“A whole day exploring the Scottish Highlands, lochs and castles?” in disbelief I questioned my good luck!
As a new operations assistant for Absolute Escapes, I was being offered the opportunity to join a Small Group Tour for the day – an experience many of our clients have enjoyed.
Wow, so where do I begin. Well by being late, only slightly, but enough to make me feel a little embarrassed. However, the welcome I received by Gail, our enthusiastic guide for the day, made me forget all about it.
The bus was full of girls – “girls’ trip!” Gail laughed and started the small bus. And then the stories began. As a tour guide for Rabbie’s, Gail possesses an endless knowledge of Scottish history – “just ask”, as she kept telling us.
The medieval stronghold of Doune Castle was once home to Robert Stewart, the 1st Duke of Albany known as ‘Scotland’s uncrowned king’.
The castle has not seen many renovations over the centuries so is like travelling back in time, making it a very popular filming location … it has featured in everything from Outlander to Monty Python to Game of Thrones.
Leaving Doune behind, Gail speeds up and explains to us how the Lowlands and Highlands of Scotland are divided by a geographical fault line, which we are about to cross. We literally fly across the fault line and instantly the landscape is changed and snow appears. Even Gail is impressed. Maybe it is not normally so easy to tell the difference!
For lunch, we stopped at the popular Green Welly Stop in Tyndrum. I order the traditional soup Cullen Skink, a deliciously hearty soup made of smoked haddock, potatoes and onions – absolutely delicious!
We leave the bus behind. Kilchurn Castle has to be approached on foot. Originally built on a small island in Loch Awe, landward access to Kilchurn Castle was only secured by the construction of a viaduct. The path to the Castle sometimes floods, transforming the site into a temporary island. And then the rain begins, and we decide to leave so we do not get stranded on an island in the middle of the Highlands.
A small break in the charming town Inveraray on the shores of Loch Fyne gives me the chance to fill up on jelly beans in an old fashioned sweet shop. High on sugar, we make a quick visit to beautiful Inveraray Castle.
Instantly recognisable to Downton Abbey fans, like myself, Inveraray Castle was built by the Duke of Argyll in the 1700s and is considered a modern castle. As Gail humorously explains, “this is where we move from fortification to looking cool!”
On our way to the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond, our final stopover, we spot red deer before being engulfed by a white cloud. Celtic music is playing, Gail is telling us stories from Scottish folklore, and I feel very fortunate not to have missed the bus!