Published: February 9th 2012January 29th 2012
Today was a long day on a bus. We started by checking out of our hostel around 7:15 and walking to the Royal Mile where we boarded our tour bus to see the Highlands. We don't normally like travelling by tour bus, but we really had no choice here, because we don't have a car, and the Highlands are a big place! We stopped at a few other places for photo-ops or little towns (which didn't have a whole lot of anything) just so the driver could take a break.
The map above basically shows the route we took, but the highlights of the day involved visiting Glencoe - the site of the 1692 massacre of the MacDonald Clan by the Campbell Clan - and Loch Ness. The story of the MacDonald massacre goes something like this:
King William III required all of the Scottish Clans to swear an oath of allegiance to him by a certain date. He decided that he wanted to demonstrate his power by making an example of one of the clans; he chose the MacDonald clan - one of the most (if not THE most) powerful of all of the Scottish Clans. To do
this, through a bit of trickery and deception he and his advisors worked it out so that the MacDonald clan could not swear their allegiance until a few days too late. Because of this delay, approximately 120 soldiers, who were led by a senior member of the Campbell Clan carried out a plan to massacre the MacDonald's. The plan was to arrive at the MacDonald's territory and ask for shelter in the middle of the winter (it was Scottish tradition that anyone (even someone's worst enemy!) would be given shelter and be shown great hospitality when in need). The Campbell's arrived in the middle of a blizzard and the MacDonald's did take them in - all 120 of them. They fed them and gave them beds. In the night, when the MacDonald's were asleep, the troops led by the Campbell's set about their task of killing every MacDonald they could find. They killed them in their beds and shot them in the backs while they fled. Many people died in the cold, when they fled to the hills in the midst of the blizzard. All in all, the entire clan was not killed, but it certainly was a defining and
sad day in Scottish history.
Loch Ness, of course, was a great visit. Many people go there expecting some touristy attraction, but really it was just a lake. I think that we liked it so much because it was a beautiful day and we love being on the water and looking at the surrounding mountains. In terms of scenery, it was beautiful, otherwise there's not much else there. This was probably the first time that we actually in some ways wanted it to be a bit more touristy. It would have been nice to have a pavillion at the side of Loch Ness that talked about all the Nessie sightings, give pictures etc. just to put us in the mood. It was beautiful nonetheless.
We first visited Urquhart Castle, on the banks of Loch Ness. The castle is now in ruins, but it has a long history. Without boring you with the details, I'll just recap a few things. When the castle was built is not exactly known, but they figure it was as early as the 13th century. The last time it was used it was destroyed by the Williamite troops (the troops loyal to William and
Mary) who lived there, because they kept getting attacked by the Jacobite forces. They knew it was only a matter of time until the Jacobite forces conquered the castle, and in order to prevent it from becoming a Jacobite strong-hold, they abandoned the castle, but not before they blew up parts of the castle to make it unusable.
After visiting the castle, we took a cruise along the Loch. The sun was out and we had a great time exploring Urquhart Castle and cruising on the lake. Unfortunately, we didn't spot Nessie, but we did look!
The tour was long and we ended back in Edinburgh at 8:30- over 12 hours later. We arrived just in time to board another bus- a 9 hour night bus ride that would take us back home to London.
There are more photos below