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Highlands tour day 1

Ugh, hardly any sleep. Because I got so much less exercise? Because of the coffee and tea? Because of the giant Indian meal which lasted me for 15 hours? Dunno.

Anyway, I'm on the tour and it looks to be fun. The guide is an entertaining chap, full of Scottish history, or alleged history. "Braveheart" "did wonderful things for this country" but is a pack of lies. Also, Mel Gibson is tiny and smokes like a chimney. William Wallace wore neither a kilt nor blue face paint, being neither highlander nor a Pict. Braveheart was actually a different person. Wallace was the basis for Robin Hood - here I suspend judgment - being 6'7", an archer, who wore green, had a girlfriend named Marian, a brother named John, and a friar for a constant companion, and who killed an English sheriff who killed Marian.

We also got the tragic life of Mary Queen of Scots, and the irony of her son taking over the English throne due to Elizabeth's lack of heir. "Hi, tiny rival and sometimes enemy country we've invaded and mistreated, could you please rule us for a while?"

There's 33,000 lochs and one lake. Romantic story is that it's a reminder of Montcrief's treachery, 'true' story is that a Victorian English surveyor forgot to change that lake back to a loch on his maps.

Village of Luss on Loch Lomond. Pretty rainy and very windy. No cell, but an "Internet" phone booth.

More history: Robert the Bruce, who killed his rival for the throne, and eventually won English and papal recognition, after the victory of Bannockburn at 3:1 odds against. He died regretting he hadn't been able to go to the Crusades and asked James Douglas to embalm his heart and take it to the Holy Land. Douglas ran into Saracens and that's where Braveheart comes from. But all this is making some folk songs make more sense. One talks about Bannockburn, and a previously weird Steeleye Span song goes "Take my heart to the Holy Land, and with it make amends..."

Seeing lots of ferns and firs or pines.

Rannock Moor? Largest nature preserve in western Europe? 50 square miles of nothing, where the Caledonian pine forest used to be - 95% of the country now 1%, cut down for iron charcoal, Napoleonic ships, and World war ammunition boxes. Soil degraded, deer and sheep eat saplings. Giant elk, boar, bear, and wolf extinct from Scotland for lack of habitat.

Plays Scottish music when he isn't talking.

James 7th/2nd, Catholic, Highlands were but no one else. Prince William of Orange was James' son-in-law and nephew. Jacobite just means follower of James. MacIan MacDonald signed the oath late by accident, William made an example, with Campbell enforcers. Campbells went to MacDonald glen (Glen Coe, lots of filmsJ under truce and got taken in under harsh conditions hospitality culture, and massacred their hosts while asleep. Campbells supposedly fielded men on both sides of battles, so were always on the winning side and never had to forfeit land or castles.

Seeing lots of steep hills and narrow valleys. Stopped at the 3 sisters.

1263: Vikings tried sneaking up barefoot on the sleeping Scottish army. Into a field of thistles. Thus the national plant.

Great Glen, big fault, caused 4 great lochs, one actually a North Atlantic inlet. Canals let you sail to the North Sea, avoiding the north coast.

Fort William, first of William's forts to garrison the Highlands. Only a wall remains, plus a thriving tourist town. Some Jacobite steam train. Wettest part of Britain, 60 inches of rain (Chicago or Seattleget 30, LA 10 IIRC). Has highest mountain in Scotland, Ben Nevis, 1300 meters. So not that high, but climbers kill themselves walking off the flat top.

I think I'm the youngest person on the tour. Maybe second youngest, depending.
Restaurant music is a bagpipes version of the Simple Gifts/Lord of the Dance tunes.

I've heard Amazing Grace twice today, once on the bus and just now in the restaurant shop. What, am I living in Sora no Woto now? -- hopefully someone will get that without looking it up.

If you see this sentence, I had enough cell service outside to upload this. No 3G but don't need it.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 7th, 2010 02:37 pm (UTC)
Looks like you are having an interesting time. Sorry the hostels didn't work out for you.
Enjoy you trip, I am still envious.
Sep. 8th, 2010 05:31 pm (UTC)
Hostel wasn't a waste. Certainly cheaper, and I did exchange e-mails with an Uruguayan woman -- did I mention that? Chatted a bit with another girl, about _The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo_. But I wasn't around much, and when I was I was laptopping as much as anyone,

But man, it's nice to have a quiet room to myself again.
Sep. 8th, 2010 12:03 am (UTC)
Actually, the Highlanders weren't wearing kilts as we know them. They wore the "great kilt" -- which could be used as, among other things, a blanket.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


Damien Sullivan

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