We stood outside of Deacon’s House Café at 8:30 on our first morning in Edinburgh, drizzling rain slicking our jackets. The bright orange bus, “disguised” too look like a coo (horns and all) rather than a rumbling mechanism hauling a load of people, arrived moments later with a kilt-wearing Scotsman at the helm. Soon, we were off on The Hairy Coo Scottish Highlands Tour, which I will talk about more tomorrow. Today, let’s focus on a few of the sites.*
If I were to sum up the day in one word, it would be this: peaceful.
We disembarked the bus for lunch in Aberfoyle, a sleepy little village at the base of the Highlands, and our eyes immediately filled with natural beauty, our lungs brimmed with sweet mountain air. Small shops, delicatessens, cottages, year-round Christmas purveyors, and the Scottish Wool Centre line the main street in brick facades and wooden fences. I couldn’t help but feel as though we had been cast back in time into some idyllic town where dozens of Christmas-themed short stories had been set. I imagined it must look something like the inside of a snow globe in the winter months, a dusting of glittering white powder on each of the window sills.
There wasn’t a lot to do in the town except to appreciate it for what it was, indulge in the delicious pies, and wander a bit past the main street into a forested area with a little creek and an adorable bridge. It was a great escape from the hustle of the city, an entirely calming experience where you can just breathe and take in your surroundings without bother.
Our guide pulled off the tight path into a nearly-empty car park and led us, umbrellas in hand, out into Achray Forest. We didn’t walk far, less than a half-mile, before stumbling upon an unexpected waterfall. Little Fawn was small, especially so if it had not rained hard for awhile (but let’s be real, of course it had rained), and it was no Niagara, but it cascaded rapturously over slick black rocks and was beautifully situated between soft wood trees that provided ample coverage from oversize drops of rain.
There was a little bridge further down the path and enough space for the group to spread out for quiet moments of solitude before the remainder of the tour.
The path also led to an installation of mirrored figures by artist Rob Mulholland called “Vestige.” The six male and female sculptures represented the people who were forced to leave the forest after the First World War when the government needed the timber. Mulholland beautifully described the piece on his website (go check it out).
Feeding the hairy coo, while ridiculous in every logical sense, was one of my favorite parts of the day. Yes, they’re livestock. Yes, I have seen (and, unfortunately, been close to) livestock before.
But just look at that scruffy baby’s face and his hair that looks like Donald Trump may have given him tips on the proper wig. Now, don’t you want to pet one, too?
Loch Katrine is this wondrous expanse of calm waters and untouched forest. Fog blanketed the outline of mountains in the distance; a rainbow of green grass, green leaves, green moss, green-addled bark tore through the landscape; tree roots embedded deep in the rocky mountainside sprung from the cliffs. The rain fell harder and my teeth chattered faster, but if J hadn’t told me I’d have never known.
It was no wonder that Sir Walter Scott found inspiration in this very spot so long ago.
-M. Ray Hall
*These are not all of the places you will stop on the tour, nor are they in the order you will see them.