Leaving Edinburgh on my Island Explorer tour I noticed it didn’t take us long to leave the city behind and become surrounded with lush green pastures and small stone and brick houses.
We stopped in the town of Dunkeld to have a look at the old church there and grab a snack. Haggis is very good about giving you several opportunities for snacks and bathrooms throughout the day.
If you haven’t spent much time in the U.K. I recommend you use all of these little food stops as opportunities to try the local ice creams. Magnums are my favorite bars, but there are also good scoopable options. I think two ice creams a day is perfectly acceptable considering how much exercise you’re getting.
We made another stop at the Falls of Bruar for some photos. Have your good walking shoes on because although Greg the Haggis Guide said it was just a wee walk, it was a pretty steep hike. (Remember, Greg is equal to three normal men, so you can’t go by his standards.)
After lunch it was a stop at the battlefield of Culloden, site of the massacre of the Jacobians by the British army. I knew almost nothing about this part of Scottish history but before we got there Greg did a great job of giving us some context about why this battle was so important, and so bloody.
After a somber walk around Culloden we were ready for an uplifting night out, so it’s a good thing we were headed for Inverness. The YHA is a nice, clean hostel with just four people to a room. It’s not very centrally located but a cab back to the hostel from town is just 4 pounds, so don’t worry about the long walk back after a few drinks.
On Greg’s recommendation several of us went to Hootananny. It’s a Thai restaurant that also has live Scottish music. The scene attracts plenty of locals as well as backpackers so it’s a good place to have a chat with some Scots.
We started out downstairs listening to traditional Scottish music. Then one of the Aussie guys in our group went to get another drink and disappeared for at least 20 minutes. When he came back he said that he accidentally wandered up to the third floor and wound up drinking with the band who was about to go on upstairs, so we all got up to go check them out. (The moral of the story being that you should always hang out with Aussies, because they make fun things happen.)
Upstairs was more of a college bar. We saw the last few songs from the Mike Duncan Project (well, the band’s real name is “Dave?” but I suggested they change it because one of the singers, Mike Duncan, is like a way cuter, Scottish Jemaine Clement), and they were awesome. Another band came on after them but once you’ve seen Mike Duncan and the Smelly Fingers (that’s my suggested alternative name for them), you don’t really need to see anyone else.
It was a pretty big start to the tour, and with the sky staying light until after 11p.m. nobody wanted the day to end. Luckily we had a late 9a.m. start time for day two, because every extra minute of sleep counts.