Posted by: jodester87 | April 19, 2009

Exploring the Highlands

16 April 2009

We had to get up early because it was highland tour day! The tour was with Haggis, which is located on High Stree portion of the Royal Mile. Check-in was at 8:30 and departure at 8:45. Everyone checked in on time, there were only 12 of us. So we hopped on the yellow bus and started our journey to the Highlands.

Our first stop was the William Wallace Monument in Stirling. The driver/guide told us the story behind the legend and how the Battle of Stirling/ Abbey Craig went down. Really bloody, along with Wallace’s execution. We were dropped off at the based of the steep hill where the monument is located. All twelve of us walked up the paved path, getting sneak views of Stirling. Close to half way up the hill we got off the paved path for a dirt one. There you zig and zag until reaching the peak. After taking a moment to catch my breath from the climb and the view I explored the area for a bit. There’s a statue of Wallace holding a sword attached to the tower portion of the monument. You can see Stirling Castle at the top of another mountain that I believe is also an extinct volcanoe, just like Edinburgh. We then made our way back down to the Wild and Sexy bus. As we were leaving Stirling I saw a pub called the William Wallace. (OH I should mention that according to Celtic tradition that if you see seven white horses in one day the next person you shake hands with is to be your true love. I saw ten so what does that mean?)

As we were heading to our next stop the guide pointed out a castle that they filmed Monty Python and the Holy Grail at. With Joyce’s exuburant response we were able to stop and take photos. I could see the whole French at the castle scene. Awesome!

We then loaded back on the bus and headed deeper into the highlands. As we moved further in I fell in love…with the countryside. The mountains, or bens as the Scots called them, each have their own personality. Some are rockey and tall, others grassy, cut up with creeks, patched with last remnants of snow, steep, and the list could go on. Yellow patches of flowers were everywehre, along with varying shades of green for grass and trees. At one pint we came across an area completely over run with heather. It wasn’t in bloom so it looked dead.

Eventually we came to our ‘surprise.’ Hammish the Highland cow. Here people had a chance to feed him, get some caffiene, and use the toilettes. It was also the first time we could really take photos of the landscape, before had been on the bus. Hammish kind of reminded me of a smaller, wider, furrier Texas Longhorn with shorter horns as well.

The following stop was the falls of Dochart in Killin. Now these falls are more like rapids and it almost appears as if two rivers are converging. This area is the ancestral home of the MacGregors. It was also a favorite spot of Queen Victoria, which caused it to be one of the most painted areas at the time. Joyce and I climbed down to the river’s edge, where you can climb the slippery rocks. Taking our photos we headed to the Bake Shop for lunch, and it is extremely reasonably priced.

When everyone loaded back on the bus we circled around Loch Tay, which is the largest (surface) loch in Scotland. At one point in Time (Neolithic) it was also one of the more populated areas because farmers would creater their own islands on the loch so the hunters wouldn’t kill their animals. We briefly saw one that was 4,000 years old. Unfortunately we couldn’t stop because the driver couldn’t find a place to park.

From there we drove through the country for a long time getting to Scotland’s oldest whiskey distillery. The distillery is owned by Famous Grouse, but is called Glenturret. People started to fall asleep on the bus. I couldn’t because of my enamored state of bens covered in heather and picturing story scenes being played out here. We did take a stop to stretch our legs at a place that was guarded by an almost vertical mountain, a river banked by trees, and a grazing acrea across from it.

Ten of us when on the Famous Grouse Experience tour (5 pounds with Haggis) and learned how its single malt whiskey is made. At the end of the tour we did a scratch and sniff to figure out what flavours we would be sampling romt he whiskey (vanilla, mequite, chocolate, and citrus). The sips went down rather smoothly for me. Joyce did the funny face. No I did not buy or consume any more whiskey after that. It’s not bad whiskey, I just wasn’t interested in buying any. Oh the grouse mascot’s name is Gilbert (random fact I know)

With this the Highlander tour was almost over. We still saw some beautiful countryside and dilapidated castles and where Ewan MacGregor is from as well.  But I could tell we were getting closer to Edingburgh because there were less and less mountains. Wen we got near Perth we were told the story and legend of the Stone of Destiny.

The last tour group stop was the Forth Bridge, which was inspired by the Loch Ness Monster. It is a railway bridge so no walking on it. But down the road overlooking the water is a pub where Robert Louis Stevenson wrote Treasure Island. There’s also the Scotland version of Alcatraz in the water near the bridge as well. After that we went back to the headquarters and went our seperate ways.

Joyce and I then saw the Scott Monument (Sir Walter Scott). Then we went up Calton Hill that has buildings modeled after the Partheon up there. It is a steep climb but you can really see the differences between Old and New Town Edinburgh from there.

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