After spending several days on the Isle of Skye, our next destination was the Scottish Highlands. On the way from Mallaig to Fort William we were observing exciting scenery of an old railway. Its track starts at Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, passes through the westernmost railway station Arisaig, then passes the deepest freshwater lake Loch Morar, and finally stops near Loch Nevis, Europe’s deepest seawater lake.
The total length of the railway track is 135 kilometres (84 miles). The train itself, which runs on these tracks, became very popular because it was used for making movies about Harry Potter. In the film it is called Hogwarts Express; you may already know that the author of the book J.K. Rowling is from Scotland. The railway crosses the road several times, so we were able to watch train’s journey across bridges, through gorges and tunnels more than once.
Our first destination was the small town of Strathyre because there is the hotel Munro Inn, which we booked before departure (address: Main street, Strathyre, FK18 8NA). It could be said that this is the place where the Scottish Highlands begin. Searching the internet, we saw that the hotel is located in the middle of nowhere, although in a good enough location to go from there around if you fancy to find something interesting. In fact, it was a very cosy family-run hotel. It turned out that its restaurant had rich selection of Scotch whiskey. You can imagine the nice mood we had after spending very evening there after the daily trips.
Every morning, the owners welcomed us with full Scottish breakfast, which is not really much different from the English breakfast; the portions are larger and contain such exotic things as hagis and black pudding. Breakfast was really nice and very tasty. I am writing all this in the past form because the hotel was abandoned for some time after and is now run by other owners.
While living in the area, we chose a new destination every morning and went on a short or longer journeys, whether it was the Scottish Highlands or the Low-lands. So, one day we visited a power plant where electricity is produced by flowing water down from a mountain lake, but at night, using cheaper electricity than that produced during the day, the water is pumped up back into the lake. We also visited a farm that is producing and processing fish; it also smokes Scottish salmon, in honour of which there is even a museum. Scotch salmon is a well-known brand in large part because of Scotch whiskey.
Castles are one of Scotland’s features; we visited several and saw many more. The Scottish Highlands and other regions have many castles – they are literally on every corner, however one of the most impressive is Stirling Castle, which is located in the town of the same name. It can be seen far from far away area because it is located on the top of a hill. The castle was built as a royal residence for many kings and queens at the time, there are various expositions inside. From majestic walls of the castle there is a wonderful view of the surrounding area and when the weather is nice, you can almost see Edinburgh.
Visiting another castle, we were surprised by an exhibition of birds of prey – eagles, hawks and owls – which was free of charge for visitors located in a cosy castle garden.
We were a little disappointed when we visited the Rosslyn Chapel, which is mentioned in the famous book Da Vinci Code, but was mostly due to rainy weather and the fact that the chapel was thoroughly under reconstruction. We were in Roslin Chapel later while we lived in Scotland and I shall say that it is worth a visit. Instead, we found several other interesting places during this trip and, driving through several towns and villages away from Scottish Highlands, we watched city festivals and parades.
The birthplace of golf
We spent a day on the east coast of Scotland visiting cities such as Kirkcaldy, St. Andrews and Dundee. This choice was mainly determined by wish to visit St. Andrews; it is a home not only for Scotland’s oldest university, founded in 1413, but also the birthplace of golf.
We are not much golfers, however we decided that if we are in Scotland, then this place should definitely be on our list. We visited St. Andrews Links Golf Club and walked much around the city, which is incredibly beautiful. Another city, Dundee, is Scotland’s fourth largest city with a long history. In principle, it is an industrial city, however we liked the impressive bridge over the mouth of the Tai River, which is essentially like a fjord. On the way back to Strathyre, we went through less populated areas and stopped more than once to see the beautiful scenery.
History and traditions
A visit to New Lanark, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was really impressive. It is a small village where, in the 19th century, the utopian Robert Oven created a model of an industrial commune in which workers in the textile industry worked and lived. In England it was a revolutionary idea at that time. All buildings have been renovated and feature interesting historical and educational exhibits. In addition, we also witnessed a real Scottish wedding, which seemed no less exciting than visiting the complex itself.
Our Scottish trip ended in Glasgow, which is real Scottish city. A few years later, Glasgow became our home for some time.