Sadly, today was our third and final day in the Highlands of Scotland with Rabbie’s Tour. It seems like twice an hour we turn to each other and say, “I’m so glad we decided to do this tour!” We have learned so much and had an overall more rich experience because we did this with an expert. Rabbie’s (or another tour of its kind) is definitely the way to go for anyone out there thinking of taking trip to the Highlands.
The day greeted us with clear blue skies and loads of sunshine, something we aren’t terribly used to here in Scotland. We began with a drive down from Portree into the heart of the Cuillin Hills. There are two major parts of these, one is called the Red Cuillins and the other is the Black Cuillins. Like everything in Scotland, there is a legend about why these hills look the way they do presently. It is a bit too long and involved to share here, and I really couldn’t do it justice by trying to write it out anyway. Suffice it to say, it had everything to do with a battle between an arrogant giant and an Amazonian woman, both too prideful to admit defeat to one another. Of course they ultimately fell in love, but that is neither here nor there. The rigidity of the top of the hills is said to be made from their hacking away at one another in battle.
The history of Scotland is steeped in legends of this kind, but occasionally there are true stories to go along with them. In this case, Doug told us of a young gurkha from Nepal who visited the Highlands. When he stopped in for an orange juice at a local pub he was ridiculed for not drinking whiskey. He explained to the man that he was not in Scotland to drink, he was there to visit their beautiful hills. The man replied with disbelief, “Hills? Those are no hills, those are mountains. It would take me all day to climb to the top and back down again.” The man from India was amused and replied, “That is no mountain. I could make it to the top and back in less than an hour.” The Highlander believed this man to be a liar, trying to make a fool out of him, so the gurkha decided to show him. He took off his shoes and socks and began running up the hill. He made it up and back in 59 minutes. Amazed the Highlander insisted they share a whiskey together. As they sipped, a man from another clan walked in and when he was told about this amazing feat, he didn’t believe it for a minute. The two Scots began to argue and it looked as though a fight was going to break out. The gurkha, wanting to avoid a fight, jumped between them and said he would prove it. Again, he took off his socks and shoes and ran up the hill and back down. This time, it only took him 58 minutes! This all took place in 1902, but years later the story inspired the locals to begin a race up this same hill. The Glamaig Hill Race draws hundreds of runners each summer. Of course, they run with shoes and socks, but the record time for this 4.5 mile, 2500 foot run is 44 minutes and 27 seconds. We failed to get a picture of the hill. To see what it looks like, click here. Pretty impressive!
There are tons of stories centered upon the Highlands, both truth and legend. We were also told the story of the Sisters of Kintail. To make a very long story short, these 5 sisters were waiting for 5 brothers who were supposed to come for them from Ireland. They waited so long, their father was worried they would lose their beauty. He enlisted the help of a seer, who turned them into mountains so they would be beautiful for all eternity. And they really are spectacular. In fact, this may be the most beautiful part we saw in the Highlands. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the fall colors are in full effect, the sun was shining bright and the weather was wonderfully mild. We have taken some amazing photos here in Scotland, but the ones looking out on the 5 Sisters of Kintail are my favorite.
We continued to wind our way down toward Edinburgh. We made a quick stop to see some “Hairy Coos”. These long-haired cows are everywhere, and they look so much different from the ones most of us are used to seeing at home that we decided it was worth a short photo stop. We then made the obligatory stop in Loch Ness, where we were told of some strange and unusual happenings, but none of us was inspired enough to swim in the loch or even go on a boat ride trying to find Nessie. Instead, we had a leisurely lunch with some new friends. As I have already said, one of the best parts of Rabbie’s tours is the small group size. We only had 14 people in our group, plus our guide, Doug. This allowed for some great time with everyone and we met some really great people. We found ourselves spending much of our time with Melissa and Crystal, two women from Minneapolis (though Crystal now lives in London). We had tons in common and are all excited to have made new friends. We are already toying with the idea of another trip together, or at least a meet-up in our respective home cities.
Alas, we had to say goodbye to the Highlands, goodbye to Crystal and Melissa, and goodbye to Doug and his myriad stories which lasted to the moment we arrived in Edinburgh. We absolutely loved this tour and we are now considering finding something similar on our next stop in Argentina. We have one more day in Scotland and we will be sad to leave it. This 10 day country stop has certainly met and even exceeded our expectations. We can certainly see ourselves coming back here someday. Until then, slàinte mhath!