Today our hiatus from an urban environment continued. After a brief two-day encounter with Aviemore, we left the quaint bunkhouse to venture to the Isle of Skye. Typically when I travel, I like to move from point A to point B with very few stops. This attitude may speak to my emphasis on efficiency or maybe just the lack of things to see in between cities located in Northern Minnesota (definitely the latter). But this morning we made several stops to enjoy the scenery offered by Inverness, Loch Ness, and Loch Shiel. I will never complain about making several stops to enjoy some of the most picturesque scenery I have seen in my life—snow-capped mountains, rolling green forests, and plenty of lochs (Scottish lakes…stay with me).
It all makes sense now! The Loch Ness monster, the creature that terrifies small children and simple-minded people around the world, is from Loch (Lake) Ness! Apparently the monster is named Nessie. The gift shop is filled with Nessie apparel: Nessie t-shirts, Nessie cards, Nessie hats, and even a section of ugly tweed blazers with elbow patches that are sure to catch the eye of any sociologist.
In class, we often discuss the level of authenticity that tourist attractions offer. A gift shop filled with Nessie offers one experience, while the scenery outside offers a completely different perspective. Humans have definitely affected nature in many ways, but much of what we see outdoors is just that, nature. We don’t critique it; we don’t question it; we just appreciate the ability to experience it. A stark contrast from what we’re accustomed to in urban areas.
We stopped at a café for lunch near the Donan Castle, the most photographed castle in Scotland. After an over-priced, mediocre lunch, and several photoshoots with Donan later, we continued our journey. Our afternoon was filled with lots of laughs and stopping to see some of the most beautiful sights. Our day finished with a dinner prepared by everyone (even Hansen): salad with a meatball and vegetable medley pasta dish with garlic toast and a sort of ginger cake and custard for dessert, overseen by our top-notch tour guides, Laura and Craig.
Prior to this trip, I did not do a lot of research about some of the places we would see. Names like Aviemore and Isle of Skye seem more reminiscent of villages you would find in the Lord of the Rings series rather than tangible destinations I’d be able to experience and explore. Some might think I’m under prepared (which, to be fair, I probably am), but being less knowledgeable about the sights has greatly enhanced my experience. I feel like less of a tourist when I’m surprised by each new breathtaking view and gorgeous mountain range.
I don’t have my guidebook at the ready; I don’t have our itinerary memorized; and I don’t know what tomorrow holds (other than getting to see seals, which I’m really excited about). But experiencing everything on this trip with fresh eyes has made it even more worthwhile, including but not limited to: Andrew’s aversion to nature’s best and brightest, Steph’s Miss North Dakota outlook on life, and Hansen’s constant musings on coffee, bowel movements, NPR, and…well…everything. While the sights are fantastic, it’s the people that make all the difference. Scotland would not be the same without this zany and fantastic group of Cobbers.