I thought taking a two-day tour to Loch Ness and the Highlands would prove to be twice as good as last week’s one-day tour, but I wasn’t as impressed with the tour this time. Don’t mistake me, I loved seeing both sights again, but the tour itself was lacking. For one thing the tour guide had the personality of a flaccid noodle; whereas the other tours I’ve taken the guides have been chock full of stories and history and chatter, this guy was sparing to the point of laconic in his speech. For another he didn’t seem to have a real itinerary, which offended me. He kept asking the tour group what we wanted to do. (I was like, dude, this is your country—you show us what we should see.)
We hardly stopped our drive at all. We did go to Loch Lubnaig and the Three Sisters in Glen Coe again, but there were other places we might have stopped even for just a few minutes to take pictures. We stopped in Ballachulish at the Clachaig Inn where I made a fine lunch of (vegetarian) haggis, tatties (potatoes), and neeps (turnips), but it was a surprisingly heavy meal that I couldn’t finish.
And then we drove to Urquhart Castle, a little south of Inverness. I know I said, “Once you’ve seen one castle, you’ve seen them all,” and I kind of stand by that statement, but I love ruins, and this castle definitely qualified. There wasn’t much to see since it was half knocked down but ruins speak to me in a way that preserved castle buildings don’t. And the setting, of course, was lovely, as the castle was on the banks of Loch Ness.
The other people in the tour decided to take a boat ride, but as I took a boat ride on Loch Ness last weekend, I didn’t want to repeat it. And it was just as well. It started pouring. I felt so bad for the rest of them because they got soaked, while I enjoyed some extra time in the gift shop and café, perfectly dry.
And then it was on to Inverness. I didn’t see as much of Inverness as I wanted. Once I got to my B-and-B, Eskdale Guest House, I was kind of super tired and just kind of conked out in my tiny single bed right next to the radiator. In the morning, I saw a little bit more of the town, but I didn’t get to visit Inverness Castle. I thought it was closed, because of the time we got to Inverness the night before (6 p.m.), but actually it’s not open to the public. I was disappointed because I really wanted to see the castle where I thought MacBeth would have lived (although he was King from 1040-1057, and technically the first castle was put up in 1057, so he didn’t live there after all), but I still wanted to see it. The current castle was put up in the 19th century, and it’s veneered with lovely red sandstone. And it’s in great-looking condition, though there was orange plastic fence all around it because they are doing repairs.
The trip home was not exciting. We made several stops for walks-in-the woods, which, if you know me, wouldn’t be my first choice. One stop was at Loch an Eilein, in Rothiemurchus Woods, and this was a pretty little loch. I took the path beside the loch, but wanted to get a good picture from a different vantage point than the pictures I took initially (which, let’s be honest, were mostly about the ducks), and of course, I stumbled over a root and went down like the proverbial ton of bricks, getting mud all over my jeans, tearing holes in my sneakers, and fouling up my knees and legs and arms something fierce. It never fails. This is why I don’t go hiking. (Because the woods always try to kill me.) And then, to add insult to literal injury, in trying to get back up, I fell again. I was disgusted and filthy, and was glad to get back on the bus. Then we stopped at another walk by the Tay River (?) and the river was quite pretty, but I didn’t walk too far because my ankle was throbbing and I knew that I was tempting fate to go into the woods a second time. So I found a picnic bench and watched the water. We also stopped at the scenic Cava Cairns, big piles of stones used for burial and other religious purposes. Actually, I kind of dug them. One of the other people on the tour took my picture at the center of one.
The best part of the trip back was stopping at Dalwhinnie distillery, where I tried a flight of whiskies which were paired with festive chocolate truffles. I didn’t have my camera on me, or I would have taken a picture of the drinks, but of the three of them, the 15-year, the Winter something brew, and the Distiller’s choice, I was partial to the 15-year. It was raining and cold then too, so the whisky poured a little fire into our bellies. Of course, the last thing I needed was three “wee drams” on an empty stomach, but fortunately I wasn’t driving. Or required to stand upright for any length of time. 😉
Afterwards, we stopped for lunch at Pitlochry and I ate fish and chips at McKay’s Hotel. The haddock was perfectly fried and crispy though it needed salt. I wish we had longer than an hour because Pitlochry’s High Street was full of cute little shops I would have liked to look in. I might have considered skipping lunch, but the whisky was strong with this one, and I needed to offset the booze. And then we stopped in one more place (Dunkeld) for another walk, where I saw a lovely church in the process of being restored.
In writing this down, I guess we stopped a quite a few places after all, more than I initally remembered, but because the tour guide didn’t really bother telling us about anything, it seemed like kind of a wasted few days. I guess I’d have liked fewer walks in the woods, and more actual stops at things to see. But everyone else seemed to enjoy themselves so perhaps my attitude was crappy. And maybe I expected too much—but after the last few tours, I guess I was a little bit spoiled.
I still have a few more weekend tours planned, so I’m hoping they will be a little more energizing and interesting than this weekend’s. But it was good to get back to the Highlands. I just kept thinking how great it would be to live there part of the year (winter). I could so see myself in a little semi-restored farm house, with a sheep out back and a cat at my feet, where all I would do is drink hot tea, eat fresh scones, and write, write, write my heart out. Maybe some day.
Hope you enjoy this new batch of pics!