Scenery and stories, traditions and tales, people and pinnacles. Welcome to the Scottish Highlands.
For a very long time, I used to envision the Scottish Highlands as this mythical land that was so far away it almost didn’t exist. Like a figment in my imagination, it was simply the backdrops for fictional films and the settings to folklores. Too untouched to be real, it wasn’t until last weekend that I stood on its soil and saw it for myself. And let me tell you, it is very much alive.
Packed into a 16 seater bus on a 3 day tour with Rabbie’s, (rhymes with cabbies and is very much not pronounced like the infected animal disease), my best friend Brittany and I chose to spend our Easter Weekend in the Isle of Skye. Our tour guide was a man named Grant – short(ish), bearded and broad-shouldered with a ponytail and genuine smile. A living, breathing Gaelic dictionary and history book, Grant knew everything – from the depth of a loch to the origins of a kilt. Through his patriotism and passion, he told us tales of the giants and legends of the fairy kingdom, with the proper theatrics of course.
Our fellow passengers for the next three days were a group of Americans and Indians, with the median age calculating to 50+. Shy and strange introductions soon turned into kindling new friendships as we exchanged sweet anecdotes of our lives beyonds the bus. Taking the liberty to give everyone a coined identity, Brittany and I put characters to our companions. Would you like to meet them?
Walter – Southern Charmer (with a little hat)
Penny – Chicago Belle With Pink Nails
Kay – America’s Sweetheart
Jason – Mr Wild Wild West (who walks with a purpose)
Jeff – The Family Man
Donna – Just Donna
Kevin – Sea Life Connoisseur
Jacob – Mr. No Ragrets
Renne – Violet Incredible
Grant – Gaelic Gandalf
Indian Family – Keeping Up with the Delhi’s
Brittany & Katelyn – The Banterous Aussies
It wasn’t until two days after the tour ended when Brittany texted me saying “I miss our Rabbie’s friends :(” that I realised just how fondly we had all become. But more so, as sad as it may seem, that we would probably never see each other again.
So, what does one do in the Scottish Highlands when the weather is at a peak of 25 degrees and the sky is brilliantly blue? Well, the days went a little like this… We’d wake up by the seaside and roll into the dining room for our (very delicious) English breakfast, cooked by our kind British host named Lance. For our two nights in Portree, we stayed at the Kerrysdale Bed & Breakfast and would highly recommend this to any person who passes through! We would then pile onto the bus by 8am to journey through the valleys and mountainsides, pit-stopping only for panorama pictures and coffee breaks. The driving playlist consisted of soft bagpipes and Gaelic songs on replay, accompanied with fun facts about crofters and stories of the wild Vikings.
We trailed along the Quiraing Pass and stood before the Eilean Donan castle with our jaws dropping by the second. We cooed at baby lambs on the rolling hills and gasped at the sheer geological mass of Old Man Storr. We journeyed to Fort William for pubs and Loch Ness for the hype, then screamed “You know nothing, Jon Snow!” at the Doune Castle (aka Winterfell). Our breaths were lost to the cliffs of Neist Point – partly because of its incline, the other because of its sheer beauty – and our casual nonchalance was broken when Grant surprised us with the Glenfinnan Viaduct, also popularly known as the Harry Potter Bridge. We took heed to the stories of the Picts, the Roman rulings and the Celtic tribes, and payed tribute to the massacre of 1692 in the village of Glencoe. And then, just like that, the tour was over.
It sounds silly to say a three-day trip changed our lives, but in the most simplest truth, it kind of did. It wasn’t dramatic realisations or profound moments. No, instead, it was the thought of knowing that in life there is a time where breathing is simply enough. Take civilisation away and your material goods, and what your left with is the original groundings of nature’s best. Life can be a tough and grueling place; it’s fearful, dark, distrusting and lonely. But to all of those words, there’s an antonym to take its place. So, whether you find it in the Scottish Highlands or another countryside and coastline, it’s always important to treasure the escape. As an ode to Scotland, and to simpler times, I leave you with this little poem.
So, when life gets too much
And the concrete jungle is too loud
We will squeeze our eyes shut
And return to the hills and clouds.