Contiki England and Scotland
Sadly, leaving Edinburgh behind us, it was time to make our way to face the monster, the Loch Ness Monster that is. Before embarking on our monster quest though, it was time to see where the game of golf was invented and where a prince met his match.
That's right, the first stop of the day was at the beautiful St. Andrew's, Scotland, a small town which borders the ocean and is legendary for golf and, in more recent history, the place Prince William met Kate Middleton. We were given a couple of hours to roam around, starting at the ruins of St. Andrew's Cathedral, before making our way to the center of town, where you could have a cup of tea where the young couple used to meet, walk around the golf course or walk down the ocean path by an old castle. Unable to find where Nick had gone, I chose the latter and was quite pleased by the beautiful views and history I strolled by. However, I sadly ended up rushing as I thought I was going to be late for the bus but it turned out that I had about a half hour extra to roam about. That extra half hour turned out to be my favorite of the day. I walked up and down part of the beach and the little reflecting pools collecting sea glass. It was a pleasant respite from the craziness of the past few days.
Before arriving to Loch Ness though, we made a small lunch stop in another quaint Scottish town that neighbored a salmon ladder at the Pitlochry Dam in Pitlochry. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see any salmon but there were some beautiful dam views to snap away at.
A random disfigured wood carving off the main path.
Finally, the time had come. Pulling up in the parking lot, we had a photo op with the infamous mythical creature and then made our way under the overpass to the dock. While we waited to board our boat we were greeted by another tour guide with his group doing a rather interesting song and dance in hopes of enticing Nessie to pop her head out for a sighting. And while it didn't work (at least during our cruise), it was fun to watch and many of the people on our tour joined in on the enthusiasm.
With plenty of clouds rolling in overhead, we boarded our boat and took a wee spin around part of the Loch with sonar pinging along the way in hopes of finding Nessie in the deep murky waters below. I couldn't help but think, as we made our way around the Loch, that it almost felt like home in the Hudson Valley, just taking a boat up the river instead of the second deepest Loch in Scotland.
After the cruise, we checked in to the charming tartan world of the Loch Ness Lodge. From the outside, the hotel almost looks like a miniature castle, and once you enter its tartan corridors, the historic charm doesn't stop there. That's right, for historical nostalgia nerds like me, you'll love that your room key is, in fact, a skeleton key.
The funny thing about this hotel is that although there is free wi-fi available, it's really only available in one wee parlor across from the main desk and the signal only works in certain parts of the room. So naturally, after checking in and waiting to embark on the Loch Ness Challenge, everyone on the tour was crammed in on their mobile devices, me included.
The time arrived though and, with bathing suits underneath their clothes, the brave and bold of our group mentally prepared themselves for a plunge into the cold waters of Loch Ness. Since I didn't have a bathing suit, nor did I want to try to change into dry clothing out in the open with only a towel to defend my dignity, I chose to document the madness. I was glad with my choice though as the reactions of people, including my cousin, Nick, who decided to make the plunge in a kilt, were hilarious to capture. Afterwards, our awesome tour manager, Roxy, bought us a bottle of Scotch and we ended the endeavor with a cheers to Loch Ness and a shot.
Although you're still using the British Pound, once you get into Scotland the face of the note changes.
* If you're running low on cash, there's an ATM a short walk from the hotel.
The next blog post will be about my seventh day on tour from Loch Ness to the Scottish Highlands.