I don’t think I slept at all last night. I went to bed a precious five hours before the tour departed the next morning, so I was already on the edge, then, from 2:30 to 4:30 am, a group of Dutch kids decided to have a sing along in the lobby. The walls here are made of paper. When they finally stopped, two separate people banged on the door the the room because they had either lost their key or their key didn’t work. Being the closest to the door, I had to get up and answer it. There were no blinds, either, so by 7 am the room was flooded with light. Then, to top it all off, some asshole hit snooze.
Alarm clocks are a necessary evil. You don’t begrudge your fellow travelers their alarm because you need one yourself. But you Do. Not. Hit. Snooze. Ever.
I felt perky and ready to seize the day. I rarely feel that good that early in the morning, but I was off like a shot. Maybe it was the excitement. There is a continental breakfast at the hostel in the morning, and although it didn’t open til later, Grace let me grab some toast for the road.
I didn’t realize there would be some small coffee shops with takeaway breakfast food en route to the bus stop, which was a pleasant surprise. I supplemented my toast with porridge and tea, and arrived to the bus stop in plenty of time.
When it arrived, the driver assigned us each to seats. The bus was sold out, so it was going to be tight. I was put next to a a Swiss girl who was part of a group of three. The seats were in twos, and she must have gotten the short straw.
My place was in the back of the bus. It strongly recalled my journey in the Seatour, that first day in Italy in 2009. Mom knows how that worked out. Carsick. Carsick is how that worked out. But that was yeeeears ago, so I wasn’t worried.
We had to spend a little time on the freeway just to get out of town. And we were told that we’d stop for coffee after about 45 minutes. That little strip of road was actually quite a good start to the day. A huge rainbow arced over our path. We passed Linlithgow Palace, birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots. We also passed Doune Castle, which is featured in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. We saw Stirling Castle, the battlefield where Scotland finally won her independence, and the William Wallace memorial… All before breakfast.
The place we stopped for coffee was like a tourist rest stop. There were sheep and highland cows to look at, and a shop full of more tartan plaid than a Catholic school uniform supplier. A guy stopped me as I was browsing and asked me if I’d been at Stonehenge. I guess he’d seen me there on Sunday. He has a much better memory than I do, but this Great Britain is a surprisingly small place. He was on a tour bus called Haggis Wild and Sexy. I’m pretty sure that “haggis” and “wild/sexy” are mutually exclusive. I was on the much more appropriate Silverline Tours.
The guide was funny and informative, but the other tour goers were a tough crowd. I was the only one laughing, and I was way in the back. Some people had cancelled, so we were able to spread out a little. The Swiss girl had relocated to the back seat with her two companions and I had the whole row to myself.
From there we started winding our way up into the highlands. It was amazingly beautiful. We passed through Rannoch Moor, where the Scotland scenes from Skyfall were shot. Unfortunately it was raining a bit at this point. This only really affected my ability to take pictures through the glass of the windows, but it was amazing to see in person and appreciate.
We stopped again at Glen Coe, site of the Glen Coe massacre of 1692. It’s a beautiful setting for such horrific events, and a nice place to stretch.
We continued on til we got to Fort Agustus, a tiny town on one end of the Loch Ness. There’s a short boat tour I decided to take, since it was a long stop for lunch and exploring. Lunch was first. There was another solo traveler, an Australian man named Glenn, who I’d met at the Passage of Glen Coe when he asked me to take his photo. We decided to eat together at a restaurant the bus driver recommended, and both had the steak pie.
It was there that I saw on the news about what happened in Texas. This is not a good week to be in America. I’m so glad all my friends and family are safe.
Now, let me just say, I’ve never given any credit to this whole monster rumor. There is no way that an enormous, prehistoric beast in a tiny lake in Scotland could elude us humans in this day and age. Today, I learned that the Loch Ness (which is not wider than the Lake of the Ozarks by my family’s cabin) is 890 feet deep. Let me say that again: 890 feet deep. As the tour guide put it: that’s 5 1/5 statues of liberty stacked on top of one another. It holds more water than every other lake in the entire island of Britain combined. The entire population of humans on this planet could fit into the Loch Ness 10 times.
We still don’t know what goes on 890 feet under the ocean, and we’ve been studying that way longer than a freshwater lake in northern Scotland.
I’m not saying that I believe that there’s a monster. I simply now understand that it’s plausible for there to be things in that lake that we don’t know about. Did I mention all the underwater caves? And the fact that the color of the water, even at the surface, is pitch black?
We moved on after the boat ride. It was nice, probably the best way to see the loch itself. I had been feeling a little motion sick the last leg of the bus ride, but being on land had made me feel much better.
As soon as the bus started moving again, the motion sickness was back and worse than ever. I barely made it to our next stop, the picturesque Urquhart Castle. Again, getting off the bus and into the brisk air was a good quick fix, but this time I knew it wouldn’t last. I told the bus driver. He moved me to a little tip down seat next to him in the front, and there I remained. It was a much better.
We stayed on northwards til Inverness, which seemed like a nice enough town but not as interesting as the other places we passed through. The scenery changes quickly here, and before we knew it we were in a dense forest. Scotland is so diverse and so beautiful. Every part of it is romantic an unrefined.
Our final pit stop was in Pitlochry. We didn’t have much time there, but I managed to find a whiskey. I figured it would be my last chance to try local scotch while in Scotland. I’m not sure what we were drinking, Glen ordered it. It wasn’t really to my taste. I’m not sure. I’ve enjoyed scotch before, but the first part of the taste was really weird. I don’t know the name for it. I wasn’t much of a fan, but glad I had the chance to try it at all.
Our exciting sight on our way back into the city was the amazing Forth Bridge. They really know how to do trains in Scotland.
We were back in the city by 8:15. I settled into a little oriental restaurant near to the hotel and worked on some postcards while eating fried rice. Keep an eye on your mailboxes, my friends.
I hope tonight will be an earlier night and I get a little more rest. I’m off to Amsterdam tomorrow. I’ve been having issues with my hostel reservation there. I’ve been emailing back and forth with them, but nothing is resolved yet so at the moment I’m out a lot of money with no where to sleep. I hope it works out by tomorrow night. I’m not really sure what else to do.
Scotland was amazing. I had a wonderful time. I can’t believe a treasure like this has been right in my backyard the whole time and I only just found it. I think I divided my trip wrong; I should have spent more time here, less in Amsterdam. At least that’s what the Scottish people are telling me.