A Trip To Scotland, Part Three: Nature Time!

Ah yes, the big moment has arrived, by which I mean that the third and final episode of my wife Sandy’s and my recent doings in Scotland is now alive in cyberspace. And maybe it’s not only alive, but kicking too. If so, protect your private parts, boys and girls! You can’t be too careful these days.

Part One of the Scottish trilogy mentioned the beauty of Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens, and that of the enormous tract of lands and waters known as the Scottish Highlands. I am now going to devote some hundreds of words to those green areas, both of which impressed us mightily.

Let’s begin with the Gardens, which are, I suppose, one-zillionth the size of the Highlands and certainly not as spectacular. Nevertheless, they sure as hell are more than lovely. We spent only an hour in the Gardens, yet I consider them to be a highlight of the trip.

Princes Street Gardens
Princes Street Gardens

Princes Street Gardens sit smack dab in the middle of central Edinburgh, dividing Edinburgh’s Old Town section from its New Town. The Gardens are in two swaths, the western one being larger than the eastern and more impressive because of the views that it commands. Combined, the east and the west segments total about half a mile in length. Which is not a whole lot. I mean, you could walk from one end to the other of Princes Street Gardens in no time if you wanted to. It would be a mistake to hurry, however, to not stop and smell the roses, because the Gardens are alluring and welcoming. They are a testament to inspired horticultural design and maintenance.

Princes Street Gardens
Ross Theatre in Princes Street Gardens. Edinburgh Castle looms above.

But the Gardens are not merely an urban oasis. They have healing powers too. I can attest to that because, often a fine example of disgruntlement and unease, I felt a sense of calm within my veins while I explored the Gardens. All of the flora there struck me as just right in terms of looks and placement . . . the flowers, the lawns, the trees and shrubbery. I was at home. As if that wasn’t enough, my jaw dropped when, while walking in the middle of the west segment, I looked southward and saw, looming nearby and powerfully, the Edinburgh Castle complex atop a rugged hill. What a view! Singular and unforgettable. You don’t get stunned like that in an urban park every day, you dig? I’m positive that I never had before.

The bus, in Edinburgh, that soon would take us to the Scottish Highlands

A few days after our submersion into nature at Princes Street Gardens, Sandy and I boarded the Wild & Sexy yellow tour bus, in Edinburgh, that was destined to take us on a long but whirlwind journey into a portion of the Scottish Highlands. Wild & Sexy, which is anything but, took off at 8:00 AM, arriving back in Edinburgh 12 hours later. In all, it and its 40 or so passengers traveled about 350 miles that day.

Ideally we’d have rented a car and spent at least four days in the Highlands. They deserve that much attention, so vast an area do they encompass, so worthy of intensive exploration are their landscapes, waterways and villages. But alas, neither of us dared to take the potential risks of driving on what for us is the wrong side of the road. A bus tour, then, squashed into one day, was our best option.

Am I glad we went? Definitely. But did I enjoy being on a bus for half a day? Not so much. And did I get a kick out of the flood of snide remarks tossed out by the asshole, seated behind me, to his travel mate? Nah. The f*cking guy was very annoying.

Crianlarich, in Highlands. Photo taken through bus window.
Bridge Of Orchy, in Highlands. Photo taken from bus window.

Now, the Highlands, a storied territory that abounds with tales and memories of Scottish clans and of long-ago rebellions against English rule, aren’t exactly around the corner from Edinburgh. So, it was two hours before we reached their lower boundaries. Mountains began to appear, mountains that became more and more amazing to my eyes the closer we got to them. Their bold shapes and vivid colorations, exaggerated by the bright Sun, were something else. To say nothing of the meadows, pastures and forests that intermingle with the mountains. And of the sheep, horses and cows that sat or wandered in some of the pastures. Though we encountered the Highlands mostly through bus windows, they didn’t disappoint.

Glen Coe, in Highlands. Photo taken from solid ground.
Spean Bridge, in Highlands. Photo taken from solid ground.

“If you think that this scenery is something, wait until we get to Glen Coe. It’s 10 times better there,” our bus driver, Charlie, said over the vehicle’s public address system as we passed through the Bridge Of Orchy area. I don’t know about 10 times better, but the mountains and lands in Glen Coe are special. I’d have liked to stride into the grasses leading up to the mountains and then do some climbing. But there was no time for that since the bus, on a tight schedule, parked for only 20 minutes at Glen Coe. Guided tours have their place, but ones such as ours are limiting and frustrating. The few stops that they make tend to be brief, which results in a pretty superficial experience. Of course, before signing up for the tour I knew that such would be the case. “Yo, genius, not everything in life is perfect. DUH!” I just reminded myself again for good measure.

Loch Ness

Two hours later the bus parked in Fort Augustus, a touristy Highlands town near the southern end of famed Loch Ness. There the bus stayed put for more than a bit, for the one and only time. Sandy and I had purchased tickets for a 50-minute boat ride on the loch (a loch is a lake, by the way), so aboard the boat we hopped. Somewhere in the vicinity of 150 other individuals hopped aboard with us. Somehow, despite the crowd sharing space with me, I managed to position myself on the open-air deck at the rear of the vessel. From the deck I admired the pines and other trees that adorn the sides of Loch Ness, and the hills upon which the trees grow. I watched, with fascination, the strong wake of the boat. And I couldn’t get enough of the wind that caressed my wrinkled visage, smoothing out a few of the deepest creases. Thank you, Highlands, for the magical facial. I haven’t looked this good in years!

After the boat docked, back to the bus we went. A bunch of hours later we were once again in Edinburgh, our nature-saturated day drawing to a close. And now, I’m obliged to say, my Scottish trilogy also is about to reach its conclusion. Everything, as we know, must end.

(Please don’t be shy about adding your comments or about sharing this piece. Or about signing up to follow my blog, for that matter. Mucho gracias.)

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97 thoughts on “A Trip To Scotland, Part Three: Nature Time!

  1. George June 25, 2019 / 12:30 am

    Perhaps you should think of the bus ride around the Highlands as a sneak preview/trailer for another holiday. Your blog is serving the same purpose for me, although your commentary is infinitely preferable to the snidey bloke you has sitting behind you!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger June 25, 2019 / 12:35 pm

      Another visit some day would be nice. I’d like to see the Highlands properly. And I would like to do some island-hopping in the Hebrides.

      Thanks for stopping by, George. Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Joy Lennick (@LennickJoy) June 25, 2019 / 4:56 am

    Hi Neil, Sounded a great, if slightly curtailed, trip. Always ONE with a big mouth to annoy. Must remember to try Loch Ness’s ‘beauty treatment…’ if ever I get there. Much more armchair travelling these days – but some beautiful memories – as these will be for you when you hang up your walking shoes. Long may that be!. x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger June 25, 2019 / 12:38 pm

      Hey there, Joy. Many thanks for reading and commenting on my stories. You expand the conversation!

      Like

  3. Anabel @ The Glasgow Gallivanter June 25, 2019 / 7:14 am

    I agree with the commenter who suggests viewing thus as a trailer! I have spent the last 33 years exploring Scotland and I’m not done yet. It still has the power to surprise.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. sniderjerry June 25, 2019 / 7:38 am

    You can’t beat Mother Nature for good vibes, I’m glad you enjoyed your adventure. hope the butt head on the bus discovers some good karma. maybe you can take driving lessons on the left side of the road and go back next year. Have a great day! Jerry

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger June 25, 2019 / 12:41 pm

      Driving lessons! Jerry, you have great ideas.

      Enjoy the day. I’ll be seeing you.

      Neil

      Like

  5. greenpete58 June 25, 2019 / 8:15 am

    So proud of you that you mentioned Loch Ness without once bringing up that fricking sea serpent. When I visit next week, I’ll try to squeeze in some climbing in Glencoe and let you know what you did or didn’t miss. Great travelogue, and I’ve got Cullen skint and steak and ale pie on my dining to-do list.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. mariezhuikov June 25, 2019 / 8:32 am

    You were wise not to drive. But I understand your frustration with the tour bus!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger June 25, 2019 / 12:44 pm

      Hi Marie. I drove on the left when I was in Ireland in 2006. But I chickened out in Scotland.

      Like

  7. Lynette d'Arty-Cross June 25, 2019 / 9:09 am

    Wow – beautiful photos of the gardens. I can see why they had an impact on you. Too bad you had to shoehorn in the trip to the Highlands, but your photos show that it was worth it.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Laurie Graves June 25, 2019 / 9:21 am

    Holy cats, what a landscape! If I had been on that bus, I would have been gaping with amazement. And that park in the city sounds wonderful. Just the sort of green space that city dwellers need.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger June 25, 2019 / 12:49 pm

      Hi Laurie. We were gaping with amazement. I wish I could have done a few hours of hiking in the meadows and mountains, though.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Still the Lucky Few June 25, 2019 / 10:25 am

    Years ago (nay, decades ago!) I spent some time in Scotland, having driven from Lancashire by car with my husband’s family. They called the mountain range we saw ‘the Pennines”. This could be the same mountain range, under a different name. Lovely pictures, Neil. Seems your trip was full of surprises!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Jacqui Murray June 25, 2019 / 10:50 am

    I am about 25% Scottish (my husband is 100% Irish) but this is probably the only way I’ll ever visit the land of my ancestors. I enjoyed this trip, Neil.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. LTodd June 25, 2019 / 11:40 am

    Your trilogy has put Scotland on my long list of places to visit. All that green. Did you ever tire of it?

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Helen Devries June 25, 2019 / 11:58 am

    A pity about the dumbo on the bus….but at least you saw something of the countryside.
    Are you tempted to return for a more leisurely follow up?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger June 25, 2019 / 1:02 pm

      Hi Helen. Going back to Scotland would be good. But there’s so many other places to visit. We shall see.

      Like

      • Helen Devries June 26, 2019 / 6:07 pm

        Well, if ever you make it to France, try the Loire Valley and to make it special friends do personalised tours in pre war classic Citroens…everything from chateaux to cheesemakers, wine makers to beer brewers with cafes and simple local restaurants inbetween…Loire Valley Time Travel.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. smilecalm June 25, 2019 / 12:38 pm

    how wonderful having
    that Scottish calm & peace
    dwelling inside on this wonderful
    touristic adventure to discover
    the real monster of the lake!
    my Scottish partner’s ancestors
    are smiling 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger June 25, 2019 / 1:05 pm

      Hello David. What I wrote about the Princes Street Gardens is true. They really did captivate me. I felt very at ease there.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. jeanleesworld June 25, 2019 / 2:53 pm

    What lovely memories to pass on with us! I’d love to visit Glencoe with the family some day. Probably won’t be peaceful with my brood along, but it’d certainly be adventurous! xxxxx

    Liked by 3 people

  15. Paddy Tobin June 25, 2019 / 4:59 pm

    You could easily secure a position with Scottish Tourism. Obviously, you enjoyed your visit and to do so while part of a bus tour shows that it was a beautiful place. Though I am much nearer than you I have never visited Scotland. It’s something on my to-do list and I’ll get around to it soon.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Brockelman June 25, 2019 / 5:32 pm

    What a great tour. Thanks for taking me along.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Marie Q Rogers June 25, 2019 / 8:49 pm

    Your pictures taken through the bus window are impressive. I’ve taken many pics though car windows and it’s hard to get them to look nice. Maybe you just can’t take a bad pic of Scotland. It’s so lovely.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger June 25, 2019 / 9:51 pm

      I was surprised that most of the photos I took thru bus windows didn’t come out blurry. I was lucky. See ya!

      Like

  18. JT Twissel June 25, 2019 / 9:00 pm

    My father rented a car in Scotland and ended up with a dislocated shoulder! So though I’m no fan of bus tours, if that’s the only way I’d take it. Having a nasty dude behind you, ugh….. what’s wrong with folks?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger June 25, 2019 / 9:55 pm

      There are a lot of obnoxious and dangerous drivers out there. You’re right: what’s wrong with folks?

      Like

  19. tanjabrittonwriter June 25, 2019 / 9:56 pm

    I take it the arrival of “Wild and Sexy” at Loch Ness did not convince Nessie to show herself? Another reason to return there one of these days!
    Thanks for taking us along on your Scottish journey, Neil.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Ann Coleman June 25, 2019 / 10:16 pm

    I am seriously jealous of the fact that you got to visit the Highlands…it is on my “to do before I die list”, but I do share you opinion of long bus rides. And I’m so sorry you had to listen to the snarky guy behind you. That makes it even worse!
    That being said, at least you got to see the beautiful scenery!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger June 25, 2019 / 11:08 pm

      Hello Ann. If it wasn’t for the bus trip, I wouldn’t have gotten to the Highlands. I’m glad I went, despite the drawbacks.

      Like

  21. tylerus June 26, 2019 / 7:55 am

    Thank you for the wonderful tour and pics – they took me back. I can almost feel the mist on my skin, smell the freshness, and see the Loch. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  22. lievelee June 26, 2019 / 8:17 am

    Very entertaining. Yes, tours have their place, but as you say, they are a poor substitute for exploring at your own pace… but sometimes, needs must.

    Lieve

    Liked by 1 person

  23. joyce hamilton June 26, 2019 / 8:46 am

    Great photos and travel log. Wants me to go sometime .

    Liked by 1 person

  24. cincinnatibabyhead June 26, 2019 / 2:47 pm

    Those pics of the Gardens set the tone. I could get off on a little stroll.
    Looking out the window of the bus and seeing all that beautiful country with a bus pest just re-enforces CB’s “Lone wolf” life style.
    I would have been looking into that country and feeling the pull to walk it. I think you can relate.
    Welcome home McDuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Isabelle June 26, 2019 / 5:07 pm

    Scottish Highlands is magnificent! Great to have a glimpse of the famous Lock Ness. Your style of writing and your sense of humour are just extraordinary, Neil! Always give me a good laugh 😃

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Alyson June 27, 2019 / 12:13 am

    Glad you managed to visit my neck of the woods, albeit briefly. Next time I see a Wild & Sexy coach pass through town however I will not now misconstrue! Shame you didn’t have more days to spare as my holiday hideaway would have suited you well – Next time.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. selizabryangmailcom June 27, 2019 / 4:39 am

    Beautiful countrysides. Except for the long bus ride and the jerk behind you, I’m jealous!

    Just musing here, though: what do you think Nessie is? A still-alive kind of dinosaur? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  28. alhenry June 27, 2019 / 5:55 pm

    “But alas, neither of us dared to take the potential risks of driving on what for us is the wrong side of the road. A bus tour, then, squashed into one day, was our best option.”

    You would consider eating Haggis, but not attempting a drive on the wild side??? Neil! You must return and do it the way you dreamed. My 26-year-old daughter went to Ireland last year, rented a car, and drove on the wrong side for 3 weeks! She is still among the living. Also, my ex-husband (not the good Ed) rented a car in London and got through Piccadilly Circus driving on the wrong side.

    You CAN do this Neil. You must.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. andrewcferguson June 28, 2019 / 2:36 am

    Hi, Neil. So glad you saw Princes Street Gardens at their best – it does rain a lot in Scotland, but that’s what makes it so green! Edinburgh has some lovely green spaces.

    As for the Highlands, yes it’s hard to do them in a day on the bus. The fact you mention Bridge of Orchy (where I had that fantastic songwriter’s weekend last year) suggests they took you off through Perthshire and avoided the A9, which is usually the most direct route up to Inverness/Loch Ness, but is currently mired in roadworks as it’s upgraded.

    So glad you saw some of the countryside though!

    Liked by 2 people

      • andrewcferguson June 29, 2019 / 7:17 am

        Interestingly, a couple of centuries ago Princes Street Gardens was a foul-smelling swamp called the Nor’ Loch. It’s certainly improved since then!

        Liked by 1 person

  30. angelamcclintock July 1, 2019 / 7:47 am

    Beautiful. You have awakened in me a deep longing to visit Scotland. I have many ancestors from Glasgow.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 1, 2019 / 9:52 am

      You’ll have fun. Scotland is excellent. But if you go, be prepared for periods of rain and for colder temps than you might expect.

      Like

  31. johnlmalone July 1, 2019 / 8:19 am

    that’s the trouble and the fascination of public transport: the ‘assholes’ you come across; I’ve turned a few of them into poems 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Pam Lazos July 1, 2019 / 10:52 am

    Great trilogy, Neil, although I don’t know how you did the bus that long. Agonizing not to be able to get out and walk around for as long as you wanted until you were ready to go. But at least you didn’t have to drive!

    Liked by 1 person

  33. cath July 2, 2019 / 4:35 am

    Lovely photos. They remind me of a quick tour we made some years ago.

    Ours was only slightly longer. The holiday was four days, but two of those were spent in the travelling to and from home – an eight hour car-drive, so maybe we actually had about two full days in the Highlands. How right you are, they do need more time with a good pair of stout walking boots.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 2, 2019 / 7:19 am

      Hi Cath. One thing for sure is that Highlands tourism is big business. In Edinburgh there are three or four or more tour companies that have daily Highlands bus tours, like the one my wife and I went on.

      Liked by 1 person

      • cath July 2, 2019 / 9:03 am

        I’d love to know how many choose that one on the grounds of their name.

        Liked by 1 person

  34. ckennedyhola July 2, 2019 / 6:36 pm

    Now I want a magical facial, too! The garden descriptions were lovely–I definitely want to visit.

    Liked by 2 people

  35. another Sarah. July 4, 2019 / 5:24 pm

    Just discovered your blog and I’m officially in love. I’m housebound with illness so this offers me some great escapism. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Crystal Byers July 5, 2019 / 10:26 am

    The bus windows must have been so clean. Spectacular sights, those Highlands. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 5, 2019 / 4:15 pm

      Hi Crystal. Right now I’m on my way home from a family reunion in the northern part of New York state. It’s incredibly beautiful there. Mountains, forests, farms, small towns. Pure country. No suburbia whatsoever. It’s as beautiful as the Highlands.

      Like

  37. janetsm July 17, 2019 / 3:42 pm

    Next time, rent a car and see the whole country. I was scared to drive there until after riding with my sister driving for several hours. LOL! I decided driving couldn’t be more frightening than riding with a nervous driver. It turned out that I took to driving “on the wrong side of the road” right off. In fact, I had trouble adjusting to “the right side of the road” when we returned to the US. The flowers in Scotland were the biggest (pardon the pun!) surprise for me. The begonias were the size of US roses and the roses were the size of dinner plates. I loved how every little town was adorned with so many flowers and hanging baskets. Visiting the Isle of Lewis was akin to landing on the moon. No trees there, except a few in Stornoway. Miles and miles of peat bogs, but pristine beaches and ancient ruins. Yes, you and Sandy must go back — and rent a car. Even after having car trouble three times, I’d still do it again in a heartbeat. Scotland is my happy place. Thank you for reminding me of so many lovely memories today.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Eliza July 22, 2019 / 3:37 pm

    Stunning pictures. And I thought it always rains there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 22, 2019 / 4:25 pm

      Hi there, Eliza. It rained a fair amount during the trip. But we caught some clear days, luckily. Thanks for stopping by my website. I appreciate that.

      Like

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