It’s a sluggish Monday morning at work and I’d rather use my prep period to reminisce about the last trip rather than face the pile of marking I have to do.
I left off at Saturday, Day 2 of our Isle of Skye tour. It was a really cold start, and it only got colder as the day progressed. We were blessed with good weather for the week as a whole, though. We spent much of the morning driving up to the Isle of Skye as we had a good distance to cover. We stopped at the Cuillin mountains and heard the first of a few myths about the stream water having magical, youthful qualities. I still get carded, and people think I’m 20, so I’m not sure I needed it, but why not? We got a couple good shots and proceeded onto Portree. Portree was a cute town, buzzing with hikers and backpackers, as it seemed like the outpost for people to begin their outdoorsy explorations at the Isle. Frozen, Melissa and I had lunch at the Caledonian Cafe which was exactly what we needed.
From there, the big highlight of the day was the Old Man of Storr. This hike was something I’d been looking forward to for awhile. The ascent is pretty standard for the first hour, but then things start to get interesting. I remember being able to look back every few minutes and see in rising higher, you would get a more impressive view over the seas and fields behind us. I bought a nice pair of hiking shoes right before this trip but somehow decided I wouldn’t need them in Scotland. This was foolish. The terrain got a bit more rough so I had to put my camera away, just so I would feel a little less uneasy. We ended up passing a sign akin to “you are encouraged NOT to go beyond this point”. Some cheeky person had scratched out the “not” (I wouldn’t be surprised if it was our guide) and Graeme led us up past the point of no return. I’ve jumped out of planes and hang glided, but there’s something about cliff edges that make me pretty damn nervous. I couldn’t get myself to lean out over for a few photos the girls took, but I still got to enjoy the inspiring views. Graeme said we did the hike ‘the right way’. Go us!
After that, we went to Kilt Rock. I think at this point I was so cold I no longer cared as much to get out of the bus. Graeme noticed our tired, cold state and proffered a dram of whiskey. That stuff really does warm you up! I understand now why it’s so popular with the Scots. Then it was off for a grocery run and onto Kyleakin to check into our hostel. We got so lucky – MBP owns two hostels in the town, and we got the smaller (better) one. Imagine a cozy living room, huge bay windows looking out onto the water, and a cozy fireplace. In other words – heaven. I opened a cider and got some journaling in while people showered and relaxed. It was a great last night with the group, playing drinking games and hanging out. Graeme even stayed to chat for a bit which was great.
Day three was another wonderful one. We returned to Eilean Donan to get some different shots and headed down through the other side of the Highlands. We returned to Glencoe and stopped off at a tourist shop to grab some lunch and knick knacks. I bought some honey whiskey which is amazing, one we drank later on that evening, and one is still with me at home 🙂 I thought I would be daring and try a “haggis and brie sandwich”, but I STILL don’t know how I feel about it. We also returned to Doune Castle, which was lovely, as the sun had come out and it was HOT. The rest of the team went for a wander down by the water, but I took the time to bask in the sun and do a bit more journaling. Pure heaven! Our last stop was Stirling Castle which was new for me. After that, it was the inevitable ride back to Edinburgh. I was feeling a bit sad, but thankfully most of the group decided they wanted to get together for drinks in the evening. Hannah was heading onto Dublin in the morning, and Tommy and Kelcie had to leave for Amsterdam that evening. Melissa and I were fortunate to get a room at Castle Rock, as well as Lieke, so Stefan joined us in the common area and we played games until Graeme could meet up with us later.
Now, I’m not proud of this, but there may have been some flirting with my tour guide. I have a weakness for all things Scottish, and whiskey was involved, so I will say it was all in good fun. Also, he looked like Ragnar from Vikings, so forgive me. 🙂 Anyways, we had a fun night out on the town and everyone said their goodbyes. An awesome trip in all – I recommend MacBackpackers to anyone.
The last three days were less action-packed but still great. Tuesday we weren’t feeling so hot, so after brunch, we wandered around until we came upon Whiski Rooms. A guy I met last year used to work here, so I figured, why not go in? We nursed a whiski/beer combo for over two hours, chatted with the servers, and relaxed for the afternoon. We finally went on to Glasgow via intercity bus to look for our accommodation. This is where I love Scotland – we got lost on the way and it started to rain. We saw a few guys outside a pub and asked them if they could direct us to the right street. “Well, sure, but come in for a pint, yeah, we’ll help you, but come in for a pint and relax”. Um, okay! A few nice guys ended up buying us a pint and we got to chatting. They’re in a band that toured with Lake Street Dive, super cool! Look up River 68 some time. We ended up playing and winning pub trivia with them, stayed until midnight, and they directed us to our airbnb. We were so fortunate!
Wednesday we went to the Isle of Arran with my penpal Jenn. She is the first penpal I had this year, and met! We took the ferry over and though it rained for the first bit, the sun came out as we wandered the Callanish standing stones. That was the highlight of my day, aside from meeting her. I tried falling through time to meet a Sam Heughan-esque Highlander, but no such luck. The ferry we wanted wasn’t running, so we ended up going to the Douglas Hotel for a drink, or, bottle, of wine.
Don’t worry, we split it. Jenn was nice enough to drop us off near our CS host’s place, and around 9, Stuart showed up. As it was late, we put a spread of nibbles and wine out and talked until the late hours. It was so nice to relax and finally have a good sleep! Thursday was an altogether relaxing day as well. We went to Riverhill where Gerry (from River68) worked and he kindly got us a coffee and quiche! It was raining in Glasgow but we didn’t care. We went to Hillhead and explored a couple drinking establishments – HillHead Book Club was super cool. We also stopped at the Bothy because the reviews said kilted men served you. There was only one server – a woman – in a kilt skirt. I was a little disappointed. By the evening, Stuart had agreed to meet up with us and we continued our libation explorations. The headache was real as we woke up early Friday morning. What a long day it was! We didn’t make it to Ottawa until around 3pm, 8pm Scot time, and we’d been up since 530… I don’t believe I went to bed until 5 am Scotland time. Thank goodness for the long weekend!
It’s been nearly two weeks and I’m not feeling nostalgic just yet. I’m sure in a few months I will look back and want to be here, but for now, I can still follow the travels of those I met and remind myself it will hopefully be my reality again soon. I had a lovely long weekend after the trip to re-energize and enjoy the warm weather. June is fast approaching, and it should be a good one – two weekends of camping, my 27th birthday, and a cottage weekend with the family. I got my recert to teach in Australia in the mail, and I’m still (im)patiently waiting for my visa approval. I feel extremely blessed to have had such a good week in Scotland, and I know I will be back someday. The country is beautiful, the history is rich, and the people are kind. Scotland, I love you!
My heart’s in the Highlands, Wherever I go.