A very early start for us today, as we had to be at the pickup spot for our Rabbies tour at 7:45. Good thing it is only a ten minute walk from our flat! Our tour guide/driver (it amazes me how these guys can do this) is Alan. He is, as all Rabbies guides seem to be, a most personable and entertaining fellow, with a wealth of information to share on all things Scottish.
This tour was a bit different in that we spent more time on the bus looking at the scenery than stopping at actual sites and touring through them. The main purpose of the tour is to get you out of the Lowlands and into the Highlands to experience that beautiful part of this country, and to learn more about what life was like for the people who lived and live here. As you pass through from the low rolling hills, the scenery becomes more rugged and in some places, quite desolate and uninhabited. Part of the journey is through land that is essentially a huge peat bog, so unfit for human habitation or even for grazing.
Our first stop was at Loch Lomond, which we had visited on a previous tour, but from the other side. We followed the loch all the way down to the end. It was a very windy day, so we were surprised to see so many boats on the water! Second stop was at Glencoe, a deep-sided valley in the Highlands, popular with hikers. It is also the site of the Glencoe Massacre, where some 30 members of Clan MacDonald were killed by English forces who had been billetting with the clan, on the grounds that they had not been prompt enough in pledging their allegiance to William III of England and II of Scotland, and Mary II, after the Jacobite uprising. Many more died of exposure and starvation, as the forces attacked in the early hours of the morning, forcing people from their homes in their nightclothes and then burning them to the ground. For a place with such a tragic story in its past, Glencoe is a stunningly beautiful site.
Onward we travelled to Fort Augustus, our lunch stop and a chance to look at the Caledonian Canal, a waterway constructed in the early eighteenth century to connect the east coast at Inverness to the west coast near Fort William. It has 29 locks along its 97 km route.
Next stop was at Loch Ness, to see if we could spot the elusive Nessie, as the Loch Ness Monster is more affectionately known in these parts. We had a 50 minute boat tour down the lake, pausing down the lake to take in the ruins of Urquhart Castle, which they think may have existed in some form since 580 AD when St. Columba visited there. It was seized by Edward I when he invaded in 1296 and changed hands several times over its existence, including having been under the control of Robert the Bruce. It played a role in the Jacobite uprising, but was blown up in 1692 when the English forces left. There is nothing but the ruins left. And no, we did not see Nessie!!
Our final stop of the day was to pay a visit to some delightful Highland cattle at a highway stopping place called A Taste of Perthshire. Would like to have had more time to browse through their extensive shops, but I was more interested in seeing the cattle - two cows and one calf who were more than happy to make our acquaintance, especially because we came bearing food!! They are quite enchanting creatures, with their beautiful long hair and their doleful eyes!
Back on the bus for a long last stretch to Glasgow, confounded by a traffic jam on the motorway. But we arrived in Glasgow safe and sound, twelve hours after we had left! A long, but good day of taking in more of the sights of Scotland.
After such a long day, we were not wanting to be too adventurous or far afield in our dining choice, so opted to go back to Merchant's Square and try a different place. It was really hopping, with every restaurant in the place almost full. We settled for a burger and onion rings at one of the establishments! Not gourmet, but filled the gap and tasted great!