02/01/13: train to Inverness
When I was a little kid there was a television show called “In Search Of…”, hosted by the voice of Leonard Nimoy. The show looked into stories about aliens, monsters, ghosts, strange sightings, and a whole host of other things that fascinated me at the time (and still does). Now there is actually a science behind the people who study this kind of stuff, cryptozoology! I have had ingrained in my head for over 40 years the image of Urquart Castle, along the shores of Loch Ness in Scotland, with the supposed Loch Ness Monster leaving a wake upon the water. Our trip to Scotland would not be complete unless I was able to fulfill a childhood dream and visit this Loch and possibly see the majestic beast.
The day we left afforded us enough time to have lunch with the Pielow’s. Jim’s (I think) parents were in town (or were they Stacy’s?), and along with their kids we had a table for ten near the train station. It was nice for Jim and I to talk a little shop one on one, and the four parents to discuss the challenges of having our families over here. As I have stated before, not a lot of the Fulbright participants are towing along kids.
We barely caught our train (which is kind of how we travel, unfortunately), and it turns out the trip to Inverness was closer to four hours than three. We passed the time listening to our ipods, reading, card games, trying to sleep, watching out the window, and conversations.
Our apartment that we rented was supposed to be only a five minute walk from the train station. It was! Also, children under 16 were not advised/allowed, but Rebecca sweet talked the owners into trusting us. Turns out the apartment was really, really nice! Clean, large enough, updated, and dead center of town. We loved it! We walked around, found a grocer, bought supplies, and cooked up a nice meal. In fact, we cooked a couple nice meals here. Again it is cheaper for us to eat in and to take pack lunches that eat all our meals out.
03/01/13: Inverness, Day 1
Today was spent walking around the city. We got up, made a breakfast, and got outside. Turns out we were about two blocks behind Inverness Castle. This spot has had a castle on it for close to 1000 years, but the current castle is only about 180 years old or so. From here the views of the city appeared, showing us what a gorgeous place this was. No rain, all sun today.
We walked down to the River Ness, then along it. There are pedestrian bridges that cross it, so we went back and forth and just walked all around town. Lots of little shops to see such as used bookstores selling ancient tomes, kilt shops, whiskey shops, curio shops, museums, ancient churches (kirks), and more. Walking around was easy and pleasant, and allowed us to pop back into our apartment for snacks or a cold beverage.
04/01/13: Inverness Day 2, Loch Ness
We bit the bullet on this one. Good advice in Edinburgh was to take a boat and coach tour of the Loch, since we did not have a car. The public bus would take longer and we would not have an easy time seeing what we wanted to see. In the end it was worth the money, but we had to use the credit card to cover it.
Early in the morning we met a small coach which took us around Inverness, then off to Loch Ness. The Loch is the deepest lake in Europe, I believe. Massive. Huge. Black. We were taken to a boat launch for a trip to Urquart Castle, about halfway down the Loch. No rain, but overcast and a little breezy out on the water. We were told that a hot chocolate with Scottish Whiskey was worth a try. It was.
Urquart Castle was everything I hoped. Grand, ruined, interesting, well maintained, fun to be at. We had an hour here, and took about 100 photos to sort through. The kids could run around the whole place, checking out the hidden places around the castle. Lots of interesting facts about the history of this place. It was purposely destroyed in the 1600s so that the invaders could not take it over. After an hour here it was off to the Loch Ness Exhibition Centre.
Once our hour was up here we went to the Exhibition Centre in a nearby village. This place was put together by Adrian Shine, one of those bearded scientists from the 1970’s who was convinced that there was something living in the Loch. Turns out, through all his exhaustive and intensive science, there is no monster. Zip. Nada. Nothing. I was actually a little crushed, really wanting ‘something’ to have lived here, some sort of monster. All the science conducted did not go to waste, as the Loch has been found to be quite deep and scientifically interesting to those who study the planet. But no monster lives in it.
The Centre itself was really nice and informative with a kind of walk-through multi-media feel to it (walking from one cave to another….hard to explain in a few sentences). Kids liked it, I bought a cool tartan tie in the gift shoppe (neither of us have any Scottish blood as far as we know), and jumped back on the coach. A great adventure all around in a beautiful city in a beautiful part of the world. We noticed that this was the highest latitude that either Rebecca or I had ever been at. Lucky for all of us we only had sun and crisp weather.
Alas, there is no Monster. 😦
We caught the train the next day for the long haul back to to Grantham station, which is about a 20 minute drive from our Melton home. We had a two hour layover in Edinburgh, and found ourselves at the same place we had lunch at a couple days earlier, since it was kind of affordable yet kid friendly.
I do not know if I will ever get back to Scotland, but I highly recommend a visit if you have never been. Wonderful people and the beautiful scenery fulfilled a trip of a lifetime. Hmmm, where to next?