to pull over so everyone could take pictures, and he'd always ask if anyone wanted him to take a picture of them with their camera. He was an avid storyteller, and the morning was filled with detailed tales of Deacon Brodie and the Glen Coe massacre, among others.
When we arrived at Lock Ness, about 1:30, we had half an hour to putter around in the shop before the optional boat tour left, and I was sure I wanted to be on it. That was another great decision, because the boat trip was definitely my favorite part of the day. It was a double decker boat, and I started out downstairs so I could eat my lunch, but I went up on the deck as soon as I could. It was freezing and wet and my feet were soaking, but the wind was so beautiful, and I was taking pictures like a madwoman. I saw my third rainbow of the day, and we sailed around the most photographed castle ruins in Scotland. I didn't stop smiling almost the whole time I was up there.
I finally gave up and went downstairs to the warmth about halfway on the return to the dock, and my feet got to warm up just a little before we got off the boat and back onto the bus.
This was the bulk of the trip, as we drove up through Inverness, but it was already getting dark, so we made only one more stop for food if people needed it. I had some tea and a scone in a little coffee shop, and took in the High St. of a small highland town. And then we went back to Edinburgh. Stephen, the driver, spent the last thirty minutes of the drive recommending places to eat and things to do, along with pointing out the famous Forth Bridge that we drove past. One of the things he recommended was a ghost tour, some of which were starting just about the time we arrived back on the Royal Mile. I ended up taking one, and I was properly terrified for my pains. I went with City of the Dead tours, and we went into the vaults under the South Bridge which are apparently haunted by the ghosts of the poor who lived there and were bricked up in the walls when they died. We also made a trip over to the Covenanter's Prison in Greyfriars Kirkyard, where a being called Mackenzie's Poltergeist terrorizes a mausoleum. It was all horrifying and good fun. And by the time I returned to the hostel, I was very ready to get into bed and sleep off all the excitement of the day.