Welcome back to the second part of my tour to Scotland. If you have read the first part already you can find it here. We left off in Orkney but early morning we set off back to the mainland. Most people slept on the ferry back as there wasn't much else to do with the hour.
Once we had returned, the group re-embarked on the famous yellow bus to the Whaligoe Steps -our first stop of the day. This area is truly worth the stair-climbing. The summer was in full bloom here and the water is crystal clear.
By now our group had started to form friendships so people were joking and taking pictures of each other. This place had really special vibes. It's a tiny little spot really but I'll never forget it.
On our way to Dunrobin castle, we stopped at the emigrants statue - a really special dedication to the people of The Highlands. When we arrived - the driveway is rather enchanting - this enormous, fairytale castle towers of you. There's a little coffee stand out front but no food, drinks or backpacks were allowed in. It does have an entry fee but since we had pre-paid for our package, our tickets were included. Whatever the fee though - so worth it!
We spent a good amount of time here and were left to explore the ground at will. We were told of the falconry show during the afternoon and most of us did attend. This was something so unexpected and very cool. The falconry expert was informative while the birds performed gravity-defying stunts and he also emphasised the conservation work they were doing in the area for these birds of prey.
Our final stop for the day was back at Morag's Lodge in Fort Augustus. I was happy to return here for a couple of nights as the beds are spotless and the staff are a treat. The food here is homemade, great and is in very generous portions - cheap compared to the rest of the village. Breakfast here is a must as they have a large selection of porridge toppings, toast and various cooked items for a hearty start. There is also a great little pub here that often has live, local music.
The following day was a free day around the town and I was set of exploring the natural surrounds. Many of our group signed up for activities on Loch Ness such as kayaking, rib boating and cycling. My mom and I however, took things a little slower and walked around the town and all the way along the canal. We had lunch looking out at the loch and it was the most gorgeous day to meander.
In the late afternoon I decided to walk the forest trail up near the lodge and it was once of the best nature immersion walks I've done. There was literally no one around for miles and the River Oich was virtually untouched apart from an old bench on the opposite bank. If you ever get the chance, you must try to walk the trails here.
It got quite late here so I had to end my adventuring early but I wasn't too sad as I don't think my feet could withstand any more walking at this point.
The following morning we left Fort Augustus and headed for Oban. Our first destination on the way was Fort William - yes the famous fort from Outlander (not shot on location).
We did part-take in some jacobite history however with a journey on the Jacobite steam train. The train itself is also famous for being featured in the Harry Potter films so any Potterheads out there who are really into the films should visit. The train also crosses the Glenfinnan viaduct in the films and is photographed plenty by tourists all along the journey to Mallaig. My mom and I tried the local version of Butter Beer, which is hot chocolate with cream and popping candy for all you boring muggles out there.
We joined those who didn't pre-book tickets in Mallaig for lunch. This was a place I wished we could've explored a little longer but the food at the tea room was really lovely although my mom did get stung by a bee which dampened the mood a little. (Side note: always remember to get a flu shot before travelling. Everyone on this tour got sick apart from my mom and I and our tour guide.)
We journeyed to Glencoe next where we had the most spectacular mountain-view I've ever seen. It's so wonderfully green and perfect for hiking around - though I recommend shoes as the terrain is a little unstable. This place is unbelievable beautiful and somewhere I'd revisit in winter - just to see it with snow.
We stayed in a hostel in Oban which was a bit questionable especially since all our other hostels had been spectacular. It was an old church conversion so the building itself was interesting. This was our last night as a tour group so perhaps it was just the anti-climax of things coming to an end.
There was a ceilidh in the town, which is picturesque along the water at sunset. I decided to go after much persuasion and to my surprise it was really a lot of fun. Not many locals were a part of the dancing but it was well organised and didn't run on too late.
The following morning I was expecting a sullen drive back to Edinburgh but turned out we had a couple of stops along the way with st Conan's Kirk the first for the day. This is an interesting church well known for it's architecture as it's a mashup of various styles. I always remember my dad when it comes to architecture and design and think how much he would have told me about the various styles, looking at this little church.
There is a burial here of two people including St Conan himself in a very nordic sort of setting.
Our following stop on the journey included quite a walk through the fields and some construction was included but what our tour guide surprised us with was an opportunity to get up close and personal with the Hairy Coo! We were so excited to see the Highland cows which are famous for their long coats and cute noses. They're on just about every branding or marketing piece of material for scotland so you have to make time to see one in person at least once if you visit.
We were actually here to see the Kilchurn castle ruins which were struck by lightning and a large part of the castle that broke off still remains in the courtyard today. It's a very interesting ruin with everything in it's right place. It's also worth the walk surrounded with beautiful fields and scenery. There are great pictures to be taken here and I would highly recommend it to those on a budget tour of Scotland as it's free. (Scotland is actually a wonderful place to visit on a budget as many attractions, scenery and museums are free.)
On our drive back we stopped at a place called Callander which is home to three famous highland cows and one of them is actually black, I didn't know they came in different colours.
The Green Welly was a coffee stop and on our way to Callander we spotted Glen Ogle and Loch Lubnaig(The bendy loch for those who doesn't speak gaelic). Callander itself was the furthest northern camp established in the first century AD. The Romans actually called Scotland Caledonia and that's why you'll see some shops, towns, restaurants etc pay tribute to its former name meaning the wooded place.
Our final stop as part of the Haggis tour was the William Wallace monument and a brief history lesson from our tour guide explaining who he really was and busting some of the myths from the movie Braveheart. He actually was more of a hero than the movie portrayed and died for his country in a very gruesome manner. The monument itself is very large and has the most insane walk to get up to it. The steepest climb up a hill for not much reward at the end as you can't really photograph the monument once you're up there as you're underneath it.
On our way back to Edinburgh my mom and I napped a little, exhausted and utterly blown away by the spectacular and magical sights we'd just spent a week seeing. It felt like it was much longer but over too soon and we arrived at our hostel a little sad at the thought of our holiday being almost over.
We spent two nights at Kickass hostel which is aptly named. It's literally on the Grass Market and the view from the bar is of the castle itself. There is great food, great drinks, wonderful staff and atmosphere here. There's even a lift! The bathrooms are also really great and I couldn't recommend it enough. Just remember to use Uber if you're carrying heavy luggage.
We spent one more day in Edinburgh walking the Royal Mile and visiting the only mall to pick up our souvenirs. We had planned to do this as we went along making notes of the items we might've wanted during our trip - all of which can be found at competitive prices on the High Street. We did manage to find a reasonable kilt-maker in one of the closes too which was a bonus. They even had a ladys' skirt in our tartan but it was quite large.
Our Scottish trip had come to an end and it was time to get back on a plane back to South Africa. I will miss Scotland and I know I'll be back here again soon but perhaps during off-peak season again as the crowds were quite something right before the Tattoo.
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