22 April 2010

Scotland Day 3: Road Trip Day 1: Glasgow to Lochcarron

Our road trip began Sunday morning. We started in Glasgow (A on the map below) and our final destination was Lochcarron (G). Along the way we stopped in Fort William (B; such a disappointing Scottish town name), Loch Ness (C), Kyle of Lochalsh (D; now that's a Scottish town name!), Isle of Skye (E; we were there for only a few minutes, but it counts), and Plockton (F).

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This trip took us past Loch Lomond again, and much further north into the proper highlands. I admit, I had the highlands pictured all wrong. I was really expecting it to be more on the hilly side, not so mountainous. I was pleasantly surprised by the landscape that greated us  - snow capped mountians!

Like any self-respecting mountain highway (and I use that term in the 2-lane, no shoulder, warning signs that say “On Coming Traffic In Middle of Road” sense), it had lots of look outs and random monuments, more often than not populated by tourist buses. Aspects of it definitely reminded me of driving through the Rockies. The highlands, of course, can’t be compared to the Rockies. The highlands are breathtaking in their own right, though.

 Our trip seemed to coincide with the domestic ungulate birthing season. There were baby sheep and baby goats all over place. The best, though, were the baby highland cows. Highland cows, as far as I understand it, are the native Scottish cow, and being domesticated but commercially useless, people just keep them now as pets. They look like the slacker version of the typical domestic cow. Like what a domestic cow would look like if it let itself go (I didn't get any good pictures, the next two are from Google).
The babies, though – they have some damn cute little highland calfs. I think the fact that you can’t see their eyes is what does it, it makes them look cute and stupid, and stupid baby animals are inherently cuter than smart baby animals.
We stopped briefly in Fort William for lunch. We bought takeaway meals from a grocery store and ate in the car at the Commando Memorial.
 After that it was on to Loch Ness. What you may not know is that Loch Ness has competing Interpretive Centers. There’s The Original Loch Ness Monster Visitor Center and there’s The Loch Ness Exhibition Center. We didn’t know this, and we had a brochure for the latter but pulled into the former and thought, “this isn’t right.” The first had the requisite model of Nessie out front, and a bonus Braveheart castle, but was little more than a gift shop. We left it in search of the other one, and saw it about 600m down the road. The two businesses were practically beside each other. The second Center was more official-looking. It had the boat and submersible used in the most recent “scientific” study of Nessie. Actually, I’ll bet the ecosystem in that lake is very well studied.
Loch Ness also has Urquhart Castle, which we didn't want to pay to go to, so we went to the parking lot and took pictures from there.
After Ness we drove some more, stopping for pictures at beautiful Loch Cluanie. We also stopped at the site of an old battle. The guidebook didn’t really say what the battle was, and aside from the sword-fight road sign alerting us to the site, there was no other information available.

We drove across the bridge to the Isle of Skye pretty much just so we could say “I’ve been to the Isle of Skye.” Then it was on to Plockton, a tiny little village. We had dinner there before heading to Lochcarron where we were staying the night.

It was a long day, but luckily I love road trips. And in a foreign country there’s no shortage of scenery to look at.

In case you were wondering, I never once – not even for a moment – thought about asking to drive. I’m just not a detail person, and I’m pretty sure which side of the road I should be on is the kind of detail I would forget. However, there would have been these to help me along:
The rest of my pics are here.

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