My favorite stop of the tour was Glen Coe. We were given 90 minutes to check out the visitor center, get lunch, and enjoy the magnificent scenery. It was at the visitor center that we met Scotty. Scotty was dressed in traditional Scottish Highland attire from the 1600's and 1700's which was much different than the modern kilts and formal Scottish attire. He gave us a demonstration of the weaponry and everyday tools a Highlander would have used during that time period. Traci asked Scotty to take a picture with her. Before I could get the camera out of the case, he had wrapped her in traditional Scottish garb and gave her basket. I looked up and they were both grinning and waiting for me to take the picture.
The Glen Coe Visitor Center also has a small museum. Traci and I didn't get a chance to go through it. Instead, we had Scottish cock-a-leekie soup and a roll in the cafeteria and then followed Tom up a path as he took us to a scenic overlook. It had been raining off and on and had tapered to a drizzle. Because of this, the grass was slippery and the path was muddy. These conditions had little effect on Tom who hopped over a fence and scrambled up the path effortlessly. He would occasionally look back at Traci and me as if to say, "Keep up!" The view at the top was great but we didn't spend much time there because it was time to get back to the bus and head to our next destination - Loch Ness.
Scotty explains tools and weapons
Traci diggin' the Scottish fashion
I think Traci has a thing for men in kilts.
down the slippery path
Loch Ness is a deep, 23-mile long fresh water lake that was made famous by reported sightings of a dinosaur-like creature known as the Loch Ness Monster or "Nessie". The first reported sighting of a creature in these waters was by some 6th century monks. Since then, many people have claimed to have seen a monster. There have been many scientific studies attempting to prove or disprove its existence.
We made a stop at Urquhart Castle which sits on the banks of Loch Ness and is supposedly a good place for spotting Nessie. There is a visitor center dedicated to the castle. We viewed an excellent 8-minute film on the history of the castle and how it was eventually blown up in the 17th century to keep it from being plundered by the invading Jacobites. The film was outstanding. At the conclusion of the film, the screen went up and the window curtains opened to reveal an incredible view of the castle ruins and Loch Ness. It was the first time I've ever viewed an educational film in a museum that caused the audience to applaud. We were given some time to climb the narrow circular stairs of the castle and take in more views of Loch Ness.
Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness
Traci in front of the castle ruins
storming the castle
View of Loch Ness from the castle
From Urquart Castle, we continued north to the city of Inverness. Inverness is a modern city in the middle of nowhere. Our only stop here was at the bus terminal to pick up two people who were doing the two-day version of the tour. The rest of the three-hour ride back to Edinburgh was uneventful. We caught up on some Z's while Tom continued to narrate - even in the dark. The tour made a quick stop at a cafeteria-style restaurant for dinner on the way back.
I enjoyed the Loch Ness and Highland Tour. I was able to learn a good amount of Scottish history as well as observe some great scenery. The only drawback with this tour is that because it covers so many miles, the stops are brief and we always felt rushed whenever we stepped off the bus. Other than that, this tour is a great introduction to the Scottish Midland Valley and Highlands.
Magnet Purchased on this Trip: (click to enlarge)Entire fridge magnet collection...
By Sunday, our Scottish adventure had come to an end. It was time for us to fly back to London, England and begin the second leg of our trip. We checked out of the Braid Hills Hotel and said goodbye to Nino and the rest of the wonderful staff before boarding the taxi to the airport. We had the most charismatic taxi driver. During the 20 minute ride, this elderly Scotsman talked about everything from his grandchildren to his dislike of London. He had an amusing habit of giving two quick hand claps whenever we said something he agreed with or whenever he said something that brought back a fond memory. He helped us get our bags into the airport and then gave us a warm send off as if we were old friends. I thought this was a fitting end to a marvelous weekend in Scotland. continue to England...