Students who come to Scotland for their study abroad come to a country whose history, landscape and scale all play a parts in that choice. Being a small country, it is not far for students to get out of their university towns and visit the Highlands, the counterpart to Scotland’s flat, populous lowlands. However despite only being an hour or two away, getting there can be hard – public transport isn’t necessarily well connected, and renting a car can be difficult. However, Arcadia Scotland puts on quite a few trips to ensure students have several opportunities to see the diverse landscape Scotland has to offer.
Thus a late weekend in October, as the season was turning from Autumn (Fall) to Winter, we took 40 students up north, on a two-day trip, stopping on the first day at Inverness. With students from Edinburgh, St Andrews, Glasgow, Stirling and Aberdeen, we had a gentle drive to Scotland, passing through Glencoe and the Great Glen, with valleys cloaked in misty clouds parting to beautiful expansive views of lochs and ravines.
At Loch Ness, we stopped at Castle Urquhart, a medieval fortress which overlooked the glen and which traded hands between highland aristocrats in their violent internecine conflicts. Ultimately abandoned, this stately ruin welcomes visitors with both its awesome views and its cold winds.
After staying at Inverness, which was full of wild Halloween revellers and excellent costumes, we started the next day very bright and very early at Culloden, the site and now museum of the famous 1745 battle at which the Jacobite army of Bonnie Prince Charlie was soundly defeated by the government army of the day. Potent and disarming, one’s experience in the face of the site and the seemingly remote issues it presents could be very powerful.
Having faced the emptiness of Culloden, Arcadia Scotland decided that students would end the weekend with two different ways of understanding the Highlands. We first went to Leault Working Sheepdog Farm, where we can see the traditional method of sheep farming and training – through 18 real life Scottish sheepdogs.
There the shepherd showed us several dogs moving and corralling a horde of furry white sheep, and even gave our students the opportunity to shear one happy animal.
Having gone deep into the central Scottish experience, there was one more thing to encounter:
[...] running water so pure sparkling bright
making our whisky a natural delight
Caledonia - the land of my dreams.