Despite still reeling from the fun of the Paddywagon tour in Ireland, we backed it up just days later with a tour with Scottish equivalent, Wild in Scotland. The 'Highlands and Orkney' tour took us far north of Edinburgh and into the Orkney Islands in the northern most part of the UK, and about as far away from home as we'd get for the trip. While we booked this one despite no recommendations from anyone, our hopes were high. These hopes also came despite the fact an Aussie from our Paddywagon group had done the same tour only a couple of weeks prior, giving it, and more especially the young new tour guide, a less than favourable report card. Within moments of meeting our tour guide we realised it was the same one, but given she now had six tours under her belt, we hoped she'd be on the improve!
Our first stop was the William Wallace monument just outside Stirling, where in the miserable summer weather we stood in a circle and introduced ourselves, with Aussies again being the flavour of the tour, save for some Belgian and Swiss exceptions amongst the 16 on tour. We next stopped to meet the famous Hamish the Highland Bull. At first a bit shy, allowing his smaller paddock buddies to munch on the offers of vegetables from our group, Barry performed some kind of magical animal speak and drew him out for some tasty raw carrot.
We stopped at the first of innumerable lochs seen on the trip for a tranquil bite of lunch that provided us with almost every season within 20 minutes. Soon after we had made it to the great valleys and spectacular scenery of the highlands, made further daunting by the misty, overcast weather that is seen on around 300 or more days per year. While our next stop could be summed up as simply a walk up an unnamed mountain, it was made all the more amazing to look around and think hundreds of years ago, people without the modern comforts of today would live in and put up with such harsh, rugged conditions in such a climate, which obviously included snow in the colder months.
Another quick stop was made at a monument in the Highlands erected in honour of all commandos who died in WW2, the significance being the majority of such highly skilled commandos did their arduous training on that very turf to prepare them for the toughest missions and conditions of war. We ended a long first day with a brief stop at Loch Ness and Urqhart Castle before heading to our lodging for the night at the Loch Ness Backpackers, just outside the small town of Drumnadrochit.
A drink with dinner became all a bit much for Korean tour member Moon, who had invested in two Duvel's (8.5% Belgian beers) and a four pack of Guiness. After just the first Duvel he found himself struggling to keep it together, announcing he'd never been so drunk before. This was good news for the other boys who got to drink his surplus!
A brief visit to a local pub saw our tour group improve the ratio of girls about five fold, much to the locals liking!