We turned off the A-82; the first sight of the main village square of Scottish village of Drumnadrochit with a pub, restaurant, grocery shop and newsagent, straight out of an Enid Blyton story. Flowers bloomed everywhere; colorful petunias peered out of hanging baskets on lamp-posts and roses nodded carelessly in flower-beds by the road. A little ahead was a businesslike Tourist Center, followed by a grammar school, high school and clusters of houses. Drumnadrochit had been recommended for its’ quaint rusticity by our friend, Mr.MacKinnon, who like a true Scot, called it droom-na droi-keet.
Earlier that day, we had driven down the A-82 in a South-Westerly direction from Edinburgh in a Fiat Punto, passing through the countryside around Loch Ness, also loftily known as the Great Glen, which is also famous for its production of Scotch whisky.
The countryside around Loch Ness with the purple heather that is seen growing on the road-side is fresh and vivid. In late September, when we visited, the fields had been reaped and were barren. Not so the forests that formed the backdrop for the fields; they were fresh verdant, as if defying the coming winter …
The A-82 follows the bank of the Loch Ness, and we could not resist stopping to soak up the sight of this vast lake shimmering in the afternoon sun. Formed by a natural defect in the earth’s tectonic plates millions of years ago, this “lake” is in fact as large as a sea and deeper than the height of the Tower of London. Like millions before us, we posed for a picture with the lake as a backdrop.
In Drumnadrochit, we stayed in a bed-and-breakfast place called Glen Rowan, an ivy-covered cottage with a colorful garden and a little stream flowing noisily through the garden at the back and blooming apple trees in the backyard. Vanessa and Alistair, our hosts were welcoming and friendly.
Our mornings would begin with a sumptuous breakfast prepared by Vanessa (with solicitous concern for our likes and dislikes) and served by Alistair (with theatrical flair and conversation about the weather). Stuffed to the brim with pancakes, omelets and sausages, we would venture forth to sample the delights of this village and its environs. Well connected by road with all the modern amenities, it is just laid-back-enough to create an impression of being in a different world.
Drumnadrochit offers trekking and cycling tours, outings to waterfalls, fishing, a Loch Ness cruise, etc. We even took a short drive to the village of Avoch, where bottle-nosed dolphins could be spotted near the Moray Firth.
Here, time seemed to stand still and we seemed to be able to experience more from every unscripted minute. The weather was lovely; just a little chilly in the morning, but bright and sunny enough later in the day to make the sightseeing pleasurable. Every morning, we would confer about what we felt like doing and set the pace for our day.
Towards evening, the mercury dipped once more and gave just that right bit of nip in the air to justify a visit to the Fiddler’s café and Bar –a local pub, for a leisurely tipple. Drumnadrochit also has a snack and lunch place (ideal for fish-n-chips, burgers or sandwiches) called the Glen Café with a friendly staff, who will let you sit on the picnic tables outside, soaking up the sun-shine or lazily nurse a chilled beer inside.
Loch Ness, as most of us know, is famous for its’ resident monster, affectionately called Nessie (a female !?) No childhood has perhaps been complete without spine-chilling accounts as well as matinees of horror movies inspired by Nessie-like monsters. But in the Loch Ness environs, this obsession reaches manic proportions. The wily Scots have turned the occasional and rather dubious “sightings” of Nessie into a thriving tourist industry, with two full-scale museums, which give “scientific data” to disprove the existence of Nessie, but end non-committally enough to make you crane your necks to sight the monster, if you do happen to take the Loch Ness cruise later. Add to that the knick-knacks and mementoes one buys, one comes out no wiser about the existence of Nessie, but definitely poorer.
A visit to one of the Historic Scotland castles is a must, though some of these castles are little more than crumbling walls and ramparts. Situated on a rocky outcrop overlooking Loch Ness, Urquhart castle commands a spectacular view of the loch. This alone should make the climb to the top of the lone remaining tower in this castle worthwhile. Castle Urquhart also boasts of a trebouchet or a giant sling, which, no doubt, featured in many of the battles between the Scots and the English. The visitors-center features a video show, skillfully recreates the turbulent history of the castle complete with kilt- clad Scottish actors enacting the battle scenes.
The kilt, made of tartan, a locally woven wool is a symbol of Scottish culture and tradition, with each Clan (family) having a uniquely colored pattern. All over Scotland, tourists can buy costumes or just have their pictures taken wearing them. Interestingly, the Scottish clans were banned from wearing their ‘colors’ after their defeat in the battle of Culloden by the English, to suppress their national pride.
Our last evening, we strolled back, breathing the clear night-air, in preparation of our return to the polluted metropolis that we called home. Beneath the starry skies of this village, which had captured our hearts, we made a silent promise … to return to the Glen in the winter, when everything including the Loch is frozen and Drumnadrochit would cast its spell on us once more.
Ujwala Shenoy Karmarkar is a practicing Anaesthesiologist working in Mumbai. She loves conversations, meeting people, reading and listening to Hindi film songs. She writes about anything that moves her. She blogs at http://ujwalasblog.wordpress.com