Day 3: Back Through the Highlands

On the 3rd and final day of our tour, we went from Portree through the Highlands again and eventually down to Edinburgh. Our first stop coming off the Isle was to stop at Eilean Donan Castle again, but this time we actually stopped and took the tour of the castle. As I mentioned before, this castle was featured in Highlander, The World is Not Enough, and Made of Honor.

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Once we got inside the castle to do our tour, there were strictly no pictures and our tour guide was pretty anal about it. I solved this problem by running to the next room before everyone else and getting most of the pictures I wanted. Problem solved! Here’s a couple of the better ones I was able to get.

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The people cooking dinner in the kitchen were kind of funny too.

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We stopped in Fort Augustus for lunch, which is at the base of Loch Ness. I think I may have seen the monster!!

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This was actually Loch Ness. If you look really hard you might be able to see Nessie (the monster). I couldn’t see him and I was there, but there’s always a chance.

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Dave and I were joking about an Asian girl who was doing the funny peace sign for a picture and some of the things “typical tourists” do, so we decided to try this ourselves.

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We finally returned to Edinburgh that night, said goodbye to our group and guide, and that was the end of our Highland Adventure. Surprisingly we didn’t lose anyone along the way.

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Day 2: Isle of Skye

Here we go, time to catch up. I need to take a night off from going out anyway.

On day 2 of our Scottish Highlands tour, we toured around the actual Isle of Skye, visiting the 2 out of the 5 peninsulas. We began the morning exploring Duir Nish, the western peninsula of the Isle. First we drove past McCloud’s tables, called this because they’re flat on top (creative isn’t it).

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Next we went out to the western most point of the island called Neist Point. This is right on the Atlantic Ocean. BBC called for the weather to be a bit breezy, but we found out otherwise. Apparently in Scotland a bit breezy can mean tornado-like winds and rain. Good to know going forward. Even though it was crazy out, we decided to take our chances climbing up the mountain.

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As you can tell in this picture, I was a tad bit chilly because I wasn’t expecting arctic conditions. It was tough getting up there, but I’m glad we did because the views were incredible. Here’s some pictures. This first one reminded of the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.

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Next on the agenda was Dun Vegan Castle, where it was still pouring rain.

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This was Kilt Rock and was the last stop on for the day before heading back to the tiny village of Portree where we were staying. Our whole group went for some official Scottish fish and chips down on the pier. I can’t say I was all that impressed because it was good but the most plain thing I’ve ever eaten.

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Scottish Highlands, Day 1

After I spent a couple days in Edinburgh, I booked a 3-day tour through the Scottish Highlands and up to the Isle of Skye. We met about 9am to take-off on our journey. I was surprised to hop on the bus and only see 6 other people plus our driver Pete, which actually turned out to be great. There were Natasha and Ashley from Calgary, Dave and Grace from Toronto, Sam from London, Umbreen from Edinburgh, and me. It was a really good group and we all got along and got to know each other pretty well by the end of the 3 days. We began our journey heading up to Doune Castle. This was all of our group except for 1.

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We drove past several lochs (Gaelic for lake). Most have funny names like Loch Lubnaig. When we stopped for a coffee break, I was surprised to see a bull in the field next to us. His name is Hamesh and apparently he’s one of the main tourist attractions in that part of Scotland, probably because there aren’t too many bulls around there.

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This is one of my hardest posts to write because I have a million pictures from the tour, but I have to go back and figure out what they are. I tried to write down most of the things the driver told us so I could come back now and match the list to the pictures. After a while, though, it was like here’s another loch, here’s another mountain, etc. I believe this next one was Loch Tulla.

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These were the Falls of Dochart.

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This odd-shaped mountain is called Buchaille Mountain, and it’s formed like an almost-perfect triangle.

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It was a really nice day our first day on the tour. Too bad it didn’t even begin to make up for how crappy, rainy, and cold it was on the 2nd and 3rd days. This next group of mountains is called the 3 Sisters of Glencoe, with the 3rd behind the other 2. There was a whole story behind this that our driver told us, but I don’t remember the whole thing. It was something along the lines of the 2 younger girls wanted to get married, but couldn’t until their oldest sister had first. They went behind their father’s back and ran away to another country to get married to a couple of Italian guys. Their father eventually found out, got really mad, hired a witch, and had them all turned into stone mountains for the rest of eternity. Something like that.

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We passed Ben Nevis, which is the tallest mountain in Scotland at 4406 ft, but I can’t seem to figure out which picture that was. Next was Loch Lochy (one of my favorite Loch names).

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An interesting fact about Scotland is that there are over 600 golf courses in the country, giving it more per person than any other country in the world. Since golf was invented there, I guess it makes sense. If anybody likes Scotch Whiskey, there are around 95 whiskey distilleries operating at any given time and they all have their own distinct whiskeys. Our driver Pete was kind of a  whiskey connoisseur, so we learned some interesting facts about some of his favorite whiskeys. It takes a minimum of 10 years to distill a whiskey before it can be sold, so some of the newer breweries that have been open only 5 or 6 years still aren’t selling anything yet. That’s a heck of a lot of startup costs. Naturally, the longer a whiskey is distilled, the more expensive it becomes. This next Loch has a very interesting shape. It’s actual name is Loch Garry, but is called Loch Scotland by everyone. It’s pretty easy to see why.

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This castle in the distance has been featured in several huge movies such as Highlander with Sean Connery (a Scot himself), The World is Not Enough, and more recently, Made of Honor. It’s called Eilean Donan Castle (I finally got the spelling right after about 5 tries because it is spelled completely different than it sounds).

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That was about it for the first day as we headed onto the Isle of Skye. We stayed in Portree that night which, even though it’s the biggest city on the Isle, is still only a small fishing village with a main square, a few restaurants, and a lot of bed-and-breakfasts. Our group all stayed in different places after going to dinner together that night. It was a long day.


Edinburgh, City of Mystery

I haven’t had any posts in a while because I’ve been busy the last couple weeks, so I have to catch up on last couple weeks in Scotland, London, and now Belgium. I got to Edinburgh from London in the evening after an excruciating 9-hour bus ride all day. That was a horrible idea. Anyways, Edinburgh is a really cool city with a lot of great architecture. Here are a couple pictures of the city lit up at night when I first arrived.

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The next day I went on the free walking tour, which I definitely recommend and they have them in most big cities in Europe. It was a 3-hour tour and our guide showed us all the major sites in the city along some history about each so you actually know what it is. This here is Edinburgh Castle, on one end of the Royal Mile.

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This next picture, in case it looks familiar, is George Harriet’s School, one of the most expensive private schools in Britain and if I remember right it’s where Prime Minister Tony Blair went to school. Aside from that, it was the inspiration for a certain school in the Harry Potter series, Hogwarts maybe?

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The first Harry Potter book was actually created in Edinburgh and J.K. Rowling is originally from there, before she received a ridiculous sum of money for the rights to the book. This cafe is where J.K. Rowling used to go every day and buy a single coffee in order to sit there all day and write because she was kind of broke before this whole thing took off.

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Here, you can see how all the building look in the south half of Edinburgh, very old but fairly well-kept.

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These are just a few more pics of the landscape around the city.

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Probably one of the most interesting things I did while in Edinburgh was go on this Haunted Graveyard tour. We passed through the Greyfriars cemetery during our walkking tour during the day, but this tour was about 10:00 at night when it’s basically pitch black out. This is called the Covenanter’s Prison, which was gated, locked-up area inside the cemetery.

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Now, the story behind this is that there wass basically a religious war going on between the covenanters and the English government, who wanted everyone to convert to the Church of England. The covenanters who were captured were locked up inside this prison until they would either a) convert or b) die. Most wouldn’t convert so what happened is that they were all locked inside this stone tomb, about 1200 people. This became the world’s first concentration camp as all 1200 died and were thrown into a mass grave inside the tomb. The man in charge of happened to be named Mackensie. When he was finally hung for his crimes, his ghost supposedly haunts this tomb. The tour group that I went with is the only group with access to the gated tomb because they basically paid off the Scottish government for the rights. According to our tour guide, over 900 people have felt the presence of the ghost in the tomb, with about 200 of them actually being physically attacked! This goes from scratches and bruises to burns and people fainting from “cold spots.” Now I don’t know if I believe any of this, but you do get a pretty strange feeling when you walk into the tomb. Even our tour guide wouldn’t really come past the doorway, as we stood inside. It was a very interesting story because apparently Edinburgh is very famous for these types of things. There were several thousand witch burnings and other hangings in the center of the city as well.