europe: horseback riding in the highlands of scotland

Sunday, August 8, 1999

I’m now in a hostel in Isle of Skye listening to Rosie bitch. She left her Bath and Body works soup at our last B&B—which isn’t as bad as what I did, which was leaving my soap and shampoo at two B&Bs ago. But let’s catch you up on what happened between Lochness and now. (I have to apologize for the last journal entry; I don’t think I was of sane mind—lacking in sleep and all.)

Inverness was a cold and dreary town. My first impression of Scotland were not good ones. I had hoped it would b ea fairyland type place, only to be hit with the cold—very cold—reality northern Scotland is not a very nice place during the summer, and an absolutely miserable place during the winter.

While exploring London and the other English stops, I had felt my throat grow a little soar, which I blamed on the dryness of the climate. After we slept in the car, however, the soar throat blossomed into a full blown cold. You know the type: soar throat, runny noise, and stuffy and painful head. As of today, the cold has gotten a wee bit better and alternates between being completely gone and rearing its ugly head.

Back Inverness. In my sickened state, it wasn’t a very good exploration. We visited a castle (probably built during the middle ‘80s—1980’s) which had “the life of a Scottish officer” type motif. It was pretty cool. Different people played different characters and explained what life for a solider under the King was like (e.g., the women were called “Baggage” because they traveled at the rear and had about as many rights as the baggage did—the Sergeant actor took advantage of this in a humorous tirade).

We drove back to town and had a large and quite delightful 3 course meal at a local restaurant. The soup really hit the spot and about an hour later I was asleep (around 9pm), only to be awoken at 11:30pm, 1:30am, and 6:30am respectively by noisy neighbors and a large throbbing in my stuffed up head.

This morning we hit the road and went west to the Isle of Skye. The weather took a surprising turn for the better and the sun, with all its glorious warmth, managed to peek through the clouds and offer us some thankful reprieve from the biting wind.

The bridge connecting mainland Scotland with the Isle cost ₤5.70 each way to cross (around $10). The Isle is as beautiful as the highlands north of Inverness, with sparkling blue waters and grass covered hills barely covering jagged rocks. Spotted along the landscape are white sheep, which look like floating cotton balls moving about an evergreen carpet.

Before crossing to the Isle, we stopped in Eilean Doven castle, which is a rebuilt castle based upon the ancient castle that once held the shores. The exhibitions were interesting, although the furniture and decoration were geared more towards the 1930s (when it was rebuilt), than the original furnishings. What was especially clever was the recreation of the 1930’s kitchen, complete with plastic food, full-sized wax people and even plastic mice and roaches, to add that homey look.

Once we settled in our hostel, we took a drive down to the town centre and got directions and made calls. I made reservations at a “riding and trekking” place so we could fulfill my dreams of horseback riding in the highland of Scotland. I did finally get in touch with Eileen. Because of the time difference, I’m usually busy at the best times to call home (at around 3pm it’s the middle of the day while its 10am home). Anyways, I did finally get in touch with Eileen—everything is okay at home.

The horseback ride was incredible. The weather was decent and the sun managed to stay out for most of the ride. We only walked the horses and that occurred mostly on the roads, but once we got off the roads it was awesome. If only I had brought my sword….

We also visited another castle—Dunhil Castle on the west coast of the Isle. After sneaking around for a while, we were able to get in and see the outside of the castle and the gardens for free (the ticket office had closed). It was fun just to save the ₤4.80, and the castle did have a great view.

After a so-so cheeseburger dinner I’m ready to hit the sack and head to Southern Scotland, and then leave Great Britain. Too many Brits and Scots can get on anyone’s nerves.