Things I Learned in the Scottish Highlands

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Loch Ness from the water — Photo by author

The Scottish Highlands were on my bucket list, and I finally got to visit in 2017. If you like hiking, I highly recommend it.

Here are the things I learned, both about Scotland and myself.

Loch Ness Needs to be Seen from a Boat

You probably won’t see the monster, but there’s only one way to really appreciate this beautiful lake: From the water. There are a number of short cruises available. Check out the picture above.

If You Don’t Like The Weather…

There was one occasion when we were standing on the beach (we were looking for dolphins) and could see not one, not two, but five different rainstorms. Sometimes it would start raining and we would pull on our rain jackets only to have it stop again before we’d finished donning. And start again as soon as we got them back off.

People talk about San Francisco micro climates. I’ve been to San Francisco. Scotland wins.

“Beware” the Bagpipe Festival

This is a reminder to check events calendar: We landed in Inverness in the middle of…a competitive bagpipe festival.

Now, I found this quite amazing. You can’t play bagpipes indoors (well you can, there’s such a thing as a “chamber” bagpipe, but not regular bagpipes). So all of these contestants were practicing on random street corners throughout the town. These were competitive pipers. These guys were good. Some of them had backup dancers.

It was beautiful. But I’m well aware not everyone finds bagpipes beautiful…

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Cairngorm Mountain — Photo by author

Flexibility is Good

Given the unreliable weather, I was definitely reminded that overplanning one’s vacation is a bad idea. (Unless it’s a set trip with a guide, and even then there needs to be some…breathing space).

Don’t get me wrong, it was beautiful. But we did have to duck inside a few times.

The Food is Surprising

Rule #1, unless you’re a vegetarian, get the venison. (Note that most Scottish venison is farmed). It’s red deer, which is related to elk, and it’s some of the best venison in the world.

Unlike in England, there’s pretty decent beef available too.

Try haggis. You might not like it, but it’s really worth getting over the eww factor. I preferred it as a chicken stuffing rather than on its own. The Scots also have a fine line in porridge.

And, of course, if you drink at all…just bear in mind that if you aren’t used to Scotch, you should go for something with a low peat level. Trust your barkeep. They deal with people who aren’t used to Scotch all the time. They can also help you work out how much to dilute it if you aren’t a neat drinker.

But yeah, Scottish food is not nearly as much of a joke as English food…

So, there you have it. A few things to think about if you plan on going to the Highlands after the chaos is over.

Written by

Freelance writer, freelance editor, novelist and short story writer. Jack of many trades.

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