After a good night's rest we were ready to continue our trip with the biggest tour we had planned - going to Loch Ness by bus. I want to apologise in advance for any incorrect informations. I did my best to listen to the thousands of dates our bus driver Peter told us, to names of people and locations, but it was hard. I still wonder how he did it.
We hopped on our bus in Edinburgh city center where shops were just about to prepare for opening hours. I watched a guy polishing the brass plate outside his shop while we were waiting for all our co-travelers to hop on the bus. He did it with such concentration, I just couldn't turn my eyes off him. I lead a boring life, I am fascinated by little things like this. Finally everybody including our driver was on the bus which didn't get full which gave us the chance to stretch a little from time to time without getting in the way of others.
Peter's first question was if anyone understood Scottish. No answer. We sure were a lively troop *lol* One brave guy wanted to save the group's reputation and yelled "Yes". As an answer he got some absolutely incomprehensible sentence in Scottish and a dry "So you understood that, huh?" After that he had mercy on us and spoke English with a heavy, but mostly understandable Scottish accent.
When we got on the road I noticed it first. A squeaking, rattling sound beside my ear. I have no idea where exactly it came from, but it was steady company throughout the day. I wondered if the bus which wasn't too high standard (hey, so we didn't book the VIP tour, after all Swabians are called the Scots of Germany! ;-)) would fall apart, but as you can tell - we made it back.
Our first stop to have some coffee and use the facilities and of course to come down onto the gift shop like a flock of vultures was in the Trossachs area, at Kilmahog to be exact, a little hamlet.
Kilmahog is the home of Hamish McKay Denovan, a beautiful representative of Scottish Highland Cattle, born in 1993. He took our interest with absolute coolness as you can see.
After some of us had tried the limit of their credit cards for the first time this day (not me, I only bought some cookies and not even Walker's!), our trip continued. We heard so many stories, I wish I had taken a tape recorder because it was impossible to memorize them all, stories of highwaymen, kings and queens, battles, politics and they were all most generously seasoned with dates, locations.
The two I remember best are the ones about William Wallace and Rob Roy MacGregor. Both of them are known to us from popular Hollywood movies. That I both haven't seen which is a good thing because they are not historically correct. One result from hearing about Rob Roy was that the tall guy now loves to say MacGrrrrrrregorrr, in any suitable or not suitable moment.
On a bridge over the Water of Leith Peter made a stop of about two seconds to show us Doune Castle which is known to Monty Python fans from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Two seconds are not enough to get a good photo through a bus window as you can see here.
On we went and while some of us took the time to catch up on a little sleep they had missed in the morning, the others admired the gorgeous landscape of the Highlands. Peter named out all the mountains to us, but I have to admit I am not sure anymore which "Ben" this is. Ben Nevis, Ben Ledi, Ben Lomond - sorry, I can't remember. I had the same problem with all the lochs we went by. The only one I remember is Loch Lomond for which of the course the reason is that "On the bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond" is one of my favorite songs.
Our next short photo stop was at Glen Coe.
We got to hear not only the story of the massacre at Glencoe which is one reason for true MacDonalds to still despise the name Campbell, but also Alastair McDonald's song about it, a sad ballad which might have made an even bigger impression if the CD hadn't jumped so much ;-) At this point people started to not take time seriously anymore. Of course it would have been nice to be able and stay longer, maybe sit down in the wonderful summer weather, but after all our goal was Loch Ness. From then on at each stop there were some incorrigible ones that delayed everything which did not make Peter happy at all. We could usually tell by him turning on another Scottish song ...
At Fort William we had a stop for lunch. Peter said he would be back at the bus early to hand out tickets for the ones that wanted to join the Loch Ness Cruise. He told us the price and that he could only take cash. Do you know where I am getting at? Exactly. Two couples wanted to buy tickets on their credit cards after lunch. The next short stop we made was at an ATM ...
Have you already wondered if we ever made it? Yes, we did. The first thing we got to see of Loch Ness. Well, not exactly the loch itself, but the landscape around it. Isn't it beautiful? Actually at first I thought the sheep were just props because they didn't move, but at least one of them was moving after a while.
This is Urquhart Castle or what's left of it. Close to the castle most of the Nessie sightings occurred. It's a breath-taking view.
And here it is - no, not Nessie unfortunately, but Loch Ness. The little something is a boat. I waited quite a while hoping Nessie isn't vegetarian after all and would come up for a little snack, but no chance.
This is the view out on the Loch from a bench in the castle "garden" (yes, English lawns really look as if they have been cut with small scissors!). Despite all the tourists it was very peaceful and I could have stayed there for hours if it hadn't been so hot. I am not allowed to sit in the open sun for long, so we went on strolling around until it was time to go down to the Loch to catch our ship.
This is the view from the upper deck of the ship. Such a gorgeous day, we didn't even need jackets at first. The only drawback were all the other people. You wouldn't think how hard it can be to get a decent picture when you have to stand in queue for it ;-) It could have been so romantic, even with staring at the water as hard as I did, still hoping for the miracle of Nessie turning up *grin*
The house in this picture looks like it could be perfect for the next vacation at Loch Ness, don't you think?
Would you believe me if I told you these aren't waves from the ship, but Nessie just going back down into the water? I guess not, huh?
After getting off the ship we all met at this garden. The main reason for it was probably the friendly terrier that welcomed us, his tail going like crazy. His friendly human talked to us afterwards and obviously appreciated all the praise about his garden. I am not sure how much of that was his merit because while he was entertaining the crowd in the front, I could see his wife in the background, weeding ;-)
Now it was time for the long way back to Edinburgh. Most of us took a nap, even I did although I didn't want to, but we all woke up pretty fast when Peter told us he would join in now.
We had a last stop to get something to eat, over half an hour. Can you believe it? After we had got back on the main road, one lady cried out she had forgotten something at the last place. Without a word the driver turned around. She went into the shop and didn't come back out. Her husband went after her. Slowly. Finally both of them came back. Slooooowly. Whatever it had been she had forgotten, it had not been there anymore. I wonder how many of us felt really sorry for her at that moment after we heard that it had been nothing vital like her purse or money or anything.
We took a different route back, but it started drizzling, so the pictures didn't turn out.
When we crossed the Forth, this was what we saw, though. Now imagine being pleasantly tired, half dozing, listening to Scottish ballads and the driver pointing out some landmark occasionally and enjoying a look like that - and the squeaking in my right ear!
We had left Edinburgh at 8 am and we were back at about 8 pm. It had been a long day, but I still think it was worth it and I would love to come back to Loch Ness and stay longer this time.
That day wasn't much longer for us, though. Our legs hurt and all we could do was look a little TV and dozing off dreaming of Nessie ...