Wanderlust in the Scottish Highlands
A weekend in a fairytale
“n' sae he ne'er met his true loue again”
I sat completely motionless as our tour guide Nory Hope finished the Scottish tale o’ Loch Lomond.
Nory with his full beard, twinkling eyes and booming voice sat back down once more at the head of the bus and began driving us further into the Highlands of Scotland. There were 10 of us on the bus careening through the foggy moors and deep glens, moving ever further north to our destination, Faerie Glen on the Isle of Skye.
So far our weekend away from the city had been full of bagpipe music, and traditional tales coming from a man who is fiercely loyal to his country.
The tale we had just heard was about two brothers who were captured during the Jacobite Uprising in 1745. Long story short, they had to make the impossible choice of who was going to be executed.
The lyrics of the song had never resonated with me before this tale, and I found myself deeply moved as I stared out the window at the mystical landscape before me
Once at our destination I jumped off of the bus to be surrounded by emerald green hills casting an eerie glow beneath the slate gray sky. The wind was whipping my hair back and forth, it was as if the spirits of the tales themselves were making their presence known.
I walked among the stones sent in concentric circles years before I was born and I felt as if I was being transported. Time was irrelevant here. In this moment, I could be anywhere in history. Closing my eyes I could imagine the small, mischievous faeries coming out from behind the craggy stones and hanging from the branches of trees overgrown with moss.
I took a deep, cleansing breath. This is what air should smell like, clean, fresh, and utterly raw. With the roar of the wind in my ears, I felt alive. My heart thudded in my chest and I knew that this is what all the fuss was about.
The Scottish Highlands have been described as many things, they are otherworldly, untamed, beautiful, and frightening. You can read these words and see picture thousands of times, but nothing compares to being there in person. To take it all in. To lay down in the soft, wet grass. To stare up at the sky and listen to what this incredible place has to say.
Heartland Travel gave me an experience of a lifetime!
On my tour with Heartland Travel, I spent a weekend away from civilization, in a world where anything seems possible. In the Scottish Highlands, you feel separated from time and space as you wander the footpaths that line the roads. I discovered waterfalls, glens, and breathtaking coastline that I only dreamed of.
The three-day weekend tour of Skye and Loch Ness departs from Stirling, Dundee, and St. Andrews on Friday Mornings. These are very convenient points for pick-up especially if you are staying at the Willy Wallace Hostel, the University campus is only 2 miles away, easy to walk or grab a bus to in the mornings. Only 16 people max are allowed on the trip, which makes for a nice personal tour.
On your first day with Heartland Travel, you will visit Doune Castle a famous film spot for Game of Thrones there you can snap a few pictures and then it’s on to Callander to stop at a local bakery for a takeaway lunch. Then the bus makes its way through the magnificent Trossachs and reaches the Glencoe Mountains in no time at all. Here the views are jaw dropping, every few miles Nory, the tour guide stops for travelers to snap photographs of the scenery.
If the weather is well enough lunch is eaten amidst the green rolling hills enjoying each other’s company. Grocery shopping for your two nights in the hostel occurs in Fort William and a nice relaxing hike is taken to Steall Gorge and Waterfall. After spending some time wandering through the glen we head off to Glenfinnan Viaduct (famously known as the Harry Potter Bridge.) and then make the last stop at the Eilean Donan Castle for more pictures. (This is where Maid of Honor was filmed.) After a very long but joyous day, the bus makes its way to the hostel in Stromeferry.
The hostel is on the edge of a loch with magnificent views everywhere you look. Dinner is made as a group and the whole tour sits down together like a family to eat. It’s very cozy in the hostel, more like a guest house than anything, with books, CDs and enough beds for everyone. Spend a quiet evening exploring the grounds, sit by the crackling fire or indulge in a hot shower in one of the many bathrooms upstairs.
Day 2: is full of sightseeing and sing-alongs on the bus. You will visit the glorious Isle of Skye and see sites such as the coastal town of Portree, The Old Man of Storr, Kilt Rock, The Quaraing, The mysterious, otherworldly Faerie Glen, and of course the eighth wonder of the world (according to the internet) the Faerie Pools! After taking hundreds of pictures in these timeless locations it’s back to the hostel for another enjoyable night of laughing, talking, and eating.
Day 3: is just as packed full as the other two days. It starts off with an optional fishing trip out onto the loch by the hostel for an extra 10 pounds, where travelers can catch scallops and starfish as the mist rises off the steely waters. Then it’s off to Fort Augustus on Loch Ness for a glorious Fish n’ chip lunch, some shopping, and the optional jump into the brisk waters of Ness where the famous monster Nessie resides! Once you regain feeling in your body after plunging into the freezing waters (41 degrees Fahrenheit) the tour heads back to your drop-off points stopping to feed Heilan Coos along the way.
It really is a trip you will never forget, friendships will be made with other fellow tour goers and as it nears the time when you will depart for home you will most certainly find yourself not wanting the weekend to end.