Where in the World is Connie? travel blog

Scotland - Men in Skirts

Edinburgh Castle

The Haggis Bus - my Scottish limousine!

Hairy Heilan Coo and Calf (calves really are this fuzzy like a...

Hamish the Heilan Coo

Midge Attack

Beautiful "Glencoe" (with a bit of "atmospheric" weather)

Oban harbour

Castle Stalker (used in Monty Python films)

Train crossing Aquaduct used in Harry Potter flying car/Hogwart train scene

Jacobite Memorial at Glenfinnan

Commando Memorial (this question ran in local newspaper - Who can see...

Loch Garry (believed to resemble the shape of Scotland)

Sampling a bit of Scotch Whiskey

Eilean Donan Castle, the most photographed castle in Scotland (I assume it...

Hike to Coral Beach

The road to The Quiraing

"The Quiraing", Isle of Skye

Connie at the Quiraing

Cottage at The Quiraing, Isle of Skye

Crossing over the bridge to Isle of Skye, Kyleakin on right side

Kyleakin fishing boats

Sailboats at Plockton (this was shot at around 9am, hard to believe...

Swinging bridge over Rogie Falls

Thatched Cottage at Culloden Battlefield

Scenery along hike to the Bone Caves

Traditional house and clothing at Clansmen Centre, Fort Augustus

The famous "Loch Ness"

Wow, our "Come to me Nessie" chant worked!

Scenery along hike around Loch An Eilean

The whole Haggis gang on Old Man of Storr hill

I tried it before and I tried it again now ... taste...

John O'Groats at the tip of mainland Scotland

Men in Skirts - wartime

Men in Skirts - modern

Men in Skirts - traditional

The Thistle, official flower of Scotland

What really goes on in the Scottish Highlands!

Okay, I know that technically they're not called skirts, they're called "kilts" or "plaits" ... but whatever they're called you sure see a lot of men wearing them here in Scotland!

And I don't know what it is, but there's something pretty damn sexy about seeing a man in a kilt. Sure, men have hairy legs and knobby knees, but there's something about the pleats and the tartan that can make the old pulses jump. Of course I'm sure it has nothing to do with the fact that men aren't supposed to be wearing anything under the kilt ...

The day that I arrived in Scotland - August 15 - was a bit of a momentous date for me. You see, exactly 365 days ago I ceased to be gainfully employed. That's right, a year ago today I said a teary farewell, handed in the office key, and became unemployed for the first time in around 18 years! In some ways I can't believe that a year has gone by already, but in other ways it feels like I've been gone for a lifetime.

Now, if you were able to master the Welsh language, then speaking Scottish Gaelic is a piece of cake. All you have to do is say "sh" in place of an "s" or "x" ... as in "Shexshy Shcotland", or "yesh pleashe Mishush Moneypenny" like that shexshy Sean Connery would shay.

Also, here in Scotland, a "loch" is a "lake", but you need to pronounce the "ch" with a good clear of your throat. Add a good roll to your "r's", throw in a few "aye's" and "oich no's", and voila, you're shpeaking like a Shcot!

I'd been to Scotland around 20 years ago but had only visited Edinburgh, Glasgow and Oban (birthplace of Scott, my now deceased border collie dog). So I was looking forward to seeing some new places and therefore had plans to: (1) visit my friend Norm, who I had met on a sailboat in sunny Antigua during Race Week last year, (2) take in a few Edinburgh Festival events, and (3) tour around the Highlands, Orkneys and Hebrides.

The first task was completed with relative ease. Not only did I visit with Norm, but also had the pleasure of dining with Norm and his family at their home not far out of Edinburgh (thanks Norm and Trish, great seeing you again).

Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to take in any festival events. To begin with, the wet weather in Edinburgh at the time - and we're talking real wet and weary, cold and dreary stuff - left me less than enthused. Also, all of the shows I wanted to see started way past my bedtime (wow, I must be getting old), and then I had to spend some time organizing my Scotland trip ... eventually I just ran out of time.

I soon found out that it's not exactly easy reaching all the places I wanted to visit by public transportation, especially within two weeks. So I decided to do something a bit different for a change and booked a multi-day tour. This at least would take care of my transportation and accommodation challenges.

I really wanted to do a tour that included the Highlands, Hebrides and Orkney Islands. I hadn't counted on the few million other Festival tourists wanting to do the exact same thing at the same time, so unfortunately those particular tours were completely booked up until the end of September. My fault again for not booking ahead. Oh well, I finally decided to just do a tour through the Highlands for now, and then visit the Hebrides and Orkneys on my own after that.

I booked a 6-day trip with, get this, "Haggis Tours" ... perfect name for a Scottish tour company don't ya think. They drive bright yellow minivans and provide "adventure for backpackers and independent travelers". Their trips are also "ideal for 17-35 year olds or those with an independent spirit, are young at heart and enjoy life". The thing they didn't mention is that it helps if you can tolerate Metallica music being played at full blast all day long, and that you must enjoy hearing, ad nauseam, tales of the previous night's drinking sprees and sexual shenanigans!

Not surprisingly I was a good 10+ years older than most of the other travelers. Oh well, I might have been old enough to be mother to some, but at least I didn't act like it nor did they treat me that way. In fact, for me it was kind of another trip down memory lane to the days when having sex, going to the pub, having sex, getting smashed every night and, well, having sex were the only priorities in life ... who cares about history and culture anyway when there's another pub close by. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt, glad I'm not there anymore (except I wouldn't mind the having sex part!). Anyway, it did make for great amusement.

There were around 25 in the group which was really international; mostly South Africans, Aussies and Kiwis, but a few Canucks and Krauts as well. The tour itself was action packed and a ton of fun, made even better by our entertaining driver/guide Frazier who pumped out Scottish history, folklore and anecdotes faster than we could assimilate them.

Frazier gave us 4 challenges for the trip: (1) make a wee Scottish friend, (2) drink 4 Scotch whiskeys in one evening, (3) taste "Irn-Bru", a Scottish energy drink, and (4) eat some haggis. I managed 3 of the 4 ... I'll let you figure out which one I didn't do!

Frazier kept the group on a fairly strict schedule. Penalties were enforced on those who arrived late for the bus - harmless things like telling a joke or singing a song, but it's surprising how the threat of public performance or some unknown penalty can keep things running smoothly!

We were soon to discover that coinciding with tourist season is also midge season, and so unfortunately we saw quite a few of those nasty little biting creatures on our trip. And I thought mosquitoes were bad ... they're nothing compared to midges.

We covered a lot of miles over the 6 days. I never would have been able to cover half the distance if I had done it on my own. Thankfully, we saw quite a bit of blue sky and sunshine once we left Edinburgh behind.

So here's a brief glimpse of our trip highlights:

- Towns/Cities: We visited Stirling, Glencoe, Oban, Fort William, Kyleakin and Portree (on the Isle of Skye), Inverness, Ullapool, Aviemore, and Fort Augustus. We also drove through an amazing area called "The Quiraing" on Skye.

- Monuments/Memorials/Battlefields: William Wallace Monument, Bannockburn Battlefield, Jacobite Memorial, Culloden Battlefield, Fort Augustus Clansmen Centre, & Commando Memorial to name but a few. All have significant historical importance which I won't bore you with.

- Glens and Lochs: The Great Glen, Loch Lennie, Loch Lochy, Loch Oig, Loch Garry, Loch Clooney (where George hails from) and of course famous Lochness. Also saw Ben Nevis, Scotland's highest mountain.

- Castles: Stalker and Doune (where many Monty Python scenes were filmed including the famous "your mother was a hamster and your father smells of elderberries" scene), Eilean Donan (the most photographed castle in Scotland), and we even stayed overnight at the famous haunted Carbidsdale Castle (how cool is that!).

- Scottish Whiskey: Sampled new whiskeys (Glengoyne - very good, Laphroaig - not), learned new whiskey toasts, and did a tour of Glen Ord Whiskey Distillery.

- Leg Stretchers: Hiked to bone caves, ancient burial chambers, coral beaches, waterfalls and river gorges, around scenic lochs, and up hills for panoramic photo shots.

- Strange Rituals: Dipped our faces in icy river water (believed to contain age-stopping powers - yeah right), and performed the "Come to me Nessie" chant at Lochness (of course it worked!).

- Close Encounter of the Coo Kind: We met Hamish, the sexiest wildest male in Scotland ...he's actually a hairy highland cow, or "heilan coo" as they're called here, but he definitely was sexy.

- Miscellaneous: Sampled pints of ale at more pubs than I can count, visited various areas where scenes from Braveheart and Harry Potter were filmed, and of course the youngsters were involved in all sorts of skinny dipping and shagging shenanigans!

I had a lot of fun traveling with the group, but quite honestly I was also glad to leave them behind once we arrived back in Edinburgh. Besides, I still had other places to visit.

Unfortunately, I began to realize that I didn't have enough time to visit both the Orkneys and Hebrides in my remaining time in Scotland. So I chose one - the Orkney Islands - which meant heading back up north to Inverness again where I had booked a bus/ferry trip to the Orkneys.

The day in Inverness dawned sunny and warm as we set off on our 4-hour scenic drive north to John O'Groats, the end of the road and the northernmost tip of mainland Scotland. From there we were catching the ferry to the Orkneys. Unfortunately, once we reached John O'Groats, we were told that the ferries weren't running due to bad weather and big seas. The weather looked okay to me, what do you mean the ferries aren't running?? Well, apparently things were significantly different once you got offshore and all my begging and pleading didn't sway the ferryman to leave. Urgh! So after spending 3/4 hour at John O'Groats, we got back on the bus for another 4-hour drive back to Inverness. Apparently my trip to the Orkneys was just not meant to be.

So back to Edinburgh I went (yep, it was still raining there). I had run out of time in Scotland and had to give up on going to the Orkneys and Hebrides this trip. Bummer.

By the way, I learned something else about Scotland. They never have "bad weather". Sometimes it's "atmospheric", which is drizzly, light rain, misty fog, sexy kind of weather. And sometimes it's "dramatic", which is basically pissing it down, can't see your hand in front of your face kind of weather, but that doesn't mean it's bad. On the other hand, a nice day, which is when the sun is shining and a bit of blue sky is poking through, is called a "miracle"!

And did you know in Scotland it's against the law to be in possession of a cow while you're drunk ... only in Scotland!

Thank you very much ... goodbye Scotland.

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