The Scottish Highlands

(I wrote this while in Gatwick airport on my way to Berlin to meet my sisters, but am posting it from our AirBNB in Berlin.) 

This past Saturday to Tuesday I went to Scotland with my good friend Nick Jessee, who has been living in London for almost two years. We flew up to Inverness, rented a car, and drove along Loch Ness to Dornie, a cute little town closer to Isle of Skye, where we stayed for two nights. Here’s Nick, emerging from Loch Ness, much like a monster might:

Nick’s a squirrely one on camera, so I had to quickly snap this one off and unfortunately it didn’t focus properly. Alas!

Nick’s a squirrely one on camera, so I had to quickly snap this one off and unfortunately it didn’t focus properly. Alas!

I’ve been wanting to go to the Scottish highlands for as long as I can remember, and it didn’t disappoint. It was absolutely, stunningly gorgeous up there, and very craggy, too.

After a dicey period at the start when my side of the car was nerve-wrackingly close to the edge of the road, Nick did a champion job driving. I didn’t want to drive because I have only driven on the left side of the road once, in Northern Ireland when my parents came to visit when I was studying abroad there. I tried to drive the car around a parking lot, and I kept throwing my right hand into the door trying to shift.

Dornie is a tiny and adorable little town right next to Eilean Donan, a Scottish castle featured in Braveheart. 

Fun fact, the family that owns this castle lived there until 1985!

Fun fact, the family that owns this castle lived there until 1985!

It’s right on a loch, and right across the little road from us was a wonderful pub called The Clachan, which served a beer from Isle of Skye and totally delicious food—including haggis! We got the haggis tower—turnip, potatoes, and haggis layered. It was great! Though I suspect maybe it was better than a lot of haggis that one can get. They also brought out knives before our soup came, and we joked about how one needs knives for Scottish soup.

On Sunday, our first day exploring Isle of Skye we went to the Fairy pools, which are a series of a waterfalls that empty into serene pools, all amidst a (craggy!) valley that sweeps up into a snow-covered peak. 

Nick leaps over a river on the way to the fairy pools.

Nick leaps over a river on the way to the fairy pools.

The problem was, the weather was absolutely dreadful: cold, windy, and raining—the trifecta! As soon as we parked and I opened the car door a crack, the wind ripped it open. When we stepped outside and experienced the elements, we both just started laughing. 

It made absolutely no sense to be here, or to proceed to see the pools. It was a 20 minute walk down the valley and up again, straight into the wind, but you couldn’t do anything but look down at the ground. The wind kept ripping off the hood of my rain jacket, which then caused my hair, all ropey from the rain, to fly about like Medusa’s snakes. And even though I had brought Nick’s rain pants to Scotland with us, I had forgotten to bring them out that day, so pretty soon my jeans were wet and cold—a very unpleasant combination. But we had decided to see the fairy pools, dammit! And nothing was going to stop us. 

(Here I am, standing near one of the pools.)

(Here I am, standing near one of the pools.)

But! Dreadful weather is all part of the Scottish experience. After the pools we drove to Portree and found a café to hang out in for a bit. Unfortunately, the café wasn’t too warm so I still felt a bit chilled. After the café, I dragged Nick into a store with a big sign that said “Scottish Knitwear” and, upon entering, was so mesmerized by the wall of scarves and blankets that I walked right past the 4-foot heatlamp set up in the middle of the store, without even noticing its delicious blast of heat. But after Nick pointed it out, I spent a long time pondering the jams and shortbreads on either side of its direct path of heat, slowly rotating like a rotisserie. 

The second day in Isle of Skye was much nicer—the sun was out, which added drama to the clouds, exaggerated the blackness of the water, and lit up the yellow gorse bush (Thanks Lorraine!)

We did some more driving around, and then made our way back to Inverness.

I don’t have photos from Inverness, but it was nice to stroll up and down the river, through the parks, and over the little foot bridges. Having grown up calling Boston my home, I’m always comforted by cities built on the water. The next day, we flew back to London.

And now I'm in Berlin! It's been great so far, last night we went out for vegetarian Vietnamese. Tonight we'll do something special for Ande's birthday!