From the moment we rolled into Edinburgh, at the back end of a 9 ½ hour bus ride from London, I knew there was something particularly awesome about Scotland. The city, even from the cramped confines of our bus seats, oozed character so effortlessly and without the hint of arrogance that’s associated with other, larger capital cities. This was to be the start of a massive country-crush, described by our following day’s tour guide as DSL (Deep Scottish Love).
Edinburgh was the beginning (and the end) of the end (confused?) of all our planned travel before we dug our heels in (Ambers’ longer than mine obviously) to the dreaded London job hunt. We’d only (somewhat) extended our travel plans because our friend Claire had already booked herself on a Wild In Scotland tour (which I can 100% recommend) and suggested we should come along. For that “encouragement” I’m very grateful.
We’d heard nothing but glowing feedback on Edinburgh and it didn’t fail to deliver. From the imposing castle situated high on the central city hill, to the cheerful locals, to the winding cobblestone roads of the Royal Mile and the Grassmarket, Edinburgh managed to impress more in one brief overnight visit than many other cities have done in repeat visits and week-long stays. We immediately regretted the decision that we were only to spend two brief nights here either side of our 3-day/2-night tour. But we made a mental note to definitely return.
Onto the tour! We bustled onto a minivan fuelled by fresh coffee, Marmite (Sanitarium goodness) on toast and an eagerness to see some rolling hills, “Nessie”-filled Lochs and kilt-adorned highlanders. Straight off the bat, the tour guide described Scottish weather as falling into three categories: “Dramatic” (Crap/raining/”Shite”/Can’t-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-face), “Atmospheric” (Overcast… but not raining) and “Spectacular” (The one-in-a-million sunny, clear days). Over the next 50-odd hours we were to experience a little of all of three… but mostly “Atmospheric”. The main highlights were:
Stromeferry “Stationmaster’s House”: This hostel/guest house was our home for the weekend and was possibly the coolest example of budget accommodation I’ve EVER stayed in. With a population of 17 (including two dogs), and nestled on a bank overlooking the beautiful Loch Carron, Stromeferry was… stunning. Highly recommended.
The Boat Trip on Loch Carron: Captained by a local Noel (who I think must surely be related to Billy Connolly – due to both looks and humour), our group of 11 were herded onto his “fishing” boat, which can only be described as a floating skip-bin with a rudimentary gib-board cabin at one end and a heavy metal frame at the other which was (I can only imagine) designed with such Scottish engineering precision that it was somehow able to support a fully-laden fishing net. We all got drenched in classic Scottish liquid sunshine, ate fresh scallops (it was a sea-inlet “Loch”) and thoroughly enjoyed every minute.
The Isle of Skye: This place was sheer awesomeness (if you’d been there and seen the cliffs and escarpments you’d get the terrible pun). More rolling green hills, quaint seaside villages, craggy cliffs and… the Isle of Skye Brewery! A natural wonderland, this place is a must see.
Loch Ness: The stories around the existence of the legendary “Nessie” have made me a believer. From the multiple sonar recordings of 6-metre-plus “objects” in the loch, to the many, many stories of sightings from even the staunchest of Scots, I think the “magical” nature of the whole legend is too much too ignore. I also learnt that the Scots resent the label of “monster” associated with Nessie. From what I saw, and from the many souvenir depictions that dominate any loch-side retail outlet, Nessie would a appear to be happy-go-lucky character and has a fondness for the traditional Tam o’ Shanter hat and delights in popping her head up every so often to keep the mystery alive. Either way, the Scots love her.
Edinburgh Firworks: To mark the end of the Edinburgh International Festival, a huge fireworks display takes place from the Edinburgh Castle and is synchronised with an orchestral arrangement. In a fitting end to a fantastic weekend, we joined our gracious host Callum and his lovely girlfriend Cat for a bottle of red in the park and enjoyed the display.