When we started our tour, our guide explained that Insight Vacations prides itself on “rare authentic experiences and meaningful interactions.” He reminded us that our tour was called Country Roads of Scotland on several occasions. We didn’t realize until today that he was bracing us for a day’s worth of driving a large, Mercedes coach (bus) on rural, one-lane roads filled with suicide sheep.
We drive from Thurso to Tongue, Ullapool and onto the Isle of Skye. They weren’t kidding about country roads. We watched our coach driver navigate the narrow one lane roads as we held our breath whenever we met an oncoming car. There were numerous pull outs along the way and apparently the honor system was in place as to just how daring you wanted to be. Oddly, the drivers seemed to take it all in stride. Sometimes, we had to stop suddenly for sheep on the road (at which point we all jumped off with our cameras and the driver humored us). One of the passengers shouted “deer” every time she saw a red deer. Gene and I didn’t even look up as we can see deer every single day at home.
This remote part of Scotland is breath taking and humbling as you imagine how self sufficient the population must be. Many school children travel into town and stay in dormitories during the week and only get to go home on weekends because the trip is so long. There is a peaceful beauty to it (note I say that while sitting on a luxury heated and cooled Mercedes coach). I took several videos of sheep for Tavi.
We stop for tea and scones (lunch) in a small village with one hotel/restaurant. The staff is amazing at making sure everyone is fed and offered a bathroom stop. While our coach does, technically have a bathroom, we were told that it was for emergency use only. By law, you must stay seated and with a seat belt securely fastened while the coach is moving, and the bathroom is only good for so many flushes before it is full and there aren’t any pumping stations available until the end of our trip. And one last bit of advice, if you do have to use it, back in because it is so small you can’t turn around. Fortunately, they stop every two hours so I never saw the inside of the toilet, but I did take cautionary photos of the outside of it.
We arrive at our hotel with the usual caution from the tour guide, “Make sure your shower works, and don’t complain about the room. I’m not kidding.” My expectations are pretty low at this point as I cautiously open the door to the room. My first two thoughts are, “We have stepped back to the 60’s, and what is that smell?” It is very humid on the Isle of Skye, so the musty smell is something I’m going to have to live with. As Gene and I check out the room, I realize that there is room (barely) for two people, and room for our luggage, but not room for both. Of course that is about the time our luggage is delivered and we are asked, “Where do you want us to put it?” In retrospect, I take this to mean, “Why did you pack so much. This is the Country Roads of Scotland tour!”
By this point, I have realized that I’m tired of packing and repacking clothing, so I come up with the plan to start throwing away my dirty clothes. Seriously, if I never see some of these items again, I will be just fine. After picking up my fair share of tartan scarves and shortbread cookies (and scotch whisky, I will not lie), I start throwing away Gene’s dirty clothes as well. Don’t tell him. I prefer it to be a surprise. We are seasoned travelers by this point, so I take a shower before dinner. I don’t get scalded so I come out of the shower with a big grin and say, “It works!” Gene and I do the shimmy so he can get past me to the shower and says, “You swear it works and this isn’t a joke?” I laugh. While we are on a streak, we hit the bar and buy ice.