Scotland in a Day

Scotland in a Day

So believe it or not, I’ve been in Scotland for almost a year and had never been to Loch Ness! Although Scotland is famous for its highland lochs (lakes), they can actually be quite difficult to get to without a car. Thankfully there are plenty of bus tours that take you from the main cities, like Glasgow or Edinburgh, to explore the Highlands! Two of my friends and I decided to splurge on Rabbie’s full-day tour of the Highlands which started in Glasgow and went all the way up to Loch Ness. It’s aptly called ‘Scotland in a Day’.

Now bus tours have their ups and down. There’s the convenience of not needing to worry about driving and directions, but you also have to abide by the driver’s timetable, which can be difficult. There were quite a few times when we wanted to stay longer in a certain place, but we were on a strict schedule! Overall, we enjoyed the tour and we really glad we were able to see some of the most famous Scottish locations.

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Loch Lomond on a grey morning 

Our day started out bright and early in Glasgow City Centre where we caught the tour bus at 7:45am. I will admit I was exactly awake at this point in the morning. Thankfully (for me anyway), our first stop was in a town called Tarbet on Loch Lomond where we got some coffee and snagged some early morning pictures of the Loch. Eve and I were able to see the hill where we did our first (and biggest) hillwalk in Luss way back in October!

It was still a bit gray and rainy when we reached our next  a brief photo stop at theRannoch Moor. Scotland is a really interesting place geographically because there is a fault line running through and the landscape changes quite suddenly as soon as you reach this point. Suddenly, there are rocky mounts and very few trees. The landscape becomes more rugged, but also more beautiful! The Rannoch Moor was an amazing place, with views of the mountain ranges and the glens and lochs.

We continued along our way to one of the most (in)famous and stunningly beautiful places in Scotland, Glencoe. Glencoe is nestled in a valley (glen) between huge mountains. Three of the mounts are known as the Three Sisters. Glencoe is one of the most beautiful places in Scotland, but it is also the site of a terrible tragedy in the late 1600’s. The story is long and complicated, as is much of Scotland’s past, but at Glencoe, clan turned upon clan, and over 80 members of the Clan MacDonald were killed by their guests from Clan Campbell. Despite happening over 300 years ago, the valley pass of Glencoe still holds a quieting sense of reverence for those that died.

We continued our trek north through Fort William and the Nevis range. Unfortunately, due to the rain and clouds, the peak of Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest mountaintop, was hidden in the shadows. But nevertheless, we continued to see some amazing views along the lochs heading towards Loch Ness. We stopped in a town called Fort Augustus on the southern tip of Loch Ness to have a quick lunch break. We really really fascinated by the systems of locks which allows the Caledonia Canal to connect Loch Ness with Loch Oich. We even got to see the main bridge swing open so a boat could pass by!

Finally after lunch, it was time to head to our boat tour on Loch Ness! I was really excited about this part after hearing tales of Loch Ness for years. My favorite part about this Loch is the water. It look completely black! The color comes from the peat in soil, which gives it extremely low visibility. No wonder legends of a monster have endured for centuries! luckily for us, the most incredible of our boat tour was that the sun suddenly managed to break through! Scotland is always beautiful, but it practically glows when the sun is out.

All too soon, it was time to head out from Loch Ness. We drove through the quaint town of Inverness, but didn’t stop. This was the most northerly point on our trip and from there we started back down again. We drove through the beautiful Cairngorns National Park, but alas the rain returned and I couldn’t snag any pictures! Our final stop of the day was in a quaint town called Pitlochry. It was a cute town with shops and restaurants and seemed to be a popular stopping place before heading into the Highlands. We treated ourselves to some ice cream before continuing our final descent to Glasgow. We got back into town around 7:30. After nearly 12 hours, we really had seen Scotland in a day!

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A Bute Excursion

A Bute Excursion

Our friend’s birthday was in June and we were struggling to think of somewhere fun, but affordable to go to. We decided that a day out to one of the Isles would be a great day trip! We left early in the morning to start our long trip to the Isle of Bute. First we took a train from Glasgow to Wemyss Bay

The morning seemed a bit dreary, but we persevered! We then took a ferry from Wemyss Bay to Rothesay on the Isle of Bute. Unfortunately it was so windy and rainy on the ferry that I didn’t manage to get any good pictures! Once we got into town, we took a walk around the castle and through the village. We walked all the way up a hill to get a good view of the island.

Our walk left us quite famished so we stopped in town to get the BEST FISH AND CHIPS EVER. But seriously it was so good. Amazing the difference when they use fresh fish! As we were sitting outside eating, the sun suddenly decided to come out! We grabbed an open top bus tour that took us all around the island. We saw some amazing sights!

After the tour, we settled in at a small brewery to have a pint before heading back home. All in all, it was a great way to celebrate a birthday!

Scottish History at Bannockburn

So it’s the first of March and I can’t believe that by the end of this month I will be finished with my postgraduate classes! This semester has been incredibly busy, hence the lack of blog posts about fun things. I have one class plus rollover assignments from last semester (long story), a work placement twice a week, and then volunteering on the side, in addition to getting started on my dissertation. So I’ve been a pretty busy gal juggling all of those! On the bright side, I really enjoy the variety in my schedule and the different people I get to meet. My work placement is working with business archives, which is something completely new to me! But I’m learning some pretty helpful skills with digitization, cataloging, and archival research. I’m also volunteering with an archaeological society in a small town outside of Glasgow. I’ve been helping the volunteers to repackage and catalogue their HUGE collection of Roman artifacts that have been gathered over a number of years going field surveying. It completely blows my mind that people are able to just go walking in their backyards and find ancient artifacts. So different from the archaeological record. And yes people, the Romans did make it as far as Scotland. They actually went beyond Hadrian’s Wall and built another wall along the central belt in Scotland and called it the Antonine Wall. Yay for history lessons!

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Since we’re on the topic of history lessons, I wanna tell you about my fun day trip to the site of the Battle of Bannockburn. If you have no idea idea what (or where) Bannockburn is, that’s completely okay because I wasn’t sure either. I only signed up for the trip as a chance to get out of Glasgow for the day and see a heritage site. Thankfully my Scottish friends helpfully enlightened me on some Scottish history. So Bannockburn is the site of the pivotal battle for Scottish Independence in 1314 when Robert the Bruce defeated English lead by King Edward II near Stirling castle. It’s not Braveheart, my friends were quick to mention. A good movie, though it’s just three hours of historic inaccuracies. So sorry, no William Wallace at Bannockburn.

The visitor center sits on the campsite of the Scottish warriors, not actually on the battlefield because, truthfully, they aren’t exactly sure where it all went down, though they have rough estimates. The visitor center for the Battle of Bannockburn Experience is a really unique, high-tech way of presenting history to visitors. The main attraction is an in-depth 3-D movie experience that takes you through the key figures and weaponry and war tactics utilized at the battle. Then you move into the battle room where you watch the battle from a bird’s eye view, with a staff member energetically narrative. Then comes the fun part: you are split into two groups, the Scots and the English, and get to face off in battle! The point isn’t to reenact the actual battle, but rather to work as a team to move your armies against the other team to defend Stirling Castle. This part was actually a lot of fun and thankfully my team (the Scots) came out victorious, almost just barely. After a while in the dark room of the 3-D experience, we took some time to look at replicas of medieval weapons and clothing. I, of course, had to get decked out in full garb. I even put on a chain mail shirt, though I definitely needed help. That thing was easily 30 pounds!

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Finally, after a long day, we were able to head outside to get a view of the Robert the Bruce statue and ceremonial area. It was gloriously sunny out, though a wee bit chilly. All in all, my trip to Bannockburn was really fun and I learned a lot! It also got my travel bug itching to see more of Scotland!

Bonus: yesterday was Marti Gras, or as the Brits call it Pancake Tuesday! Pancakes here are kinda gross. They sell them premade in stores and they are usually eaten with lemon juice and butter. ick. But my friends and I managed to find American pancakes at a little New York-style cafe. And of course we had to wash them done with milkshakes. I think pancake day is my new favorite tradition!

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