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Adventures of a short vet

New group, new adventure

UNITED KINGDOM | Monday, 30 August 2010 | Views [449]

I’d decided to take a 5-day bus tour as it seemed the cheapest and easiest way of getting a look at a large area of Scotland in a short period of time. Although my pet hate about organized tours is being in large groups and being rushed through tourist spots, I’d decided this was a good way to get an overview of a country I’m hoping to work in as soon as winter is over.

Luckily our group of 18 people wasn’t too big and we were ushered onto a space-ship of a bus by two crazy looking Scots dressed in kilts. It wasn’t long until it felt as if we’d just kidnapped a couple of comedians from the festival – the guys were hilarious, and full of folklore tales as well as terrible jokes. Though it could be a bit unnerving to sit behind our bus driver, Neil, who would periodically mutter, “Danger danger!” or “Don’t crash the bus, don’t crash the bus” or, my favorite line directed to oncoming small cars, “Imminent death! Not for me, for you!”

We started our trip north with a visit to The Hermitage: a forest of both native and alien trees planted as a gift to the 2nd Duke of Atholl from his nephew in the 18th century and is now owned by the National Trust. We walked to Ossian's Hall, a small hut built to honour the blind bard Ossian and overlooking the Black Linn Falls, with a glass door and special domed ceiling to improve the acoustics of the room and thus take in the serenity of the waterfall and surrounding forest.

After a short stop in the town of Pitlochry, our extra guide Craig regaled us with the first of many tales of epic battles between the English and the Scots whilst standing on the Garry Bridge in Killiecrankie, jumping off the road every time we yelled out “Car”.

We stopped at the ruins of the Ruthven Barracks before visiting another battleground, that of Culloden, the last great battlefield in the UK where the Scots made an epic charge on the English during the Jacobite uprising (we heard a lot about the Jacobites).

Our final stop before ending the day in Dores was a visit to the famous Loch Ness, where a select few crazy people decided to take a quick swim. Having swum in a lake when there was snow on the mountains in NZ, I decided to give it a miss this time. Judging by the screams of the brave swimmers, I’d made a wise decision. I’d love to come back and kayak around the lake though, maybe trawling with some bait for Nessie.

We spent the night at our first hostel in the town of Dores where the group started to get to know each other a bit better over some good pub food and even better beer. With 4 Kiwis and 2 Aussies, the Antipodeans were well represented on the trip.

Tags: culloden, loch ness, scotland, the hermitage

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