Day 7: Castles and Monsters!!!
So it turned out “Portuguese Man-of-War” ended up being a guy and he spent all night coughing…so in addition to having a cooler bed name than me, we had a new reason to feud. Anyway, none of us got much sleep but at least the showers were nice and hot! So it was another “small victory.”
Our first stop was at the Duke of Argyll’s home at Inveraray Castle. It turns out that the leader of the Campbell clan had a pretty sweet house! It was a self-guided tour but we had a really awesome security guard named Frank, whom we’d bump into from time to time where he’ll give us some interesting anecdotes about the weapons hanging on the wall to which he explained that the ones wielding it would use them to dismount horse riders and promptly behead them when they fell to the ground! Another he told us when we bumped into him was about a 13 year old harpist that haunts a room where he was murdered in, he also had another story about a “bloodless battle” in which no blood was shed….but the warring clans just drowned each other instead. Frank was an awesome guy and I wish we had him follow us more and give us more funny but interesting stories. We did have some fun discussing who’s country was “more mental,” Stephanie argued that Great Britain was crazy with the narrow roads and the crazy driving that led to our wreck yesterday and Frank said that we were crazy for having cars built for speed, huge roads and a speed limit of 65 mph (he felt we should go faster!.) He was also funny because he said funny phrases like “bollocks” and “oh balls” during his chat with us. That guy gave us our money’s worth! Although Bath was cool, I really love Scotland due to the people like Frank.
We toured the gardens of Inveraray Castle and the gift shop. In the shop, we thumbed through a list of Scotland’s clans and their tartans. We found “Montgomery” and although spelled differently, but phonetically correct we also found “Kilgour”….but no “Bagby” so that’s making me wonder where the hell my family came from…we were probably just a bunch of damn horse thieves or something.
After the castle, we began to drive to Loch Ness along the scenic highway of A82. All towns in America claim to say that “if you don’t like the weather, give it a day or two and it’ll change.” Scotland has given us fog, bright spots, rain and full on sun all within 2 hours so it’s especially true here without the wait! The Highlands have something of an ominous tone to them with how the clouds cut into the summits and obscure them. Other times, when the sun is bright, they are a really beautiful sight filled with green trees and grass and patches of gray and brown stone as well as formed “bowls” where mighty glaciers once sat. Best of all, are the numerous waterfalls and streams carving through the sides of the mountains. A portion of the road ran us parallel to a river alive with rapids and falls. The Scots call this place “God’s country”, a phrase I heard in many a country song, but I think Scotland has more of a claim to that title. They got awesome scenery and most of the places that has a country song about them are dirty, yellow, dying pastures with cows crapping everywhere…I’m going to side with the Scots on this one. Near Glencoe, The Highlands became stonier and wetter, but still a very breathtaking view.
We arrived in Loch Ness just after 3pm. The gift shop couldn’t have been any better; the shop was mostly empty and as I read a newspaper clipping about the latest “Nessie” sighting, the woman working the register said that the man had come in twice this week asking if anyone else had reported a sighting. She also was nice enough to show us his photo that he took of Nessie, along with a written statement about his encounter. The man’s wife had described it as looking like a “Horse’s head emerging out of the water.” While they were out hiking, he photographed a blurry photo of 2 humps emerging from the water. So barely into Loch Ness, we got a monster story and a photograph; this is EXACTLY why I wanted to stop here!!! Stacey and I went into a café to get a bite to eat and they were delightfully Nessie-crazy! Every shop had Nessie silhouettes painted on them and sold Nessie postcards, cute green Nessie plush dolls and magnets. I left with a Nessie for my desk at work (she’s wearing a Scottish hat.)
We headed to a point in Loch Ness where we could go to the water’s edge to look for Nessie. I had a bit of fun with an elastimasaurus toy that I bought on Amazon a few weeks ago, I named him Desmond after the Scottish time-traveling character on the TV show Lost. I took a few monster-in-water photos, which I learned that Desmond didn’t exactly float and I got pretty wet in the process (and yes! Loch Ness’ water is pretty damn cold!!) I also taped a “monster movie” as well. Hopefully the footage turns out fun once I go back home!
Looks real right??
As fun as it was to goof around, I couldn’t help but think whether or not there really was something lurking in the deep, spacious, cold waters of Loch Ness. Of all the monster stories out there, Loch Ness is the one that I wish was true the most as it involves a “dinosaur!” ….actually, I’m going to go ahead and say I believe it! You gotta have some fun in your life!
We barely made it to Cawdor Castle, which sadly didn’t have a fun security guard like Frank telling us funny anecdotes about ghosts or beheadings, but it did appear that at some point this family married into the Campbell clan therefore linking this castle to the one we visited earlier in the day. Like the other castle, this is a “living castle” in which the Countess of Cawdor still lives in today. The castle is known for its connection to Shakespeare’s play Macbeth. I personally liked the story about the Thane of Cawdor wanting to build a bigger castle, so in a dream he was given instructions to follow a donkey, and where the donkey would rest would be where the castle would be built. The donkey settled by a thorn tree in which, the castle was then built surrounding the thorn tree. In the castle’s Keep the petrified remains of the tree are still there today! Decidedly a cooler story than what Bill Shakespeare came up with…and shorter too!
The gardens to this castle were a lot more elaborate featuring a hedge maze, some “secret gardens” with fountains in the middle, and rows and rows of bright flowers. So we got lots of pretty pictures in them….I also shot some maze & hedge walls with my video camera in case I ever want to make a Minotaur movie as well (I got extra film so why not?)
The road back to Oban, we were treated once again to the spell-bindingly beautiful scenery of the Scottish Highlands with a incredible overlook of The Great Glen. I briefly wished I had a broadsword that I could videotape myself swinging around to pay homage to the movie Highlander. We also saw the bridge that the flying Ford Angelina tried to catch up with The Hogwarts Express in the movie Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets. One day I should come back and just do a full-on movie shooting location tour.
We ate dinner at the Invergarry Hotel. We decided to eat haggis tonight because “When in Scotland….eat haggis!!” For sounding completely gross and unnerving, haggis wasn’t bad at all!! Black pudding tasted like nothing but I almost threw up thinking about what it was when I was chewing on it. With haggis, I didn’t gross out at all because it tasted like a sausage mixed with onion. I did kind of feel like a bad person for enjoying it because sheep are kind of cute and all and I felt evil for eating one’s stomach, lungs and heart…but at least none of it was wasted!
We had another funny moment with Stacey when she and I intended to share a salmon entrée and said “We’ll (motioning me & her) have the salmon.” Moments later, they came back with two plates of salmon. In Scotland, between this and the whiskey sour confusion, you better be specific! All the more, this was still pretty funny!
We settled back into our Hostel room where a new group took residence and I had a new “Portuguese Man-of-War” to have a silent feud with…I deserve a cooler sounding name for my bed! I was obligated to sleep in my “American Pie” bed and it didn’t take me long to crash out.
Tomorrow we leave The Highlands as we make our way to Edinburgh.