The land of Macbeth, William Wallace and Bonnie Prince Charlie. Tasty treats of neeps, tatties, tablet and Haggis. In the middle of summer, I escaped from the heat of London to the rainy days of Scotland. It was one of the best decisions I could have made. Even though it’s not far from England, Scotland is a world of its own. Here are some of the sights and experiences I had throughout the cities, highlands and isles.
Newtonmore Highland Folk Village—Some people find folk villages boring and a waste of time. I did too, when I was a teenager, but at that age you think that about everything. Now I am absolutely fascinated by them. When we pulled into the parking lot I almost busted down the door as soon as I heard that an episode of Outlander had been filmed here. The first part of the village is a few buildings with variously positioned items to show the way the Highlanders would have worked and lived from the 1700s-1960s. There was a school house, which I was scared out of by a yelling teacher. I thought he was going to beat me with a cane if I didn’t sit down for his lesson on proper manners. Being the adult I am, I giggled and ran the opposite way. My hide is still intact. Down a road, surrounded by a small forest, you can find the second part of the village. This section, the one Outlander was filmed in (Season 1), has homes from the 1700s. Inside are peat burning fires, dirt and very little light. A wonderful woman dressed the part, told us about how Highlanders of the time would live and work. She also warned us to stay away from the ducks because they attack. If you like seeing the way people of the past lived, this is a must.
Invermoriston Forest (aka Neverland Forest)
It’s rumoured that the Invermoriston forest is what J.M Barrie based Neverland off of. Makes sense: it is a magical green fantasy land. The best part of the forest is the history behind it. A royal, who owned the land, wanted to create his very own forest to hunt in. So he loaded a canon full of seeds and saplings and fired it off. The trees landed where they did and still remain there today. This explains why large trees have tipped over and been uprooted, because their roots were never properly planted. The forest is a bit small, but there is a waterfall that you can view from a stone bridge and a small summer “cottage” you can see the falls from. (By cottage, I mean a stone hut.)
Loch Ness & Nessie
It’s a lake, a very large lake, or as the Scots like to call it, a loch. Make sure to get the phlegm really caught in your throat when you try to pronounce Loch or else you are doing it wrong. Actually, Loch Ness is a beautiful loch. It is dark reflective waters surrounded by green forests. A boat ride out onto the lake is worth it just for the views, and if you are as lucky as one of the ladies on my boat, a marriage proposal. The surrounding villages are tranquil and a good place to rest your head. Alas, no Nessie sighting other than the trinkets sold in all the shops. I heard if you sit out by the water around 3AM, Nessie will appear. She likes haggis, so have some of that on hand.
If you’re an ecstatic Harry Potter fan, I think it would be a fun experience to ride on the train that is in the iconic shots of the films. For me, a fan, but not big enough of a fan to splurge the £40 for a two hour ride, it was a skip. I did get the chance to stand on a muddy hillside with a bunch of other fans to wait for the trains to go across the bridge. Unless you have a telephoto lens the pictures wouldn’t come out just like the movies, but the experience of watching it toot its horn, releasing a cloud of steam, was fun. To be honest, I was disappointed to not see the Ford Anglia flying by.
I am going to throw a bit of truth at you right now; I went to Doune Castle specifically because Outlander and Game of Thrones had both been filmed here. Being a big fan of both, I was easily swayed into going. Turns out that this became one of my favourite castles I have ever been too. It did not become my favourite because of the shows being filmed there, although that was the reason I went. The reason I would go again is because the only thing off limits in this place is the battlements and that is because they are falling apart. You are free to explore the entire grounds without any guards glaring at you. In fact, the only workers I saw while there were the ones who I handed my money to. Doune is the perfect example of what a castle would have been like to live in. It was freezing, drafty and dark. There were large rooms, vast and open, but there were also small ones with dripping ceilings. Climbing up and down the stairs I felt like I was going to fall and crack my head open, but that was all part of the fun. Who actually wants to be able to see where the next step is? Although it’s not a big castle, I spent a great amount of time there because I felt like an adventurer first discovering it.
Although my trip tended more towards being outdoors and being one with nature, there are a lot of other sights to see that may be more accessible. I recommend that you research before you visit. Use a tour group if you do not like planning the nitty gritty details. I will say that if you go to Scotland and do not make it to the Highlands, you are doing it all wrong.