Having spent the night travelling from London, we arrived this morning at the Scottish capital of Edinburgh on the Caledonian Sleeper overnight train. The train arrives at the main central station in the centre of the city known as Waverley Station. There was no time to take in Edinburgh and it was straight into a taxi to take us down the Royal Mile where the offices of tour operator Haggis Adventures are located. Today we are joining our second tour on this trip of Europe because coming straight off a 49 day Topdeck Mega European Tour just wasn’t enough so what’s another three days… For our introduction to Scotland this time we are joining up with tour company Haggis Adventures for the three day Skye High Tour.
Edinburgh to Fort Augustus – 19 June, 2012
Once we arrived this morning into Edinburgh’s Waverley Station we didn’t have much time before our Haggis Adventures tour started so we grabbed a taxi from out the front of the station and were taken to the Haggis offices located on The Royal Mile in the heart of the city.
Once checked in we waited to be picked up by our Haggis bus which is very easy to spot given it is bright yellow and one side says in gigantic letters “AWESOME” and the other “WILD & SEXY“. The busses are quite small meaning our group will be quite small also, certainly compared to the Topdeck coach we have just left behind.
Our guide for the next three days is Andy, an eccentric Scottish bloke that will claim that everything in the world was invented by the Scottish and was particularly proud of Scotland beating Australia in the rugby recently, something that rarely happens so we will let him have his moment in glory. He also has quite a few games we are all encouraged to play along the way including “who’s next“, a game where you basically point out old people along the way who look like they could be on their last legs and you yell out “she’s next” or “he’s next”.
Another game was “spot the munter” where you point out any ugly people we drive past and proclaim that “she’s a munter”, this would also work in conjunction with the previous game by saying “she’s a munter and she’s also next”. The final game we would play was to spot any white horses along the way, every time a white horse was seen we had to yell in a high pitch tone “white horse, white horse, white horse“. By the end of the three days we needed to spot ten white horses, then it would mean that the next person you shook hands with is the person you would have DSL (Deep Scottish Love) with.
One of our first stops was at the William Wallace Monument just outside the town of Stirling, the Scottish don’t exactly love the whole Braveheart movie devoted to him as it’s not very accurate, but at the same time acknowledge that the movie has done wonders for tourism and bringing awareness to Scotland itself to more people. Apparently a statue of Mel Gibson depicting William Wallace was placed near the site, but it kept getting vandalised so eventually had to be removed.
We were given some free time to walk up to the monument to check it out before moving onto Glencoe, we also stopped at a ski resort at Glencoe Mountain for lunch and caught the chair lift to the top of the hill so we could check out the view of the Scottish highlands.
Our destination for the next two nights will be Fort Augustus and we will be staying in the highly rated Morag’s Lodge. Fort Augustus is located at the southern end of the famous Loch Ness, tonight we have an optional cruise along Loch Ness where we can try and spot the monster for ourselves.
After the cruise we were pretty exhausted given we spent the last night on an overnight train and the whole Topdeck tour was catching up to us, we went to bed while everyone else when down to the bar in the lodge until the early hours of the morning enjoying some karaoke.
Isle of Skye – 20 June, 2012
This morning we were up bright and early to begin our adventure to the Isle of Skye, along the way we made a stop at Eilean Donan Castle which has featured in many movies including as the Scottish headquarters for MI6 in the World Is Not Enough and in the movie Entrapment. You can go inside and explore the castle, everyone on the tour wasn’t that keen to pay to go in so we opted to have something to eat in the cafe and view the castle from afar. I kind of regret not going inside, will have to come back here for sure.
We continued on making our way to the Isle of Skye, to get over to the island you used to have to catch a ferry, now a bridge links the island to the mainland with the bridge apparently meant to depict the Loch Ness Monster. I couldn’t see it to be honest the bridge simply looks like a concrete bridge, nothing special at all.
We stopped off at a few points of interest, an old stone bridge which gave us some impressive photos, our guide Andy was all for us taking as many photos as possible and you were given plenty of time to do just that. He even has the Scottish flag and the Scottish Royal flag for many poses within the highlands. The main difference with this tour is that it is all about the scenery, previously it was all about the cities and go, go, go with Topdeck, so already this was a nice change.
We also went on a few hikes checking out some hidden waterfalls, one of the tracks was on the side of a cliff, really narrow and slippery, of course we were told to be carful not to slip over. Usually this means someone will slipover straight away, luckily for me I wasn’t the first to slip… but I was the second wearing shoes with absolutely no grip.
The final place we checked out at the Isle of Sky was a place called Quiraing (in Gaelic Cuith-Raing) which offered impressive views of the ever changing landscape. The area is formed by many landslips, as a result the roads in the area need to be constantly maintained. Funnily enough at the top of the mountain is a food van offering all sorts of different meat for your burger, one of which is Kangaroo… Go figure…
From here the bus needed to refuel so we were all dropped off at the small town at the base of the mountain called Staffin. While here we looked around the shops and grabbed something to drink before we started to make our journey back to Fort Augustus for the night.
Tonight back at the lodge was a tartan toga party, but once again after doing some browsing on the free internet downstairs at Morag’s Lodge I was straight to sleep.
Fort Augustus to Edinburgh – 21 June, 2012
This morning we leave nice and early again, today we are confronted with a typically Scottish misty rain for the duration of the day. Today our short tour will come to an end as we head back to Edinburgh, before then we get to experience more of the Scottish scenery.
We make our way around Loch Ness and stop off for some morning tea along the way. We also make a stop at a very scenic river for a small hike and check out the old bridges that criss cross the river.
One of our stops is at the location of Battle of Culloden, a historic battle in 1746 between the English and Scottish forces. We spend a short amount of time here, it was quite an eerie place as the fog came in and blanketed the area as we arrived. There is also an information centre located here also with a shop and café.
From here our next stop was at a Whiskey distillery. We were taken on a guided tour of the facility and shown the process of making Whiskey and were shown where it is stored and aged for many years. A lot of the Whiskey is stored in barrels and is lost over the years due to evaporation and being soaked up by the wood from the barrels. It was really interesting to see how it all worked, we even got to try some at the end of the tour and were shown the correct way to drink it.
Another stop we made was at an old cemetery called Balnuaran of Clava with the monuments built here between three and four thousand years ago. The place is quiet secluded so despite the room for many tourists to come and visit, it was pretty quiet when we arrived. More information is provided by the Scottish Government on this pronominal attraction here.
Our journey then continued on and we spotted the last of the ten white horses we needed, some DSL (Deep Scottish Love) for all of us then. The drive down the main motorway continued and we crossed the main Forth Road Bridge into Edinburgh, an impressive sight is the railway bridge called the Forth Bridge, a striking red bridge built in 1890 and is still an important rail link to this day.
On arrival into Edinburgh we made it back to the Haggis Adventures office and said our goodbyes to everyone before all heading off in our own direction. We had an absolute ball on the three day Skye High tour with Haggis Adventures, it was great to get out of the city and explore the Scottish highlands. The best thing about it was that you could be really social and outgoing and really get into it, or in our case as we had just been on a 49 day tour with Topdeck we treated it more as a chill out tour and took it easy. Our guide Andy was fantastic, knowledgeable and enthusiastic, we couldn’t have had a better guide for these three days.
After our tour was over we then caught a taxi to our hotel where we would be staying for the next two nights so we can experience Edinburgh itself before heading back to London for one more night, then flying home back to Australia.
23 Mar 2013 - Scotland
26 Feb 2013 - England