Edinburgh and Scottish Highlands Tour (Part 2)

Related post : Edinburgh and Scottish Highlands Tour (Part 1)

After roaming around in Edinburgh we all slept like a log that night. We had to wake up at 5:30 in the morning the next day to catch our tour bus to Loch Ness, Glen Coe and the Scottish Highlands. Our tour bus started from the Loch Ness Discovery Centre at the Royal Mile. I booked the tickets almost a month ago from here. This was this route, which was carved out for us for the tour. You can move or enlarge the map if you wish.

 

Our tour guide Paul was a very jovial and friendly guy and instantly made everyone in the bus comfortable. The Bus was nothing less than a mini globe with people from USA, Spain, Italy, Scotland, India, China and God knows how many other countries. Paul always made a point that we replied to all his queries with an “Aye” and “Okhaaye” so that we could become partially Scottish.

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[The highway as we moved towards Perth. The snow looks like white blotches of paint that fell off from God’s palette while he was painting]

We started our journey by crossing the Forth Road Bridge about which I already wrote in Part 1. We soon passed through Perth viewing some picturesque views of the River Tay(which is incidentally the longest river in Scotland) bending and curving with the highway. As we moved ahead, we made a stop at Pitlochry for breakfast where a pair of Italian guys was late even after constant reminders by Paul about being on time after breakfast. Everyone clapped as they entered the bus and we moved towards Killiecrankie which is famous for the stunning and ironical Battle of Killiecrankie resulting in the victory of the Jacobites and the death of their leader. 

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[The clouds cast shadow on the mountains creating beautiful scenes]

As we moved ahead, the landscape changed drastically. From cultivable land and lush green farms to barren mountains laden with snow. The scenery became more and more stunning as we progressed and whenever we made a stop somewhere, everyone jumped out of the bus to click pictures. Paul told us stories about how the Kings of Scotland have been cursed and many of them died one after another in accidents, how Macbeth(the name of the protagonist in William Shakespeare‘s Macbeth) was actually derived from the name of Macbeth of Scotland and how Macbeth(the play) was euphemistically called “The Scottish Play” because it was cursed

 

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[I am not sure but I took this photograph some where near Loch Lochy]

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[I took this photograph during the Ferry Ride on the Loch Ness trying to spot a monster!]

Moving further north into the Highlands, we crossed the village of Dalwhinnie which was famous for its Dalwhinnie Single Malt Scotch Whisky. We crossed the Spean Bridge towards Fort Augustus for some monster spotting!!! This was the only part of the tour which we had to retrace back to move towards Fort William. Fort Augustus is situated at the South West end of Loch Ness. We stopped at Fort Augustus for lunch and Paul suggested that we try some Haggis which is a Scottish delicacy. I was gung-ho about trying it but Paul did the mistake of telling us what it is made of! Although a true blue carnivore, I was somehow not able to bring myself to eat that! Next time maybe. 🙂 Instead I took a ferry ride into the Loch Ness in the hope of spotting the legendary Loch Ness Monster. Even after being in water for a good 45 minutes, all I was able to get were some beautiful worth sharing photographs. Next time maybe, I’ll see the monster raising his head out of the Loch Ness. 🙂

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[A broken and unused bridge at Fort Augustus]

After the ferry ride and a quick bite of haggis-less chicken and pork lunch, we moved back to the Spean Bridge towards Fort William. There were beautiful snow clad mountains all around covered in mist. We had our whisky sipping experience near Fort William. As we moved towards South now, we saw Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis. We were not able to see the peak as it was covered with snow with a huge patch of clouds encircling it. We were informed that that is how it remains for almost the whole of the year. 

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[On our way to Fort William]

From here our bus turned towards Glencoe, the location of the Massacre of Glencoe. This was ironically the most beautiful part of the trip. We listened to Paul as he narrated the events than unfolded the night the massacre took place. We were spellbound, not just by the story, but by the beauty around us. How can something so gruesome happen in such a beautiful place? We halted at a spot in the middle of the valley surrounded by barren mountains all around us, some of them shrouded in mist and covered with snow. The place is ideal for trekking and evidently many people come for that in Glencoe.

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[The hills where the Glencoe Massacre took place]

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[Glencoe]

After Glencoe, we turned towards Stirling making a quick stop at a small village called Tyndrum. For those of you who have seen the movie Braveheart, Sterling was the place where the battle was fought between William Wallace(played by Mel Gibson) and the English army during the War of Scottish Independence. There is a monument dedicated to him in Sterling called the Wallace Monument. Although we did not stop at Sterling, but Paul did pointed out the Monument and the Sterling Castle as we finally moved back towards Edinburgh. We reached back in Edinburgh at 7:30 pm. A day spent well!! The rest of the day was spent roaming around in the city.

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[The Scottish Parliament]

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[Shocking!!! Rikshaws make a comeback!]

The next day, our train left at 12 in the afternoon, so we had ample time to have a look at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which is the  official residence of the Monarch of the United Kingdom in Scotland. Its a shame that we were not allowed to take pictures inside because it was the most awe-inspiring piece of architecture you could ever imagine. We were able to take pictures of the ruins of the Augustinian Abbey though. Finally we took a walk in the Royal gardens and have a look at the Queen’s Gallery which exhibits works of art from the Royal collection. If you ever go there, don’t miss the Tribuna of the Uffizi by Johann Zoffany. It is the most outstanding painting in the collection.

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[The ruins of the beautiful Abbey at Holyrood Palace]

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[Another view of the Abbey]

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[Another view of the Abbey. It was so grand that I felt like sitting there for hours]

Finally we were ready to bid adieu to this beautiful city to returned back to Manchester. There were many places which we had missed because of the lack of time. But yes, while leaving, I knew that I would return one day to see them. When we reached the Waverley station, we were surprised to know that we had a bus from Edinburgh till Lockerbie instead of a train. Well it was a blessing in disguise because at Lockerbie, we had the most delicious Fish and chips of our lives while we waited for our train to Preston

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[This is not a windows wallpaper. I took this during the bus ride from Edinburgh to Lockerbie.]

I should not say this but Manchester looked like an ugly concrete jungle after returning from Edinburgh. 😉