My heart belongs to Scotland

Trip Start Jun 02, 2010
Trip End Oct 03, 2010

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Flag of United Kingdom  , Scotland,
Monday, September 20, 2010

Okay, so the Lake District may be my idea of heaven, but Scotland is still my favorite place. Ever. Of all the places I have traveled there is something about Scotland that pulls at my heart and I feel like I am home whenever I am there. I don't know what it is that connects us to certain places, but I have a connection to Scotland that is beyond my understanding. But I don't need to understand it because whatever it is, it makes me happy. So the moment I was back in Scotland I felt content. I admit, I was a little concerned about the tour I had signed up for. Yep, I signed up for a tour. I originally planned to visit the Highlands on my own, using my BritRail pass. However, I soon realized that with the weather and my already shaky health, that would just be a big pain in the patooty. Plus, a lovely Australian girl recommended Haggis Adventure tours to me. So I thought, "Why not?" I mean, with a name like Haggis you can't go wrong, right? Right.

Our tour started out Saturday the 18th of September, and from the get go I knew that I was going to have a blast. We were all doing the 7 day Island Explorer tour. This would take us through Inverness and Lock Ness area, the Isle of Lewis, The Isle of Skye and down through Glen Coe. There were only 9 of us to begin with, so we started out in a shuttle van. However, starting Sunday we would add on 13 more from the 10 day tour. The 7 of us clicked very well. We were all different and from different back grounds, but we all got on perfectly. And then there was our lovely tour guide, Alan. Alan has to be my favorite tour guide. EVER. He, of course, was Scottish and had lots of experience and knowledge so that we were constantly provided with historical information mixed in with fun anecdotes. He also wasn't afraid to tell a few inappropriate but highly entertaining jokes. I found myself always laughing, which is a glorious thing.

We did too much in our seven days for me to give you a play by play. It would be tedious for all concerned. So instead, I will give you my overall impressions. Obviously, you can tell that I was in love with the country from the very start. There is something wild, rugged, and positively breath taking about the terrain. It captures your heart and steals your soul. It would be so easy to fall into some romantic daydream about the highlands. It is the perfect setting for two strangers to meet, on a hill side, as the wind blows your hair about and carries your fears away...NOT that I ever allowed myself to daydream as we drove north. No, never. That would be so unlike me. Eh hem.

So we made our way up to Inverness, the gateway city to the highlands. Also the capital of the Highlands. We didn't spend much time in the city itself since we had tons of ancient sights and historic castles to see. We did go out that night, however, and got to see a live band playing traditional folk music. That was fun. The next day we headed up to Loch Ness and got to see the glen where Harry Potter's lake scenes were filmed. OOOh nerdy fun times. Then we ended the night at a lovely hostel that was so homey, warm, and had a bar right there. Can someone say convenient? At this point we had added on 13 more people, and with the exception of one person, everyone got along perfectly. It was like a constant party with culture and beautiful scenery thrown in as a bonus. Could anyone ask for more? I say they could not.

We spent two nights in Fort Augustus, a lovely town right on the edge of Loch Ness. On our third day we had an entire day to ourselves, so a group of us went on a cruise of Loch Ness. Here we heard all about the history of Loch Ness and the current existence of the creature. That's right ladies and gentlemen, the Loch Ness monster does exist. However, it is not so much a monster as a prehistoric creature that had to adapt from salt water living once Loch Ness became land locked waaaaaaaaay back in the day. They actually have scientific evidence of 20 or more groups of these unidentified creatures all across the world. Now, you may think I am completely daft for believing this. And that is fine, you can go ahead and be your cynical selves. But let me just say that life is much more fun when you choose to believe in the unbelievable. And after having seen the evidence, and there is actual evidence, I choose to believe. So take that. This same night we also got to learn all about Highland traditions from an actual Highlander. We even got to see an Englishman almost get gutted by a 6 foot sword thing. Almost. The only thing that topped that was my killer dance moves. Yes, we indeed had a dance competition while wearing kilts. Needless to say, I won. Naturally.

Our fifth day was when things started to get interesting. And, weather wise, miserable. As soon as we got up to the Isle of Lewis (after a rather excruciating ferry ride) the weather started to go from bad to worse. A million mile per hour winds and constant rain does not a happy Kia make. But I didn't let that ruin my enjoyment of the spectacular scenery I got to see. We went to the Callandish Stones, which are 4500 years old (older than even Stone Henge). I would have been more in awe of them if I hadn't been constantly fighting to stay on my feet and nearly blinded by rain. From there we went to some authentic black houses. This is where Highlanders used to live in the olden days. I have to say, I kind of lost some of my romantic view of highlanders once I heard about their living conditions. Let me just say "eeeewwwwwwwweeeee". Granted now it's much better, but back then they shared a small hut, that had no windows or ventilation, with all of their farm animals. And it only gets worse from there. Bleck. I guess they did what they had to do. We also went to the tip of the Isle of Lewis. This is where all the wind gathers and tries to knock you over the cliffs. It was rather stunning, if it hadn't been so flippin freezing!

Our last full day together we spent driving around the Isle of Skye. Can we say beautiful? Holy crap. The night got even better when we began our final night party. The hostel we were staying at once again had a bar. The bar had live music. So we danced. And drank. And had a gay old time. It was one of the best times I've had on this trip. We even convinced our tour guide, Alan, to play the guitar and sing for us. Yeah, he's a musician who has played with quite a few people. We actually didn't stay out to late partying, which I was grateful for. I mean, we did have to get our butts up early the next day and ride around on a bus. Not so fun with no sleep and a hang over.

Our final day we probably saw some of the best scenery. We traveled down through Skye then stopped at Eilean Donan castle, one of the most photographed castles in Scotland. From there we drove through Glen Coe, stopped to see Hamish the famous Harry Coo (what the Scottish call their Harry Cows), and the Wallace Monument. We even stopped to see the castle used in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Yeah, that was cool. What wasn't cool was finding out how much of the movie Braveheart was absolute shite. Really, almost the entire thing was false. Sure, he was a man who rallied the Scots to fight for freedom, but he was also an absolute nutter. Not quite the romantic hero Mel Gibson makes him out to be. He wasn't even from the Highlands, so he would not have worn a kilt, and Highlanders NEVER painted their faces. I feel as if I have been lied to for most of my life. It was a very sad moment, but at least now I know the truth. And now I can be that obnoxious person who points out all the falsehoods about a movie. You may not want to watch Braveheart with me, or I will crush your soul.

Anyway, our final day was beautiful and enlightening, just what a tour ought to be. I really cannot say enough good things about Haggis Adventures. And Alan, along with the rest of the crew made the adventure absolutely fantastic. It was a great end to a great four months. I couldn't believe how absolutely empty I felt as I was leaving Scotland two days ago. The country and its people had maneuvered their way into my heart. So much so that I even felt myself hating the English, my beloved English! (PS the Scottish hate the English and would like nothing more than to separate from them. Hate may be a strong word, but they really love to talk crap about them and never miss an opportunity to make fun of the Queen). So, Scotland is a part of me now, but I guess it always has been. It is a part of my heritage you know. But now, I feel that no matter where I go or where I live, my heart will always belong to Scotland.
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Marsha on

I want to go, I want to go, I want to go!!!!!!!

Lin on

YAY! Now you can tell me what the Massacre of Glen Coe was all about because I did not understand that, mostly I thought that some McClains and Glengarrys stole a man named Campbell's sheep and then the Campbells killed a lot of MacDonalds. Right.

Lin on

Also, is there really an 8 day lag between your posting and our reading? Or are you just writing about stuff a week later?

kiaelise on

Hey Lin!

No there is not in fact an 8 day lag, I just put down the date that I would have posted had I not been busy. It helps me more than anything to keep track of when I was actually there.

What I was told about the battle of Glen Coe was that back in the day (I can't remember the date) the King of England wanted all of the clans to sign an allegience to the crown. Originally the clans didn't like this but they decided that it would be best to appease the king rather than deal with the repercussions. So they agreed to meet at a certain time and place. But the chieftain of Glencoe was a few days late. Now the King of England wanted to make an example of someone, just to show that he wasn't kidding around about the whole allegience thing. So he arranged with the Clan leaders of the Campbells to have them kill the McDonalds (the clan of Glencoe). But they didn't just kill the McDonalds. One day a few Campbells showed up at one of the lead McDonald's clan's door asking for shelter and some hospitality. Now it is a general law in the Highlands that you provide hospitality to whomever asks for it, no matter how much you hate them. So, the McDonalds brought the Campbells into their home (plus some English officers) and a few days later 30 or so McDonalds were murered in their beds. A Few more were killed as they began to flee. Those that survived made it to the hills surrounding Glencoe, but ended up dying from the weather. To this day the Campbells are hated more than even the English in that area and in a lot of Scotland. There is a Hostel in Glencoe that refuses to allow anyone with the surname of Campbell to stay there.

And that is the abreviated story of the Massacre of Glencoe

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