THE HIGHLANDS, ISLE OF SKYE, AND LOCH NESS
This weekend I took a tour with 16 of my classmates to the Highlands. Our tour guide, Nory, was the best guide I have EVER had. He would tell us folklore and the history of Scotland throughout the trip, but only when we were at the spot where the battles happened. We started out at the Doune Castle, which is ‘Castle Leoch’ in my favorite book series/show “Outlander.” It’s safe to say that I teared up a little and jumped up and down for a solid five minutes. We weren’t able to go inside the castle, but it was still surreal that I was in the spot where my favorite actors had been.
Then we went to feed the ‘Highland Coo,’ or Highland cows. They are just cows with shaggy fur hanging off their bodies. After that, we headed to Rannoch Moor, where Craigh Na Dunn was placed for “Outlander.” There was a man playing the bagpipes in the full kilt regalia, and we just stood in front of the mountains and soaked up the culture of this beautiful country.
Next, we went to Glencoe, where we ate lunch in the mountains. It was the most beautiful place I have ever seen in my life, full of luscious green hills and powerful streams. Here, Nory told us the story of the murder of Glencoe, where the Campbell clan were welcomed into the Glencoe territory by the MacDonald clan that lived there. The Campbells were told by King William to murder the MacDonalds, even after they were treated as guests in the homes of the MacDonald clan for around a week. 38 were killed, and 40 more died from illnesses and exposure to the elements after fleeing to the mountains. It was very eery to be sitting in the spot where an entire clan was wiped out, but helped us to understand why the murder means so much to the Scottish people.
After lunch, we headed higher into the Highlands to find the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which is also known as ‘The Harry Potter Bridge.’ We stopped to grab snacks, and Norri pointed out the place where Hagrid’s Hut was placed in “The Prisoner of Azakaban.” Pretty much all of the HP movies were filmed in the Highlands, which I thought was extremely cool. Shoutout to all my Gryffindors! We made it to the Viaduct and hiked up the mountain beside it. There, Nory told us about the Jacobite rebellion, Bonnie Prince Charlie, and the battle that took place on the bridge. Once again, history and Hollywood collided.
As we were heading to Stromeferry, where our hostel was located, we got stuck behind an accident and had to wait for 2 hours for it to clear out. Instead of sitting in the bus and waiting, we hiked down to the beach, then climbed up the mountains beside the loch. It was beautiful, and I was given the privilege to get acquainted with some of my amazing classmates. Below is my buddy Malcolm, who made me laugh the entire night.
Our hostel was a cozy little brick house on the loch, 5 minutes away from Eilean Donan Castle (Which was by far my favorite castle. So beautiful). We all cooked dinner together and got to know each other. it was a wonderful family dinner. The next morning we got up early to go fishing with Nory’s friend, Neil. He took us out on a rickety boat on the loch behind our hostel, and caught scallops with a net. We then ate the scallops, and I absolutely LOVED them. The fishing was something new and a little bit scary, but we loved helping Neil out. He even fried the scallops while we were fishing! He was extremely kind and very patient as we asked what kind of deep sea creatures were in our net. He also stopped us from touching the spiky ball thing that could slice our fingers in half…Thanks Neil.
After fishing, we headed to the Isle of Skye. Nory let me DJ, which was quite hard to do, but I absolutely loved playing our ‘American’ music for Nory and the other students. We saw the Old Man of Storre, which had a fairy legend attached to it. It looked like a dagger standing by itself on the mountain. Then we saw the Kilted Rock, which was a waterfall on a rock that looked like a folded kilt, and the Cuillin Mountains, which came with a folklore legend on how the mountains were made. We ate lunch on the cliff of another mountain, and I had a Fanta flavor that’s only in Scotland called ‘exotic.’ It was AWESOME. We also went to the Faerie Glen, which was an ancient playground of sorts, with stones put in circles and very big, green hills that we climbed to see the countryside. Then, we went to the Faerie pools, which are right in front of a menagerie of mountains. The pools are a series of waterfalls, coves, and small streams, full of clear, bright blue water that we stuck our feet in. Skye was the stuff out of movies – extremely breathtaking, and full of optional outdoor adventures.
We then went back to the hostel on the ocean, Nory made us pasta with special Scots sauce for dinner, and we all sat around the hearth room and talked life. The next day, we visited Eilean Donan Castle, the one on the water. SO FREAKING PRETTY. We also visited Loch Ness, which was pretty amazing. We didn’t see the Loch Ness monster, but learned that if you drained the loch, you would see something similar to the Grand Canyon. Very scary. Then we went on a walk through a forest, and found a waterfall. This was the trip of a lifetime, and Nory really showed us how Scotland came to be. Such a beautiful country with magical sites and wonderful people. Great first weekend to start off the summer!