Today was our day to get out of the city and see some of the Scottish countryside. We thought about renting a car, but the idea of driving on the other side of the road terrifies me, especially with all the roundabouts, so we opted for a 10-hour bus tour. Our guide was a very knowledgeable and personable Scot named Graham who explained that Scottish geography is all about the lochs (lakes), the glens (valleys) and the bens (mountains) and we would be seeing many of each.
We started with a drive to Stirling Castle and a history lesson from Graham along the way. I’m not up on my British/Scottish history, but he helped us sort out the various Jameses and explained why a lot of Braveheart was fiction. At the castle we were given an hour and a half of free time to wander. We chose to take a guided tour to help us make sense of it all, and that was a good choice. Again, a knowledgeable guide makes all the difference, especially when your background knowledge is sketchy. Our tour guide, Charles, helped us understand the significance of Stirling Castle and why its location made it an impregnable fortress. We didn’t have time to see everything, but it was enough to make us want to come back for more some day.
Back on the bus, we took a scenic drive around the Stirling area and up into the highlands a bit. We saw several lochs and castles and a lot of sheep. One of the castles we passed was Doune Castle where Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Outlanders were filmed. We stopped for lunch, then made our way to the beautiful Loch Lomond, largest loch in Scotland. Of course, on the way there, Graham played the song The Bonnie Banks O’ Loch Lomond, thus creating our ear worm for the day. At the loch we could choose to wander through the shops and pubs or hike along the bonnie banks on the walking path. We chose the latter and it was a beautiful walk. It had rained while we were at lunch and we were afraid we might get caught in a another shower, but we were lucky. It didn’t rain, although the path was a bit muddy in places.
Our last stop was the Glengoyne Distillery for a whiskey tour. When we arrived, our guide, Anna, gave us a dram of 12-year-old Glengoyne whiskey to sample while we watched a video about the history of the place. Then we got a tour while Anna explained the process. We learned that their whiskey is called single malt because all the ingredients are sourced in one place and it’s distinctive among Scotch whiskeys because they do not use peat. It’s also interesting that the whiskey is distilled in the Scottish highlands and aged in the lowlands because the distillery sits on the road that divides the two with the warehouses on the lowland side. I’ve never been fond of Scotch, but I did like this one, although not enough to buy a bottle in the gift shop that we can get cheaper in the States.
On the drive back to Edinburgh we watched the sun set out the bus window and listened to this to replace the Bonnie Bonnie Banks ear worm. On our return to Edinburgh we walked to a pub for dinner as we hummed I Will Walk 500 Miles.