This was our first taste of some down and dirty travel. We were unable to find a couch-surfing host in Inverness, and we didn’t book a hostel in advance. This means we arrived at around 6:00 in the evening with no idea where we would go. Inverness is a fairly small town, and just about everything was closed. After wandering around for a bit, we found a Wi-Fi point, and learned that a reasonably priced hostel was only about a block from us. Hooray! Not only that, but just as we were arriving, a random pipe and drum band showed up in full formal Scottish dress, and started marching up and down the street piping and drumming for no reason that we could discern. Ah, Scotland. We walked around the town a bit to get our bearings and had street-food meal consisting of a traditional Scotch Pie and a fish cake – yum!
Our first full day in Inverness was one I had been looking forward to for a little bit. Since my birthday had passed so quickly, Stephanie offered to splurge a bit in Scotland with a day trip to the Isle of Skye. Gorgeous, is really the only word that begins to do justice to the Scottish highlands.
Our guide, Alison, was hilarious. She referred to everyone by their country of origin, and could tell right away that “America was going to give her trouble.” She was able to keep me in line by giving me a part in her tour. To keep us entertained during the long drive to Skye, she ran through 10,000 years of Scottish history in only a few hours. She gave me a bloody Halloween dagger, and it was my job to brandish it every time a king was murdered. (You’d be surprised how often that happened in Scotland.)
From Inverness, we drove around Loch Ness (stopping to look for Nessie, of course), and paid a visit to some adorably shaggy highland cattle. From there, it was one scenic viewing spot after another. We stopped at Eilean Donan Castle as well. The castle is beautiful, but was restored in 1932, and inside, it looks more like what one would expect from the mansions of Newport, Rhode Island than a Scottish Castle.
From there it was on to the fishing village of Elgol on Skye, but not before we stopped for one or two “Scottish traffic jams” – flocks of sheep in the road. Sheep are certainly not the brightest animals around. They don’t seem to realize that when a van comes at them, running towards it is probably not their best option. We wondered how their brain-size compares to that of the deer around Southeastern PA. We also learned that sheep don’t let you get close to them at all, and I had to be warned not to chase them. Sheesh – it’s like she knew me.
In Elgol, we somehow allowed Alison to convince us to take off our shoes and wade in the water. This was some mind-numbingly cold stuff. Fortunately the general scenery distracted me from the cold quickly enough.
After napping on the bus ride back, we were back in Inverness by dinnertime. Inverness means “by the mouth of the river Ness,” and the river was only another block from our hostel. There is a fabulous walking path along the river and onto an island in the middle, so we took full advantage of it. The river, woods, and bridges were beautiful. We stopped at an ice rink to use the restroom, and were tickled to learn that they actually teach curling there. I didn’t think people really did that.
On day two, we took a local bus to the town of Drumnadrochit and the Loch Ness exhibition centre. Our friend Pete had warned us that it was a bit cheesy, and he was right. I neglected to tell Stephanie that though, so she was a little disappointed. We would have liked more of a museum, and less of a pseudo-multimedia presentation, but we did learn a good amount about the history of Loch Ness, and its famous monster. My personal favorite was big game hunter Marmaduke Wetherell, who, when he couldn’t find the monster, used an umbrella stand made of a hippopotamus foot to produce fake Nessie tracks. Scientists then asked him why Nessie had two left feet.
We then walked to castle Urquhart, but decided not to go in since (a) it’s mostly ruins, (b) it’s not exactly cheap, and (c) we had already seen eleventy-billion Scottish castles on this trip. Back in Inverness, we packed up, and prepared to catch our overnight Megabus to London and the Olympics.