Today consisted of sitting on a bus (coach) for half the day, so it was probably the least amount of physical activity I’ve gotten on this whole trip.
Nessie was not found in the River Ness, to my dismay. Sigh.
My coach from Portree to Iverness was another stunner, and a lovely chap from Glasgow (I see a recurring theme with how friendly Glasgowans are) served as my backseat tour guide for most of the entire 3-hr journey. He had a wealth of knowledge about every mountain range, landmark, and myth surrounding the things we passed – I loved hearing all his stories.
The most hilarious was the alleged story of “Saucy Mary,” a Norwegian princess who supposedly flashed anyone who paid the toll to cross the Kyle of Lochalsh Bridge (back when there was a fee) – or something to that effect. I couldn’t remember half the Scottish village and town names he rattled off, but his accent made everything sound so awesome. The accents out here just fascinate me- they always have.
Iverness, the capital of the Highlands, is a much larger city than I expected. Even though its population is a little under 47,000, it still has all the elements of a miniature Edinburgh. Its castle is modernised and actually a sherrif’s court, so the only people allowed inside are sherrifs and criminals.
I absolutely love the four bridges (probably more?) that span a few feet from each other along the River Ness as well. I swear that I fall in love with any city that has a river – and it’s a stunning one, since it’s blue, and not murky brown like the River Thames.
Since my tour for Skye failed yesterday (probably for the best), I booked a tour for Loch Ness aboard a river cruise along River Ness and including an hour at Urquhart Castle. It wasn’t entirely worth it, since I could have done both on my own (just not the cruise) for much cheaper, but I just wanted some wisdom imparted upon me since I felt like I hadn’t been educated at ALL about any of the UK since I haven’t done any tours yet. Our guide, Allan, was lovely, though.
And yeah, I’m on holiday from ship life, only to have gone on two boats already on this trip. I just can’t get away… and I did geek out over the bow of the boat.
I was partly crestfallen when I realised that a uni group from Spokane, WA – a group of 21, to be exact- were on our tour. Along with another Californian and Philadelphian that I met, our group ended up being 99% American and pretty crowded. Good grief. It wasn’t that bad in the end, but I could hear my inner voice being like, “And this is why you don’t book tours unless you absolutely have to, twat…”
The deepest part of River Ness is about 880m, and it spans 12 mi (20 km). Allan mentioned that the world’s population could fit in the entirety of the river – 3 times – because that’s how massive it is. I thought I heard that incorrectly, but that’s definitely what he said. Also, lakes aren’t lakes here – they’re lochs.
The remains of Urquhart Castle fascinated me, especially since it was blown to bits in the 1800s and truly looks like a part of history because of that. The narrow spiral staircases and basement below were especially cool, and its location along River Ness, surrounded by the mountains, was just stellar.
I ended up hanging out with two of the Americans (I travel halfway around the world only to meet my own kind) for a delicious dinner at a world-class pub, Hootenanny. Supposedly Scotland’s best live music venue, and we missed the live Scottish music since we are too early and didn’t want to stay for another 2.5 hours. On another note, venison is delicious – I tried it for the first time (sorry, deer).
Rather than wandering alone like I normally do afterward, I had company for an evening stroll along the river and another stop at a pub – in which the Scottish owner laughed when I ordered tea and gave us free chocolate biscuits because he felt bad about not having my requested hot chocolate. My takeaway for the evening is that firefighter life seems extremely similar to ship life, except they have a little more flexibility with their days off (and more labour-intensive).
I’m keen to explore some of Iverness’ stunning walks tomorrow (especially Ness Islands)- definitely a nature haven out here.