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I’ve come to find my roots in Scotland
Rating :

October 20, 2003

Pros: Great buses, single malt whisky
Cons: The rain

Now after the madness of the Thai Reunion, I allowed myself a day to recover and headed up to Scotland the following day via bus. The bus is such a great way to travel through the UK as it is so cheap and the views of the countryside are so worth the longer travel times. Upon arrival in Edinburgh and seeing for the first time the Edinburgh Castle, I felt largely patriotic and though I come into my roots. I was more comfortable walking around Edinburgh than anywhere I have ever travelled, and loved just being there! So I headed off to find my hostel, I wandered about and found it.. right at the base of Edinburgh Castle, so every time I looked out the window I could gaze at it. So logically, the first thing I did was go to the castle, unfortunately it was raining and windy, and my umbrella got upturned inside out, therefore I couldn’t really enjoy the outdoor portion of it, but the indoor chambers where incredible, from the Great Hall, where Murray is set in stain glass al over the place, to the Crown Jewels and Stone of Destiny. It was all quite surreal. However, the one humorous aspect of the visit was that there is a giant medieval siege gun known as the Mons Meg, nice one! After that I wandered over he the Weaving company and watched a demonstration of weaving tartan, but was so wet that I decided to headed back to the hostel for a little nap. When I arrived, there were two other Canadian girls in my room and they were looking for food, so we chatted for a bit and then headed to the famous fish and chip spot on the Royal Mile, only to find the delicacy of a deep fired MARS bar, so yes, it is as bad as your thinking, I tried one! It was amazingly delicious, although I could feel my heart slowing down. It is exactly as you imagine it, lightly battered, then put in oil, so that the outside doesn’t melt but the inside is all gooey and sticky. But one is all you need in a lifetime. After that we headed back to the hostel to prepare for my morning when I headed into the Highlands!

22 October 2003 Pitlochry

First thing this morning I was on a bus with 12 others heading to the little village of Pitlochry on the MacBackpackers Jump on-Jump off tour. Lucky me, the guide might have been the funniest Scottish guy I have every met! His name was Dave and he wore his kilt. He collected all our passports as we headed over the Kingdom of fife as he said that we may nee them for proof of identity, which I thought was odd, but what do I know, so after we pas into Fife, he starts laughing hysterically calling all a bunch of idiots and did we really think that we need to show proof of identity to drive through the country. The he starts looking at the pictures and does introductions of everybody this way, which was good fun. Our first stop was Dunkeld, a little village in the Lowlands with a lovely river walk. I must say that I have come to Scotland at the most beautiful time of year being the Autumn, as the colours on the trees are incredible, and my pictures don’t do them justice! Then back on the bus to Pitlochery, but not before stopping at Edradour Distillery to see how single malt scotch whisky (no ‘e’) is made and sample a dram. It made me feel all warm!

That afternoon after settling into the hostel I borrowed a walking guide and heading out to the Tay forest and Faskallywood as Pitlochry has a huge system of walking paths. Pitlochry is set in the base of a wide glen, like a valley, and every glen has an ‘Inver’ and a ‘river’ or a ‘Loch’ which I will explain more about later. It is also at the base of the Highlands so off in the distance the snow capped highland were visible. So I became completely engorged in the walk until I stumbled upon some ‘ramblers’. Now ramblers are funny, they are well known in the UK and it is a stereotype more then anything, of middle aged people who go walking with walking sticks, brightly coloured beanie hats and their trousers tucked into their socks. So they asked me how the walk was from where I had just came from and of course they heard my accent and wanted to get out their thermos coffee and trail mix and chat! So we did for awhile and then we headed off again. As I was walking along and admiring all the strong colours and crisp air, I had the funniest thought. Not even six months previous, I was hiking up a jungle mountain side in remote northern Thailand and now I am hiking through the base of the Scottish Highlands. Does that qualify me as a Nomad? Dr Phiri told me before I left that I have wanderlust…I think he is very right! That night after a hard day of walking, my two roommates, Erica and Lilly and I headed headed to the local village pub, The Moulin Inn (no nothing like Moulin Rouge, Moulin means windmill) and sampled some local ale, which was awful, but I am not the person to ask as I am not a fan of beer!

The next morning I had about 3 hours before catching my MacBackpacker bus to Inverness, so I decided to hit the trails again. This time heading in the opposite direction towards a waterfall known as the Black Sprout. After finding the picturesque little spot, I carried on, only to see funny looking dung on the path, that started to come in large amounts and appeared very fresh., So I slowed my pace and listened very carefully and could hear weird sort of mooing/grunting noises and I got scared, thinking that there were moose on the trail and sort of panicked, as we Canadian know how dangerous moose can be. So I turned around and started to quickly head back when I ran into one of the ramblers I met the day prior. He was a really nice man, about 55, born and raised in Glasgow and he actually walked with me the day prior for awhile saying that he did not want me to walk alone, because he would forever be worried about the girl walking alone who was about his daughters age (he was so nice) Anyhow, I told him that I though there were moose ahead and he burst out laughing! I just stood there looking like an idiot and he barely managed to squeak out that there were no moose anywhere in Scotland and that it was probably just a cow! Then he looked at the dung and laughed again saying ‘haven’t you ever seen cow poo?’ Anyhow, we walked together for the rest of the morning, before I headed back to jump on the bus!

Now back at the hostel, I finished packing up and went to wait for the bus. Basically, the bus has the tour that stays on for two-4 days, where as I opted to pay a flat fee and get on and off when ever I wanted to, therefore I got to meet at least 5 different tours. So the driver, Ruthie, came to fetch me and we went to sit on the bus. Within 5 minutes I see the two crazy Canadian girls from Edinburgh running to the bus looking for me, so yah! I had a posse! This was the best tour bunch that I had, such a fantastic group. Basically there was me Dana and Lisa and then 5 twenty years old Americans doing a year out uni exchange and the friendly competition was high and energetic. Immediately as Canadian backpakers do, we got out trail mix, only to be made wildly fun of, but of course we had our retorts a well, especially as one of the girls was from Wisconsin with the thickest accent ever! So off we went, into the wild highlands! Now Dana was highly entertaining as she was witty as ever and kept the one-liners coming. For example, we were eating trail mix and she looks at me, point blank in the eye, no smile and asks, ‘Are you allergic to nuts?’ It was craziness. So our first stop was a lake area outside of Killiecrankie and it encompassed every type of terrain possible. It was a clear blue lake, which a huge white sand beach, surrounded by mountains and there was a foot of snow in the trees surrounding the beach. So we stopped there for a hot chocolate while Ruth told us all about out next stop, which was the Culloden Battlefield. This battlefield has the most significance to the Scottish Highland history and culture because it was based on the Highlanders loss of that battle that cost them their culture forever changing their way of life. That loss forbade them to wear the highland dress of a kilt, forbade the playing of bagpipes and forbade them to carry traditional highland weapons. Dana and Lisa also have Scottish roots, so they felt the same as I being in Scotland, so anything pertaining to clans, we all were very interested to know if our were involved. At the battlefield there are memorial stones to all the clans that participated and there was of course a Murray stone, as well I was told that the battle itself, was led by George Murray. So there you go! Then back on the bus as we were going monster hunting next… yes off to LOCH NESS. Now en route to the Loch, the girl from Wisconsin sits with us and says so where are y’all from and Dana and Lisa are from Calgary, so we tried to explain that to her and she replied with, ‘is that more near Vancouver, Toronto or Niagara Falls?’ I just looked at her and Dana says to her without cracking a smile ‘Do you live near Mexico?’ Off to find the monster!

Upon arrival of Loch Ness, Ruth gets out the most enormous bottle of whisky and says she is going to teach us something before we go monster hunting. So after handing us each a cup of whisky to sip, she explained the geography. Basically, each twon is named according the Glen, Loch or River. So for example there is Glen Ness (the valley) which contains Loch Ness (the lake) which flows into the River Ness (river) which flows through Inverness (the town). How great is that? Now to set the scene for the next events, it approaching dusk, the sky is illuminated by the setting sun with shades of pink and blue running through the sky, the wind is low, but it is only about 5 degrees out. So after finishing about 3 drams of whisky, Ruth gets a gleam in her eye and says, now who is going to really hunt for the Loch ness monster… and goes on to say that the best way is to take all your clothes off, and dive in enticing the monster to the surface with the commotion. So guess what Dana and I did…I let you all look at the picture! That night upon the re-warming at the hostel, we all went out to the Black friars pub and sang karaoke all night long, until I actually lost my voice. We were also on the lookout for the other type of monster that Inverness is famous for.. the Invershneckie monster which translates to COUGAR. Yep, Inverness is famous for them. But unfortunately, not only did I not find the Loch Ness Monster; I did not find the Inverschnekie monster either!