Journey to Scotland

Part VII: Highland Tour, Part Two
Loch Ness, Eilean Donan, Skye, Fort William, Glen Coe, Rannoch Moor, Inverary, Loch Lomond

a travelzine by Diann

(Copyright 1996. Please do not reprint without permission.)


Webpage highlights:
Highlands and Island Tour, Part Two -

August 22:

Woke up, logically enough, on the 22nd, and after a good buffet breakfast, also covered by the tour plan, we hit the trail again. Through Inverness -- an intensely interesting area which we didn't stop at.

We stopped shy of Urquhat Castle on Loch Ness for our photo-op. We couldn't stop at U. Castle because they were now charging for the privilege of pulling up to take pictures. I got some very murky looking shots of Loch Ness back from the developers, and I think I can see Nessie's backside as she breaks the surface just ever so faintly. Everyone aboard the bus saw Nessie so many times I think the loch requires an exterminator, the problem's gotten so bad.

We drove on to a tourist centre, collecting postcards and shots of a fake Nessie in a pond. Looks dino-like to me.

Onwards, by some more fascinating and fabulous lochs, and then we veered off westwards. We stopped at Eilean Donan for photos, but had no time to tour inside the ruins. This is one of many old ruined castles, and is supposed to be one of the most photographed locations in Scotland. Most of us were disappointed we could not go in. (See s_eilean.htm for a photo of this intriguing place.)

We reached the ferry for Skye at Kyle of Lochalsh, boarded and crossed -- a perfect day weatherwise after a murky-looking start which had earlier added that appropriate Nessie ambiance. (The ferry has by now been replaced by a bridge, but the bridge was not yet in service at that time.) There was a smaller ruins, Castle Moil, (which again we could not tour) near where the ferry left us off on Skye.

Skye had a desolate ambiance; various mountains of differing geologic types (shoulda taken notes...) rising up. Our tour guide kindly told us what they all were, but as I said, I didn't take notes. We stopped for lunch just shy of Portree; and stayed for a presentation on the history of the isle. It was a good place, and the weather was perfect, but eventually we had to move on. Since we spent so long there, we didn't have a chance at Portree proper. (Check out s_skye.htm for a photo taken from here.)

We retraced out steps, back to the mainland of Scotland. During the ferry ride back I snapped the photo which is here as s_kyle.htm, a view of a ferry coming the other direction, with the Kyle of Lochalsh in the background.

We stopped once again at Eilean Donan, to obtain more photos of the ruins from a different angle and with different lighting, standing down at water's edge at low tide.

We stopped by Ben Nevis, the largest mountain in Britain. Sheep grazed around us as we looked up at the cloud-crowned mountain. And, then on to Fort William.

Our bus broke into three groups, for three different hotels, the first of which was a lovely place just shy of Fort William. They don't have large hotels in these parts, evidently. This first was isolated from everything, but was simply gorgeous, with a good view of the surrounding terrain. Would have loved to have stayed there. I got placed in the Rob Roy, in the heart of Fort William, which might have had the advantage of being in the center of things -- but one I'd have readily traded away. Many of us were disappointed anyway that our coach had split up, regardless of the place. We liked being together.

The best thing about this hotel was the view of the harbor out the bathroom window, and this indeed was good. The rooms were all right, but it was mainly the dining facilities that seemed problematic to me.

The food was okay, sort of. I selected venison stew, and it was chewy, gristly, and uninspired. The beverage service did not exist. (Some at our table asked twice.) Three of us wandered the town for a short bit -- the weather had turned markedly chilly, a rather unusual sensation for me in these past few months. Shortly before dinner, bag pipers had piped down the cobblestone street outside our hotel. Fort William seems to be an interesting town with charm.

August 23rd:

The next morning we loaded back up into the coaches. Passed through Glen Coe, scene of infamous treachery of the Campbell Clan against the MacDonald clan. All was pretty quiet today. The landscape grew more craggy, rough, and filled with Scotch mist. Indeed, it rained off and on all day long. We passed over moors, including Rannoch Moor, aptly described in our flier as "Lonely".

Reached Inverary, and saw the Castle there. Actually, we had ourselves a rebellion -- the bus had stopped by the town, and the guide assumed we'd shop and get our lunches in the town. Naw, we all wanted Castle. We'd had our fill of driving past castles without going inside, barely getting photo-ops. So we essentially all walked the 15 minutes up to the castle, including one woman on her cane, to pay for and tour the place on our own.

We walked through and explored, taking our own self-guided tours. Including overhearing another tour talking about the ghost in a bedroom -- seen and heard by Campbells of the true lineage whenever a true lineage Campbell dies. Also, evidently seen by the true Campbell dogs (I don't know about their lineage) who refuse to enter the room.

Half the castle is still lived in by the Duke of Atholl and his family. Letting visitors come through helps to pay for upkeep, taxes, and the rest of it.

We ate in the basement; there's a simple Scots-food cafeteria down there, with decent food.

Back on the bus, we headed for Loch Lomond, and a boat ride. It rained a bit, but then cleared again, but the boat ride, which lasted about 45 minutes, was worthwhile, even if the banks were more wet than bonnie. One highlight of the boat ride was Honeymoon Isle, a small piece of real estate with a few trees on it. The tale has it that newlywed couples were left on the island for a week, and if one swam home before the scheduled end, this was not a good omen for their relationship. (One friend has commented that it would be more appropriate to find this out BEFORE the couple got hitched...)

That was about it. I'd never done a tour before (of more than a few hours in length), so the touring life was a new experience. The fact that we were all conventioneers made it quite enjoyable. The tour guide and driver were also enjoyable and informative. Dashing past things was a bit disconcerting, but I understand the necessity. At least I know where to return when/if I come back. When I come back. When I come back.

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Last Updated: Friday, March 22, 1996