For Sam’s first day of half term break we booked ourselves on a day trip to Loch Ness, a 167 mile journey one way. This is a long trip to do in one day. We embarked on our tour on Timberbush tours out of Edinburgh with our driver Pat, who proudly wore his clan tartan.
Pat was our driver and guide. His knowledge was incredible. I am assuming he has been giving tours for a while, but I still have no idea how he remembers all of the dates, places and names that he shares with you on the 12 hour day that covers the history of the Scottish Highlands.
Pat also had a sense of humor. One of the first snippets of information he shared with us was some population statistics: 5 million people live in Scotland while 10 million sheep live in Scotland. Pat suggests that either Scots eat a lot of lamb or possibly they should be eating more?
Other points of interest Pat points out early into our trip include:
- Battle of Stirling Bridge, where William Wallace defeated the English forces during the First War of Scottish Independence (one of the battles depicted in the movie “Braveheart”). Pat played the speech that Mel Gibson gave to his troops before the battle as we passed Stirling Castle and the William Wallace Monument.
- The location of the Battle of Bannockburn, near Stirling. This battle, won by Robert the Bruce, gave Scotland independence from England in 1314. This independence ended after Robert the Bruce’s death when fighting started again.
- Doune Castle, film location for “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”.
- Glen Etive, film location for the James Bond movie “Skyfall”.
- Massacre of Glencoe, or the “weeping glen” since it refers to the killing of some members of the MacDonald clan by guests who had accepted their hospitality in response to the MacDonalds not being prompt in pledging their allegiance to the English monarchs. The massacre was significant because it weakened the clan system since you do not turn on those whose hospitality you have accepted.
Our lunch in Spean Bridge offered some pretty views.
Our options for time in Loch Ness were for a one hour boat cruise of the Loch or time at Urquhart Castle with a 30 minute boat ride to follow. We opted for the castle and boat ride so Sam could run off some energy in the castle ruins. Urquhart Castle changed hands between Scots and English numerous times during its 500 year history and it was finally destroyed intentionally by its inhabitants to avoid being taken during Jacobite uprisings. We saw an 8 minute video in the visitor that was very good and ended with curtains opening in front of you to reveal this view!
By the way, Pat said he is often asked what you wear under a kilt and he said “socks and shoes of course.”
The Castle is literally on the shore of Loch Ness. Sam dipped his hand into the Loch.
Pat provided a lot of information on Loch Ness as well.
- It it the largest loch by volume. Loch Lomond is larger by area, but Loch Ness is so deep, 812 feet in parts, that it holds more water.
- The earliest sightings of a monster in Loch Ness occur in the 7th century by St. Columba, an Irish missionary given credit for introducing Christianity to Scotland.
- The dark color of Loch Ness is due to the high levels of peat in the water from run off of 8 rivers that feed the Loch.
Waiting for our boat to arrive at the castle dock we saw a lot of ducks and the Ness Express, a power speed boat that can chase Nessie down.
Our ride was on the Jacobite cruise line. You can sit outside or in. We did both, outside for some photos until we got really cold and then inside where I had my Nessie Monster Mash beer and Sam worked on his packet for the “wee one” of coloring and games. The boat also provided an opportunity to look for Nessie on several sonar screens.
This is a long trip to do in one day from Edinburgh. It gave an overview of many sites in the Highlands, but does not provide time to visit them in detail. It did provide a good experience on Loch Ness and definitely makes me want to go back for future exploration. I definitely want to see the “Harry coos” or hairy cows of the Highlands, stay tuned for that!