Saturday, August 16, 2014

Loch Ness and the Scottish Highlands!

So this last weekend my two best lady friends and I hopped on a Sleeper Train and headed up to the Scottish Highlands.  The sleeping arrangements were smaller than anything I had ever slept in before (aside from possibly a card table fort from my childhood), and sleeping was nearly impossible due to the constant squeaking and rattling of the train car connections and the noises coming from whoever decided that it would be easier to bang in the bathroom right next door than in their beds. (SIYUCK!) Yes, that's how small they were. 

In the morn when it was time for us to switch trains, we zombie walked to the next platform and then head bobbed our way through the next leg of the journey.

Our kick ass guide Dave picked us up at the train station in Inverness.  Dave, as you may remember from our Snowdonia trip, is a magical, all-knowing sort of fellow.  As usual, he is skipping all jolly through the hills, naming trees and plants and telling us their purposes and which ones will make a tasty salad.  Adventure loving badass, he is.

Loch Ness!

We went straight to Loch Ness, then to a castle, then to another castle.  I don't remember much from the first castle because I was starving to death and very focused on my tasty homemade soup and bread.

That is wool, washed up around rocks.  Just so you have an idea of the sheep population lol.

The second castle was rad, and apparently has been in James Bond or something. The scene was epic.

We stayed in a lovely place on the sea with an amazing cook and a super cheap bar. It was fabulous.  

Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye. There is a stormy grey sky and golden field painting in my near future.

The second day we headed to the Isle of Skye to visit the only scotch whiskey distillery on the island.  

Talisker Distillery

The scotch was not my taste, but their packaging was super fantastic :)
The second half of the day was kayaking time.  We got all squeezed into our wetsuits and gear, picked our boats and headed out. We took off from the other side of the castle we were the day before. It was lovely to see it from the other side as well!

The first afternoon was everyone getting the feel of their boats and whatnot and the wind was at our backs so it was a lovely day.  And the sun was shining!  You never know what the weather is going to do in these parts, so it was extra magical.

The next day was a full day of sea kayaking and potential wildlife sightings galore! Rain had been predicted from 11am on, and we were on the water by 9 I believe so we were enjoying the sun and warmth as much as possible.  About 3 hours in, we headed toward a small rock island to eat lunch and stretch.  We we getting closer to the island and we started noticing a couple seals popping their heads through the surface.  By the time we reached the island, we were surrounded by seals on all sides, floating quietly with just their adorable puppy heads above water.  I was really hoping one would hop up on my boat for a cuddle, but alas. 

Once we were sitting on the rock eating our sammiches it began to rain.  Not a harsh, windy rain, but enough to get us wet pretty quickly.  Once we were back in our boats and out on the water it started to ease up, or at least it felt like it did. 

About half of us paddled far ahead of the others on an undeclared quest for silence.  When each of us had reached the very edge of viewing range of our guide, we would stop paddling and began to drift around in the still water, leaned back, boats pointed in various directions.  The silence was beautiful.  The calmness seeped into my soul and the cool mist into my skin.  Looking across the sea was emotional even.  The smoothness in the gradients of blues and greys from the sky, over the mountains, down to the water and along the glass surface to my boat was itself healing to behold.  There was not a noise apart from the calling of birds and the breath of the earth.

Once the rest of the group caught up to where we were, our guide led us to another seal colony that surrounded us on all sides again, silently investigating us.

Another thing that was amazing about this trip was the two incredible women that I was with.  Being able to absorb each others' beautiful energy and joy all weekend was a privilege.  I think we all travel with certain needs or intentions for that time away from the normal routine, whether it be consciously or not.  We were all getting whatever it was that we were needing that weekend, and it could be felt most definitely.  Communing with nature on that level will always do that for the soul, I believe :) I'm sure the super moon kicking ass over us on the shore was intensifying the awesomeness as well. 

Our 10 hour drive home took us through some ridiculously beautiful landscapes, including Glencoe.  I seriously wanted to frolic so hard through these hills.

Yet another epic and successful adventure, solidifying Scotland as one of my top favorite countries. I don't think I would ever get enough of this place.

With endless gratitude,