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. 😉

Edinburgh and Scottish Highlands Tour (Part 1)

Four days of Easter holidays was a good enough reason to set out for an exploration of the United Kingdom. Earlier, Switzerland and France were also in the picture but then I pictured my parents lashing out at me for wasting all that money and so I had to settle down for something nearer. Wales and Scotland were the options which came to my mind, and so Scotland it was. We planned for a 2.5 days tour to Edinburgh and the Highlands almost a month before Easter. Easter is one of the busiest time here as the tourist season starts from April and its a good practice that everything is booked well in advance. 

We started on a cold Good Friday morning from the Railway Station in Manchester and took the train to Edinburgh. The train reminded me of DDLJ and I did peeped out of the door to see if Simran was anywhere in sight! 

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No! Thats not her! 😦

The train journey was quite eventful as the train snaked through the lush green mountain terrains and gave us a glimpse of the life beyond the cities. We arrived at Edinburgh at 9.15 am and got down at the Haymarket Station. After a quick dump-bags-in-B&B act, we took a cab to the Waverley Bridge. It was then that the beauty of the city struck us like a bolt of lightening. 

Edinburgh is the Capital city of Scotland and one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. The moment you are there, you will feel a strong urge to be lost in its streets. You would want to walk around not knowing where you want to go and just absorb the beauty around you. I don’t know what makes everything so incredibly beautiful in this city. Is it the perfect blend of the new and the old? Its a city which overwhelms you instantly.

img_3599This is the Waverley Bridge. The city tour buses start from this bridge(from the point where the Red bus is standing). The Princess Mall is on the other side of the bridge. All the buildings which you can see are a part of the old town. The place where the Waverley station is built was once the Nor Loch(pronounced lo-kh), which was the city’s water supply and the dumping ground of sewage. It was drained in 1820 and a New town was created just opposite to the old town. The soil was dumped in the drained canal which created a mound. This is how the mound looks like now:

img_3617Impressive. Isn’t it? This is the National Gallery of Scotland which was build on top of the mound and the railway lines were tunneled right below it. I took this photograph while climbing the Scott Monument which is another beautiful piece of architecture built in 1845. 

img_3865This is the Scott Monument which provides a breathtaking view of the city. You can see the Edinburgh Castle and the Firth of Forth at the same time. Here is a view of the New Town. The New town was built starting from 1766 and was a solution to the ever increasing population in the Old Town.

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Coming back to the Waverley Bridge!! We took the Bus and boat tour which took us through the various landmarks of the city and finally on a boat trip into the Firth of Forth. The boat trip was a memorable experience as it took us below the Forth Road Bridge and then below the iconic Forth Rail Bridge which was opened in 1890 and is considered as the one internationally recognised Scottish landmark. 98 workers lost their life during its construction. 

img_3397The Forth Rail Bridge

img_3404The Road and the Rail bridge. Both the Bridges connect Edinburgh with Fife.

There are a lot of islands strewn over the Firth of Forth. The Ferry stops at the Inchcolm Island. You can get down there and take back the next ferry or may come back in the same one. There will be a lot of Seagulls around and if you are lucky enough(as we were!!), you can spot Seals too.

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There are a variety of Bus tours available which you can book from Here.

After having a quick bite(which was roasted pork and duck with boiled rice for me 😉 ), we headed towards the Royal Mile. The Royal Mile in the Old Town is a mile long stretch between the Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse and is the most picturesque part of the city. We headed towards the Edinburgh castle which stands on top of a volcanic rock. The site has been inhibited since the Bronze age and the building of the present castle dates back to the 12th Century. A few pictures of the Castle, the Royal Mile and the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

img_3660The Edinburgh Castle

img_3842The Royal Mile

img_3651The Royal Mile

img_4229The Palace of Holyroodhouse

Camera Obscura is also a wonderful place to visit. It is located near the Edinburgh castle and contains some great illusions, 3D holograms and a thermal imaging camera. 

img_3829The illusion of parallel mirrors

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We spent the rest of the day roaming around the city on foot. There was a very happy feel to the city. Everyone was laughing and enjoying and why not? It was Easter! There were Bagpipers playing the beautiful instrument and there was a man sitting near an ancient structure on the Royal Mile playing a Violin. There were people sitting in the street bars and chatting happily. Finally, we had a beer in a Bar near the Picardy Place Roundabout before heading back to the B&B. It was a beautiful day and I fell in love with a city for the first time. Now I know how it feels like! 🙂

The next day we went to the Highlands, another scarcely inhibited and breathtaking part of Scotland with some tragic history. More on it in the next post. I leave you with a few random pics.

 

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The Scott Monument

img_3859The Bagpipers at the Royal Mile

img_3594From the Top of the Scott Monument

img_3749Inside Edinburgh Castle

img_3584Inside the Scott Monument

img_3875In front of a Multiplex in the New Town

img_3844St. Giles Church on the Royal Mile

To be continued….

p.s. there are an overwhelming large number of photographs in my collection. 950 to be precise for the 2.5 days!!! If you still have an appetite left, then you can view 70 of them here.