Editor’s Note: Yesterday, I mentioned I took my pants off on the bus. Well, a very kind Scottish lady messaged me and said that pants means panties or underwear in Scotland!! So, basically I announced to the bus that I would be removing my underwear! For the record…TROUSERS (just the first pair! I had on 2!) removed. Pants, firmly in place!Β πŸ˜‡

Hello, darkness, my old friend… 🎢 It got dark last night! Now, don’t get the wrong idea… The sun is still clocking overtime hours. Sunset is at 10pm and sunrise is at 4:30am. But I actually slept really good without zzz pills because I didn’t wake up every 30 minutes to adjust my sleep mask all night from the light pouring in…

Packed my stuff, ate a blueberry muffin, and headed out to meet my bus! It was only a wee (got it!) bit over a 1/2 mile. So easy! I had to be there at 8:15, so I planned to leave at 7:45 so I’d be there by 8. What I didn’t plan on was my pack. Normally, it’s right at 25 lbs. Heavy for me, but manageable. But now all of my heavy winter clothes were in the pack instead of on me. And I was carrying all of my groceries. I put on the pack and immediately realized this was going to suck…
Got out on the street and started following the instructions, trying to look at the amazing buildings, navigate, and remember to look for cars coming in the opposite direction I’m used to while crossing the street. Oh, and trying not to die from the weight of the pack. Where’s my sherpa Brian?? Then, Google tried to make me go into a tunnel marked subway. I didn’t need to take the subway… That didn’t make sense! At this point, I had to take off the pack. Wiggled my shoulders and tried to figure out what Google wanted. Put the pack back on and headed in the most likely direction. Google hated it and told me to turn around. I was pretty flustered, because there was construction and sidewalk closure everywhere. I was afraid my path might be blocked. I was dying with this pack. While I was standing there, a young man walked over and said, “are you alright?”. I wasn’t sure if it was because I looked confused, lost, or like a potential stroke victim. I showed him my phone route, and explained the problem. Indeed, I was supposed to go through the tunnel marked subway! I thanked him profusely and we parted. It was like this in Paris, too, when I would get lost. People would just stop and ask me if I needed help. Lovely. This is why I’m never afraid to travel alone. People all over the world are wonderful.
I got on the right road. I was dying from the pack, and only about halfway there. I had to stop a few times to rest my arms and back. My 800 arrival was now at 807. I had to check in by 815. GPS said to turn right and my destination was about 450 feet ahead! Woo hoo! I’d made it. Until I turned right and saw the most horrible thing imaginable. A hill. Not just any hill. A steep one. Had a taxi come by, I would have taken it. I don’t care the cost! But no taxi in sight. I walked a bit. Stopped. Walked a bit. Removed pack and did what might be yoga (or just weird contortionist stretching) to ease my muscles. Wash, rinse, repeat… About halfway up I started feeling kinda icky. I’ve fainted on trips before. I didn’t have time for that now! I was already showing an arrival of 8:17! I can’t stand the disrespect of being late! I couldn’t take the pack trying to pull me backwards down the hill anymore. So, I bent over, about 90 degrees at the waist, and kind of turtled up the rest of the way… The pack as my shell. It helped. I’m sure I looked like a fool, but that’s never stopped me before! And I was never so glad to see a tour bus in my entire life! It was right at the top. πŸ™‚
Checked in, put my big bag on the bus, and went to have a seat. Bonus: there’s a USB port right at my seat so I can keep my phone charged and blog in between stories the guide tells on the long drive! Blogging on the go is so much easier than doing it at the end of a day when I’m exhausted, or worse, a couple of days later. I remember all the details better this way. πŸ™‚
James, our driver, has been telling wonderful stories! Deacon Brodie and the robberies (with a mysterious execution!) , Robert Knox, a scientist who paid people to rob graves so he could study human anatomy, Burke and Hare, who murdered people to sell to anatomists, Mary Queen of Scots…. I’M LOVING IT! So much to learn!
First stop! The village of Luss on Loch Lomand. We had 30 minutes to explore this perfectly lovely little village… Not enough! That’s why I hate bus tours. Sigh. Plus, I tend to get lost in my own little world and forget things like what time we’re supposed to be back and where the bus is parked… Which almost culminated in an “incident” in Bath, England a couple of years ago… So I set an alarm and GPS pinpointed the bus location! First stop, potty. 30p to pee, and quite a long queue (psst… Americans… That’s a line!) Now, I don’t know what it is about me, but when I travel people often ask me for help. I’m rather disheveled looking. Plus, I’m quite befuddled on my own trying to figure things out often times, and am rather socially awkward and introverted (I’m the most extroverted introvert you’ll ever meet…or vice versa!). So I’m not sure what is it about me that says “she can help me!” out of all of the other people who are around, but I’m happy to do the best I can. First, an Asian man who didn’t speak any English. He just held out a palm full of coins to me. He wanted me to figure out 30p. I don’t know the coins by sight, so I picked through them until I found the right combination, gave them to him, and smiled. Kindness doesn’t require a common language. Then, an elderly couple who were quite riled about having to pay, and simultaneously confused about how it worked. I walked the lady thru the entire process from getting change at the machine to putting it into the turnstile. Paying it forward for the help I received this morning from the young man!

This little village was so quaint… It could have been plucked from a movie set and placed here! The gardens… Oh my the gardens! I’m a plant rescuer, and buy plants that are about to be thrown away from garden centers, or get plants for free from people who no longer want them. Then, I try to landscape my yard with the resulting mish mash! These gardens were inspirational! So perfect! I needed more time! But there was none. Back to the bus. We drove by Loch Lomand, but didn’t even get to stop for pictures! Trying to take them from the bus is so hard because of the glare. You have to put the camera right up to the glass, which means no glare, but not the angle you want. #firstworldproblems

I’m pretty sure this is a species of passion flower- my favorite flower!! But not the same species from the states.

Then we drove by Loch Long, and through an amazing little valley of sorts! We got to stop at a little area that was quite beautiful. Argyll Forest Park. 10 minutes? How am I supposed to enjoy the scenery, try to come up with at least one decent picture, explore the little wild plants, and search for wee (that’s twice!) bugs in 10 minutes? Sigh. Also, it looked like a perfect place to have a picnic! But something tells me I’m the only person who packed my own groceries…

This stone says “Rest and Be Thankful”. It was put here by the soldiers who built the road in the mid 1700s! And very true words…

We approached the little white village of Inveraray. Apparently, in the late 1700s, the castle owner wanted the peasants off his grounds so he could expand his gardens (and probably not have to look at all the poor, lowly folk!). So he built them this entire village with every building they needed. The ultimate wealthy person version of “Hey you, kids! Get off my lawn!” #brianshero The driver said we’d have a good view of the castle to the right of the bus. Hey! I on the right! I pressed the phone to the window and started snapping. Then, we drove to the castle, just for a couple of pics. My lord, this thing looked right outta Disney! There was a tour! But no time. I cursed under my breath while we were dropped off in the village for an hour and a half lunch break. Lunch?! But there’s a CASTLE over there! Sigh. I found myself a nice bench on the edge of Loch Fyne, which is a SALTWATER loch, interestingly enough! I didn’t know lochs could be saltwater- it opens right to the ocean. Made myself a peanut butter and banana sandwich, ate some cheese crackers, and had a cookie- all with a better view than anyone who was sitting in a restaurant. Perfect. Then, walked around town.

This is that bridge we drove over where we had the 3.5 second glimpse of the castle!

After town, I decided to walk along the road back to the bridge where we had that first view of the castle. A little sketchy with all the traffic, but I lived. There were some cool birds! Got some nice shots and headed back to the village.

Oystercatcher- I recognize this from Iceland!

Um, why wasn’t I IN that castle?? #bustour

Back on the bus (which after missing the chance to go in that castle, will now be referred to as the sheep wagon!), and off to the next stop- Kilmartin. This was actually kinda two stops in the same area. First, the prehistoric Stone-Henge-esque area. This place dates back about 5000 years ago! It had been covered by a thick layer of peat. When that was removed, the standing stones and burial mounds were found below. Amazing! I’ve done a bit of independent research, and can’t find any firm decision on what they may have been used for. The guide said something about lining up with the solstice, but I can’t find any information on that. What is interesting are those “bowls” carved into the left side. This is called cup and ring, and is found in many places like this, but no one has any idea what the meaning is…I find that so fascinating. It must have had some major importance to them, but now it’s lost forever… Then, we went to some of the burial mounds. Very interesting stuff! What wasn’t so interesting was how people were behaving. There was one burial tomb that you could “lay” in to get a photo. Yeah, I don’t consider desecrating the burial sites of ancient people a “photo op”. I consider it to be disrespectful of the people, the place, and the history. This isn’t an amusement park. Wasn’t a fan of that…

Burial chamber. You can either a) stand there and contemplate what life was like 5000 years ago in this place or b) lay inside like an idiot tourist and have someone take your picture. Oy.

When we were done walking through the fields of history (where sheep now graze!), we headed to Kilmartin village. We had 30 minutes. Decisions, decisions…

Mary with a car would have done everything. Mary with 30 minutes chose the historic gravestones. Ooooooo….good choice!! So there’s a really cool “old” church. Old is in quotes, because this really is the new one. It was opened in 1835, but this site has had churches on it since the 900s!! And the really awesome cemetery outside of the church proves it. Gravestones are there from the 900s!! Let that sink in for a minute! The really old stones have been brought inside of the church to be protected from the elements. And honestly, compared to the stones from the 1800s that are in the cemetery, these are in excellent condition even though they are 900 years older! And they were only brought inside in 1977! Amazing!

This one is from 900. Beautiful Celtic design.

This one is from 1200.

There was more to see outside in the cemetery! A building had been built to protect several large stones. These were medieval slabs that would cover a grave, rather than stand upright like the ones inside the church. They range from the 1200s to the 1700s. Designs include things like swords, hunting, and creatures like lions and unicorns to symbolize royalty. Just so fascinating!

These are the oldest, from the 1200s.

I then went out into the main cemetery. There was such an air of history in the place- looking out over the fields toward the 5000 year old stones and burial chambers, to this more familiar type of burial area that dated back “only” 1000 years. Who knows what is under all of that ground?

The skull and crossbones design on these slabs was really interesting!

Next stop, the Isle of Seil. We were coming here to see a bridge. And not just any bridge- the Clachan bridge. It was built in 1792, and is the oldest bridge built over the Atlantic Ocean! Now, obviously you aren’t driving from here to New York or anything, but this is an island. And the flow of water that looks like a river between the mainland and the island is the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a beautiful bridge, and on one side a fairly rare purple flower called the Fairy Foxglove (Erinus alpinus) grows.

That’s not the only thing interesting about this little island! I’m still learning about Scottish history…but there was a Jacobite uprising in 1745, and the wearing of the kilt was banned! When the men would come back to the island, this little building is where they would remove their trousers (NOT pants!!) and put on the forbidden kilt….Β  History. It’s awesome.

And that was the end of our tour for the day! Last stop would be the town of Oban (pronounced Obin), where we would be staying for the night. You had options to book your own accommodations with this tour, or have them included. Seriously, I have enough to do, so I just made it easy on myself and included them. I figured some little hostel kind of situation or something. People were getting dropped off at a lot of different places around town. Imagine my surprise when we pulled up to an ocean front GORGEOUS stately bed and breakfast named the Corriemar House and my name was called!! YIPPEE!! Oh, it’s so beautiful and antiquey inside!! I had a huge, beautiful room with a bathroom (they call that “en suite”). I’m feeling mighty spoiled by Scotland….

CONTINUE TO DAY 3

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