20 July 2013

Day 28 - West Highland Lochs & Castles Tour

This was a day we had free in our schedules, which could be used for research for your paper if needed. As we had visited the National Archives in Edinburgh, I used my free day to go on an all day bus tour with Rabbies to get out into the Scottish Highlands. I like to occasionally do a bus tour, because it is nice to have someone explain to you what you are seeing, and you learn more about the history of a place. At the same time though...it was a long day in a mini bus! I got the front jump seat next to the driver, which I love (thanks to Colm who spoiled me in Ireland) for getting really great views and pretty pictures.

Our first stop of the day was at Doune Castle, better known as the castle used in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. There wasn't time to go inside, but from the outside it still looked impressive:
Driving through Scotland, you can really see the distinction between the Highlands and the Lowlands - there is a change from rolling meadows to mountains and skinny lochs. A few of the views from the bus (it reminded me at times of New Hampshire and Vermont, but with smaller mountains):
And this was once a railroad bridge, but now is a bike path:
Our next stop was Kilchurn Castle, which is in ruins but it is free to go in and climb around...and I thnk we all know now how much I love exploring a good castle!
It was really secluded and what the tour guide said was a 5 minute walk, I'm pretty sure she meant it was 5 minutes sprinting:
Views of Loch Awe from the castle - our tour guide said it was called that because you can't help going "awww" when looking at it. It really was a gorgeous setting. 
Our next stop was at Inveraray, where there was yet another castle you could go in, however it did cost extra. It is still the home of the Duke of Albany and Downton Abbey fans will recognize it as where the Christmas Special in Scotland was filmed:
We drove through the "Rest and Be Thankful Pass" which is often closed due to avalanches:
And then our final stop of the day was at Loch Lomond, which is immortalized in a song, which our guide sang for us. It's actually quite a sad song if you listen to the lyrics yet it does have the phrase "On the bonnie bonnie banks of Loch Lomond" so of course I had to get my picture standing on those banks:
When I got back to Dalkeith, some of my LIS classmates had organized a really nice cook out and invited a local they had befriended, who brought his lovely family along too, plus more food! It was a wicked fun evening, chatting with them. I spent a lot of time talking with Rebecca, Gavin's wife, about some differences between Scotland and the US. And it was the first home-cooked meal in a month now, so it was delicious! Of course we were having fun being social, and no pictures were taken!

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