This weekend was an emotional roller-coaster of feelings. In all, it was amazing and terrific to be in and see the places we were, but at the same time it was awful from the bus and tour we were stuck on to get to those places. Char and I decided to go on Unicorn Tours in the spur of the moment and were so excited! Our first clue of maybe it wasn’t such a great idea was from not being able to find any reviews of this tour company at all online. We felt a little awkward about going, but when I met some new people in the chaplaincy, they said if the college let them have a booth in the atrium then it should be safe. So, we decided to stick with the tour. The other clue it wasn’t the best idea was Mike, the tour guide, sending us hundreds of emails about the trip and asking over and over to try and find more people to go on the tour with us (Something we would soon find out from another tour we went on that a tour company with only 8 seats on a bus isn’t allowed to let individual people join a tour – it must be one full tour of people who know each other and book all at the same time…we didn’t know that at the time).
So, Friday came and we found it was us two and another girl who we will call Laura. She was such a sweetie. That was all of us. Us three girls and Mike the tour guide. Right when we got in the bus he directed us each where to sit, instead of us letting ourselves decide that. I should also say, our tour guide was a man with a thick German accent who still decided to wear a kilt and give tours around the country. Other tour guides, we found, didn’t like this because they said it was misleading for customers for wearing a kilt and giving tours of the highlands that others who lived their entire lives there were trying to have their own businesses of giving tours of their homelands. But it didn’t bother us that much. We started out trip with great Celtic music on and a beautiful sunny day with breathtaking scenery. This was my first time on this trip experiencing the stunning scenery and really taking it all in. I was so happy in that moment. We would stop on the side of the roads to take pictures now and then.
When we were almost at the House of Braur, the tour guide did something I am still astonished about to this day. He actually stopped to pick up hitchhikers!! I was fixed that these were hit men (it was a guy and a girl) that he hired to ‘whack’ us. Ha, so I moved up to sit by Char and any small movement they made I would whip my head back to look at them. Ha, it’s funny now to look back on. They turned out to be very nice and were a young couple from Germany backpacking around Scotland for vacation, but I do not think a tour guide should have picked up hitchhikers and then try to get them to join the tour for the weekend. Ha…can’t believe he did that… So, we made a pit stop at the House of Braur. We then made our way to Clava cairns (“Craig na dun”) Standing stones. This is where the idea for Outlander was made and where the standing stones in the book were created through. This was a huge moment for me, for Outlander is more than a book series I am into; it is very important to me. So being at a huge place for it made for a very important moment for me. BUT GOOD OLD MIKE. He had us “reenact” the scene from outlander where Claire (played by me) goes through the standing stones and meets Jamie (Played by the hitchhiker) and the tour were told many things of the book THAT WERE COMPLETELY WRONG. The tour guide I do not think actually read or watched outlander at all. And some point he started to talk about the books past the first, which my friend Char is not past yet, and Mike just ignored that and kept going, spoiling the story for her, while getting most information wrong. I just ignore that part of being at one of the most important places I visited and just remember the fact that I was there with a great friend.
After Clava Cairns Standing Stones, we went to Culloden Battlefield for less than a minute until Mike rushed us to a Tesco to get supplies for dinner. I hope to return to Culloden to pay better respects to the men there. So, we went to Tesco, said goodbye to the hitchhikers and made our way to our hostel for the night in Inverness. When we pulled up to the hostel, I had another moment of thinking I was about to be whacked. We were in the middle of a field and drove up to a dark shed. It was very scary. BUT, it turned out to be the coolest hostel. Everything was brand new inside, including the bathrooms. We walked in and it was busy with friends and families making dinners and talking in the main area. At that moment I felt safe and sound. We made dinner and have a wonderful conversation with two blokes who were riding their motorbikes around Scotland and were very interesting and nice. We then went to bed in our room for just us three girls. We all debated who had to sit up front with Mike the next day (because even though none of us wanted to, it being Mike, we knew we didn’t have a choice).
The next day we woke up early, had breakfast, and set out for a long but pleasant day. We started out driving to a river where fishermen catch salmon when they jump out of the water. We also saw a beautiful rainbow. It was very pretty. We then set out to drive to other locations but at one of the stops we made for pictures, the tour guide actually started peeing right across from where we were taking pictures!! Unbelievable, ha… We then stopped at a nice small town called Donorch where there was a beautiful beach that we hung out at for a few minutes. It was very cool and different being on a beach in Scotland. We then saw seals hanging out on a iddy-biddy island made from the low-tide. The then stopped at Dunrobin Castle, which will be my starter house I believe. It was so big and pretty and right on the edge of the water with a huge garden.
We then set out to see the Islands of Orkney. I have never seen water so aqua blue before. It was so beautiful. On the way to the cave of Smoo, the tour guide had to let another tour bus driver get us out of a situation that got him stuck in a ditch and said the F word about a thousand times with no spaces between them. It was sad because when that other driver got in the bus, we felt safer for a bit. He got us out of the situation though and we carried on with our way to Cave of Smoo. That place was amazing though! Mike also gave us space and let us discover it all ourselves which we liked. We spent lots of time in the cave then climbed up the hill above the cave and walked about 20 minutes out onto the side of cliff that was so beautiful and we were the only souls there. No buildings or roads at all around us.
We then made our way back and Mike was determined to bring us to a location he talked about the whole day of a memorial to the Beatles. It started raining by this point and he said he was going to stay in the bus but wanted us to go see it… Ha, the “monument” was a small garden on the side of a gift shop that had a stone that had the lyrics to part of one of their songs. He yelled out of the bus that we were going the wrong way when we tried to see if there was any more…there wasn’t. Ha we just found it funny. So then the last place we were shown was the edge of another cliff that was really beautiful. There aqua blue seas were there and super green grass. It was very special to be there.
After we made our 3 ½ hour drive back to Inverness, we asked Mike to drop us off in the town. He did. But he also tried to join us. We tried to just walk around town but he told us no and go where he told us to go and tried to bring us into a very extensive restaurant to eat in which we finally said we had it handled and were thankful for his help but really just wanted to hang out for the night and would get a taxi back to the hostel. So, he gave us “the address” to the hostel to give to the taxi driver, which we found out just said “hostel by the round-about of *which ever road* that not even the taxi driver knew where was. But we had a nice time in the city eating nice cheap Indian food and watching rugby in a pub. Inverness is a very pretty town to be in.
The last day Char and I decided we couldn’t last another whole day with the uncomfortable tour and asked Mike to take us back to campus earlier than planned. I wanted to make it back in time for mass at 4 and told mike that I needed to be back by 3:30 (that didn’t happen). That day we went to a beach on the lake in the middle of a forest of pine trees. It was amazing and very peaceful to be there. It involved lots of walking though because Mike didn’t really have space boundaries and would try to keep standing right next to me. You see, that was how most of the trip was. Him standing a couple inches away from you or asking you if you are warm enough or if you want to wear some of his clothes (he asked that about 100 times) and with the whole dictating where we sat and walked and just things upon other things. It made for a very uncomfortable trip. The scenery made it all worth it though and my company with Char.
We then visited a ski resort that still was awaiting the snow. We then made out way to a small and cute town where we had lunch at a small bread shop. It was 2 by that time and asked to start getting to campus so I could make it to mass. Mike said yeah, of course. On the way “back to campus” Mike started talking about a farm that was cool that he would take up to that had hairy coos we could see and sheep. Char said thanks but we really just wanted to get back to campus and he said okay. Then we heard him say to Laura, who was sitting in the front, “we shall still go to the farm”. So, we found ourselves at the farm that we found out the animals weren’t even there that day.. It was also 3 30 at that time. Mike said it was okay and he would just drop the girls off at campus and drive me directly to mass. I said no that was out of the question and that was really the last time I talked to the tour guide and when we got to campus we all just left inside.
Even though we felt uncomfortable most of the time on this trip, I was very glad I went on that tour for the scenes I experienced and was lucky enough to see. I do not take this trip for granted. I know I am very lucky to be here in this amazing country and I will take every moment in and make the best out of everything. I am so glad I am able to be here and actually be in the places I’ve seen in picture and dream about going. I thank God and my family and friends for supporting me and making this amazing trip happen for me.