My first study abroad trip to the Scottish Highlands
So this week was pretty ordinary. On Thursday, I was able to get in nine holes on the Strathtyrum course. Had my best round yet and didn’t lose a ball – a victory in itself. In my anthropology practical on Wednesday, I learned how to make rope out of reeds, and weave baskets from willow branches. Needless to say, I’m beginning to like that class. My class on the Mongols was cancelled for the second week in a row. Just in case anyone has been keeping a tally, I have only been to that class once in the last three weeks. And I finally had the chance to catch up with my best friends from Holy Cross – skype is proving to be very valuable.
Friday morning, we left for our tour of the Scottish Highlands. Our tour guide, clad in a kilt, told us there were only two rules – keep a smile on your face, and don’t die. He was pretty much the man, and I don’t think we could’ve ended up with a better person to drive us around Scotland for the weekend.
Our first stop was a medieval cathedral about an hour from St. Andrews. I can’t say I’m very religious, but a stone cathedral that has been around for a few centuries is always impressive. Our next destination was the Tomatin whiskey distillery. Although we didn’t get a full tour of the distillery, we did get to sample some of the whiskey, including Tomatin 12 year old single Highland malt.
The highlight of Friday’s adventure was our swim in Loch Ness. I had thought our tour guide was kidding when he had told us we were going to swim in the loch earlier that day, seeing as it was about 50 degrees out, but he was dead serious. So everyone on the tour, none of us having brought bathing suits, stripped down and plunged into the 45 degree water.
I probably lasted about 12 seconds before I ran out, but hey, I don’t know too many people that can actually say they swam in Loch Ness. We warmed up from our dip the Scottish way, with a shot of whiskey. The swim was easily the best part of the weekend.
The rest of the tour was a blast. We stayed at a hostel both nights, and spent the evenings having a few beers with the locals. On Saturday, we snuck over a fence and got up close and personal with some Highland cattle, explored druid ruins, and snapped scenic photos at 4 or 5 different locations. Sunday was spent almost entirely on driving back to St. Andrews. We did make a quick pit stop at the William Wallace monument (yes, he is actually a national hero).
Out of all of the places that I will visit while I’m in Europe, the Highlands will probably remain my favorite. I came to St. Andrews to experience Scotland, and while St. Andrews is a beautiful place, it’s very much set apart from most of Scotland. To me, the Highlands represented the “real” Scotland, and I couldn’t have been happier with how the tour went.