Last week I used up seven of my 16 days of holidays (that I have to use by the end of March, yeah right). For three of those days I hopped a bus trip to the Highlands, guided by Martin of Haggis Tours. Haggis came highly recommended by some customers we had earlier this year, dubbed ‘The Nerdy Canadians’ by Jenny and I. They were lovely.
The Highlands are also lovely.
I took the opportunity to just take in the scenery from the window, occasionally tuning into Martin’s history lessons – but I learned enough in my Scottish class this fall to know that most of what he said was bull, and just happily enjoyed the beauty outside instead.
(The Eilean Donan, castle used in the movie Highlander and one of the James Bonds).
In Fort Augustus we went to a cultural center, where a man named Sexy Ken told us about Highland life, and dressed people up in traditional garb. People on tours in Scotland like to emphasize how bad everything would have smelled in the old days, and Sexy Ken was no exception. (‘Imagine living in a house that is one small room with 20 people and the farm animals and having one bath a year! And you keep your clothes in a bucket of urine in the corner!’ Alright.)
We stayed at a hostel in Fort Augustus, right on Loch Ness. On the second night there, at a local pub, the owner came out and played the bagpipes. He also played the bagpipes in the movie Highlander – we found a clip of him the next day. Sexy Ken also showed up at the pub, with his Guinness-drinking dog.
The next day we ate these:
DEEP FRIED CADBURY CREAM EGGS! In Scotland you can deep fry anything. Let your imagination run wild.
We crossed over to the Isle of Skye (through a town called Kyle – I wasn’t fast enough to get a picture of the Kyle Hotel through the bus window, but I saw it!). It snowed giant fat flakes once we got there, and Martin wasn’t sure if we could make the tour around the island because the roads tend to get bad. We did get a bit of a tour, a different route than he usually takes, stopping by an ancient graveyard.
As we’d driven through Glen Coe (first picture) Martin announced that a crack had appeared in the windscreen, and he was watching it move across and up the glass. We had to stop so he could phone his boss and make sure it was safe to keep driving – apparently everyone but the Canadians on the bus thought the thing might cave in. Ha! On Skye, after taking a side road to show us a pretty little bridge, the bus bottomed out and got stuck getting back on the paved road, and we got out to watch as Martin sccccraaaaped the undercarriage along the highway. Poor guy.
And of course, we drove the long, long route along Loch Ness – a lake so deep if it were drained you could fit the world’s population into it six times. Apparently. No wonder people have thought, since the days of St. Columba, that there’s something bizarre living in it.
I didn’t see the monster.