06 February 2007

Follow me... to Loch Ness!

So does Nessie exist or does she not? On Sunday, a group of five curious Austrians (two studying in Ed, two visiting from Austria and me) embarked on an expedition that would take them through the Highlands, to Fort William, past Ben Nevis to Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle (under which Nessie is rumoured to live) and on the way back, through Inverness, Pit and past Blair Castle and after a short dinner at Pitlochry back to Ed.

But let's recount the 620 km journey step by step!

(© Scotline Tours)
On our first stop we had the opportunity to meat a celebrity: Hamish, the Hieland Coo (pronounced Highland Kuh) who lives in Kilmahog (I know there are thousands of others all over the place but he is special). Amazingly, people back then used to make spoons out of heated and then pressed pieces of cow horn.

(© Kat)

The Highlands were absolutely beautiful! Glencoe has tragic famousness for the 1692 massacre . Most of the people from the massacre actually died of hypothermia while trying to escape (it was deep winter).
But the hills around are also well-known as the set for the movies Braveheart and Rob Roy (the Liam Neeson version). Rob Roy, if anyone should not know him, is the legendary Scottish Robin Hood. Sir Walter Scott wrote a novel on him (by the way, Scott was also the one who rediscovered the Scottish Crown Jewels), if anyone is interested.

Fort William is at the Northern "end" of the Highlands. We had a Whisky Try Out :) and some lunch before we went to imagine Ben Nevis, the UKs highest mountain (1344 m), because he was completely surrounded by clouds. The weather/visibility conditions can actually change quite quickly on Ben Nevis, the Mountain Rescue Team has reported one fatality every week since October.

Urquhart Castle is one of Scotland's oldest castles. Unfortunately, it was partially destroyed by troops of William of Orange in 1692 to ensure it would not become a Jacobite stronghold.
Being right at the shore of Loch Ness, it offers a wonderful view over Loch Ness! Some people took a boat trip and even saw Nessie! Actually, I didn't join them but saw her too, hehe, and saved 8 £! (There are in fact five different Nessies all over Scotland)

(Nessie Pic © Kat)

On our way back we drove through Inverness which is quite an industrial town (the primary sector in Edinburgh is services, especially banking and call centres). It will probably see an increase in population in the near future. Property prices are very low, so a lot of companies relocate their HQs to the North but also families. Also, something which I haven't been really aware of is that Scotland has several oil rigs in the sea which explains the dominance of the industry sector in Inverness.

Pitlochry is a major tourist resort after Queen Victoria had visited the place. It has a theatre which boasts to have the largest ensemble company in Scotland and JK Rowling as a patron.

Some random information:
In the UK, it is the law to wear seatbelts in coaches.
Edinburgh has been built on seven volcanoes, the Castle hill being one of them.
Every Scottish bank issues its own version of them with fax machines (!).
Every swan in the UK belongs to the Queen, this goes back to a parliamentary edict in the 14th (?) century. They were royal food. The law has not been abolished. So if you harm a swan today, you can get fined up to 200 £!

About the tour:
We all agreed that the tour was very well done! I found it had a perfect balance between historical and current fact and also it was amazing how much the hostess knew about a lot of details but also how she could say something relevant and interesting even if we were on a highway! We definitely want to recommend Scotline Tours, it is a family business and 28 £ for such a well-done 620 km tour (entrance to Urquhart Castle included) really is a bargain!

After one and a half hour at Kat's place, I had to catch my coach back to London => I did 620 km + 530 km = 11 500 km from Sunday 8 am to Monday 7 am! I went directly to my 9-5 uni Monday, got home at 6 pm, slept almost 15 hours and then popped into my 9 am class today. Wow!

Useful words & phrases in Scots:
Ben - Mountain
Munro - any mountain in Scotland which is higher than 3000 ft (914 m), named after Sir Hugh Munro who counted 284 of them.
Munro Bagging - the sport to do all of the Munros
Glen - Valley
Loch - Lake
Inver - Mouth of a River
Oreo Cookies - colloquial for black belted cows
Scotch Mist or Whisky Inspired Breath - translucent mini clouds which form over Lochs sometimes. To say "That is all Scotch Mist" means "This is a lot of rubbish" or "This is much ado about nothing".

1 courageous comments!:

natascha said...

oreos? did i hear someone saying something bout oreos?! I LOVE OREOS!

ah, abd nice pics btw.