Thursday Apr. 6th, 2000 Fort William and Inverness

10C/50F Sunny and Pleasant though cool.


Glen Coe Had to get up early this morning in order to catch our coach tour by 8:10. Allowed an hour for the walk but it only took 30 minutes. We'd skipped breakfast because we wouldn't have made it in time otherwise. Stood around for a bit till our "Coach" pulled up. A coach is NOT a "bus", even though it sure looked like one to us. A bus serves the town, a coach is transport for hire by tourists. The distinction doesn't matter in Scotland where everyone treats them as busses, but elsewhere in the UK they are not allowed to use bus lanes or any other special privileges afford city buses. Our guide/driver was Donald MacGregor, of clan MacDonald. Not keen on Campbells or their soup due to some extreme nastiness a couple hundred years ago. Bad form to stab your host and his family at 5:00am. Anyway, off we go to Inverness (which means "Mouth Of the Ness") with various stops. Woolen Mills

1. The Woolen Mill Rest Stop for 30 minutes, got coffee.
2. Fort Williams where we saw a Whiskey Shop and popped in just in case they had Bride of Arachnid... they didn't, but they DID have Pride of Orkney! So we bought it for Pat and then lugged it around with us for the rest of the trip. Had a pretty lame lunch for 10P. I wanted to use plastic as I was low on cash, and the sign outside and on the register said they accepted AMEX, but when we payed the bill the clerk couldn't find the machine! There went most of my ready cash.
Caledonian Canal Lock 3. Castle Urquart, a ruin on the banks of Loch Ness. We stopped there for 30 minutes, intending on going down to the castle. Turns out they were charging and we decided that the 10 minute down, 10 minute look-see, then 10 minute walk back up wasn't worth 8P a piece. We stayed up on the road and watched for Nessie instead. Loch Ness was much bigger than we expected.
4. Inverness, another cute town with a pedestrian mall and pretty much all the same shops we've seen everywhere else in the UK. We had over an hour to play here and spent most of it souvenir shopping. Got a couple of Loch Ness Monster T-Shirts for Matt (Frick not Staples) and I.
5. Finally a small rest stop on the way back to Edinburgh with pay toilets.

Loch and Castle On the tour we saw got a really good taste of the Highland, view-wise. Completely gorgeous. Lots and lots of sheep, hills, snow, and blue lochs. We even saw some loch locks, and Loch Lochy (ok I'll stop). The route we took followed the Caledonian Canal System which was supposed to be an easy overland water route from the North Sea to the Irish Sea. They finally got the kinks worked out by the time it became obsolete. There were 13 of us on this big ol' bus (er coach). 2 South Africans, 1 Czech, and the rest Americans. Slightly obnoxious but we've had to deal with much much worse (and I personally would get to experience the penultimate in obnoxiousness when I took my cruise the next month to Alaska).

Other stuff we saw:
-The last battlefield of Bonnie Prince Charlie, Culloden 1746, where the English, under Cumberland with 9000 Red Coats cut down 5000 tired Highlanders including the women bystanders.
-"Braveheart" country, named after the movie. Our guide made a big deal about the fact that Mel Gibson is only 5'7" while William Wallace was over 6'5". He also told us the cast of the film used this tour company for their transportation.
Culloden Moor -"Rob Roy" country. Our tour company drove that cast around too. Saw the hotel Liam Neeson and Jessica Lange stayed in.
-A really cool railroad bridge, the Forth Rail Bridge, into Edinburgh built in 1890.
-A statue of Flora MacDonald, who smuggled Prince Charlie out of Scotland.
-More sheep.

We got back to Edinburgh at about 8:30 and began the long walk back to the B&B. I wasn't hungry(!) so we just stopped at the KwikeeMart for munchees.I had a cheese and pasta salad. Got up (I mean UP) to our room about 9:15. Re-packed all our stuff so we could do laundry easily the next day. Collapsed.

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