We went monster hunting today. We traveled north from Edinburgh into the Scottish Highlands. The flat lands and small rolling hills with the perfect climate for farming crops have transformed into the higher rolling hills with so much moisture that regular crops cannot be grown. Farmlands change into ranch lands dotted with hundreds of sheep. There were 5.3 million people in Scotland in 2016. There were 6.8 million sheep. There are also beautiful long haired, long horned cattle. These butterscotched colored animals are friendly but clumsy. It’s a good idea not to get too close, or they may begin swinging their head…more dangerous than a dog wagging its tail across the coffee table.
Eventually we came upon a beautiful view of a lake; although in Scotland, they’re not called lakes but lochs. This particular one wasn’t what we expected at all. We had imagined ominously dark waters covered in a billowing mist, with mysterious shadows and unexplained shapes. Instead we found a beautiful body of water bathed in sunlight and lapping at its shores. Hmmm… We thought this was the home of the Loch Ness monster. You never know, say the locals, when you might find something in these 744 feet deep waters besides the salmon and trout you can catch.
We took a cruise across this enormous lake and found ourselves at the Urquhart Castle (pronounced Arkart), built sometimes in the 11th century. Its history, like other castles, is that of conflict as the people rebelled against their leadership. This time, it was against King David I in 1229. The next king, Alexander II, granted the castle to his door ward to maintain order. In 1296, the castle was captured by Edward I of England. It bounced back and forth, including to the MacDonald Clan, an independent kingdom warring against its neighbors, especially the Campbell Clan. Even today, there are establishments in the nearby town of Inverness with signs that say, “If you are a Campbell, you are politely invited to leave.” How will they know you’re a Campbell? They check your identification as you enter.
We ended our day in the highest of the highland area, elevation 4,409 feet at its highest, but the views were just as breathtaking as fourteeners of Rocky Mountain National Park, understandably my personal point of reference. Finally, we headed back “home” to Edinburgh, where we enjoyed a delicious meal at The Devil’s Advocate, a local pub hiding in one of the unexpected alleyways of Old Town.