Saturday, November 24, 2012

Bonnie, Bonnie Scotland

This day was one of my favorite days in Scotland. I took my second Student Tours Scotland trip to Loch Lomond (pronounced something like "Lock LOW-mon", not "Lock Lah-MAHND" like I so badly want to pronounce it.) I knew two others who were going on the trip, so I was excited about that as well.

Our journey began in Balmaha, which is on the east shore of Loch Lomond. I was so glad when we reached the stop because the windy, hilly roads were starting to get to me and others on the bus. When we got off of the bus, our STS tour guide pointed to a giant hill (Conic Hill, which marks the geographic boundary between the highlands and the lowlands) and told us that we were going to do some "hillwalking." I interpreted this as "mountain climbing." I am sure you can all remember my adventure on Arthur's Seat just two weeks ago. In order to avoid any embarrassing moments on the hill in front of the whole group, I walked over to my guide before we started walking and asked him on a scale of 1-10, how bad is the hill for someone who has a terribly embarrassing fear of heights. He seemed well prepared for this question and told me that at one point we would reach a livestock fence, and beyond that it gets a little steep, and if I wanted, I could turn around and go back down if I wasn't comfortable. Cool. A friend of mine was suffering from a sore ankle, so we took up the rear of the group and went up at our own pace. This ended up being a really good thing for both of us. We walked through this rich forest before coming up to a point that overlooked the loch.

Partway up the hill we had these incredible views. The autumn colors made the view even more amazing.

This part of the walk wasn't bad. We were beyond the livestock gate, but I was still ok with the heights. The scenery was so whimsical that I really didn't want to stop going. I wanted to see what was over the hill, a waterfall? A creek? Better views?

 So far, so good! She's still smiling!

 I think I could have spent all day on this hill.

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I managed to get up this first set of steep steps. On a side note, I think my hair matches autumn really well. :)

The view looking to the right of the steps.

The view looking back, Loch Lomond in the background.

I made it just a little bit further up these steps. See the people up on the hill? I didn't make it that far. Maybe I will make it back here before I go and climb to the top of the hill. I loved the trees with the red berries. Their color just popped among the browns, oranges, and greens.

Breathtaking views, even on a cloudy day.

See the person way up at the top in white? I believe that was to be our final destination.

The lone tree. It is not afraid to be at the top of the hill...

I am thankful that I made it up as far a I did, otherwise I wouldn't have seen this gorgeous view. I'm also very grateful that my friend was very understanding about my issue with heights and let me take my time adjusting to the heights with every step I took.

We headed back down through the forest before the rest of the group did because they had gone up to the top of the hill. This made for plenty of picture-taking time.

I just love the colors in this picture.

Since we had some extra time on our hands before we had to head back to the bus, we went on a little walk down to the loch and took some great shots showing the calm, glassy surface of the water.

As we headed back to the bus, we saw that a dense fog had come down on the hill. (The little hill on the left is NOT the big hill). It doesn't look anything like the imposing mountain that it looked like just an hour earlier.

You can see just a little bit of the hill under the fog in this picture.

Our next stop was our lunch break in Balloch on Loch Lomond. The clouds scattered a bit and the blue skies were showing through. 

There is an aquarium here, but we did not have time to go in, and I heard it was a little pricey.

There was a little market to the left, and we could smell food cooking. We were so hungry and it smelled sooo good! We ended up eating at a cafe, where I got a cheese and tomato sandwich. I ate half of the sandwich, and when I started on the second half, I was a bit puzzled as to what the condiment on the sandwich was. I pulled it open, and to my surprise, the bread was buttered. I expressed my astonishment to my friends, as I had thought surely they would have put mayonnaise on the sandwich, but they said butter is a completely normal thing to put on sandwiches here. Interesting. Not a tradition I will be taking back to the States.

After lunch, we followed our tour guide on a wee little walk to a wee little beach.

See how clear the water is?

Next stop: Luss Village and the Quarry Path. Our guide was excited to show us this tucked away path where there was once a slate quarry. There was a waterfall along the way.

Slate, lots of.

It is hard to tell from this picture, but the water had a lovely hue because of the slate below.

A house along the path with grazing sheep.

After the Quarry Path, we headed into Luss Village, which, for me, was the best stop of the day.

Luss is a quaint, charming village with incredible views of Loch Lomond. It is famous for being the backdrop of the Scottish soap opera "Take the High Road."

The houses just made me smile, and the views were so stunning. We stopped in one of the souvenir shops here and they had samples of "tablet" out. Tablet is like a butter fudge; it is extremely sweet. One wee taste was enough for me!

I am so glad the day ended up so sunny. We were able to get these absolutely gorgeous photos to remember our trip by on "The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond."

Another case of not knowing which picture is prettiest, so I will post them all!

Those of you who have Facebook may have seen my "jumping pictures" taken here.

The sun was shining so strongly, right into my eyes! I was so glad the sun was out though. 

My friend from Ireland on the left, and my friend from France on the right. We had such a good time on this trip!

After we were through admiring the banks of Loch Lomond, we walked over to Luss Parish Church, which was built in 1875.

You can probably understand why my day in Loch Lomond was one of my favorite days in Scotland. It was so beautiful, so picturesque and I was with a great group of people. 

Up next: Forth and Clyde Canal and New Lanark!

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