This past Saturday, a few friends and I decided to take a bus tour around the highlands of Scotland – we wanted to get our first real look at the beauty this country is known for. To say we were not disappointed would be a massive understatement. The first look at the incredible landscape before us was literally breathtaking and I found myself unable to believe that I was going to be living in such an amazing place for the next five years. I have never seen grass so green in my entire life – they say all the blasted rainy days are to thank for the vibrant hues on rolling hills and mountain tops. Another lesson I have been learning since moving to Scotland is the extent to which the people here love to drink and be merry. On the tour, we learned about something the locals refer to as the “Angels share” during the maturation of whisky. According to our guide, the Angels share of whisky is the 2% of alcohol that naturally evaporates during the maturation process – the locals like to think the angels are taking their share of spirits and will therefore ensure that the whisky tastes the best it possibly can. We learned a little something about the local’s sense of humor on this tour – apparently 7% of Scots voted to make I’m Gonna Be by the Proclaimers the new national anthem. I personally think that anyone would love an excuse to scream “Ba-da-da” at the top of their lungs after a night of drinking at the local pub and claim it was for the love of their great nation.
As we went along on the tour of the highlands, the guide was sure to point out famous shooting sites for movies such as Harry Potter and shows such as Outlander. We got to see the famous steam train that was used in all of the Harry Potter movies! I stood on the platform and watched as it slowly road by, imagining how easy it would be to just get on a train going anywhere and explore the world as it gets smaller every day. We also got to visit the shooting site for the scene where Hagrid skips rocks after Buckbeak's trial. It was really exciting to see the movie kind of come to life before our eyes. Along the way, our guide pointed out the heather and crystals shimmering in the midday sunlight. He explained that ancient lore stated that one should plant these crystals to help ward off against witchcraft and other evils, while heather was known to promote positive energies. Many Celtics and Druids believed in the properties of the plants and stones all around them and would surround themselves in pure energies. This part of the tour was understated but was a really interesting glimpse into the more mystic world of Scottish Lore. At midday we broke for lunch at a fisherman’s wharf where we dined on some of the best fish and chips Scotland has to offer. We explored a secondhand book store and mingled with some locals before walking to the train platform to send off the Jacobite Steam Train.
On our way back down the highlands, we stopped for pictures in a place called Glencoe – former home of the MacDonald Clan. We took many pictures and again were completely blown away by the absolute beauty that is Scotland, especially the highlands. We traveled back through Loch Lomond, singing The Bonnie Banks o’Loch Lomond (aka you take the high road, and I’ll take the low road), a beautifully sad song about two brothers who were given a terrible choice. They were told they must pick one of them to die and one to live. The older brother decided that he would be the one to sacrifice himself because he had known love in his life and “tis better to have loved and lost than to not have loved at all”. He “took the low road” and allowed his brother a second chance at life and love. We made one final stop at the Drovers Inn, which was established in 1705 and features a myriad of stuffed creatures that greet you at the front door. The whole trip was really fantastic and well worth the money spent!
My first week of school was filled with information laden lectures and we even got to try practicing our suturing skills. On Tuesday we had the pleasure of attending a talk hosted by Damien Mander – he spoke of rhino conservation efforts currently going on in Africa. He spoke about the uphill battle faced by conservationists, especially in the face of poachers in 3rd world countries. It was truly incredible to hear him speak about the efforts he and his team are making. During the first week of classes we also got the opportunity to attend a Scottish Ceilidh (pronounced Kay-lee). There is no way to truly describe this to anyone who has not seen it but the closest thing I can think of is line dancing but about ten times more boisterous. Everyone is running into everyone else and slipping over outstretched legs but by the end of it we were all laughing together about the crazy mess of a dance we just pulled off. The end of the night was filled with sweat, bruises, and laughter and now I understand why Ceilidh is such a popular way to celebrate. Everyone gets included, regardless of who you are or who you know – by the end of the dance everyone is holding hands with new friends and laughing about how rowdy everyone got. I went into this experience not knowing anything but came out ready for the next one!
Anyways, Cheers to another week at this crazy thing we call Veterinary School.
Thanks for reading,