This past weekend two roommates and myself took off for an adventure in Scotland. After a 4 1/2 hour train ride we walked to our hostel in Edinburgh with the 40 people we would be spending the next two days with and our Scottish kilt-wearing tour guide Willy. We were only able to spend half a day in Edinburgh, but it is a much cooler city then expected. After a walking tour we quickly discovered that the Scottish are obsessed with witches and ghosts. We also attempted to adjust to Willy's accent. In a past tour group Willy talked about the hanging of witches from a church. One of the tourists asked why they hung cheese from the side of a church. Naturally, after learning about the haunted streets of Edinburgh and having a fulfilling (non-traditional) Scottish dinner, we joined a late-night which walking tour. During the tour a wide-eyed Scottish woman told us several legends (?) of mysterious happenings on the streets of Edinburgh then took us to the underground vaults - which are only lit by very few candles - and told us about the ghosts that haunt them. Overall, we did not get to see much of Edinburgh and it is a city I would like to go back to at some point.
The next morning we left for the Highlands on our coach, which gave us all many chances to get to know each other better. We spent about half the day driving through the Highlands and at one point passed by one small, lone, white house between two peaks. Willy told us that a few years ago Bill gates wrote out a blank check to the man who lived in it. The man told Bill Gates he didn't have enough money. Our first stop was at the Stirling Castle. We did not get to spend too much time here but did get to adventure on our own around the grounds. We did learn about Willy's take on Braveheart and William Wallace who is not the real Braveheart (the King Robert the Bruce who just killed people to prove he could be King is). Our next stop was at theClansman Centre at the edge Loch Ness in Fort Augustus - supposedly one of the biggest towns in the Highlands (the joke is that it was really small) - and learned about the history of theClansman in the Highlands. Besides the actual traditional house, clothing, and weapon demonstration an interesting part of this specific historical site is the first place people who are making films about Scotland go to for facts. Madonna and Guy Ritchie also had them at their wedding reception doing demonstrations. Next we drove along Loch Ness - this is the one place I really wish we would have spend more time at -leading up to Inverness, the city we stayed at the second night. We ended up - after dealing with the hostel that lost of reservation (for 44 people) - at a pub with live music.
On our last day we went to the Culloden Battlefield where Willy led us off the path and marched us through the march-y, weed-y full-lengh of the battlefield. This would have been fine if he would have warned us. Many people were wearing light tennis shoes and even flats. Andmost of us were on our last pair of socks. To sum this up, many people were very unhappy about this part of the weekend. After taking us back onto a path Willy talked about the battle (and added in his family connection) and basically said, at the end, that without this battle - which after a long confusing explanation seems like the Highlanders lost to the Brits and some of their own men (?) - the world would be completely different and we would all be speaking German. At this point in the weekend I decided not to ask questions. Our last stop before heading back to the train station was a bit of a nature walk but there was a path and waterfall involved so I loved it!
In general, I learned the Scottish are very proud of their history. VERY. I'm pretty sure they take credit for things that people do who have Scottish heritage but are not actually from Scotland. It was basically said a few times that without the Scots the world would not be where it is today. We also learned in class yesterday the one of the many delightful classmates we had the pleasure to go on the trip with feel in love with Willy. At the end of the day I solved the riddle, the Scots came first, and they would probably hear the tree fall even if they weren't in the forest. Other then that, the land is amazing and probably even more so in the summer. I have decided not to go on anymore tour groups. Not my thing.