Scottish Highlands Trip

Trip Start Sep 09, 2008
Trip End Dec 20, 2008

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Flag of United Kingdom  , Scotland,
Saturday, October 18, 2008

I went on a two day coach trip through the highlands with Arcadia this weekend and it was amazing.  Saturday morning we all met in front of the office to leave.  We only had one slight delay because one student slept in.  Luckily for him, the bus drove over towards his residence to pick up his bed head.  By around 10am we were underway and headed toward Scone palace (pronounced Skoon) just North of Perth.  It was a perfect time of year to go on this trip, with all the leaves changing colors.  When we arrived at the castle, the ivy on the walls were changing to a deep red color as well, which reminded me of what a lot of the buildings at NU look like this time of year.  First we went on a short tour, led by a quirky and funny old Englishman.  Scone palace was apparently grounds where the Stone of Destiny was kept, the stone on which Scottish kings were crowned, until taken by the English in 1296.  The stone was finally returned to Scotland in 1996, and now is in Edinburgh castle.  This castle might be my favorite up to this point just because the grounds were so beautiful.  There were a ton of peacocks walking about, a large forest within easy walking distance, and even a star-shaped hedge maze.

After the castle, we stopped in Pitlochry, a small tourist town with mountains on either side.  Another girl (Mariah) and I tried to get some good pictures of the area, but could not find any good locations because there were so many buildings.  We did, however, get to stop at the Sheep Shop!  We both saw it from the bus on the way into the city and decided that the name of the shop alone warranted it a visit.  It was filled with lots of cute little stuffed anmal sheep, slippers, and little baby booties with sheep on them - very cutesy.  The town also had a couple distilleries, but I didn't get a chance to visit them since we were only alotted one hour here (the downside to a planned tour).  Ah well...What was most disappointing though, was that my camera battery was charged the last time I used it, but I forgot to recharge it the night before :-( .

Then it was on to the battlefield of Culloden.  The battle, if you can call it that, took place on 16 April 1746 between the Jacobite rebels hoping to restore the British kingdom to the Stuart dynasty and the English.  The slaughter of a battle ended after only 1 hour, but the killing continued for 4 days afterwards, just to make sure the rebellion didn't rise up again.  Wouldn't want that, now would we?  Inside the museum, there was a room with screens on all four walls, and they played a nice battle reenactment that made you almost feel as though you were there.  You got to watch the disorganized, kilt-wearing Scots attempt to do battle with the well trained red coats.  It was scary watching the troops march up, and I imagine that is what many of the American revolution battles looked like.  A little cheesey, like the history channel reenactments, but a great exhibit idea.  After walking though the museum, I went out to the actual battlefield.  For such a historically bloody site, it was a beautiful meadow, but if not marked, you would not know it was significant.  After walking through the field, I went inside because it was a wee bit chilly outside and had some tea with a couple other girls from NU (Sara and Yana, the ones I went to Stirling with).

Then we left for Inverness and our hostel for the night.  It was 6 people to a room, which is nice and roomy compared to some other hostels I have stayed in.  It was actually a very nice place - looked and smelled clean at least.  Most excitingly, Mariah (her camera had died too) and I found out that one of the other girls in our room had the charger for the camera battery we used!!!  YAY!  Crisis averted.  After making our beds, Sara, Yana, Mariah, and I went out to search for grub.  We ended up at a pub not too far away.  It was nothing special, but the hot meal was welcome on a chilly night.  When we returned to the hostel, we all went to sleep.  My mattress, which is the most uncomfortable one I have tried to sleep on...maybe ever, did not cooperate with my plan to sleep well.  Although to be fair, some of that might have to do with the fact I was sick...

In the morning, we ate a complimentary breakfast at the hostel - there was cereal and milk, yogurt, a roll, a shot glass of orange juice, and  pancakes - quite a selection for a hostel.  Then back to the bus to look for Nessy!  The ruins of Urquhart castle right on Loch Ness were pretty neat to see, but the Loch itself was more beautiful.  It was raining while we were walking around, and supposedly Nessy doesn't show when it is raining or windy (which is just about always), but I dunno...I saw something shadowy in the water....

Next on the itinerary was Glenfinnan monument.  This is a monument put up as a tribute to all the Scots that died on the battlefield of Culloden.  The view from the top was stunning.  I wish it had not been so rainy so that my visibility was better.  Also at this site, there is a viaduct which is apparently now famous because it is in one of the Harry Potter films.  Meh.

Finally, we headed for Glencoe visitor center.  On the way we passed a few mountains including Ben Nevis, the highest in Britain at 1344 m/4409 ft., but again, visibility was limited.  The scenery at Glencoe was awesome though.  If we had more time, I would have loved to go on a hike through the hills there...

After Glencoe, it was back to Edinburgh.  It was a long weekend, but an amazing trip with great landscapes, and what I imagined I would see in Scotland.  I am glad I went.
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