See you later, tour bus…
As I was ringing in 2012, I decided to start a personal tradition: I would schedule my most special vacation each year on my birthday. Special meaning not the sunbathing-on-the-beach kind of vacation. It has to be thrilling and something I have not previously experienced. I think it would be a cool way to look back on one’s life someday.
When I celebrate my birthday on March 16, 2022, I’ll be able to say, “Exactly ten years ago today, I stepped on the grounds of Glen Affric and felt the cold waters of Loch Ness.” This year, I got to celebrate by exploring a few of the mountains, valleys and lakes of the Scottish Highlands – bens, glens and lochs, as they are more commonly called in the country. My cousin, Rochelle, went with me, and we had the best time laughing while hiking, as we remembered the crazy adventures we had as kids whenever we gathered at our grandparents’ house in the farm every summer. (There is one particular adventure from those years that still cracks us up to this day. It involved seven-year-old me slipping at the peak of a hill and rolling all the way down. My brother and cousins, who are all older, told me to tell our grandmother that I just slipped on the concrete floor of the garage.)
I’m not really a fan of guided tours, but for two non-daredevils who just wanted an introduction to this vast area with poor cell phone signal about three hours outside Edinburgh, it was really the only option. So I signed us up for the Rabbie’s two-day tour, which turned out to be an excellent choice. Our guides, Neal and Ian, were very entertaining – aside from obviously being knowledgeable. The bus was comfortable, and each tour group is kept small (a maximum of 16 people). The hikes/walks were doable even for those who do not go up mountains regularly.
We spent the night in Inverness, the capital of the Highlands, and had a pleasant stay at Atherstone Guest House. The place was clean, and the owners, Ally and Ruth, could not have been more accommodating. They even put homemade treats in your room, and pack some leftover cookies/bread in a little bag the following morning, so you’ll have some treats for the birds you encounter on your adventures.
Glen Coe. The site of the massacre of the MacDonald clan. (The settlement to the north of the valley is called Glencoe Village.)
A little bridge over a narrow river.
Said narrow river, River Coe. Clear and great-tasting water.
The river cutting through the valley.
No sighting of Nessie.
I didn’t expect Loch Ness to be this big.
The ruins of Urquhart Castle overlooking the lake.
More of the castle ruins.
Highland cows. (Or coos, as the Scottish pronounce it.)
We had to be dropped off here because they weren’t confident that the bridge would hold the weight of the bus. Comforting.
Walking to Glen Affric.
Still part of the lake. Looks like a Bob Ross painting.