After the Loch Ness cruise, we stopped at the Commando Monument which is a war memorial and one of Scotland’s most recognizable monuments. Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain, can be seen from this area. It was a little too cloudy to be able to see the top of Ben Nevis when we were there though. I attempted to take some pictures, but they don’t do justice to the beauty of the dramatic landscape! This is fairly close to the town of Glencoe, where the massacre of the MacDonalds by the Campbells is said to have happened. Apparently there are some pubs in the Highlands with signs on the door that read, “Campbells not welcome,” or “MacDonalds only.”
Thursday morning, we all went on a cruise of Loch Ness. Before the boat left the dock, there was a typical safety announcement, except they said to leave your whiskey behind in case of emergency. Keep in mind that this was at 10 AM! They actually had liquor available at the bar that early! It was nice and sunny, but very cold on the top deck. Unfortunately, none of us spotted Nessie. . .
We arrived in Inverness in the Scottish Highlands late afternoon/early evening on Wednesday. Our hotel was within stumbling distance of several pubs, so we all went out after dinner. The first place had live, traditional Scottish music. The second place was a karaoke bar. It was a pretty fun night, but I didn’t take any pictures I can post here. . . I’m not sure what is more disturbing: the amount of whiskey I drank, or the fact that I didn’t have a hangover the next morning!
Before our lunch stop in Pitlochry on Wednesday, we visited the Blair Athol distillery. We got to tour the factory and learn about the production of whiskey. This used to be a small distillery, but demand has grown so much that they now produce whiskey on a 24/7 cycle. They have a warehouse that stores 40 million barrels of whiskey but have now outgrown that and are adding a warehouse that can store an additional 10 million barrels! After the tour, we got to try a 12 year old single malt aged in a sherry oak barrel. It was a little spicy with a vanilla finish. Drinking whiskey before lunch is starting to become a trend!
We had some free time in the town of St Andrews on Wednesday morning. We started out on the eastern side of town, near the ruins of a cathedral, and worked our way west on the coast toward the golf course. On the way to the golf course, we saw the ruins of a castle, St Andrews University, and the British Golf Museum. It was a beautiful day, but very windy! In the lobby of the British Golf Museum, there are statues of the grips of different golfers.
After The Whiskey Experience, I made my way down the Royal Mile, stopping at St Giles’ Cathedral and The Real Mary King’s Close before ending up at Holyrood Palace. In The Real Mary King’s Close tour, you get a tour of Mary King’s Close and a couple of other nearby closes which are all underground. The tour guide dresses in 16th century attire and assumes the identity of someone from that time period. Our tour guide was someone who cleaned the houses of people affected by the plague. It was very cool to be able to walk through these underground closes and houses, although a bit spooky as well! It also gave you quite a good idea of what daily life was like for people back then. After The Real Mary King’s Close tour, I continued down the Royal Mile past the ultra-modern Scottish parliament building to Holyrood Palace. I only took pictures from the outside, as it was almost closing time when I arrived.
After visiting Edinburgh Castle and some souvenir shopping, I went to The Whiskey Experience which is conveniently located on the Royal Mile, very close to the castle. The Whiskey Experience is a tourist attraction where you go on a Disney-like barrel ride while learning about the production of Scottish whiskey, then a tour guide tells you about the types of whiskies from the different regions of Scotland, and most importantly, you get to drink whiskey! You also get to take home a nosing glass as a free souvenir. The Whiskey Experience is home to the world’s largest whiskey collection – almost 3,500 bottles! The pictures of the whiskey bottles below are only a small part of the collection. I felt a little strange about drinking whiskey at what was technically late morning, but I wanted to go and I would have had to do a lot of backtracking to do it later. Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do!