It was to be the highlight of our visit to Scotland – a tour across the vast, sparsely populated northern half of the country known as the Highlands – a wilderness of beautiful mountains and valleys, where sheep and cow outnumber people. Ever since hearing about the Highlands through the 90’s TV series “Highlander”, from which spawned the immortal Duncan MacLeod, I had always imagined it to be a region of barren windswept mountains where funny men wearing tartan skirts swung heavy swords as their clans fought each other, fighting as the hum of bagpipes provided musical background. We were supposed to see the numerous Lochs (mountain lakes), among which the one that empties into the river Ness has a legendary monster in it. We were supposed to see castles – abandoned and weather-beaten remnants of Scotland’s clans and feudal past which has long since been abolished. We were supposed to see the Glens (valleys), one of which was the setting of my most favorite Bond movie to date – Skyfall. But alas, another kind of Scottish monster stole the show for the day – huge, unpredictable and temperamental – the infamous Scottish weather.
It was all bright and breezy in the capital, Edinburgh, the day before, but the following morning it was all wet, chilly and unbearably dark. It was as if the sky was going to fall on Scotland – probably Mother Nature’s cruel joke in making me see an actual “Skyfall”. Two hours down the road to the infamous Glen Coe, we encountered a stoppage on the road. There was a landslide ahead of us, and cars were turning back. Our guide checked the alternate routes, and learned that they were flooded too. At that point they made a judgement call – we were heading back to Edinbrugh, and thankfully a full refund was offered to those who can no longer make the tour on another date.
The Scottish weather won this round, but yes the weather – furious and temperamental like a Highlander charging with sword drawn – is part of what makes Scotland, Scotland. And as we retreated back, I snapped a few shots of the couple of Glen and Lochs that we did manage to reach – all but a glimpse of the doorstep to the Highlands.
The extensive tour was supposed to have ended at 8:30 in the evening in Edinburgh, but instead we were back by 12:30 in that dark, gloomy afternoon. We milled around Edinburgh instead, and in the early evening we found this parade gathering in the old town. It turns out to be something called the “Procession of Torches”, an annual event in Edingburgh held the night before New Year’s Eve. And the parade was led by a band of bagpipes and people dressed as Highland warriors. Well then, if you can’t come to the Highlander, the Highlander come to you.