For Katie's birthday on September 26th, we decided to do a day trip to the highlands with one of the many tour groups in Edinburgh. The tour took us to a few different places including Glencoe, Fort William, Fort Augustus and Loch Ness. It gave us a nice taste of the highlands, but it made us realize that renting a car and doing our own tour is a much better option. The tour lasted 12 hours but covered a lot of miles and was mostly spent in the van, with a few short breaks for food and picture opportunities.
The first stop was to meet Hamish the highland 'coo'. Hamish has in interesting history. Back during the days of Mad Cow Disease, the government decided that the best way to deal with it was to kill all cows under the age of two. Hamish was under two, but as he was already a famous tourist attraction, the workers of the coffee shop next to his home petitioned for the government to spare Hamish. They did, as long as he never came into contact with other cows, and now 12 or so years later Hamish is still a lonely tourist attraction.
While we drove to our next destination, Glencoe, our tour guide told us about something called Make Tracks Scotland. It is a company that offers independent walking holidays throughout the highlands and other parts of Scotland. Some of the tours take 8 or 9 days, walking anywhere from 12-20 miles a day. It is a great way to see parts of Scotland that you can only see by foot. There are no wolves or other predators in Scotland, which makes walking through the highlands a relatively safe thing. On our drive we saw three people who were making the journey from Glasgow to Inverness.
Glencoe was beautiful, but has a rather bloody past. We won't go into great detail, you can look it up if you want, but the basis of the story is that in 1692 the highland chiefs were ordered to sign an oath to King William...or else. Because of bad weather, among other things, the chief of clan MacDonald of Glencoe was late in signing the oath. Captain Campbell and his men were ordered to go live with the MacDonald clan, where they were at first told to collect taxes. The Campbells lived with the families for two weeks before they recieved word from the King that they were to slaughter the clan for being late in signing the oath. In all, 38 men were killed in their homes or as they were trying to flee and 40 women and children died of exposure. It is now nicknamed the Weeping Glen.
The next major stop was Fort Augustus, home of the famous Loch Ness. It's amazing to be able to visit places you've heard about your entire life. Loch Ness is probably one of the most famous places in all of Scotland. Fort Augustus is rather small, definitaly a tourist town. Part of the bus tour was a boat ride on the famous loch. Before we got on the boat we bought fish and chips and ate them overlooking the loch. Neither of us are huge fans of fish, but this was amazing! And not just because it was covered in batter, the fish actually tasted good by itself. The chips were also amazing. The best chips we have ever had, and after trying a few fish and chip shops in Edinburgh, they are still the best chips. We can't even describe why, they were just amazing! The boat tour was about an hour long. Loch Ness is actually a HUGE loch. It is more than 700 ft deep and 23 miles long. Lots of room for Nessie to hide in. Unfortunately, we didn't have any sightings of the legendary monster.
After a few more stops for photos, we were on our way back to Edinburgh. It was a long day and at times it was difficult to stay awake on the bus but we had a great time and were happy to be able to see the mountains we have read and dreamed about for years. It was definitaly a birthday to remember!