Highland tour: Landscapes and well-sold history

Having been in Scotland for almost two years without ever going on a tour of the Highlands made me something of a bad immigrant, a fact I had been aware of for a while. Caitlin had suggested remedying this at the start of August, which we now did. The Hairy Coo’s tour bus took us on a one-day trip to the southern parts of the Scottish Highlands.

On the bus, a tour guide with a thickish Scottish accent told the stories of various figures from Scottish history, including of course William Wallace. The tall Wallace Monument near Stirling, originally opened in 1869, was appropriately on the list of locations we visited.

Hills in the Scottish Highlands

Admittedly, a story that features death by hanging, drawing and quartering is captivating and one worth telling to tourists. However, as I was listening, I couldn’t help but think that most countries would probably have a similar gruesome story in their distant pasts; yet Scotland is among those that have made their stories most famous internationally, not least thanks to the historically inaccurate Braveheart film. Maybe it’s not about who has the best story, but about who tells it the best.

Tourism contributes £6bn a year to the Scottish GDP, or in other words, some 5% of the grand total. The long queue for the Wallace Monument, for which the tickets sold at £10, is one illustration of why that is the case. Good storytellers can be quite a concrete asset for a country!

Highland cow looking at a phone camera
The guide told us that the Highland cows recognise the tour bus and come see the tourists, knowing that the guide is going to give them carrots.

As one random observation, seeing a couple walking a big dog in the little town of Aberfoyle made me realise how out of place the sight of a pug or a chihuahua would have been in that environment. I hereby hypothesise that the size of a settlement has a negative correlation with the average dog size in that settlement. Urban-rural divide in action?

If stories can in theory be told by anyone, the nature and landscapes might be something that a country simply either is or isn’t blessed with. Or maybe not entirely: after all, you can choose to either keep your forests pristine, or to chop them down, for instance. Either way, the serene Scottish hills, lakes and waterfalls were definitely worth a visit! This still wasn’t the rugged Glencoe-esque terrain you see on Google search results, but it was a good taster for sure.

Waterfall in the Scottish Highlands

Loch Katrine in the Scottish Highlands

Path in the Scottish Highlands

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