I’ve been drawing the long straw every time on accommodations. Statistics were mounting in my disfavor, and true to form, I drew the short one last night. Not because of the place itself, although it felt more hotel-like than the last two which were homey. But because of some jack weasel somewhere (not in the hotel, but in a nearby house I think) was playing loud music all. night. long. Finally, it stopped at 5am. I’m not joking. I slept until 6,then was up for good. I decided to just hang in my room and relax instead of going down for breakfast. I had a blueberry muffin and a banana from my pack, got my stuff together, and met the sheep wagon at 9. I’m glad this is the last day. I’m tiring of the bus, and you can feel that the others are as well. Five days of fast travel is tough- even worse when you have no control.
The night’s accommodations.
It was sprinkling, but just barely a breeze. And I could see patches of blue in the distance. The driver put on “Here Comes the Sun”, and as the first few notes started, everyone was laughing and joking that they hoped so! We made one little scenic stop. Then, we made a 30 minute stop at the Falls of Foyers. There was a perfect little sun-dappled path through the most magnificent trees. The kind of path that leads to something magical. I was 6th off the bus, so I had people ahead of me. We got to a T in the trail. They all headed left. I stopped to ponder- follow my herd, or stray? And while I pondered, I heard a cat. Not just any cat, a cat in distress! It was the same mournful/frantic sound my cat made when he was stuck in a tree for three days. I heard it again. The sound was coming from the right. And again. I had to see if I could find him! There was no one going that way (everyone passing me was going left). I took off to the right. I crossed a bridge (that I’m quite certain is the home of a troll) and walked down the path, ears alert for meows. I didn’t go very far, until a saw a darling little cat running down the trail frantically meowing at me! His tone changed when he saw me and he started rubbing on my legs as I petted him and asked if he was lost. He didn’t feel skinny, and he was sooooo friendly! It’s almost like he was expecting me, and made that distress call knowing it would get my attention. As I petted and talked to him, some other people started walking toward us. The little cat ran up the trail and looked back. The lady bent down to coax him over, but he just turned his tail and ran away. Do fairy kings ever take on the form of a cat??
I’m sure they do, and that was the fairy King answering my prayers about the weather from day 4! The skies were blue, the sun was out, and the air was just crisp enough to make your skin feel alive. I headed off down the trail to see the Falls of Foyers. Snapped a few shots, then headed off down the other way. The cat was no where in sight, but this place, for me, had felt the most magical by far. I can’t explain it. The waterfall, the trees, the cliffs, the paths. I don’t know. Some feelings you never have an answer to “why” for.
The drive through the countryside was wonderful!! Super narrow, winding roads through trees and hills, past dark lochs and hidden magic. You could feel it. Next stop, a scenic view of Loch Ness from the opposite side! I was THRILLED, because I forgot to take a video about it for my class yesterday! I almost picked up a rock as a souvenir, but decided against it.
These cows were running as fast as they could down this hillside! I like to think it was for the sheer joy of this place. I’m guessing food may have played a role, however. 😉
Then, we went somewhere I knew nothing about. The Culloden battlefield. It’s where the Jacobites (remember, they’re the followers of the disposed King James VII of Scotland, II of England who was replaced by Mary and William in the history lesson on day 3. 🙂 ) There was an AMAZING museum, and I don’t say that lightly, about what led up to the battle, the battle itself, the aftermath, and relics. The story was so fascinating, although I didn’t have time to give it justice. I did take pictures of every single sign though (I’m not kidding- EVERY sign- dozens of them), so I can go back and read all of the information. There was a letter that Bonnie Prince Charles wrote to his uncle… Louis XV of France (I got tears in my eyes!) …asking him for help. From what I could read, it looks like Louis XV promised help, and did send supplies. But he never invaded England and sent troops as promised. I was disappointed in Louis about that… The battlefield itself was very somber and quite emotional for me. The only other place in the world where I’ve ever felt a real “connection” on some primal level to the history is France. I cry all the time there when I see certain things (like how I teared up when I saw that letter to Louis). Can’t explain it. This battlefield now marks the 2nd country where I’ve felt this strong connection. The history there was palpable. The red flags represented the English lines. The blue, the Jacobites. No big history lesson, because without a ton of proper research I would not do this story justice. So I’m just going to tell you this- the Jacobites were practically massacred. 1500-2000 were killed, versus 300 British in the battle that lasted less than an hour. Scotland had fallen to the English, and I seriously can not tell you the anger I felt toward England. Look, if you’re English, my apologies. But there is something inside of me that just does NOT like England in a historical sense. Again, it’s a feeling that makes zero sense and I can’t explain it. It’s like I have some pent up grudge against them. I don’t know… Anyway, the wearing of kilts was banned, which ties in with the house we saw by the bridge in Day 2 where the Jacobites would change into their trousers before they left the Isle of Seil, and back into their kilts when they came back home. It tied up the loose ends of seeing the Flora MacDonald monument on Skye from Day 4- she was the lady who helped Bonnie Prince Charles (leader of the Jacobite army) escape Scotland and get to the safety of France. And it tied up the cairn and grave of another Scottish hero, Roderick Mackenzie, from Day 5- who looked so much like Bonnie Prince Charles, that he basically sacrificed himself to the English so the real Prince Charles would have more time to escape. I could have easily spent 2-3 hours there, but I only had an hour and 15 minutes. I really needed this history lesson. It’s been too many days since I really learned something. MY GOD. The entire trip just clicked for me on this battlefield. Scenery and such is nice. But HISTORY is alive!! For me, the 5 day bus tour ended here. The rest, was fluff.
Bonnie Prince Charlie. The collection of items here was wonderful!
So emotional for me. A handwritten letter from Prince Charles to King Louis XV of France, requesting much needed aid from France to fight off the English.
They were having a weapons demonstration. I NEEDED MORE TIME!!!
Blue flag for the Jacobites. Even the wind was blowing the flag in a defeated kind of position. 🙁 I tried and tried to get a shot of it flowing freely, and couldn’t.
The red flag is for the English. Even the flag is waving victoriously, almost 300 years later.
The engraving on this bench broke. my. heart. Translated from Gaelic, it reads “We followed you, prince, to this ocean of flatness and bullets.” The red flag in the background…gutted.
Stones representing the various clans that fought in the battle are placed throughout the battlefield.
A cairn to the memory of the lost Jacobite soldiers.
Then it was lunch time in Aviemore. A little over an hour here, and no museum or anything. I didn’t even take a picture. Went and paid 50p to use the bathroom, then sat on the bench by the bus stop, blogging, chatting with Brian, and eating my picnic lunch. I’m seriously ready to be off the bus and in control of my own destiny again.
It was an hour drive to the next stop. On the way, we passed gorgeous green hills covered in dark colored Heather plants. They bloom twice a year (not in June!). My middle name is Heather, after that flower. We did make a quick photo stop at Blair castle. Queen Victoria and Albert spent their honeymoon here!
Next stop, the charming little town of Pitlochry. We had an hour here, and I spent every bit of it at the Pitlochry Dam visitor center (which is very well done and tells the history of the dam and electricity production) and, the highlight- the fish ladder they built for salmon so they could get over the dam! And the best part?? I SAW A REAL WILD SALMON!! I’ve never seen one in the wild, and I’m a total fish geek (marine biology degree), so my excitement and squeal of delight could be lost on you. 🙂
A real, live SALMON in the fish ladder!!
The last stop of our trip was to some bridges that go across some river and are apparently important somehow. Anything after 1800 bores me to tears, so I snapped a couple of pics out of a sense of obligation, but quickly reboarded the bus. Soon, we were pulling in to Edinburgh. I got my bag out of the back of the bus, and walked the .6 miles to my AirBNB- the same one I stayed at on my first night here. It was nice to walk into something familiar.
As tired as I was, this was one of the best days for me. I’m writing this a couple of days after the fact, and the feelings of connection to that battlefield still haven’t left me. A few months ago, I did one of those DNA tests (I’m adopted, long story, read the El Salvador journal
if you want more information). I didn’t even pay much attention to the ancestor countries at the time, because that wasn’t what I was looking for. However, I felt compelled to go back and look. I already knew that I have French bloodlines (I found this out long, long after my love affair with French History began). And there it was. 12% Irish/Scottish/Wales. I’m going to Ireland next (funny thing, I grew up thinking I was a lot more Irish than I really am!), and it will be interesting to see if I feel any connection there.
For people who have put in their 2 cents about me being on a 5 day bus tour, and how you can’t expect to experience anything that way, um, yeah. Have a seat, please. Experiences are based on connections, emotions, attitude…not transportation. I had plenty of wonderful experiences that I would never had had if not for this bus tour! Is it my preferred mode of transport? No. Not by a longshot. I’ve never traveled like this before. But it is one I can utilize when necessary, and I won’t be made to feel guilty for that. That said, I was happy when we pulled into Edinburgh. The girl from Turkey that I sat next to on the bus for 5 days, ate lunch with once, and had a few conversations with….yeah, I don’t even know her name. If you knew me, that wouldn’t surprise you. (Brian was like, “Yeah, that’s you!”). I wasn’t there for companionship. I travel solo because I am comfortable and confident with myself. I value my “me” time to soak in the things I am seeing and learning with minimal distractions. Of course, I love traveling with Brian as well and can’t wait until we are in Malta together next month! But it’s different when you’re solo. And different isn’t bad.