29 August 2008

Loch, Stock, and Two Fingers of Scotch

"Give me but one hour of Scotland, Let me see it ere I die."
- William Edmondstoune Aytoun, Scottish poet/writer (1813-1865)

Nine hours by bus. We should have taken the train, but the bus was much cheaper. London to Edinburgh via the overnight coach. A contortionist's dream. For a 6´5˝ clown, a cramped and brutal nightmare. I couldn't get comfortable, couldn't fully stretch out, and on a bus I feel obligated to not get up and move around, as I like to do on a train if I'm feeling stiff. It was a long, tiring journey.

We arrived in Edinburgh, checked into a small back alley hostel, and immediately began medicating the kinks with Tennents & Scotch. We tooled around Edinburgh for a couple days, partying with fellow travelers, wandering the old streets, and then it was up to Inverness. I had a longing to gaze upon Loch Ness, that mysterious body of water that had conjured up so many hours of wonder, fear and intrigue in my imagination as a young boy. Even the name sounded ominous to me. We stayed at a comfortable B&B in Inverness and made our way down to the Loch.

I was suitably impressed. The Highlands of northern Scotland are a beautiful, rugged, rough country. Cold and hard in February, the trees barren and gnarled, but the land still lush and green. The wind sliced through our jackets and we could feel the tail end of winter in it's icy fingers. Loch Ness had small white caps on its surface and the sky was harsh and grey. 23 miles long and a mile across, because of it's great depth the Loch holds more water than all the lakes and rivers in England and Wales put together. Due to it's high peat content, the visibility of the water can be as little as four inches. Just a few feet from the shore and the earth abruptly drops away to depths of 90 feet or more. The deepest part, "Edwards Deep," is estimated at 787 feet below the surface. We wandered through the remains of the 11th-century Urquhart Castle for a while, then, as a few small flakes of snow began to swirl and the afternoon deepened towards twilight, decided to head back to Inverness to sit in front of a fire and warm up with a little bit of Glen Ord 12-year Single Malt & some Caledonian 80/- (a wonderfully hoppy red-brown ale).

We never did catch a glimpse of the monster.
KJT - Urquhart Castle & Loch Ness, Scotland (1996)


Lara said...

Coolness ... I've been to that castle. Everyone else in the 50-or-so person tour group decided to take the boat across Loch Ness but I stayed behind (along with the bus driver) and had a grand time exploring the ruins.

When the group got back, they had a cumulative tale of woe about how they had to huddle behind the deck trying to keep warm in the way-too-cold breeze on the water.

They didn't see the monster, either.

Thanks for bringing back that memory.

KJT said...

Too bad Nessie's so shy. I'd love it if there was a monster.

Aren't memories great? You always carry them around with you, to open and ponder over whenever you please. Suddenly you're transported right back to wherever.

: )