Today was all about Gerry, our bus driver. We already knew he had skills since we saw him navigate the busy streets of Edinburgh, but this was a whole different ball game. Gerry expertly drove our giant coach bus up and down tiny country roads, avoiding cyclists, logging trucks, and other tour buses. In one of the more dramatic moments of the day, we all disembarked so Gerry could drive our 15-ton bus across an ancient one-lane bridge. Then, of course, we all had to immediately get back on the bus while it was blocking traffic from both sides. But no one honked! Scots are so nice.
During the drive out of Pitlochry, we saw the landscape change dramatically. Our tour guide, Alex, pointed out how the tree line ends and suddenly only scrubby vegetation can be found covering the mountains as we headed further into the Highlands. Despite the seemingly inhospitable lands, we saw endless amounts of sheep perched precariously on the rocky mountainsides.
We stopped at the picturesque little town of Braemar in the glen, or valley, of the mountains. This is just one of many towns we would see where almost every house and building is made of stone.
Around lunchtime, we stopped at Balmoral Castle, the summer home of the royal family. Yet again we had miraculous weather which made for the perfect day to explore the grounds and gardens of the castle. During a tranquil walk on pathways that crisscross ponds, trees, and other vegetation, it is easy to see why the royal family would choose this location as their serene escape.
We arrived at Inverness with just enough time to eat dinner and head to the cathedral for our rehearsal. We were so excited when the singers from the Inverness Gaelic Choir arrived for our joint concert. The mixed choir sings a wide range of tunes in the Scottish Gaelic language. They may have even inspired us to add a little more tartan to our concert attire in the future! We had the pleasure of listening to their performance during the first half, and we were so impressed! Bella Voce performed during the second half, and then the two choirs merged to perform “Auld Lang Syne.” It was truly a touching moment, and there might have even been a few tears in the audience. We were so appreciative of the warm welcome we received from our new friends in the Inverness Gaelic Choir. It was such a joy to meet such friendly, generous people who appreciate a good joke and a song. We won’t soon forget when the men of the choir began singing for us! It was a really magical moment, and we felt so lucky to witness it. Until we meet again!