An American in Europe! (Glasgow, Scotland- Part Two)

Welcome back!

If you haven’t checked out Part One of my adventures in Glasgow, go take a look! 😀

In any case, I am continuing with the second part while staying in Glasgow. Technically, this post won’t focus so much on the city itself, but rather the day-tour to the Scottish Highlands that I took from there.

After my last night at Ron’s flat (and after which he had cut short my stay by one night, due to a last-minute invite to Edinburgh. More on that in Part One’s post), I packed up my belongings and raced over to Queen’s Station, in order to catch the tour coach. Was in a rush, because naturally, I am terrible when it comes to directions, getting easily lost even with a map! I barely made it onto the coach before it took off at 8h00 for the twelve-hour tour through the Scottish Highlands- whew!

The tour group was a small one, no more than ten people total. The coach itself wasn’t huge, but rather one of those smaller vans for more personalized trips. Definitely felt more intimate, and our tour guide (let’s call him “Sam”) was a hard-core Scotsman, with the accent to boot! Super cool guy, as he used to be a former DJ and spun some tunes for us (of all sorts, too, from Scottish oldies to contemporary tracks to Christmas songs- just in time for the holidays!) while we drove into the Highlands.

Now, the Scottish Highlands is in northern Scotland, and is home to plenty of mountains, valleys, lochs (freshwater lakes), and wildlife. This is also where Loch Ness, home to the mysterious Loch Ness monster, is located. At first, the Highlands weren’t on my radar of places to visit while in Scotland, but it wasn’t until I read a travel blog (admittedly, I am following a handful right now!) that touted the area’s beauty that inspired me to go for it. Booked the tour, and I’m really glad that I did. Because it’s one thing to see the Highlands in photos, and another thing to see them in person- absolutely gorgeous. 

First stop of the day was at Loch Lomond, where we only had time to get coffee and a bite to eat for breakfast (I had already packed myself some food for the road, so I didn’t get anything at the café). It was raining hard (fact: weather in Scotland, especially in the winter, is unpredictable. And atrocious.), but I was able to snap this lovely photo before it turned for the worse:

Loch Lomond.
Loch Lomond.

Afterwards, Sam drove us further into the Highlands, where we made a few dozen stops at different locations to take photos of the incredibly sublime landscape. Again, the weather was rough as it was super windy and temperatures were freezing, but really, the scenery was, seriously, breathtakingly beautiful. It was worth it.

12-23-15 (Highlands) 2

Glen Etive, aka Skyfall Mountain (where James Bond's "Skyfall" was filmed).
Glen Etive, aka Skyfall Mountain (where James Bond’s “Skyfall” was filmed).

12-23-15 (Highlands) 4

Our tour guide feeding the deers!
Our tour guide feeding the deer!

Honestly, we made so many stops at so many locations, I can’t remember the names of all of them. I do remember some like Skyfall Mountain, Glencoe, and Ben Nevis, but after a while, they all started to blur together- but in a good way! Again, lots of amazing scenery. 🙂

We arrived at Loch Ness in the afternoon, where we had the option of purchasing tickets to see Urquhart Castle, as well as a boat tour along the Loch Ness itself. It was 18 pounds total for both, which nevertheless I decided to take- otherwise, I would have been at the docks for one-and-a-half hours, doing nothing except checking out the tourist shop. Might as well.

Urquhart Castle dates back from the 13th to 16th centuries, subjected to many raids during the wars of which different Scottish clans tried to take possession. Abandoned in the 17th century, the castle is now partially in ruins, and is opened to the public for visiting.

Incredible rainbow beside Urquhart Castle- lucky that I caught it!
Incredible rainbow beside Urquhart Castle- lucky that I caught it!
Urquhart Castle.
Urquhart Castle.

Spent about an hour exploring the castle grounds before boarding the boat for the tour on Loch Ness. Frankly, I found it disappointing, as it only lasted thirty minutes and basically was a way to shuttle us from Urquhart Castle to the other end of Loch Ness. Commentary on the Loch Ness monster was all right, but really, paying 18 pounds for both Urquhart Castle and the boat tour is somewhat of a rip-off; if it had been twelve, even ten pounds (although the latter might be a bit too generous), then I would have felt better about spending the money (of course, can’t beat the pricey expenses in London- more on that later!).

Boat tour on Loch Ness.
Boat tour on Loch Ness.

We arrived on shore at 15h00, boarded the coach, and began our long journey back down to the Lowlands, where we would finish back at Glasgow. Made a stop at one of the small towns in between for some drinks before hitting the road again. Arrived back in Glasgow around 19h30, after almost twelve hours of being out on the road. Subsequently made my way to the hostel that I had booked the night before (after Ron had cut short my stay at his place), and crashed for the night. The hostel was filthy and smelly, but at least it was cheap and I was only staying there for one night, before leaving Glasgow the following morning.

I am glad that I chose to visit the Scottish Highlands; in my opinion, they were one of the highlights of my travels throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland. Like with the other places visited so far, I would like to go back and see more of them in the future, as I was unable to visit Stirling Castle (technically in the Lowlands, but considered the “gateway to the Highlands”) and the Isle of Skye (which I have heard incredible things about). Might need to give myself at least three days just in the Highlands, let alone in the rest of Scotland, in order to see much more. Definitely would recommend, especially for those Braveheart/William Wallace fans out there! 😛

As for Glasgow, I found the city quite enjoyable- many things to do, always bustling with energy, and rich in the arts and architecture. I had fun exploring the city, although not as much with the hosting experience with Ron (however, I can’t say that it was bad. Just neutral). Not sure if I would return to Glasgow another time, since I think that I was able to cover most of the main attractions while there. The only place that I can think of that would be worth returning to in Glasgow is the Burrell Collection, but even then, it is not a must-see for me.

More of Scotland to come! Next stop: Edinburgh, Scotland!

— The Finicky Cynic

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6 thoughts on “An American in Europe! (Glasgow, Scotland- Part Two)

  1. Pingback: An American in Europe! (London, England- Part Two) – The Finicky Cynic

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