1-Day Bus Tour: Loch Ness, Glencoe, and the Highlands

A Highland Cow at the Kilmahog Woollen Mill. Apparently, the majority of Highland Cows used to be black until one of the Scottish monarchs declared that she preferred brown cows and ordered only brown ones to be bred.

A Highland Cow at the Kilmahog Woollen Mill. Apparently, the majority of Highland Cows used to be black until one of the Scottish monarchs declared that she preferred brown cows and ordered only brown ones to be bred.

In March, my grandma came to visit Edinburgh and we wanted to take a trip to see some of the rest of Scotland. We planned on maybe staying at a bed and breakfast near one of Scotland's two national parks, The Caringorms and Loch Lomond & The Trossachs, but it quickly became apparent that without a car it would be exceedingly difficult to get to either of these two wild places. Neither of us relished the idea of renting a car, so we searched for alternate travel plans and discovered that we could easily get tickets, at very short notice, for a bus tour to the Highlands with the Scotline Tours group. We selected a one-day trip which

The rather desolate Rannoch Moor

The rather desolate Rannoch Moor

began in Edinburgh and were soon on our way. The first stop was a coffee break at the Kilmahog Woollen Mill, where we saw rain and Highland Cows, and then on to the Weeping Glen of Glen Coe. In 1692, there was a massacre there in which the majority of a clan, Clan Macdonald, was wiped out by a rival clan. Those who weren't slaughtered fled to the mountains, where many died of exposure. The massacre became known as the Massacre of Glencoe, which is Mort Ghlinne Comhann in Gaelic (direct translation: the murder of Glen Coe). Glen Coe is vast, stretching from Loch Leven, at its northern most point, past Rannoch Moor. Rannoch Moor, which we also drove through, is a 50 mile stretch of, as the name suggests, boggy moors, inhabited mainly by wildlife such as red deer. Due to its arctic conditions, very few people live there, although some visit to ski or climb. Climbing the mountains bordering the moor is a feat many climbers hope to accomplish, and so the area is frequented by those willing to take on the climb in  the rain and fog. Interesting fact: the moor was the setting for certain scenes in the James Bond movie Skyfall. After passing through Glen Coe, we drove to Loch Ness, famous for Nessie the Loch Ness Monster, and Urquhart Castle (which is a ruin, really) from which one can look out over Loch Ness and see its deepest section. The tour guide told us that the first recorded sighting of Nessie, a black and white photo, was in fact a toy submarine with a sock on it that someone had constructed as a fake Nessie. I guess they get points for creativity; their little trick fooled a lot of people.

A nice little mossy bridge we passed hidden in the tall trees

A nice little mossy bridge we passed hidden in the tall trees

After Loch Ness we turned for home, passing through Inverness, which is considered the capital city of the Scottish Highlands, and down through the snow covered Grampian Mountains - one of the three major mountain ranges in Scotland. We drove down through Perthshire, a Scottish county, and passed by the Forth Rail Bridge, which I have traveled over numerous times now, then finally back to Edinburgh. It was a good way to see the Highlands without getting soaked by the March rains, although in better weather I would opt for a self-guided walking tour of the Highlands.

the mountains in the fog

the mountains in the fog