The Land of MacDonald & the Search for Nessie.


I never thought I could walk to the Old Town from St. Andrew’s Square in 1°C temperature and not feel frozen to the bone, but after a day in the Highlands dealing with -13°C, anything above freezing didn’t feel quite so awful. After 13 hours of touring (mostly on bus) and 400+ miles covered, I can say that I have seen a good majority of Scotland, albeit briefly. The tour that I did today with Timberbush was the longest one day tour offered in the whole of Britain – from Edinburgh to Loch Ness/Inverness and back. Once you undertake the tour, you realize how far Loch Ness is from Edinburgh. The views of the Highlands make the journey worth it, but if you have the time, a two-day tour (also offered by the company) would probably be more fruitful.

I started the day bright and early, with a 7AM wake-up call and was at the Timberbush pick-up point in front of Edinburgh Castle by 745A. On the way to our first stop, we passed by Stirling Castle & the Wallace Monument, but the fog was a bit too thick to get a real glimpse of either site. The Wallace Monument was erected in the 1800s but is a testament to William Wallace (famously portrayed by Mel Gibson in ‘Braveheart’), Scotland’s most famous hero from the 13th century. We also passed by Doune Castle, made famous by Monty Python & the Holy Grail. Funny enough, our guide mentioned that the gift shop sells coconut shells for people looking to re-create the famous clip-clopping of horseshoes along the nearby paths (if you’ve seen the movie, you understand)!

Our first stop at 10A was in a town called Kilmahog, where we grabbed coffee, morning nibbles and some scenic views of the passing lowlands. We also got to see Hamish, the famous Highland Cow that lives in the region. She was born in 1993, making her nearly 17. Apparently in ‘hairy coo’ years, that’s the equivalent of being a centenarian:

After our stop, the scenery noticed a dramatic change as we crossed the border of what is typically thought to be the lowland/highland turning point. One of the dead giveaways when leaving the lowlands and entering the Highlands? The signage. The road signs are written in two languages – Gaelic & English, with Gaelic taking precedence; it is spoken in the Highlands by some natives in order to keep the language alive.

The snow was a bit intense in the Highlands – it looked as if the earth was completely blanketed with cotton. At some points, there was only a sliver of blue sky separating the snow-covered grounds with the clouds in the sky. The views are pretty dramatic when the terrain begins getting rugged and the pictures were pretty incredible. The sunrise over the mountains made for some amazing shots as we traveled through Rob Roy Country and entered Glencoe. The Three Sisters (the three peaks which overlook Glen Coe) are absolutely stunning:

As we entered Glencoe, we got to hear the story of the MacDonald Clan massacre, something that I found particularly interesting considering my ties to the great Clan MacDonald. Interestingly enough, the mountains that we passed through was the area that the MacDonald Clan escaped into when they were attacked by the Campbell Clan in 1692. Apparently, the MacDonald Clan took in the Campbell Clan for a few weeks, feeding them and sheltering them before the Campbell Clan turned on the MacDonalds, intending to massacre all persons under 70. When the MacDonalds heard the ruckus and fled, they fled into these snowy mountains. Ironically, a visitor center was built just a few years back and the man put in charge was a Campbell. As you can probably imagine, that didn’t go over so well.

After Glencoe and a quick bite for lunch, we headed up to Loch Ness. Along the path that we followed there were a total of four lochs (lakes) that we were able to see (Loch Linnhe, Loch Ness, Loch Lochy, Loch Urr). The white snow, bright sunshine and lack of wind made for the most amazing views – the water was incredibly still. Some of the smaller lakes and ponds were actually frozen to the point that you could probably ice skate on them!

After hours of driving, we made it to Loch Ness at around 215P and jumped on a cruise boat for an hour cruise on the lake. I tried desperately to look for Nessie, but the peat-saturated water made it difficult to see below the surface (no doubt adding to the enigmatic nature of the loch and the monster). Aside from the tale of the Loch Ness monster (which apparently dates back to the 6th century), the lake itself is pretty fascinating. It’s 24 miles long and 1 – 2 miles wide, but is better known for its depth: around 750 feet deep throughout with parts going down to 1000 feet. If you were to take all of the bodies of water in the rest of Britain (all bodies – lakes, rivers, ponds, etc, — from England + Wales) and added them together, they wouldn’t fill up Loch Ness.

The tour was gorgeous and totally worth the £34 (with student discount) day trip price. The downside to December is that the days are so incredibly short – the sun began setting during our 3P cruise and the skies were completely black by 430P. If you were to go in the summer, there would be a stark contrast – daylight that goes on forever and completely different (green) views. Either way, I would totally recommend Timberbush tours. Our tour guide, Billy, was awesome (his accent didn’t’ hurt – gotta love the Scottish accent!) and there were enough stops to take in some great photos. If you have the chance to do a 2 or 3 day trip, I would definitely opt for that though… 400+ miles in 13 hours is a bit intense!

Hope everyone’s holiday season is going well! I’m heading back home (to London) this evening and although I’m sad about leaving beautiful Scotland, I’m happy to be able to sleep in my own bed and celebrate Christmas with friends back in the capital.

Lots of love from the UK,

See more pictures here!

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6 responses to this post.

  1. […] Talk « The Land of MacDonald & the Search for Nessie. […]

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  2. […] https://travelerdiary.wordpress.com/2009/12/23/the-land-of-macdonald-the-search-for-nessie/We also got to see Hamish, the famous Highland Cow that lives in the region. She was born in 1993, making her nearly 17. Apparently in ‘hairy coo’ years, that’s the equivalent of being a centenarian: …. 1 hour ago; Loving British Airways‘ mobile check-in! All checked in and ready to head back to Londontown tonight! #britishairways 2 hours ago; Back from the Highlands and ready for bed! Gorgeous day but no Nessie sightings… Maybe next time! … […]

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  3. Posted by dancingbeastie on January 23, 2010 at 5:48 AM

    Hi, glad you enjoyed your visit to highland Scotland. If you’re interested in finding out more about the Massacre of Glencoe, there’s just been an interesting academic discussion about in on http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4 – type the programme ‘in our time’ into the search bar and you’ll find it. You can listen to it on iPlayer for the next week or so. There was a lot more to the massacre than the old Campbell/Macdonald rivalry: it was a government operation sanctioned by King William of Orange for political reasons. I always think that the truth of history is more interesting than the ‘shortbread’ version!

    Reply

    • Hey! Thanks for the info! I LOVED Scotland & the whole MacDonald/Campbell history was rather interesting since I have ties to the MacDonald Clan! I’ll have to check out that website — I’m all about learning the REAL history rather than the watered-down kid’s version :)

      Reply

  4. […] your recall from my recent post, I undertook the longest day tour available in all of Britain a few days ago! From Edinburgh, we […]

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