Last weekend I was fortunate enough to spend my time exploring the Highlands through one of Arcadia’s planned excursions. I had a great time and could write pages and pages talking about the different sights I saw, but the majesty of northern Scotland is hard to adequately convey in writing. Instead, I am going to take you on a photo tour of the Highlands. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.
The first stop on our journey was the Blair Athol Distillery. I don’t drink, but seeing how whisky is made was pretty cool. There are no pictures of inside the distillery due to the ban against electronics to ensure that nothing sparks the alcohol vapors present.
Next, we took a short drive over to Pitlochry for lunch. It’s a quaint little place (think Scottish Stars Hollow) and it has a lovely fish and chip shop. I’m usually not a big fan of fish, and this was my first time to have an authentic version of the dish. It was delicious!
One of the highlights of the trip was the visit to the sheep farm, complete with a sheep dog demonstration. The shepherd, who had taken over the position from his father, had different signals for each dog and even showed us how to shear a sheep. After the demonstration we had time to ask questions and, best of all, play with the puppies.
Our final stop on Saturday was the Battlefield of Culloden, the site of the final confrontation of the Jacobite uprisings of 1745. Several thousand men were killed on the moor in an attempt to place Prince Charles Edward Stuart, “Bonnie Prince Charlie”, the direct decedent James VII of Scotland, on the throne. The Jacobites were severely defeated by the British Government Army led by the Duke of Cumberland, William Augustus. Despite the tragedy that took place there, the moorlands of Culloden are beautiful. After being in fairly major cities, it was refreshing to be among the heather and feel the cold, fresh breeze. The visitor’s center was also enjoyable and informative.
The first place we went on Sunday morning ended up being my favorite part of the entire trip: Loch Ness. The loch is one of the most stunningly beautiful places I’ve ever been. We were lucky to have wonderful, sunny weather -- the sky was bright blue and the surrounding hills were painted with vivid greens, yellows, and oranges (as the leaves don’t really change color in Texas, I always glory in the autumnal foliage). We took a short cruise to Urquhart Castle. Gliding through the dark, glassy waters of Loch Ness in the sunshine was a fantastic experience.
Urquhart Castle was a blast to wander around. Built on the foundations of an early medieval fortification, the current ruins date from the 13th to 16th centuries. Although only fragments of the castle remain intact, you are really able to get a sense of the building that once stood at the shore of Loch Ness. The views from the upper levels are breathtaking and I had a lot of fun taking pictures through the windows of the castle.
Next we headed over to the Nevis Range for a ride on the only gondola system of its kind in Great Britain. I ate my lunch at a café at the top of the slope looking out over the valley and enjoying the clear view of the surrounding country. The ride up and down on the gondola was great, as you have time to enjoy the spectacular landscape. I especially appreciated the brightly colored trees.
The last place we stopped on our tour was Glen Coe, a quiet and picturesque area. It was the perfect place to end the trip, reflecting on the harsh, yet serene, beauty of the Highlands. If you have the opportunity to explore the Highlands I implore you to do so! I had an amazing time travelling through the untamed nature of the North and hope to return someday.