Well, all good things must come to an end and so it is with our Scottish Tour. We spent 15 days trekking from the southeast corner of this bonny land, to the north central highlands, visiting whiskey distilleries along the way, then on to the west central loch lands, and finally to the southwestern rocky mountainous regions of this amazing place. We walked about 50 miles on hiking trails and approximately 10 miles around towns.
We encountered friendly people in every location. People who seemed to run at a slower speed, more laid-back, less troubled. Oddly, at least to me, we met many people from Hungary and even a young man from Transylvania; truly! But everyone we met were welcoming and helpful to us, and more importantly understanding of our foreign ways.
I’ve had the privilege to hike on every continent on this planet, including Antarctica. And I’ve experienced some really breathtaking scenery. Scotland really surprised me with its natural beauty. This stupendous land is up there with the best places on Earth to hike; without a doubt.
I had visited this magnificent place 35 years ago on a rather fleeting trip. What that jaunt did was inspire me to want come back one day and really experience the place close up. This is what I was able to achieve on this trip, and my 35 year old expectations were simply blown away.
If Scotland isn’t on your bucket list, well you’ll have missed a truly grand and life expanding place. It truly is a broon moonlit, nit, to nit.
An 8 mile hike along Loch Lomond was our pleasure today. We started at the quirky little village of Tarbet where we took a short ferry ride across the lovely loch and began our rambling beside the gently rolling lake side shores. Rowardennan was our destination where supposedly the ferry would be waiting to return us across the Loch.
We were all tired from our triple summiting yesterday and so we hoped for an easy walk. At first the trail slipped closely along the lakeside. Occasionally it would rise gently and then fall softly again. We were canopied by a dense forest of Scottish pines wrapped in bright green mosses and inundated by lush green bracken-ferns. All was well in the world. Then in a merciless act of treachery by those practical joking gods the trail widened and began to climb unendingly and relentlessly. Oh, Odin you evil joker you.
We climbed two Munros in a row today: Stob Coire Raineach, Stob Dubh, and Buachaille Etive Beag, which is not a Munro because of a small technical detail; but is as tall as one. This meant walking up 3,000 feet, then down 1,000 feet, then back up 1,000 feet, and finally down 3,000 feet. It was a tough hike, but I assure you well worth the pain my old bones had to endure. The views of the glacier carved area of Glencoe is something that will move the coldest heart. I don’t think I’ve seen so many shades of green before.
The other treasure of this hike was all of the wonderful people we met. Local Scottish hikers enjoying their lovely land and happy to share it with you.
On the road again, just can’t wait to get on the road again; but this time to Loch Lomond. Boy oh boy this part of Scotland is very green and very attractive. We ate our lunch in Glencoe and what a grand surprise this place was. It is a massive collection of rocky 3,000 foot mountains all covered with the now classic Scottish deep green bio-mat. We’ll be back to hike this craggy area.
The little village of Crianlarich in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park was our resting spot this night. More on this beauty spot later.
The delicate cones of wild, purple, white, and pink orchids surround us, while deep yellow butter cups engulf us. Here and there a purple foxglove reaches up to the cloudy skies of the most wondrous place on earth; the Scottish Highlands. This was our experience today as we walked the boggy and extremely diverse and complicated bio-mat covering the hills and dales of the Lock Beauly area just a short drive from Lock Ness.
To be surrounded by such intricate life forms all competing and cooperating with each other is somewhat dizzying. But after awhile you being to understand how it might work, this intricate web of life.
Of course walking in a bog is a bit trying, but it was well worth the effort to experience this amazing place.
Whiskey, whiskey, everywhere. And by the end we had ne’care. Today we drove the whiskey way from Grantown on Sprey to Albalour. This area is like the Napa Valley is to wine. Many of the major manufacturers are there and many offer tours and tasting. We took a tour at Glenlivet and tasted its malty offerings. After this we tasted our way around several other notable distilleries. By the end of the day Donald, Cindy, and I were well lubricated. Donald guided us through our spirited challenge and tutored us in the finer points of the fiery brew.
Don’t worry Julia was our designated driver and kept us safe in out left-handed world of hedgerows and single file roads. She even managed to drive us all the way to Lock Ness our final destination for the day.
Day three in the magnificent Cairngorms National Park. Oh my Darwin! How magnificent the Scottish highlands are. We walked 12 miles around Loch Muick (Mic) today, and no more glorious a mile has been hiked by anyone before; unless you’ve hiked around the lock yourself.
We ate our cheese sandwiches on the doorstep of Queen Victoria’s Scottish getaway, which gave us excellent views of Lock Muick and a good conversation with a local Scottish man who we could barely understand, but whose accent hypnotized us.
After our cheese interlude we climbed up a 1,000 feet to the top of an overwhelmingly beautiful waterfall. From this high perch we could see far and wide into the crystal clear sky to a vista of Scotland I am privileged to have experienced. Breathtaking.
Day two in the magnificent Cairngorms National Park and we headed to The Linn of Dee to hike a beautiful Scottish Highland valley. We followed the softly winding and gently flowing River Dee to the base of one of the many rolling peaks surrounding. Then we climbed up to its summit to take in the grandeur of this inspirational countryside; flabbergasting.
Once more in my life I was privileged to eat a cheese sandwich in an awe inspiring place. And this time the cheese was Wensleydales and I shared it with good friends.
We bid Edinburgh goodbye and made our way north into the Scottish Highlands. The flat lands of Firth of Forth slid slowly away and were replaced by gentle rolling tree-lined hills of the hinterland. Our 11 o’clock coffee break was taken at the surprisingly large town of Blairgowrie, which was halfway on our journey to the Braemar Lodge in Cairngorms National Park.
Our first task after arriving was to walk the scenic local path that follows the river Dee around Braemar village. It was our first real up close view of the Scottish countryside, and it was stupendous.
Castles, castles, and more castles. Scotland is noted for such things and there is none so full of pomp and circumstance as the stupendous Edinburgh Castle. When we arrived for our visit we were greeted with another 21 gun salute. It seems wherever we go in Britain we receive the same greeting.
This castle was once the home of the ill-fated Mary Queen of Scots. We wandered around her humble abode, with hundreds of other tourists, and could not help but feel sympathy for this woman who had made several bad choices in husbands. Sometimes it’s not good to be the king or the queen.
Our travel companions never cease to amaze us with their unending touring stamina. When Julia and I have run out of gas, Donald and Cindy are off and running. This was definitely the case this day as we left the dynamic duo to their own devices and returned to our hotel to rest up from our day of playing tourist. Are well, tomorrow is another day.