Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Highland, Haggis and Hootinannny

Despite my valiant efforts two weeks ago to finally catch up and get myself on track and on time with my blogs, I have once again fallen victim to blogging a week after the fact.  But fear not, I will once again try and set myself straight this week, hopefully for good.  I would also like to pre-emptively apologize for the length of this blog, but it was such a wonderful experience I felt the need to include as many details as I could.

Two weekends ago, I joined all of the other Butler students throughout all of Scotland for an action packed weekend in the Highlands.  I had spent the majority of my time in Scotland with my family a few years ago in the Highlands and absolutely loved it, so I was eager to go back.  Unfortunately, since we were leaving from Glasgow very early Friday morning and not returning till Sunday evening, I would be missing my Anatomy class and valuable time to study for our first quiz the following Monday, however a trip to the Highlands was too good to pass up.

Will and I woke up bright and early and met our fellow Queen Margaret-ers at 7am to make the half hour walk to campus to catch the bus.  We were greeted by a luxury coach, boarded up, and since we were the first and only one’s on the bus, were able to stretch out in a row all to ourselves.  Our bus driver, Blair, introduced himself and said that he would not be offended if we all fell straight asleep…. so we did.  About an hour later we stopped in Stirling, a city to the north-west of Glasgow, to pick up about 7 more people before heading off to Perth to meet up with the remainder of the Butler students.

When we got to Perth, we stopped in the parking lot of Asda, a HUGE supermarket, and had some time to go grab some food.  Will and I knew we had to take advantage of this wonderful supermarket opportunity, so we stocked up on a loaf of bread, some meat, cheese, chips, and drinks, all for only 5 pounds!  Sure, when we got back on the bus people laughed at us a bit, but we were the ones laughing later when everyone was complaining about spending money on food.  Anyways, also inside Asda we were met by a lovely surprise; we bumped into Mike, Alex and Alexa, our friends from Orientation who were doing the internship at Parliament in Edinburgh.  Unfortunately they were the only ones to be joining us, Erika, Kush, and Megan all being held up by other engagements.

The Edinburgh-ites joined us back on our bus, newly christened “Braveheart” and we headed off to the Hermitage, Dunkeld, to take a short walk through the forest to see a gorgeous waterfall.

River leading up to the waterfall.
Hermitage Waterfall
Cool Bridge that Crosses the River

As we made our way to the waterfall, we couldn’t help but notice how many other college aged kids were around us and wondered who they all could be, surely they weren’t all Butler students right? Wrong.  Apparently Butler does seem to know what they are doing, not just in Glasgow, but all over Scotland, because we were accompanied by roughly 100 other students from all over the country!  The two largest groups were by in large those from St. Andrews and Edinburgh, but students simply studying there and not participating in the internship program our friends were.  The size of the group was a little overwhelming at first, and in a way sort of detracted from the beauty and solitude that characterizes the Highlands, but we got used to traveling in a convoy of 4 coaches soon enough (at least Braveheart stayed relatively empty and we were able to maintain our own private rows, highly conducive to napping).

After our stop at the waterfalls we had a short drive to the little village of Pitlochry.  I had visited here previously with my family and it was one of our favorite, quaint little villages.  We unloaded the bus and had lunch, Will and I making our ham/cheese sandwiches with the supplies we had purchased earlier.  After lunch we wandered the streets, looking in all the little shops that lined the main street.


After our stay in Pitlochry we had about and hour journey northward for a stop at the Glenfinnan Viaduct, made famous for it’s appearances in the Harry Potter films.  The drive up was almost an event in itself as we passed through some of the most beautiful and unique countryside in the world.

Not bad for pictures taken on a bus…

Once we reached Glenfinnan, we had some time before the train was supposed to pass so we explored the surrounding area and skipped rocks on the most picturesque lake imaginable.

Simply breathtaking…

When the time was right, we made our way up the muddy trail, with only a few minor slips…, and got into position to see the Jacobite Express (aka Hogwarts Express), one of the last remaining steam trains in Britain, make it’s way across the bridge.

Glenfinnan Viaduct
Look familiar…?

My life now complete, we boarded back onto the busses and made our way to Inverness and our hostel.  I took this time to catch up on some reading Waverly for my Scottish Literature class, a story about an Englishman fascinated by Scottish and more specifically the Highland lifestyle, and consequently gets caught up in the Jacobite Rebellion of the 1740s.  It was really cool to be reading vivid, romantic descriptions of the Highlands while also experiencing them myself.  I guess being a little behind in my reading was a blessing in disguise!

Once we got to Inverness, our three superhuman Butler leaders, Ruth, Deirdra and Catherine, magically managed to group the 100 some odd of us neatly into groups of 3-6 people and get us situated into our rooms at the hostel.  We had a few minutes to freshen up before a wonderfully satisfying dinner of Pizza Hut.  After dinner we had the rest of the night free, so we asked Ruth and Deirdra where the good places to go in Inverness were, and both quickly replied that Hootinanny, a pub with live music, was the place to be.  So after some relaxing in our rooms we made our way into the city center and to Hootinanny.  It was a wonderful atmosphere with great folk and alternative-rock-folk music and we had a great night soaking it all in.

As the sign said, one of Scotland’s best live music venues.
A great local traditional Scottish folk band.

The next morning we enjoyed a complimentary breakfast at the hostel before heading off to the Culloden Battlefield, the site of the last military battle on British soil.  It was the culmination, and dramatic ending to the aforestated Jacobite Rebellion.  For those of you who don’t know too much about Scottish history I will give you a brief lesson.

Many people think of the Jacobite Rebellion as a fight for Scottish independence, but in fact it was a movement to restore the Stuart line of kings, displaced by the Hanoverians in the Glorious Revolution of 1688, to the throne of the newly established Great Britain, formed by the Union of Parliaments in 1707.  It was not simply a battle between England and Scotland, but a true civil war, based more on monarchical loyalty and religion, Catholic vs Protestant.  However, it is true that the Jacobites were comprised majorily by Scot’s and the “wild, uncivilized” Highlanders in specific, and the Hanovarians, the more “aristocratic” English.  The Jacobites were led by Charles Edward Stuart, or more commonly known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, the descendant of the Stuart line of kings and heir apparent to the thrown.

The Jacobites had marked successes in Scotland, re-taking the Scottish capitol of Edinburgh, however their cause was brutally brought to an end at Culloden.  The Jacobites were outnumbered about 3 to 1 and were ill-equipped and fatigued from their march to the battle the night before.  The battle lasted only about and hour and was more of a slaughtering than an actual battle.  The well trained and equipped Hanoverian army simply mowed down the charging forces wielding their broadswords and scattered muskets.  Over 3,000 Jacobites were killed, compared to only about 300 Hanoverians.  The battle snuffed out all momentum of the Jacobite caused and ended the efforts of Bonnie Prince Charlie to take the thrown.  It was a dreadful day in Scottish history and the battlefield serves as a memorial to all of those who gave their life for a cause they so deeply believed in.  On the morning we visited, the entire battlefield was shrouded in a thick fog, creating an eerie atmosphere fitting of so sombre a place.

Culloden Battlefield
Flag marking the Jacobite lines.

This, my second trip to Culloden, contrasted heavily with my first visit with my family which was during  a sunny day at peak tourist hours.  It took a lot away from the scene and I didn’t realize it until my second visit which was much more quiet, personal and moving.  It was a very unique experience I won’t soon forget.

After Culloden, we were off to probably my favorite part of the trip, a sheepdog display at a local farm in Kinguisse.  The farm we went to actually trained the dogs for the movie Babe!  During the display, the farmer, or shephard I should say (I can’t for the life of me remember his name…), showed us how the dogs, Border Collies, responded to different whistle and vocal commands that allowed him to to guide the dogs and in turn the sheep to different areas, always keeping them grouped together.  The dogs were simply brilliant and responded immediately to the particular commands ranging from simple go right/left, to lay down, crawl, speed up, slow down, hold etc.  It was just as amazing watching the shephard as the dogs because for him to remember and produce all the subtle different sounds to guide the individual dogs to do what he wanted was I am sure, no easy task.

Dog directing a flock of sheep.
Group of dogs keeping the sheep together and calm.

Directing the flock accurately through a gap in the trees.
His dogs are world renowned and have one countless herding competitions.

After the display, he hooked one of the sheep and gave us a shearing lesson, even allowing all of us to try!

Me shearing a sheep!

After shearing, we were allowed to meet and play with all of the dogs and some puppies.  I am an avid dog lover, and being away from my Golden Retriever for so long, I start  having canine withdrawls, so this was a wonderful treat for me.  We learned that Border Collies are especially bred for herding and that as early as 8 weeks old they will begin chasing ducks and other small animals around, but if they stalk each other  or another animals as puppies, it is a good indication they will grow up to be the best sheep dogs.

Me with a 3 month old puppy.

These little guys were only 8 days old.

Me with a gorgeous Irish Setter- the housepet.

After a quick pocket check and puppy count, we were allowed to reboard the busses and headed off to our the highland town of Aviemore.  This was in fact the town that I spent the majority of my time in Scotland previously with my family, our timeshare located at the Macdonald Resort, so I knew the area pretty well.  After a lunch of fish and chips and a sample of some delicious deep-fried haggis (tastes alot like meatloaf or groundbeef) we went exploring the town.  Since we had seen a few little towns like this already and I knew the area a bit, we decided to forego the shops on main street and instead headed down a little trail down to a river I used to run when I had visited previously.  We, or I should say I, climbed trees, dipped our feet in the river, and had a heated rock skipping competition which I won with an unheard of 15 skip throw.  It was a great little break from the very touristy things we had been doing thus far and helped us really connect with the beauty that is the highlands.

The Road Less Travelled
Chillin at the river.

Sadly we left our little haven and headed back to the bus where we were whisked off to our last destination of the day, the Glenlivet Distillery.  Although this was the fifth distillery I had visited in my life, it was by far my  favorite.  Our tour guide was a delightful elderly man who was absolutely hysterical and simply in love with whisky.  We had a wonderful tour and a taste of one of the most famous whiskies in the world.

Our tour group in the dram room.

After another non-stop day, we enjoyed some well earned rest on the way back to the hostel.  Once back at the hostel we had some free time to freshen up before a lovely meal at a local restaurant provided by Butler.  We were all pretty exhausted after the long day so we stayed in that night talking and playing cards in our hostel.

The next morning we again woke bright and early and packed up our stuff before heading out, seeing as how we would be back at our respective unies that evening.  We left Inverness for good, and unfortunately we never really had a good amount of time, or daylight for that matte,r to go explore the city, so I may have to return at a later date.  Our first destination Sunday morning was Loch Ness where we took a cruise on the lake and stopped at Urqhart Castle, one of the most famous and picturesque of all of Scotland’s hundreds of castles.

Sun breaking through the clouds above Loch Ness.
That’s one big lake…
There’s Nessie!!
Urqhart Castle

Ruins of Urqhart Castle- It was common practice to dismantle a castle if it was going to be overtaken to prevent the invading forces in using it.

Having got our castle fix, we headed on down the road to the end of the loch to Ft Angus for some free time and food.  We all decided to splurge and went to a nice pub for lunch and I enjoyed a delicious venison burger and lentil soup.

River Ness flowing into Loch Ness

Lock system on the River Ness.
This is the detail than leads many scientists to truly believe the Loch Ness monster is nothing more than a myth.  They have agreed that it may have been possible for some sort of plesiosaur derivative to have survived all of this time in the deep waters of Loch Ness, evolving into a hermaphroditic species that could reproduce by itself.  However, in order to bear young, the monster would have to swim up the River Ness, out to the warmer waters of the ocean to give birth to it’s offspring, but these locks provide a pretty significant challenge for a giant water monster to slip by unnoticed…

Our stomachs full, we boarded up for the last long haul back to school.  However, the ride back was one of the most gorgeous and scenic journeys, and we even took a quick break in the breathtaking mountainous valley of Glenncoe.


Words and pictures truly cannot do justice to the beauty and grandeur of the landscapes found in Glencoe.  It is an incredibly humbling and moving experience to witness it because it makes you, as a single human being, feel so small and utterly insignificant in the grandness of the physical size and age of the world.

After Glencoe we stopped in one more small town for a bathroom break and quick refreshment, and had to say goodbye once again to our Edinburgh friends as the busses split of and headed to their different destinations.  The ride back to Glasgow was very quiet, everyone seeming to be in their own private reflection of the weekend.  Although I had experienced the highlands before, I was once again moved by the beauty and diversity of the land, the ancient and proud history of the region, and the deep seeded culture and kindness of it’s inhabitants, and was reminded of why it was I chose to spend a small portion of my life in the magnificent country of Scotland.


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