We had a somewhat early start & left the Loch Ness Lodge around 8:00 AM. When we first started driving the clouds were pretty heavy, but the sky cleared up and made way for the best weather our tour guide has seen during her tours of the Scottish Highlands. The drive itself was beautiful & the majority of the day was spent on the coach enjoying the breathtaking scenery with strategic stops along the way to take pictures.
Our first stop of the day was on the breathtaking Isle of Skye which is situated in northwest Scotland. We arrived in a small town named Portree for a late morning snack and to explore the beautiful harbor views. The town is the largest town on Skye, was very quaint and the harbor was home to uniquely colored houses to enable sailors from the town to know they were almost home.
After Portree, we boarded our bus for a few minutes before stopping at a waterfall to take pictures. As the weather was so beautiful, a 5 minute photo stop turned into a 25 minute hike for some people. A few members of our group climbed to the top of the waterfall and were rewarded with absolutely breathtaking photos.
Once our tour manager corralled us all back onto the bus, we drove around another 40 minutes to visit Eilean Donan Castle. As far as castles go, this castle is considered to be a modern one as it was originally built in the 13th century, but was restored in the 20th century. The castle was destroyed during the Jacobite Rebellions in 1719 which had the intent of returning the last Catholic British monarch to the throne. In 1919, a family bought the ruins and restored it to be their permanent residence. They occupy a different part of the castle, but restored the main portion to enable visitors to imagine what life was like in a castle. Quite a few people decided to wait outside the castle and take pictures, but I decided to go in. As I have a disability, my entry was free instead of paying £7, however, the entry would have been worth it regardless as I was very impressed by the exhibits. The views were amazing & they had life size figures in various rooms of the house so you could imagine how busy it was. The kitchen was very cramped, but also very functional! I was also amazed by just how narrow the hallways were – I’m not a big person, but even I had to walk sideways!
After the castle, we headed for the Commando War Memorial which was situated at the base of the tallest mountain in Great Britain, Ben Nevis. The Commandos are most distinctly identified by their green berets and are an elite military unit that was formed during World War II to parachute behind enemy lines for special operations. They were key to the Allied victory in D-Day as well as the entire war. The memorial was at the mountain as that is where the Commando boot camp was held. The statue looked so out of place against the barren landscape which may have been the intent – you are the most alone when you’re behind enemy lines.
We then drove to our hotel in the tourist town of Oban. After grabbing dinner at a local Italian restaurant, the group met up in front of our hotel to head off for a night of Highland Dancing and Scottish music. Our Contiki tour manager, Em, arranged for the bagpiper to escort us from our hotel to the event hall. It was an amazing experience and people had no idea what was happening. Everyone was taking our picture as we walked through the town. The group learned quite a few Scottish dances before a DJ came on around midnight and played a few current songs.