Sep 25, 2011

Looking for Nessie in Scotland

To get from Northern Wales to Glasgow, John and I took the National Express bus to Birmingham where we changed to another bus after a short wait in a very modern terminal. Most of the nine hour trip was through the countryside and quite pleasant with a stop for lunch. When we arrived in Glasgow I started to put our suitcase in the taxi, which was specially built with a wide space between the driver and passenger seats perfectly designed for luggage but the taxi driver said, “Wait, Missy, I will do that for you. You are in Scotland and I am here to serve you.” Nice touch. During the short ride to the Holiday Inn Riverview, the driver acted as a tour guide pointing out all the must-see sites.

We booked a full day tour with Timberbush Tours to Lock Ness, Glencoe and the Highlands. The departure point on George Square was easily walkable from the Holiday Inn. We were exceptionally lucky because the weather was glorious – sunny skies and no rain. Our driver, Grant, was knowledgeable and amiable.

I finally heard the bagpipes play - the only ones we heard in Scotland. The lone bagpiper was at a scenic area overlooking Glencoe, the site of the 1692 massacre of the MacDonald clan. Looking out over the beautiful valley it was hard to envision the dramatic event that seemed so fresh in Scottish minds, possiblly because it is recounted in a popular song. Of course, there is more than one side to any conflict but the oft played ballad says that when the Campbells “…came through the blizzard, we offered them heat, A roof ‘ower their heads, dry shoes for their feet, We wined them and dined them, they ate o' our meat, And slept in the house O' MacDonald.” But then the guests – the Campbells “…slaughtered the house o' MacDonald.” We left the peaceful looking valley listening to a recording of the Ballad of Glencoe.

Interestingly, I thought that “highlands” meant high mountains but the highest peak, which given the clear skies we were lucky enough to see, is Ben Nevis, the highest peak in Scotland, which to my surprise is only 4400 feet high. The scenery was beautiful with rolling hills, much of which is rocky and dotted with many lakes (lochs). When we stopped for lunch John tried the haggis, the famous, or infamous, national dish. Traditionally it contains sheep heart, liver and lungs with onion, oatmeal, suet, and spices in a sheep stomach. Today they use sausage casings. It was served atop a baked potato and tasted a lot like turkey dressing so I assumed the recipe had been altered a bit to appeal to foreigners.

Loch Ness is very attractive. It is 24 miles long and over 700 feet deep and famous for its sighting of the Loch Ness monster, Nessie. We took a scenic boat ride that went past the ruins of Urquhart Castle and learned more about the history of the Nessie sightings that date back the 7th century. Grant said sightings have a direct correlation to the amount of whiskey consumed. And with that he handed us a miniature bottle of Famous Grouse whiskey as a souvenir. No one saw Nessie but it didn’t matter it was a great trip that ended with a lovely ride back to Glasgow though the mountains and valleys listening to Scottish songs.