Referendum results day dawned glum and wet–perfect weather, I suppose, for the almost fifty percent of the population who were terribly disappointed by the news: Scotland is, indeed, remaining a part of the United Kingdom.
We booked ourselves into a twelve hour tour, going up to Loch Ness and back again, with a few other stops along the way. It turned out to be a great decision. We went on the Wee Red Bus Tour, which, according to my handy-dandy photograph, is run through Heart of Scotland Tours.
Our driver, Patrick, was absolutely fantastic. He wore a kilt and matching socks (with tartan fringe!) and told us all about the three kinds of kilts that all good Scotsmen should own: one casual, for everyday wear; one formal, for weddings and funerals and other special occasions, and one for some other situation that I don’t remember because this tour was over a week ago, now.
On our way out of Edinburgh we passed these giant kelpie statues. In mythology, the kelpie is a water horse that kills unsuspecting humans. It is said that once you touch a kelpie, or climb on its back for a free ride, you can’t let go. It will carry you straight into the nearest body of water and to your death.
Our first stop was at a nice little brewery. They took us on a free five minute tour of their facility, which smelled simply awful (scent: 1 out of 10, do not recommend).
The brewery also had a nice little cafe where I purchased a mid-morning snack of mocha and cheese toastie.
We passed through a few towns on our journey, so of course I took pictures of random pretty things, like this river.
After a while the area became more mountainous…
And then, all of a sudden, we were very definitely in the Scottish Highlands!
We stopped again for a photo-op at the Three Sisters peaks. Only two of them would fit in my picture, though. That’s ok; we’ll call it one for me and one for my sister.
Two of the Three Sisters mountains.
Honestly, though, I think the valley between the three sisters and the neighboring peak was prettier by far than the peaks themselves.
At our next rest stop–a nature preserve and lookout point, we checked out the souvenir shop. I am not ashamed to admit I now own a “Wee Coo” key chain. “Coo” is how “cow” is pronounced in the Scottish accent. And I can’t turn down anything that says “wee.”
Here’s another pretty loch (lake).
And then, finally, we reached Loch Ness. There’s a canal running to (from?) the loch with gates that were kind of cool to look at. At one point we thought they were going to open, but no luck.
Look to the right…
…now look to the left.
This is Loch Ness: I was expecting to be way more impressed, actually. It’s just a big lake. I mean, it’s pretty, but it’s still just a big lake.
Since we were there, I decided to do a little Nessie-searching, with my own dark, blurry photographs for proof! Let’s see if you can find the Loch Ness Monster in my pictures, below.
Is it that, over on the right?
Nah, that’s just part of a tree branch.
What about in the middle, there?
No, that’s a piece of wood as well.
But this one–it’s the correct shape, right?
Unfortunately, it’s a duck
Maybe this one? You decide.
On the edge of the lake was this large building. I’m not sure what it is, but it’s kind of pretty in a Harry Potter sort of way.
This teeny-tiny little light house didn’t seem to be doing much, but it was day-time. Maybe it’s still in use at night. Although, the only boats that we saw going out were tour boats which stop at night, so I don’t think there’s much use for the light house anymore.
On the bus ride back we drove past some absolutely flat lochs that made for good mirrors of the surrounding mountains.
And a few more pretty mountains, of course.
We stopped briefly at the Scottish World War II memorial, which was very nice.
Also, highland cows. Highland cows have big shaggy bangs, and seeing them always makes me wonder if they seem to stand in one place all the time just so they don’t trip with their eyes covered.
Here, for your pleasure, is a highland cow trying to scratch his butt. You’re welcome.
As the light grew dimmer, we passed our final view. This bridge is very old, and sometimes considered one of the wonders of the world for it’s beauty and engineering. I thought it was interesting, but not quite at world-wonder level.