North to the Highlands, the other Scotland.


Beautiful Urguhart Castle 

Timberbush Tour to the Scottish Highlands

Our two-day Timberbush tour from Edinburgh west, then north to the Highlands with an overnight in Inverness departs from the same place as yesterday, and we know the drill. We arrive early to ensure a good seat on the bus and again appreciate the small 19-seater that comes right on time.

Our new driver is another Graeme – spelled differently, but he’s as gregarious and knowledgeable as Graham was yesterday.

United Nations on Board

As we get ourselves organized and out of city traffic, he asks everyone where they live. I can see we have a mini United Nations on board. There’s a couple from Hong Kong, a family from Mumbai, two young women and a young man from Bangkok, a young Japanese woman from Toronto, and a mother/daughter from Norway. Gail and I, and a couple from the mid-west make up the contingent from the US. 

A fascinating group, you wonder what brings people from Hong Kong, Mumbai, and Bangkok to Edinburgh? I can understand London, Paris, Berlin, Rome but I didn’t think Edinburgh would draw people from all over the globe. Yet here we are, and I’m so glad I’m able to spend time in Scotland.

Graeme, our driver, and guide.

Kelpie Sculpture

Today we head west following the path of our fateful self-driving journey, but this time we get to watch the scenery and let Graeme watch the road. The first thing we encounter is the Kelpie sculptures just out of Edinburgh. Its quite a site and I wish I could see them up close and not from the highway. The following information is from a website called Colossal, an art website.

Kelpies sculpture in Falkirk north of Edinburgh

Kelpies
Currently in the last stages of construction after nearly seven years of development, the Kelpies are a pair of huge horse heads by public artist Andy Scott that now towers over the Forth & Clyde canal in Falkirk, Scotland. The sculptures,  meant as a monument to the horse-powered heritage of Scotland, measures some 30 meters tall (99 ft.).  

According to Wikipedia:
The Kelpies name reflected the mythological transforming beasts possessing the strength and endurance of 10 horses; a quality that is analogous with the transformational change and endurance of Scotland’s inland waterways. The Kelpies represent the lineage of the heavy horse of Scottish industry and economy, pulling the wagons, ploughs, barges, and coalships that shaped the geographical layout of the Falkirk area.

Castle Doune

Our first stop is Castle Doune which we had already seen, and I’m glad because this is a quick stop and I’m disappointed not to go inside. Graeme points out the section of the outside castle wall which was the background of Monty Pythons famous Holy Grail scene called “French Taunting” hilarious in that weird Monty Python way. (check it out on UTube)

Another look at Doune Castle. So peaceful, I could spend all day here.

Loch Lomond, Trossachs, and Glen Coe to Inverness

The rest of the day we drive through Loch Lomond, Trossachs National Park, Glen Coe and the Highlands. The southern part of Scotland is more inhabited and industrialized with large cities (Glasgow and Edinburgh being the largest)  but as you go north the landscape changes and it gradually becomes more remote.

Inverness it the northernmost city and there’s a lot more of Scotland beyond Inverness. I would have liked to visit the northern islands, the Orkneys and Shetlands. From what we saw spending a short time on Mull and Iona, the islands have their unique landscape, customs, and history. The Orkney and Shetland Islands are that much farther north and away from “civilization,” full of Neolithic and Viking history. 

There are so many fascinating places and people on this earth; I begin to understand why some people chuck everything, slap on a backpack, and go!  Not everyone can do it, but I envy those who can (or do!), at least for a period long enough to gain an understanding of our vast and fascinating world, before coming back to reality.

The breathtaking Scottish Highlands

The Highlands are breathtaking because for the most part there aren’t structures to mar the panorama. There are many lochs and rivers, and vast hilly areas, not the jagged peaks in North America, these are older and worn smooth. Verdant green valleys stretch between the mountains, but you can see how hard it would have been getting from A to B before trains, planes, and automobiles. 

As you go further north, there aren’t many trees, or roads, just lots of rock and uneven ground. Graeme explains that the roads are dangerous in a winter storm. Blowing snow obliterates the way, and you can quickly drive into a ditch or worse.

I’m enjoying the drive through this amazing landscape so different from anything in North America.

An abandoned railway line, apparently it was built on the side of an unstable hill, and there were so many landslides they had to abandon it and rebuilt the line on flat land.


This goes on for miles and miles, green and beautiful

Another beautiful body of water

Gail and Kathy, watching for beasties that supposedly were all over this beach, but we saw none. However, the scenery made up for any lack of beasties.

Heather and Hamish. They’re outside the restaurant where we stop for lunch. Both are very used to people taking pictures. Apparently, this is a common bus stopping place, and everyone comes to take their picture.

Graeme stops several times as we drive toward Loch Ness and Inverness where we’ll spend the night.





We stop at Dochart Falls for pictures and bathroom break. The falls are lovely, but on the walk across the river, we pass the Clan MacNab Ancient Burial place Dochart Falls. I would like to visit the burial ground and stop at the Folklore Museum in Killin. These are the drawbacks of a short tour, you get just enough time to want more, and then you move on. Frustrating.


Loch Ness.  The Loch is large, very deep, cold and lovely a nice break from the bus ride.  However, if up to me I would spend the time differently.  After 5 minutes I’m done with Loch Ness and have another 55 minutes to go!


Loch Ness

Nessie (actually a small figure drawn on the window, quite clever, after all, why else would you take a boat on Loch Ness if not to take a picture of Nessie?)

Inverness 

We arrive in Inverness at dinner time, and Graeme starts depositing people in various B&Bs and guest houses.  There’s a delay as he drops off a one couple only to find the owner has them booked for the following week! Whoops!  

Graeme scrambles to make calls and find a substitute accommodation.  The poor guy is driver and tour guide and even though there are only 19 of us I’m impressed – I do worry about his blood pressure though!

Waterside Inn

Timberbush booked us (last minute) at the Waterside Inn.  Our room doesn’t overlook the River Ness but its comfortable and a short walk to town. We’re tired and hungry and unfortunately chose the first pub we see,  this turned out to be a big mistake. The pub is preparing for a bus group, and its limited and unaccustomed personnel are putting all their time into prepping for the group. Our meal is late, overcooked, and almost inedible. Cranky – time for bed!

Inverness isn’t Edinburgh however in all fairness we’re only here overnight and won’t see enough of Inverness to make a judgment. Graeme will pick us up first thing in the morning, and we’ll leave Inverness without so much as a glance. BTW  Inverness has a castle, a cathedral, and a considerable amount of fascinating history.   I would like to have more time, a return visit is necessary!

About

I'm in my sixties with the world at my feet and thoughts mostly of "where to next?". I retired in 2017, sold my house in Massachusetts and most of my furniture and "stuff." When not traveling you can find me in Florida in the winter and Rhode Island in the summer. Travel has been a passion from a young age, over the years I've discovered I'm a traveler, not a tourist. I prefer traveling solo, with a travel friend, or small groups. Whenever possible I would rather spend time in one place rather than moving around. I'll never turn down an opportunity to go to France, but my travels have taken me all over the world. I've met some incredible people and had some fantastic experiences.

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