After a very long hiatus, I am back to share with you all our amazing HAGGiS Adventures – 10 Day Compass Buster tour!
I am so excited to finally be able to share our experiences on this tour! As Natalie pointed out, our expectations were set very high for Scotland. We had a specific image of what it would be like, how the landscapes would be, how the people would be, and just in general – how we would feel about it. We were thinking maybe our expectations were set too high and we would end up feeling disappointed.
Boy, were we wrong! The country was all that we expected and more!
The morning our trip began we woke up early, left some of our baggage at Castle Rock Hostel (because we would be returning for one night after the tour) and headed down to the HAGGiS Adventures office to check in for our tour. But… not before we took one last picture of Edinburgh Castle standing proud in the morning light.
It was a colder morning and as we made our way down the Royal Mile, we were still amazed by the beautiful city of Edinburgh.
When we finally arrived at the office and checked in, we got our customary tour group wristband – just as we had on our Shamrocker Tour. Since we opted for the pre-paid bundle of accommodations and add-on attractions, we also received a HAGGiS t-shirt in the bright yellow that we would learn is their signature colour!
After being told to wait outside for our tour guide, we already noticed that there were some Canadians on this tour! We were excited to make new friends and even meet up with some old ones from our previous Shamrocker Adventures Tour. The next couple days looked promising! After a few minutes waiting and talking to our tour mates, we were herded to our tour bus! (Make sure you get on the right bus! There were several other tours also checking in and leaving at the same time as ours!)
Our “Wild and Sexy” ride was a bright yellow bus driven by our tour guide. On our Ireland tour, as you may recall, we had a driver and a tour guide. It was an interesting change to have one person do both! Our guide for the first leg of the tour would be Greg. We could already tell he would be an enthusiastic guide, joking around as he helped us load our bags into the bus.
After everyone was packed and boarded, Greg gave us a brief overview what the next couple of days would like look and where we would be staying. Our first day would involve some bus time (we had to traverse Scotland up to Ullapool to catch our ferry this evening!), but still lots of sightseeing with stops in between for lunch and snacks, much like our Shamrocker Tour.
As we drove out of Edinburgh, we got to say goodbye to some famous sights like the Scott Monument, until our return in 10 days.
As we started driving out of Edinburgh, we noticed a thick fog had settled around the city. Because of it, we didn’t get to see the Forth Bridge! Luckily for Natalie and I, we would be seeing it when we visit Inchcolm Abbey after this Scotland tour. But it was too bad we didn’t get to see it as we crossed the Firth of Forth.
We would soon find out that our bus ride would be highly entertaining as Greg told us stories about the landscapes we were passing and joked around about his own experiences around Scotland! It looked like it was going to be an entertaining few days. Our first stop for the day would be the little town of Dunkeld and Dunkeld Cathedral for a coffee break and to stretch our legs.
Once we reached Dunkeld – it took us about an hour and a bit to get there from Edinburgh, we were all ready for a stretch and some coffee to wake up. Unfortunately for me, right after we finished our Shamrocker Tour, I got a horrible cold that would not let up. It continued to get worse and it was hard for me to enjoy everything when I was sniffling and coughing half the time. But brave it I did! I was finally in Scotland and I would enjoy even if I had to cough non-stop!
As we drove up to Dunkeld Cathedral, I noticed something familiar — SHEEP!!! I loved my Irish Sheep and it was exciting to see them again in Scotland! The morning was starting to clear up and the fog that had followed us out of Edinburgh started to lift. One thing we would notice about Scotland is the exciting cloudscapes that occurred any time of day. Just look at that wisp of cloud below after the fog lifted, it literally made the landscape look ethereal!
Dunkeld Cathedral was built in the early 13th century and stands on the North bank of the River Tay in Perth and Kinross, Scotland. Its history dates back to before that time:
“In 849, relics of St Columba were removed from Iona to protect them from Viking raids. They were brought to Dunkeld by King Kenneth MacAlpin, who appointed a bishop at Dunkeld. Columba became the patron saint of Dunkeld and its monastery.” – Historic Environment Scotland
It was actually a very crisp morning and the cathedral was also under construction, so we were not able to access parts of the building. So, to be honest we didn’t explore as much of the Cathedral as we could have. I did find it interesting that the Cathedral has mixed architecture because of the length of time it was under construction.
“There are paintings dating from the 1500s on the vault of the bell tower’s ground floor, which once served as an ecclesiastical court. There are also fine memorials in the choir, including the effigy of Alexander Stewart, Earl of Buchan – notorious as ‘The Wolf of Badenoch’.” – Historic Environment Scotland
The landscape around Dunkeld was also extraordinarily beautiful in the early morning and this was just an early glimpse of what was to come for the rest of our trip!
After exploring as much of the Cathedral as we could, we wandered into the little town of Dunkeld to grab a cup of coffee/tea to take back to the bus with us. We got to know some of our tour mates a little better and even bonded a bit over our Canadian-ness with our fellow Canadian tour mates! (Apparently we have Canadian accents! Who knew!)
Dunkeld’s town history dates back to the Romans and the Picts and this is because of its strategic location. It became a centre for Christianity in the 7th century when Columba came over from Iona. In the 9th Century, King Kenneth MacAlpin, the first king of Scotland, made Dunkeld the head of the Celtic Church, as well as the newly formed nation of the Scots and the Picts. So, as you can see there is plenty to learn in Dunkeld, we just didn’t have enough time to explore. Therefore there is an even bigger reason to return!
You can get a bit more info on the town and Cathedral on the town website here.
Getting back on the road, the scenery continued to amaze us! Scotland has some of the most diverse landscapes I’ve ever seen! It somehow reminded me a bit of home with its lochs and mountains but in a completely different setting.
Next, we drove through the Cairngorms National Park and stopped at Aviemore for lunch. We learned that the this national park is popular year round for loads of outdoor activities – from skiing in the winter to biking, hiking and golfing!
After our lunch stop, we continued north – passing through Inverness. We didn’t stop here today but we would return to Inverness on Day 4 of the trip. After Inverness, we headed northwest towards the coast. Greg informed us that our next stop would be Corrieshalloch Gorge and the Falls of Measach.
Come back and read more about these gorge-ous Falls in our next post! (Ha! Couldn’t resist!)
From Vancouver with Love,
Ioana and Natalie
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