June 27: Inverness and the Highlands

Today we took a day excursion driving through the Scottish Highlands. Our tour guide indulged the Outlander fanatics aboard and took us to a location used in the TV series, Beauly Priory. The priory is a tumbledown monastery in a cemetery that is shown in the second season of Outlander. It was almost as exciting as meeting a real-life Jamie Fraser.

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Our tour guide, Alex, provided us with some helpful context for some of the events mentioned in the Outlander series. He gave us a little history lesson about the Jacobite rebellions and the Highland Clearances which purged the country of Scottish traditions for many years. Only since the 1850s have traditional Scottish elements (bagpipes, tartan, etc.) been accepted back into culture.

Our next stop was the Glen Ord Whisky Distillery. The tour guides showed us the various machinery and tools used in the process of making whiskey (spelled “whisky” here). Fortunately the tour ended with a whiskey tasting, which may explain what happened next… The tour guides asked us to sing to them, so of course we obliged! We sang “Shenandoah” right there in the gift shop surrounded by bottles of whiskey. One of the guides called it the “best work day ever” and sent us a video of our performance. (Stay tuned for a link.)

We made several stops throughout the drive to photograph the beautiful scenery. We saw a perfect U-shaped valley, a lookout with views of the Atlantic and the Summer Isles, and a deep gorge with a waterfall. We stopped at a beach to dip our toes into the other side of the Atlantic and waved to our loved ones across the pond. The ocean was surprisingly warm — warmer than Lake Champlain!

Our last stop of the day was at the Inverewe Gardens. Most of us were rather sleepy at this point, so it was the perfect place to have a relaxing stroll through plants and flowers from around the world.

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After the gardens, we returned to Inverness for another night. It’s off to Inveraray tomorrow. We’d be remiss to skip the most exciting part of the day: four members of our party got stuck in the rickety, tiny old elevator at our hotel. Fortunately they are still with us, but it was a close one. Mishaps seem to be following us!

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