Just having finished an awfully chaotic week (the university had messed up my modules and I had to choose new ones from scratch despite most of them being full by that time), I decided to escape for a wee (trying to be Scottish here 😀 ) while from Scotland’s capital and explore the surrounding areas. So I booked a day-trip to the Highlands- what better place could there be to calm down after a stressful week?
The tour started at 7:45 in the morning- so it’s certainly not for people who prefer to have a lay-in on a nice Sunday morning- but believe me, those who do make the effort to leave their cozy bed despite the chilly temperatures will be highly rewarded!
- Luss and Loch Lomond
After a bus drive of around 1.5 hours, we had the first stop in Luss, a picturesque little village at the shore of Loch Lomond, which is the biggest Loch in Scotland when it comes to the size of the surface. The award for the biggest volume still goes to Loch Ness though 🙂 The village’s original name in Gaelic (the Native language of Scotland and Ireland) is “Clachan Dubh”, which basically means “Dark Village”- a term I personally wouldn’t use to describe this tiny village. There is not a lot to do here, but if you are seeking for a place to sort your thoughts and just calm down, this is the place to be!
The Loch is incredibly calm; there is not a single wave clashing the beach, and the view was amazing, despite the fog covering all the surrounding hills. One just feels incredibly free and peacful when staring out onto the water and I could have stayed there for the rest of the day if it wouldn’t have been so cold 🙂
The next stop was soon afterwards in the village of Inveraray (don’t worry if you struggle to pronounce this- even the tour guide did 🙂 which supposedly is also called the “gateway to the Highlands and Islands”. It is located ). The drive to this village had been absolutely breathtaking. The winding road led us through the amazing scenery of the Highland mountains- a rough and rather hostile landscape, which was partly coovered in snow and startled me with its fierce beauty. On our way, we also saw a lot of Highland cattle as well as many sheep, just like I had hoped, since in my mind, these cuddly animals somehow were part of the Highlands 🙂
Inveraray itself was another really quiet little village, its main attraction surely being the famous Inveraray Castle. For those of you who like watching British series: This is the castle where Downton Abbey was filmed! Also, being located at the shore of the beautiful Loch Fyne as well as being surrounded by beautiful nature and an amazing garden, it is host of many festive events and marriages- such as the one of Robbie Coltrane, who played Hagrid in Harry Potter.
The final stop of the tour was supposed to be Oban, one of the three biggest settlements in the Highlands and very famous for its seafood (it has also become infamous for an event dating a few years back, where fireworks with a value of around 6,000 pounds were lit within only a few seconds instead of the initially planned 30 minutes due to a computer error).
On our way, we stopped at an ancient chuch to admire the incredible atmosphere in the historical building and enjoying the view onto another castle (can you spot it in the foggy picture?) located at the shore of another Loch Awe, another one of the around 30,000 Lochs of Scootland. By the way, Fun Fact: How many lakes do you think there are in Scotland? Only 1! The rest are all called Loch 😀
Hint: The castle is the dark thing on the left hand side which is a little taller than the surrounding forest.
Oban means “The Little Bay” in Gaelic, but in case you find two names too few to describe the town, you may also call it “The Seafood Capital of Scotland” or “The Gateway to the islands”. The latter of these is due to the fact that Oban is the capital of North Agyll, one of the Scottish regions. In Oban itself, we had plenty of time to explore everything this town had to offer. But first of all, we chose to warm and wake up in a cozy cafe located at the local harbour front. The coffee was more than needed in my case, and it pretty much brought me back to life 🙂 . Being back to our normal selves,, we walked up to the most famous- and most prominent- monument in the settlement: The McCaig Tower! Overseeing the entire town which is nestled between the feet of the surrounding mointains, this huge building of around 200 metres circumference looks rather odd. Nevertheless, make sure to pay it a visit if you are in the town, since it offers the best view onto the beautfiul Scottish landscape. I mean, my pictures were taken in the rainy winter weather, and I still find them quite pretty- so just imagine the view in summer!
We then went to the local Whiskey Distillery- a must-do in Scotland! Established in 1794, it is even older than Oban itself, but when going in there, you don’t notice the age. The (free) exhibition is really new and very interesting. However, we did not do the tour (costs 8 pounds) since our tour guide recommended to rather invest the money into some nice seafood 🙂
In fact, that’s precisely what we did afterwards! While I obviously do not consume fish, the fries at the cute Fish n’ Chips restaurant we chose were home made and delicious 🙂 And the others said the fish was just as good, so make sure to get some seafood (or, for the vegetarians/ vegans, at least the fries) into your tummy before leaving Oban 🙂
Finally, we strolled around the cute village which, despite being one of the “biggest” settlements in the Highlands, was very peacful and not busy at all! There were also some more attractions to see before we finally went back to the bus to travel back home to Edinburgh: The Cathedral Church of St. Columba and the ruins of an ancient castle for example 🙂
All in all, it was a stunning day, and I now feel as if I have at least a tiny idea why famous poets such as Burns write lines such as I lost my heart in the Highlands. I will definitely be back for another visit soon!