The Road To Inverness

The ride from Glasgow to Oban is, along with the bit of Utah where I-15 splits and heads south from I-70, one of the more powerful and beautiful bits of scenery I've ever been through. Given that our bus on Sunday morning left at 8:30 am, we were both still half asleep, and the sky was pretty overcast, I really wasn't too well prepared for what awaited us along the way, and I found myself wishing wishing sleep wasn't calling so loudly. In all of my Scotland daydreams in middle school, high school and since (There were many. Thanks, Travis.), I always sort of pictured the cities as being in sort of ho-hum flat spaces, and it wasn't until the highlands that things got hilly and green and picturesque. To be honest, I'm not sure what exactly counts as the highlands so perhaps the whole Sunday morning bus ride was part of it. Mountain after mountain shrouded in a dreamy, low hanging fog, waterfalls spilling out of nowhere headed toward the nearest loch (lake) and the road winding up and over and through it all. I wish I could've asked the bus driver to pause so I could take a few photos. When we arrived in Oban (pronounced: oh-bin, with the latter almost just "bn"), we weren't really sure what we'd find there except, sadly, that the distillery is closed on Sundays. I say sadly because we would've loved to have poked around and taken the tour but what we found instead was far better (especially given the amount of distilleries near where we are now). We checked into the hostel in town and one of the more friendly and helpful people we've met on the trip so far happened to be working the desk. She informed us that not only is there a small island called Kerrera just off the shore of Oban, but there's a free hourly shuttle boat (ten minute ride) that'll dump you off at the marina on the other side where you're immediately free to wander the entire island. There was a small sign pointing the way to the "foot path" but that's pretty much the only guidance. This map might help illustrate the size of the island, which takes four hours to hike all the way around (and includes a bunch of sheep, 35 residents, one restaurant, one castle and one monument), though not the views from it.

Off the other side of it is a seal colony (we didn't see any) and the isle of Mull, which we were advised is more of a full day trip. Despite the misting rain, we managed to have a picnic at the top and then get our shoes completely soaked on the walk back before retiring to what turned out to be a really great hostel overall for the night.

Monday morning brought our bus from Oban, through Fort William, past Loch Ness (Huge lake! No monster, but I won't lie: a little part of both of us kept looking, just in case...) and on into Inverness, the "capital of the north". Since we had a little time to kill before catching the bus that would take us out to the farm where we will be for the next month, we decided to wander around the downtown area and try to find a cafe or pub. In hindsight, some things seem like such great decisions even though in the moment they can feel so unimportant. Getting a coffee at Bar One turned out to be one of these as we ended up talking to an inspiring couple in their 60s from Lancashire, England who were waiting to catch their own train home after hiking for a month from Glasgow to the top of Scotland. For the better part of an hour they couldn't have been friendlier or more interesting, handing off stories of other hikes they'd done and what they'd seen.

Next stop: Ardersier, where we'll be working on an organic farm through most of June, temporarily trading in our wandering shoes for our work boots.

Highlights: - The black Guillemots that reside in Oban. They fly and walk as awkward as a penguin on duck feet, but can dive underwater to 150 meters because their bodies are built to be able to withstand the pressure. Funny AND awesome.

- The Oban Backpackers hostel, which was not only helpful but also had Nutella in the complimentary breakfast. Win!

- The British captain and owner of the 10 Contesto, a 36-foot Shetland style sailboat that we were originally just admiring for its uniqueness. While we were standing on the pier looking at it, he came out and chatted away, eventually getting to the part in his story of where he learned to sail: Cape Cod, MA. It is a small world.

Location:Inverness,United Kingdom