Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hairy Coo! A Highlands Visit

What's a trip to Scotland without castle ruins, ancient battlefields, and whiskey distilleries? Throw in a few sheepdogs, some mountains, and a trip to Loch Ness, and you've got yourself a complete Highlands experience. How 'bout we hae a wee look.

The Scottish Highlands make up the northwestern part of the country. They are the historic home to the Gaelic language, the Scottish clans, and the Jacobite rebellions against the English. Today, it's a place of natural beauty, sparse population, and of course "hairy coos," or Highland Cows.

We'll start off on the River Braan, said to have inspired such poets as Byron.

The waterfalls, mosses, and stone structures created quite a scene.

From there, lets head to Blair Castle. We'll start outside at the Hercules Garden before making our way in. They mentioned something about no indoor photography...

Inside the Hercules Garden

Artistic, no?

Oops! Did I accidentally take a picture inside the castle? Shame it wasn't a video; I could have sworn those portraits were talking.

Can't escape the kilts and bagpipes, of course

Now things get a bit somber, with a walk along the Culloden Battlefield, the site of the last pitched battle in the United Kingdom. In the mid 1700s, this is where the English defeated the Highland clans once and for all, ending an era of Scottish culture.

Sunrise at the battlefield; red flags now stand where redcoats once stood.

Graves markers bear the names of the clans fallen.

But do not despair! There are puppies over at the sheepdog farm!

An adorable young sheepdog wants to play.

Our shepherd demonstrates commanding the dogs and harvesting wool.

This sheepdog is enjoying the view.

Whiskey time at Glenlivet.

Bottle art: A productive whiskey byproduct.

And let's not forget Inverness, our home base and a "city" of 60 thousand.

The river at night.

Speaking of bodies of water, we're off to Loch Ness (or, for those of you who don't speak Gaelic, Ness Lake.

Ah, look! Someone else is taking the picture.

The Loch Ness monster, Nessie. We spotted her!

Just off the shore we made a stop in Urquhart Castle... or what's left of it.

The view from the loch

Stones and water

Ruins of Urquhart

A trebuchet! The French are coming?

And we wound up in Glen Coe, nicknamed the Glen of Weeping for its historic massacre, at which dozens of Scots were slaughtered. The culprits actually stayed with their victims as guests for several days before turning mercenary under orders from William of Orange.

And that concludes our tour of the Scottish Highlands!

Learn British: Cheers! Sure, you've used this before in a toast. But over here, it's synonymous with a quick "thanks!". Someone holds the door open for you on the way to class? Cheers! Someone lends you a pencil during lecture? Cheers. The professor hands out another problem set for Astronomy? Erm... best not to say anything.

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