The next day was one I was quite looking forward to, and turned out to be just as fun as I’d hoped. We had a tour into the Highlands!
Actually, it was supposed to be up to St. Andrew’s and a whiskey distillery and such. But we were the only ones who booked, and they don’t run a whole tour for two people. They had the other tour (which I actually wanted more, but Christopher did so much that I wanted on this trip that I was totally okay with the first one that he liked better (and I don’t mean he didn’t like the one we did do, we had a hard time picking in the beginning so he wasn’t that sad)), but it only had one seat left. And then someone cancelled, so we got in! (By the way, all this changing happened wed or thurs last week.) Yay for Hairy Coo tours! A hairy coo is a shaggy Scottish cow. Very cute.
We met at this little pub on the Royal Mile and we got there early because I wanted to sit up front, which I got to. I like being up front with tours, so I can ask lots of questions. They’re paid to answer my questions! ^_^ The little bus was bright orange! The tour guide was really awesome and went over tons of stories and history and stuff, right from the start while we were still in Edinburgh. Since we were going to the Wallace Monument, his primary focus was on the William Wallace/Robert the Bruce story of how Scotland got started. He focused a lot on correcting the (absurd) information in Braveheart, which was both interesting and amusing. He was also a strongly opinionated member of the Scottish National Party (mentioned in the book!), which is very much for Scottish independence. And, turns out there’s actually a vote coming up on that on September of next year. Which could matter to us, because if they do, they need tax software, and Fast is interested. And be warned, if ANY opportunity to move to Scotland comes up, we’re so going. That’s not just me and my obsession with Scotland since elementary school either. Christopher loved it too. So be prepared. We may retire there too. (Not kidding!)
So, that was a rabbit trail. Anyway, firstly we went to the Forth bridge. It’s pretty old, maybe 1800’s? And there’s a less pretty bridge too, which was built more recently-ish. It, unfortunately, started to fall apart (the little fibers making up the cables started to rust and break), so they’re in the process of building a new one. Only now they say they figured out how to fix the breaking one, so it may be a very expensive and unecessary bridge. ^_^
I also peed on this break, and started to notice that their toilets here don’t flush very well. A teensy trickle doesn’t even get the paper down. Oh well. Also, a lot of the bathrooms in the UK have toilet paper that feels like normal, only it comes out in sheets like tissues. It’s kind of nice, since sometimes you need a second hand to keep from accidentally getting way too much when you go to tear it off when it’s on a roll. And one last note, almost all the public restrooms here have locks that indicate whether the stall is occupied, like a portapotty or airplane bathroom. That’s VERY handy. No looking under every stall, or standing in line and no one realizes one is open.
Then we went to the William Wallace monument. It’s quite big, and sort of in the middle of nowhere so it has some really nice views. I’m glad we took the little shuttle to the top of the hill it’s on though, because again, VERY steep going. We walked down, and it was the first place I noticed that had little side paths off the paved part. I wandered off down some, which was fun.
Then we stopped along the side of the road by Stirling Castle. It takes several hours to really see the castle properly, so the tour doesn’t stop there for real. It was a nice view though.
Then we stopped by “the only lake in Scotland.” Basically it’s a loch like the rest, but there was a translation error when they first started mapping the area and it wound up being named a lake. It was quite pretty. And it was right in the tour guide’s home village, so it was extra neat. He pointed out where his buddies lived, and his mom and such.
Then we went to this other little cute village up the road for lunch. We went to a little pub and had some yummy sandwiches. They could have used more sauce though, which I’ve noticed seems to be common here. A bit skimpy on the condiments/sauces. We got some ice cream and went to the little shops, like the Christmas shop and the candy shop. ^_^
Then we stopped at a random little spot just in the highlands that had a nice view. (We stopped at a lot of odd little places that are just pretty, in case you couldn’t tell.)
Then we were looking for hairy coos, and stopped to feed the ones they actually know. The guide had two loaves of bread and we got to give it to them. There were two full growns ones and a baby that came up to the fence to be fed. One adult was calm, but the other kept trying to shove her out of the way to get more bread for herself. It was cute. I was a little scared to feed them (those teeth are big!), but they just grab it with their tongues. Cute! The baby was only a month old, so too little to want any bread. For the record, coos are WAY better than sheep. The coos were the pretty much sole basis for the highland economy before the Rising in 1745. After all that, the English killed off the coos to cripple the highlanders, and sheep were moved in since the land isn’t good for farming. Now there’s twice as many sheep in Scotland as people, and they really are *everywhere*. But they’re the invader’s animals, so coos are clearly better.
Then we went to Loch Katrine, and had almost an hour to walk around. I climbed on some rocks (as best I could in a skirt) and petted a very wet dog who had been for a swim. I also had some crisps (chips!). ^_^
Then we went to see “wee Hamish,” the most famous hairy coo in Scotland. He’s apparently been on tv and things a lot. He’s 20 years old, and the oldest recorded coo was 22, so he might even set a new record!
Then we went to Duine Castle, which is where they filmed Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Side note, it’s another mistranslation. Duine means castle, so it’s named “castle castle.” We couldn’t go in, because they were closing, but we walked around a lot. I found another of those little paths and we wandered off a bit again. Also, before they closed the gift shop I found this kid’s book called “Kaitie’s Coo” and it had all these little rhymes but they were written in “Scottish” so it was all “the moose in the hoose” and such. But they were closing and I didn’t have time to decide to get it, and I was sad after, but then I made sure to remember the name and it’s on Amazon so I am SO getting it. We laid in the grass for a bit, and that’s where the picture of me with the “toilet” sign was taken. I figured I should have at least one picture of that sort, since I’ve spent half the trip looking for those signs.
That was our last stop, so we headed back. We took the motorway, which made me smile when he said it. He also played some music which was cool. There was Loch Lomond and another from the book, which I’ve read but not heard. And the Scottish countryside is really, really pretty. There are all these beautiful yellow fields, which are apparently rapeseed (I’ve seen rapeseed oil in a lot of things), and the bracken is yellow too. There are bluebells, though it’s apparently late for them so we got lucky with the unseasonably cool weather so we got to see them. And we saw the heather, which covers tons of hills, and it turns purple in the fall, so I bet it’s even prettier then. Prettiest country I’ve ever seen. Oh, and at one of the stops we found a hairy coo shotglass for our souvenir, so that made me very happy.
We went to a pub of sorts for dinner when we got back. That was the first good food we got in the Uk. I had a meat pie, and Christopher had mussels. Yum!