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Friday, January 11, 2013

Europe CNY 2012 - Day 7 - Scottish Highlands

"Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to reform." - Mark Twain

***

Previous post: Balderdash: Links - 10th January 2013

Europe CNY 2012
Day 7 - 25th January - Scottish Highlands


In the brochures at the hostel, there was information about the tour in many languages - but not in English!

It took longer than expected to get to the pickup point for the tour, so I popped into a cab for the last leg. In the end I scrambled up the bus with a few minutes to spare.

Our tour had 600km of driving - in one day.

There was a highway sign saying horse drawn vehicles were not allowed. Hurr. Another said "Free Recovery. Await Rescue"

The guide described Henry VIII chasing Mary Queen of Scots as a "period of rough wooing". Turns out that is a common term in the literature.

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Linlithgow Palace, where Mary Queen of Scotts was born, through the trees
The French said her first husband, the Dauphin, died of an ear infection. The guide said it was due to a STD.
The Scots call her "Mary Queen of Tragedy"

We also passed Stirling Castle, but I didn't manage to get a picture.

In 2010, Doune Castle rented out 3,500 coconut shells. It is of course the Monty Python Castle.

We had a rest stop at Trossachs Woollen Mill.

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Hamish the Cow sign. He's a Highland Cow.

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No Hamish

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On Hamish. Of course he wasn't there in January.

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This day, 25th January, was special. It was Burns Night! Burns Night Special: "Raspberry Cranachan", a "traditional Scottish dessert, cream, oatmeal, honey, whiskey and Scottish raspberries... served with the finest Scottish shortbread"

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Misleading sign on Hamish.
Also: "Discounted goods highlighted in this branch have been on sale at the higher marked price within at least one of our outlets for 28 days within the past 6 months." Ahh, consumer protection! Well, I can think of ways to game the system but at least there is a guarantee of sorts!

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Highlands

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Everything had been on sale at Trossachs so I got this "suede look classic" for £6. I still haven't worn it.

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Loch Lubnaig

There're 2 words for valley in Scots: strath (gentle) and glen (steep).

In 2010/2011 Scotland had its coldest weather in 30 years. At this time it was the warmest in 270 (since records were kept). There wasn't enough snow to ski. However some time after I left it became very cold.

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NOT the Harry Potter railway
It used to be a rail line but there were too many rockfalls. Now it's a foot/cycle path.

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Mountains

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Loch Tulla

Usually you can see a lot of deer. This time 4 were spotted but I missed them.

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More Lochs

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The red stuff on the ground is heather. It's different in summer.
3 weeks before this day there were winds blowing at more than 100 miles per hour.

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Panorama of Highlands

The next stop was Glencoe, site of a famous 1692 massacre.

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We were only 100m above sea level.

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Glencoe


Glencoe Panorama

There is no law of trespass in Scotland. So anyone can camp for 2 months in the same place just 50m from a residence.

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Scot Beach, Atlantic Ocean

Next was a rest stop at Fort William.

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"The Spirit of Scotland. Whiskey Shop... Water of Life"
Uhh
It seems "whiskey" has similar etymology to "eau de vie" (water of life)

According to the guide, the record for whiskey samples on one of his tours was 18 - an Australian girl.

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Apparently you need license to let people under 18 be *present* in the premises

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"The Smallest Bottle of Whiskey in the World"

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"Scotland's Heather Cream Liqueur"
This was like weak Bailey's

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Several shelves of fun size liquor bottles

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Alcohol for girls

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"Traditional favourites now being served. Sweet & Sour Chicken served with Rice & Prawn Crackers"

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I don't know "gateau & cakes"

Beside the rest stop was a castle which we got to explore.

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Inverlochy Castle

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Public and Private

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Ruined Turret

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On the castle

It was built pre-gunpowder in 1280.

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Windows, arrow slit

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Fort William has the highest mountain in the UK, Ben Nevis. A mountain with cloud cover, so in 2011 the guide saw its peak only 9 times.

Inverness (a nearby city) means "mouth of the river Ness".

Even in 1740 only 30-35% of Scotland spoke Gaellic as a first language. Now it's 3-4%.

Fort George is the sole post-Jacobite rebellion fort remaining. In 50 years 75% of the highland population was shipped out and there were a lot of harsh laws.

We then reached Loch Ness. It was lunch time. Those not going on a cruise of Loch Ness could enjoy a leisurely lunch but I had to have takeway - at a takeaway run by Turks but which served pork. The takeaway was very cheap especially considering the location - £5,50 for Haddock fish and chips (though it was inferior to cod). Hot food was not allowed in the ship cabin so I ate it outside and finished it just before leaving.

I could've paid in SGD at the shop. The market rate was 1.97 but they offered 2.05. I think credit card was better.

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"Nessie does exist... well at least she did back in 1938, according to secret Government papers released today"
Konspirasi!

The cruise ship was very well equipped:

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Sonar to look for the Loch Ness monster

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Heading out

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St Augustine Abbey, a former fort

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Choppy waters


Cruising Loch Ness
The water is black because of peat

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[Sailboats are] "Like a woman the rigging costs more than the hull"

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Loch Ness was huge. However it was not the biggest loch by either surface area or depth (it was by volume). It had more water than England and Wales, and was 900 feet deep (one drills 480 feet for oil in the sea).

The first sighting of the Loch Ness monster was in 565AD by St Columba.


Explaining their equipment. The red screen on the left shows the results of the life detector, which you need. Even in summer there is 3 feet visibility in the water.

There're huge ferocious fish here, e.g. Ferox Trout (Latin for Ferocious, it's cannibalistic too). The staff have seen a pike taking down a seagull, then another summer a pike ate ducklings.

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How detailed their sonar is

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On the right side is the entrance to Cory's Cave (grey stone)

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Feral goats

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Nessie sighting!

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The bar was extremely cheap: £1 for a canned soft drink.

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Returning to berth

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Swans, Ducks

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Berth

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Locks for the Loch

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Girls playing with Nessie wire sculpture

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Nessie wire sculpture

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UK English is better than Australian English but I still saw mistakes (I saw a few other examples but we were in a hurry so I couldn't snap records). And how do you enforce this parking fee where only the first 15 minutes are free?!

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Nessie Plushies

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Mario Crisps

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"Scottish Lasses". Those are VERY smooth legs.

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A problematic ad for Aran knitwear. If you use Cashmere wool, then you can't proclaim it to be authentically Scottish anymore.

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War Memorial

4 Spaniards didn't go on the Loch Ness cruise (makes one wonder why they came on the tour, then) so we drove them up to it.

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Loch Ness

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Supposedly Christianity is in Scotland because of the Loch Ness Monster (I can't find a story on that) so there's a saying in Scotland: if you believe in Christianity you believe in Ness. I agree - both come from the same magical thinking.

The guide pointed out a red telephone box in the middle of nowhere, around hills and heather. There'd been 7 calls in 2 years made using it (he'd checked with the phone company). It did email and texting as well.

The guide tried to sell Scotland to us: the last sighting of bears was 800 years ago. Bears and wolves had been eaten up. There were no spiders either, so there was nothing dangerous. Well, except exposure I suppose.

There are 97 distilleries in Scotland.

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Dog plushie

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I don't know why I took this. Perhaps because their idea of being "in a hurry" is having food that's ready in 15 minutes.

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"Kampong Ali" Malaysian restaurant

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Edinburgh Castle

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Irn Bru
According to our guide, it was a cure all (outselling Coke which is very rare for a local soft drink - must be Scottish Patriotism, not taste). So I tried killing my cough with it.
It was quite blah. So blah I left it at the hostel reception because it wasn't good enough to remember to take back.

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"On this site Sept 5, 1782 nothing happened"

I was talking to a Korean girl in the room until past 9, so 2 pubs didn't serve food anymore. Since it was Burns Night I was looking for Haggis - and 1 pub had run out of it. However the fourth (the last in a row) answered my prayers.

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Haggis
Vaguely meaty and quite sticky but not disgusting, it was quite spicy and a bit nutty. It wasn't particularly tasty though.
I wanted to try Cranachan but I was full.

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Vegetarian Haggis. WTF
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