When I was in first year one of my flatmates was an American semester abroad student and she and her friend went on a bus tour of the highlands. When she came back, all her photos looked amazing and they had had a really great time. So when I was offered the chance to go on a tour* of Loch Ness and the Highlands with Gray Line Scotland I was really looking forward to it. My family don't travel very much so as much as I would love to, I haven't really seen a lot of Scotland. Gray Line offer pick up from most of the Edinburgh hotels/guest houses. It didn't take us long to get everyone and we left Edinburgh at approximately 8am. The bus was really spacious, air conditioned/heated and had a toilet. Our driver, Brendan, was a really great guy. He had that sarcastic Scottish sense of humour that just reminds me of being at home. The whole way he was telling us lots of interesting things about the history of the places we were passing. I know quite a bit about Scottish history already but he had some really interesting facts that I didn't know.
We headed out of Edinburgh and drove past The Kelpies and Stirling before stopping in Kilmahog. This is a small village near Callander and we were here to see some highlands cows. They had two: Honey and Hamish Dubh. Dubh is the Scottish gaelic word for black so he's the black cow that you can see in the photos. Unfortunately, Honey the ginger cow was not in the mood to come out and play. Which thwarted my plan of getting a photo taken with a highland cow so that I can caption it: spot the difference between these two red heads. Nevermind! There was also a gift shop, cafe and toilets so that we had some time to relax before getting back on the road.
We then drove up to Glencoe past lots of lochs so we had some absolutely gorgeous scenery. We stopped in Glencoe for some photos and it was gorgeous but really, really windy. The weather wasn't the best which is a shame but the mist and the rain was actually quite atmospheric in some of the places we visited. Glencoe has quite a dark history, the site where the MacDonald clan was massacred by the Campbells but it's somewhere I've always wanted to visit. The scenery was beautiful and absolutely breathtaking.
Then it was time for lunch. It was only a quick drive to Fort William where we stopped for lunch. We stopped at a little tourist service station kind of thing with a restaurant and a gift shop. I had brought my own lunch with my so I sat outside on one of the picnic tables and ate my lunch there. After quite a while in the bus it was nice to just sit outside. I did have a look in the restaurant and it wasn't actually that expensive. Would have been roughly £5 per person. Then we were asked if we wanted to take a boat cruise when we arrived at Loch Ness. I absolutely love boats/being near water in general so that was an offer I can't refuse. This isn't included in the price of the tour and was £13 per person.
Following the Caledonian Canal, we headed north to Fort Augustus. For Augustus is a small village on the south banks of Loch Ness. This is when we went on the cruise. Everyone who didn't want to go on the cruise had an hour to explore the village and the banks of the Loch. I really enjoyed the tour even if the weather wasn't the best. They talked a lot about the formation of the loch and the wildlife that lives in it. And of course the mystery of the Loch Ness monster. Unfortunately, Nessie didn't seem to be wanting to come out to play. We then headed back south stopping for a photo op at the commando memorial with a view of Ben Nevis, the UK's largest mountain.
Then from here on we had our longest drive of the trip over to Pitlochry, stopping for photos on the way at the Laggan Dam. I've been to Pitlochry before and it's a very nice little village in the highlands. I got myself an ice cream and had a little walk around before getting back on the bus. Then we returned to Edinburgh. Pitlochry to Edinburgh is quite a long distance but it's actually quite quick as you're on more main roads. From here we were left to our own devices and left to relax with some music all the way home. Some very Scottish music.
We arrived back in Edinburgh at around 7:30pm a whopping 12 hours after we had left. Despite the tour being the whole day I didn't actually feel very tired and I was amazed at how many things we had seen in the one day. I really enjoyed myself. If you're visiting Edinburgh for a few days then I would really recommend doing a tour like this as it's a great way to see a lot more of Scotland in such a small space of time. You can find out more about Gray Line and the tours they offer on their website here.