“Good morning, what would you like for starters?”
I’ve heard this for seven days and now I don’t. The reason? I’m back home from vacation. I had a 10 day journey through Scotland and here I will tell you more. No boring photoshoot with ten pictures of the same hill and, “oh look, another sheep!” So let’s start.
It began with an idea of studying abroad. Yes, adventurous, but no, not for me. For different reasons I didn’t do it, so my lovely boyfriend Tom cheered me up to look for a vacation at the other side of the English Channel. The choice became a 10 day excursion to Schotland by bus, arranged by Bolderman. Everything was arranged: the bus with all the facilities of coffee and drinks, enough stops to stretch our long Dutch legs, beautiful views, hotels were fine and the (local) food was really good! Most of all, what made this excursion a real journey, was our bus driver Marleen. This wonderful woman was not only our driver, but she was our guide and was even better than a paper guide about Scotland. She knew everything and she talked like she was a Scottish woman herself.
So, on August 10, we went by bus from our place Zwolle to the transfer in Beek. After we got the right bus that would bring us to Scotland, I hoped to get some sleep because we started early that day. But that didn’t happen until we drove the first few miles on English lands.
Among the 51 passengers, we lowered the average age of 50+, because we were one of the two ‘young couples’. There were also three kids of 10, 12 and 16. Kids on a bus? Really, they were the sweetest kids I have ever met. The brother and sister of 10 and 12 played well together and made no loud noises whatsoever.
After we took the ferry at Calais that would bring us to Dover, I was in heaven. Finally I was able to go to Geat Brittain! Yes, it was my first time, so every view of road signs, driving on the left and the first hills and sheeps, I was happier than ever. But like I said, I was able to sleep because we were at my destination: GB. The first night we spend in this hotel in Rugby, England, before we drove al the miles to Scotland. We had our dinner at 8.30 pm local time, a late one, but our first meeting with the local British kitchen. The next day we followed our way through the Lake District; more hills, more sheep. The most lovely view, I thought, were the old stone fences that divided the green hills. A sheep here and there, some old cottages: perfect.
Then, finally, we arrived in Scotland. It was a long road and the hills became higher, so my ears began to hurt. After Aberfoyle, a little place, we had to take a 45 minute road, but not a very straight one. It was small and curvy, with a lake on one side and rocks on the other. Adventurous indeed. Our hotel in Inversnaid, the Inversnaid hotel, was a small palace that looked over Loch Lomond. Everything was well arranged. They called us when we had breakfast or dinner, everyday a three-course meal with local food. The crew was friendly and every evening there was some enternainment. The hotel was surrounded by beautiful nature. Behind the hotel were some waterfalls and nearby was the cave of Rob Roy, the Scottish Robin Hood (you can find him in the book by Sir Walter Scott). Some days we took the bus, over the 45-minute road, to go on excursions, but some days we took the small Loch Lomond ‘ferry’s’ to go to the other side of the loch. But also there, the roads were curvy and small, so one time our coach (bus) couldn’t go any further because there was another coach that blocked the road. Can you imagine, in a curve two huge busses that cannot take that curve? Rocks on the one side of the road and a glen (valley) with the lake on the other. We moved back, he moved forth, he moved back, we moved forth… Eventually, without any scratches (I hope) we could move along.
Bolderman had some great excursions booked for us, but Marleen had her connections herself. From The Netherlands we took a Scottish girl to get her home and in Edinburgh a Dutch woman was our guide for a while. We drove to Killin to see the Falls of Dochart, went to Oban (and ate a scone!), seen castles (like the one in Inveraray, where we also saw the duchess!) and castle ruins, we saw Fort William (where the Harry Potter train leaves, but sadly when we were there it was out of order…) and went to the highest mountain of Scotland: Ben Nevis. We drove through Glencoe, sailed on Loch Katrine and… drank whisky at Tullibardine! We went to Edinburgh, with all the festivals (I didn’t got any time to get to the Book Festival :(), so enough to see. The excursion that Marleen arranged was to the Innerpeffray Library! This was the first lending library in Scotland. It has a beautiful collection of some historic books, like atlases, dictionaries, poetry books… Some with a leather cover and some with covers of animal skin, before the leather like we know was used. We were allowed to touch the books and to read them. A volunteer told me that the Drummond family (the founders) wanted that everyone had access to books. Now, even the old books (some were from 1500), we may touch with bare hands. The famous white gloves can cause damage to the edges of the papers, so bare hands are allowed (yay!)
On the roads to our hotel and to the places we were to see, Marleen was our talking paper guide (as mentioned before). She knew a lot of history of the kings and battles with England, she knew stories and myths about clans fighting (like the battle that killed McDonald in Glencoe) and she had a song about it. We also heard (and learned) some other Scottish folk songs like Flower of Scotland, Scotland the Brave (with a lot of bagpipes), the sentimental song Loch Lomond and the best song: Caledonia. Caledonia is the Roman name of Scotland, but the Romans never had Scotland in their empire. The Hadrian Wall was the border.
The 9th day we drove back to England, where we had a hotel near London Gatwick Airport and the next day we drove back home. It felt like we were more than two weeks in Scotland, we saw so much! Also, who told us that Scotland has so much rain? We had 5 days of sun and there fell a bit of water out of the clouds that we couldn’t even name ‘rain’ ;)
I often think back to the moments we drove through the beautiful Scottish nature with the Scottish songs playing… Scotland feels like home now.
“Caledonia you’re calling me…”