This weekend of Heartland Travel tour of the Highlands is one of the greatest trips I have been on. This trip not only had some of the greatest sights I have experienced, but had a tour guide, who had the greatest passion for what he does, where he lives, and who he is, Nory. This was also the trip in which I won through the ballot through the study abroad orientation I went to my second day here.
We began our great journey at 9 am when we all loaded on the bus. Right from the beginning we knew it would be great from all the other people who said help and were welcoming from the beginning and also Nory who was quick with the jokes and comebacks right from the start. Our first stop was Doune Castle, where Monty Python and The Holy Grail, Outlander, and Game of Thrones were all filmed at one point (Most Monty Python and second is Outlander). In the medieval it was home of Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany (c.1340–1420), the son of King Robert II of Scotland. We did not go in, but were able to take in the beauty of its outer walls and surroundings. We then headed to the neighboring town, Callander. On the way there, we learned about how the phrase, “Armed to the Teath” came from. The town of Doune was where all the pistols were created and where everyone got them. At one point, officials decided they did not want that and there was a law that no person were allowed to buy or sell guns once they got to the River of Teath and were not allowed to have their weapons on them, once they crossed the river into the town, creating the phrase, ‘armed to the Teath’. There, in the cute small town of Callander, we were able to grab sandwiches in which we would eat at Glenn Coe for our lunch and walked around the town for a bit, looking at the local stores.
On our way to the mountains of Benn Doran, Nory told us the very special and touching story of his proposal to his wife on top on Benn Hope (his last name was Hope, making all the more special). It was very special how much heart he put into his stories and the love you could feel he had for his family. We made a stop at Benn Doran and took pictures before we made our way to Glencoe. There we decided to have our picnic in the bus because of the wind outside, but everyone was a little happy to eat inside for our first meal out. When we were done, we set out to walk to the perfect spot in Glencoe where we were able to see the iconic mountains and valleys you always see in pictures and dream about going. While walking to the spot, I made friends with two other girls who were lagging behind with me because of all the photos we were taking of rivers and other mountains on the way. It is such a great place to be, you really want to take every minute of it in.
After we soaked up the amazing scenery, we made our way back to the bus and off to more terrific spots of Scotland. While driving, we past Loch Lenny, which was beautiful and the sun shining on it made it truly great. We also past the small hill where the makers of Harry Potter located Hagrid’s hut!
We then reached Glenfinnan, where if you look towards the loch, you will see BEAUTIFUL mountains, the water, and the monument to the Bonnie Prince Charles, where he began his campaign for the Jacobite uprising. The time we reached it was where the sun was just at the peak of where the state of the Bonnie Prince is. Now if you look the opposite way of the loch, you will see the famous railroad bridge that is famous because of Harry Potter. It is the bridge which the train crosses! We had to climb a very large hill to get the best view of the bridge. I was able to get the picture I wanted of it and wanted to see the monument before we left, so I started down the hill, but right when I was in the middle of being at the bottom and the top, I heard the whistle of the famous train. I was too far in either direction to see the train, but was happy enough to hear it and see the bridge and the amazing mountains behind it. I had a nice special moment to myself while walking to the monument, because it was what I remembered most of the last time I came to Scotland as a kid. It was also special because of the truly blessed weather we had. Everything you saw looked like it came out of a Natural Geographic Magazine.
We had another special moment in the bus while driving through the valleys of hundreds of mountains. I had never felt so at peace and so blessed to be somewhere than I was driving at the bottom of the mountains during sunset with that perfect group of people and a tour guide who would say how perfect everything was, the exact moment you started to think that as well. He also played the perfect music at the right time to feel complete in the moment. While we were driving though those mountains, we listened to songs such as, George Ezra – Blame It on Me, Bat for Lashes – Laura, Ben Howard – Old Pine & The Wolves, Malinky – Broomfield Hill, and Bears Den – Agape. These songs made me feel deeply that I was not home…and truly loved every moment of being there at that moment. I had my great friend sleeping next to me, scenery that makes you feel like an ant, but complete at the same moment, great music, a beautiful sunset, and the knowledge that this would be your whole weekend. It was perfect.
We then were told of the story of the man who could talk to birds when we reached Eilean Donan Castle where we saw the sun officially start to set and were able to take some very special photos. We then made our way to the lodge we would sleep at for the weekend, the Stationmasters Lodge. It is a 150-year-old Lodge on the edge of a loch in the smallest little town. The lodge felt like a home. There was a nice fire being made, we made a home cooked dinner and all ate at a table together, and after dinner sang songs together with Fisherman Neil. It was a great cozy night filling with stories and laughter. Char and I the shared a room and fell asleep right away.