We decided on a whim to take a bus tour from Edinburgh because we wanted to see more of the country, but weren't going to be renting any cars. Highland Experience
was perfect for us because for a relatively low price, we got to see The Highlands
, the famous Loch Ness, and a lot of countryside we would have missed out on if we had just stayed in the cities. It's also a LONG tour (12 hours!) so we knew we would get our money's worth.
We departed Edinburgh at 730am and after an informative trip out to the highway (seriously, our tour guide James knew so much!), we immediately saw a beautiful rainbow!
Now, let me tell you about our tour mates who we would be with allll day:
- James- Our precious tour guide from Glasgow who knew so much information about Scotland. He drove and gave information at the same time, which is pretty impressive as he was driving a 24 person van.
- Talkative Guy- We found out later that this American's parents live in VA, but he, of course, was more worldly and made sure we all knew it. He literally did not stop talking for 12 hours. And he was loud! He was seated diagonally from us so we heard all about the girl he had broken up with and his plans for school and how he didn't miss living in America.
- Aussie Guy- This guy started out as "Good Looking Guy", but after drinking an entire bottle of scotch, he was just Aussie Guy. Plus, he was married. We later figured out that his wife and kids were back at their Edinburgh hotel and that they lived in London.
- Impatient Guy- Every time the bus stopped, he was the first one off, despite being seated in the back.
- Spanish Girl and Gma- They sat in front of us so, despite not really adding to the trip much, they're still in my memories. Plus, Aussie Guy kept trying to get Gma to drink his scotch.
We started our trek by heading West and then North on the way to Stirling and immediately we saw beautiful countryside and cute little towns. It was tough to get good photos, though, as we were moving. Thank goodness for mental pics!
We also saw a bridge just like in Harry Potter!
Because the tour was so long, James was required to making certain length stops through out the day so our first one was at a little cafe/convenience store where we picked up a bite to eat and enjoyed the many people dressed up for Halloween already. (That was actually pretty amusing.)
What came next was one of the most breathtaking views of my life. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves:
After the awesomness of that view, we hopped back into the bus and continued through the Highlands and Glen Coe on our way north to Loch Ness. It was about at this point that Aussie Guy leaned over and held out his coke bottle asking, "Spirit?" So yeah, I took a swig. It was strong. I had a few more sips throughout the day, but at a certain point, my fear of not knowing where the next bathroom would be won over my enjoyment of scotch.
We were just going around a roundabout when some old Scottish guy totally t-boned our bus! I don't think he was going that fast, but the impact caused the entire door to completely shatter! It also meant that we had to wait around for the cops to come:( It ended up causing us to miss the Loch Ness boat ride, but I think it kept us from getting caught in a really bad traffic jam that was a few miles up the road. After about 30 minutes, James gave us the update that the police were dealing with a car wreck fatality and that in Scotland, when those happen, they shut the road down for hours!
Soooo, we took a back way. And by back way, I mean middle of nowhere Scotland where the road is often barely wide enough for one vehicle, let alone two. As you can see from the following picture:
Aussie Guy jumped out and began directing traffic with a guy in an Audi wouldn't go past us! I think we would still be sitting on that road if he hadn't done so. My favorite part of this, though, was when James said, "Do you smell alcohol?" after Aussie Guy jumped through the broken door. Actually, now that I think about it, I think it was right after this that I had some spirits and not before because I remember not realizing until James mentioned it that Aussie Guy was drinking.
Oh hey, it's us!
After the traffic jam, we had to stop again (it's the law!), but we got some more breathtaking views in.
And then we went to Loch Ness!!!!! Which is beautiful and huge and completely magical. Aussie Guy invited us and Talkative Guy to go to a bar with him in the small town there and, at first, we went, but then we realized we'd rather go find Nessie than drink brews!
And it's a good thing we didn't get those brews or we never would have found Nessie!
After finding Nessie, we stopped at a castle a few miles up the road, also on Loch Ness.
By this point the sun was setting and we were about to hit Inverness, which was our northernmost point before heading back to Edinburgh. And remember how the door to our bus had been shattered? Well, it got pretty cold on the way home. It wasn't unbearable, but it did make me wish I had maybe one more layer on:)
This part of the day was pretty long. It was dark out so we didn't have much to look at, we were cold, we were hungry (since on our Loch Ness stop we found Nessie and not food), and about 20 miles from our next stop, we had an urgent call from nature. And I don't think we were the only ones because the line for the restrooms was about 20 deep once we stopped.
I think it was Pitlochry where we stopped, which seemed like a really cute town, but we weren't there long enough to do much more than go to the bathroom and get some curry chips from a super obnoxious guy at the fish and chips restaurant.
It was a short trip back to Edinburgh from there and once James dropped us off, we made sure to tell him how much we enjoyed our day and we were off for the walk back to our hotel with a quick detour to grab some dinner at Wagamama before hitting the hay!
(Can you even believe that after all of those sights we saw all day that we thought a RAINBOW would be the best thing we saw all day??)