In an effort to get out and see more of Scotland than just its capitol, Walt and I booked a full day bus tour of the Highlands. It sported two castle tours, a walk around Loch Katrine, a sheep dog demonstration and, what I’ve been waiting for, a hang out session with some highland cattle.
But first, we stopped just outside of a town called Falkirk to take a peak at a massive statue of a pair of kelpies. What’s a kelpie, you ask? Well, if you had read the Harry Potter books, my friend, you wouldn’t have to ask such a silly question.
Though… I never really imagined them to look like their Falkirk statues. Kelpies are mythical horses that live in the lochs and bogs of the highlands. It’s said that the water horses would come out from the depths and eat anyone who got too close to the shores of their loch. A perfect creature to immortalize into 90 foot statues, right?
Next stop was Sterling Castle. For over 900 years, there has been record of a castle at Sterling, and for the majority of that time, this castle was the seat of power for the Scottish monarchy. It’s the oldest and, arguably, the most important castle in the country.
I really enjoyed visiting Sterling Castle. The living quarters have been refurbished to better represent what it may have looked like in the 16th century, and there were actors in each room playing the role of kings and queens that had once lived there… but I think it was all a bit too hokey for Walt.
Back in the bus, then! Our next stop was Loch Katrine.
We both really loved our time at the loch. It was misty and atmospheric, constantly on the brink of raining, but never quite getting there. We walked on a lovely greenbelt along the shore chatting about philosophical hypotheticals – a regular pastime for us if we have some time to fill. This conversation floated around the question of how people might approach life differently if humans lived for a significantly shorter or longer period of time. Would careers, financial goals and savings even be a thing we’d worry about if our lives were thousands of years long? Surely we’d be more conscious of the slow changes in the world around us, would conservation take a priority if we weren’t saving the planet for future generations, but for ourselves as well?
Deep thoughts on the shores of Loch Katrine.
Next up was what I had been waiting for ever since arriving in Scotland. We got to visit Hamish, the famous highland cow!
Well, technically, we met Hamish II, along with his girlfriend, Hazel, and their calf, Hector. On the way to meet these adorable fur-faces, we learned that highland cattle actually serve little purpose in modern Scotland. Their meat is greasy and gristly to eat, their fur is too course to use in any sort of wool, and their milk has too many solids in it to use in cheese or butter. In reality, these cows don’t really serve a purpose…
Except to lure tourists to your rest stop so they’ll buy a coffee and take a selfie with your delightful cows.
With a heavy heart, we had to say goodbye to Hamish, Hazel and Hector, and hop back into the bus to head to what ended up being Walt’s favorite stop of the day, Castle Doune. This castle is probably one of the most recognizable in Scotland because it’s been featured in many films, documentaries and TV shows. Most notably, the TV show (that I rather abashedly love) Outlander and the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
The castle was relatively small, which is probably one of the reasons why we both liked it so much. And unlike Sterling Castle, they hadn’t done any refurbishing to it, save for some preservation work. We could see the age that the building held and it was easy to imagine the staff of the house bustling around the kitchen, drawing water from the well and stoking the fires in the bedrooms… not to mention the Monty Python crew dancing on tables singing “We’re knights of the round table”.
All in all we were really glad we chose to go on this day trip. Our tour guide was kind of weird and the branding on our florescent orange bus was atrocious, but we got to see a lot packed into a single day, and we didn’t have to drive on the insane highland roads!
Yeah, I’d say it was a day well spent.