I thought after living here for just over a month now, I would be less excited by Scotland. The Glaswegian architecture has become a daily sight for me, as well as the trees and the cobblestones. I get a taste of it everyday, so it’s become less of “Oh my goodness, what is that building because it is the most beautiful thing I have seen in my life!? Wait, it’s a department store?” and more of “Hey, so I really need to go to Primark because I need more pairs of socks and underwear so I can do laundry less often.” But yesterday, I fell in love with Scotland all over again.
With a group call International Student UK Tours, I have been traveling to different parts of the country. (My trip to Edinburgh was with them, and I will be going to Isle of Skye with them in two weeks.) Yesterday’s trip took us up to the Scottish Highlands to visit Loch Ness and Inverness. The day started off a little rough because our bus was late, and we had to take a girl, who was also late, to meet up with another bus that was going on a different trip. We got caught in construction traffic and had to navigate through ultra-narrow roads in a huge coach. But the scenery was absolutely breath-taking. In Glasgow, it seems that fall is simply not a season here. As I write this, I look out my window and see a tree with crunchy dead leaves clinging onto branches and bright green leaves with the smallest touches of yellow. For someone coming from Colorado, autumn is rather disappointing here. However, our drive up north reminded me that fall does exist!
As if the trees in all of their fall-colored glory weren’t enough, I saw the most magnificent lakes. Maybe water is beautiful to me because it is so rare where I’m from, but I think the water here is just incredible. It was a cloudy morning, but the water reflected everything even more perfectly than a mirror. It was like getting a glimpse into a parallel upside-down universe. The first time I saw it I was stunned, thinking that was the only time I would see anything like that. Little did I know I was very wrong, as that was the norm for most of our drive.
After a few hours, we made it to Inverlochy Castle. For those of you who enjoy Scottish history, this castle was built in the 13th century and was the site of two different battles. It has been unaltered since and remains in ruins. There is a small stone wall surrounding the castle, and four towers at each of its corners. We were only there for about a half hour, but we got to walk around the grounds and inside the castle.
For my World War II buffs, you’ll appreciate our quick stop at the Commando Memorial honoring the British Commando Forces. There is a statue of three uniformed men, as well as a garden, which commemorates those who have died more recently in combat.
We stopped for lunch in Fort Augustus, which is at the south end of the great Loch Ness. It features the Caledonian Canal running through its center, and it is lined with eateries and touristy shops.
As we drove more north, we were bombarded by Nessie shops, hotels, statues, and galleries. We stopped in a town called Drumnadrochit (try saying that five times fast), which has all of these attractions together. We found Nessie, but she wasn’t looking so good…
I hate to disenchant those who are firm believers in Nessie, but it appears that she’s given up life in the water to live off the land! (Usually Nessie is featured in a man-made lake, but we caught her on a bad day and maintenance apologized for her lack of wet living conditions.) Although we were never give the chance to actually touch Loch Ness, I did learn that it has the largest volume of water in the UK. In fact, if you took all the freshwater in England and Wales and dumped in into Loch Ness, it still wouldn’t be full. And apparently, creatures living in the loch are popular myths all around Scotland and are not unique to Loch Ness.
Our last stop for the day was Inverness, the northern-most city in the UK and the so-called capital of the Highlands. As soon as we got of the bus I fell in love.
The word “inver” in Scottish Gaelic translates to “the mouth of,” so the city Inverness means “the mouth of the River Ness.” The river, the mountains, the leaves, the architecture, the weather all made this city unforgettable. The worst thing about it was that we only had two hours to discover it. When I come back to Scotland in the future, I intend to spend multiple days in Inverness. Due to our time constraints, I only made it to see the city centre and the castle. I was also able to [speed] walk through the Ness Islands before heading back to the bus for a three hour-long drive back to Glasgow. The trip was so beautiful and so much fun. I can’t wait until my next trip to the Highlands! Two more weeks until the Isle of Skye! This weekend I will be heading south to visit two DU friends in Lancaster, England. Stay tuned!