I hope you enjoyed part one of the adventure along with the photos. Now that I have a minute this week and before the Queensday weekend celebrations start, I thought I’d share the rest of my adventure.
Last you read I’d spent Saturday exploring Edinburgh and loving the city and its architecture. I’d also spent some time online Saturday with Tripadvisor looking for recommendations on things to do the following day. The #1 recommended tour was something called The Hairy Coo. The reviews were great and after reading a bit more on their website it seemed up my alley – a more off-the-beaten-path bus tour of the highlands and lochs. The company also billed itself as somewhat anti-establishment. Rather than charging40-50 up front, they work on tips and you pay what you think the tour is worth. Thanks to my habitual procrastination, the tour was fully booked for Sunday but the website suggested showing up just in case of a no-show.
Sunday morning I was up and at the meeting point early hoping to get a space on the bus. If that didn’t work out I had a backup plan, but thought this would be a much more interesting experience. I wasn’t the only one hoping to get a space, but I was the only person not in a couple or group. About 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time Russell told the others that there wouldn’t be space but told me that he may have room for one so I stuck around a bit longer. My patience and solo traveling paid off. I got a spot on the bus and how thankful I am that I had the experience.
I don’t think I’ve ever done a bus tour before but I can guess that few would compare to this one. Russell has a great knowledge of Scottish history and is a great storyteller. For most of the ride he shared interesting stories and facts that weaved in and out of the places we visited. Though we started and ended our tour in the same place as every other tour company, none of our stops (except for refreshments) were the same. They also weren’t overrun with tourists and a few of the places we went, people were surprised to see tourists, especially ones in a bright orange coach.
My favorite place we visited was Loch Drunkie in The Trossachs. The area is all part of Queen Elizabeth Royal Park and is much like a National Park in the US. The biggest difference? Try visiting a National Park on Easter weekend and counting the number of people you come across without having to take off your shoes. There was almost no one out there. The loch (lake) was pure glass other than fish jumping and the only sounds were birds chirping. Being here felt so much like being up in Tahoe, driving through Yosemite or Rocky Mountain National Park. The area was absolutely gorgeous, something I hadn’t expected at all when I set out on the trip. Much like the rush of feelings I had by the beach, being in the mountains was also an “at home” moment. The other thing that was noticeably different was the smell. In the US the mountains smell like the trees, like pine. Not here. There was no smell of mountains or forest.
The Hairy Coo tour was the highlight of my trip. I highly recommend booking with them if you have a trip coming up and book early as they currently only have one bus that is always full. Edinburgh is a beautiful city, and from what I saw Scotland is a beautiful country. It’s easy to look around and picture the battles in the highlands and the witch trials in the city. Such a storied past, something impossible to find in my young native land. If this was how world history was taught (visiting these places, seeing the sights, hearing the stories) I may have enjoyed it in school. It’s a feeling and experience I never had reading about the past.