Loch Ness and Too Much Whisky

September 27, 2012 - 1:17 am No Comments

Checked out of Moorag’s Lodge and headed straight for Loch Ness.

Jeff Finds the Loch Ness Monster

The geology of the Highlands is interesting. If you look at a map, it looks like there is a diagonal cut through Scotland. Along this cut lies the Great Glen Fault. If you go back 400 million years or so, the land north of the fault was once part of Canada. Sitting right on this fault line is the long and skinny Loch Ness.

We stopped at the foot of Loch Ness for some scenic photos and a few group shots. I stuck my hand in, and yup, it’s cold. Staring into the black waters of Loch Ness, Jerry said, “The blacker the water, the sweeter the monster.” Good one, Jerry.

A-Team at Loch Ness

A couple of more stops for photos with giant plastic monsters.


A-Team & Nessie

There really wasn’t a whole lot to the Loch Ness experience. Somehow, I was expecting more. A monster, maybe? Big displays showing all the research they’ve done to try and track down Nessie? A scary boat ride over the black water?

Back on the bus, we listened to Andy’s thoughts on the Loch Ness monster myth.

We made an unexpected stop on the River Moriston for a quick hike down to the water. Surprisingly impressive views of the rapids. Andy mentioned that Scottish author J.M. Barrie’s summer home was in the area, though I’m not sure we actually saw it.

Invermoriston Falls

River Moriston from the Summer House

Highland Cow

A quick stop at ruined Urquhart Castle.

Urquhart Castle

After the catsle, we headed further north and drove through Inverness. A bit of a geography and math nerd, I marveled at the fact that Inverness was the furthest north I have ever been. In 2010, Doug and I were in Ushuaia on the southern tip of Argentina, but a look at the numbers and some quick math reveals that Inverness is about 185 miles closer to the north pole than Ushuaia is to the south pole.

  • Inverness: 57.47° N, 3972 miles from the north pole
  • Ushuaia: 54.80° S, 3787 miles from the south pole

From Inverness, we turned south and began the journey back to Edinburgh. We stopped at the Culloden Battlefield, where Scottish Jacobites seeking to overthrow the English monarchy fought the English in 1746. Thousands were killed. The English won the battle and maintained their legal union with Scotland, a union which continues to the present day. Alas, on this day, the battlefield was fogged over. Colored flags marking the soldier’s positions were just barely visible. The Aussie ladies, who had read about the Battle of Culloden in their romance novels, were particularly disappointed.

Culloden Battlefield

After days of wet and gray dreariness, blue sky and blazing sun finally came out as we headed south. It’s amazing how different the Scotland looks when bathed in warm sunlight.

Our last stop on the way back to Edinburgh was Blair Atholl Distillery, where Bell’s blended whisky (spelled without an “e” around here) is produced.

Blair Athol Distillery

Our group went inside for a tour and tasting. The explanation of the distillation process was interesting, and the smell of soaking, fermented barley was rich and satisfying, but when it came to the tasting, I could barely get it down. The sip I took seared through my mouth and throat like concentrated rubbing alcohol. How can anyone drink the stuff?

Thinking I might acquire the taste after a few more sips, I finished my shot, diluting it with some water to make it more palatable. Then, Muttley (who eats candy and smokes a lot but for some reason doesn’t drink) gave me her shot. After finishing it, I decided that I had not acquired the taste and that whisky was not for me.

Tasting Room at Blair Athol Distillery

Blair Athol Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Heading back to Edinburgh, a few of the guys asked Andy about stopping at world-famous St. Andrews golf course, the place where golf is thought to have been first played in the early 1400s. Andy said that conditions were too muddy and it wouldn’t be worth stopping, but was he just saying that to avoid a slight detour?

We crossed the awesomely named Firth of Forth, giving us a nice view of the Forth Rail Bridge, the world’s first major steel cantilever bridge, completed in 1890. Andy made no mention of it, but it was quite the engineering marvel of its time and looks impressive even today.

Forth Rail Bridge

At last, we were back in Edinburgh. Our HAGGiS tour was over. As Andy said his goodbyes, without any prompting from us, he whipped out a B.A. Baracas “A-Team” reference out of nowhere. The four of us erupted. We collected our things, said goodbye to our group, got awkward hugs from Van Helsing, and thanked Andy for a great three days.

A-Team & Andy

Bags in tow, we set off to the Edinburgh apartment that Conrad had booked through airbnb.com. We stopped at a pub to use their wifi and get our bearings and then got to the apartment. Conrad did us well. After days in cramped hostels, this place was quite luxurious.

Conrad broke out his souvenir whisky, and we all had some. We changed clothes and grabbed a quick dinner at one of the local hostels, where I had two rum and cokes. Then the guys wanted to hit some of the local bars.


Two shots of whisky, a cider at the pub, two more shots of whisky, and two rum and cokes, all BEFORE going out drinking for the night. I don’t know how the other guys kept going, but I couldn’t hang. I’m completely thrashed, and I need sleep.

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