Welcome to Scotland

On my drive to work this morning, visibility was way down. Fog covered the bridges and danced on the turnpike. During the walk from my car to my office, a light mist tickled my face. It was a dreary day indeed. My workplace might not look very magical in the fog, but luckily I have some vivid memories of a place that is made for it. I will always think of Cuith Raing, Scotland as a beautiful ball of mist.

From the second I landed in Ireland for my semester abroad, I was ready to explore. I wanted to hit the ground running and leave no weekend unplanned. One of my first free weekends was in early March, and I thought Scotland would be a good place to begin as it was not too far away. Before long, everything was set. I would arrive in Edinburgh in the late morning and have the rest of the day to explore the city. The following morning, I would meet up with a tour group that would take me on a three day tour of the highlands, hitting hot spots like the Isle of Skye and Loch Ness. One last evening in Edinburgh after the tour would round out the trip, and then a late morning flight the next day would get me back to Dublin.

View of the town from up near Edinburgh Castle.

View of the town from up near Edinburgh Castle.

When I landed in Scotland, the sky was mostly blue. A perfect backdrop for a day of castles, whisky, souvenir shopping, and tomato soup. Edinburgh is a really nice city, with beautiful historic buildings and charming little alcoves. My hostel was just two blocks down from the famous Royal Mile and one block away from the starting point of the following day’s tour, so I was on foot the entire day. It also wasn’t nearly as cold out as I had expected, so I had a pleasant day touring Edinburgh Castle and the surrounding hills. I explored the castle for nearly two hours, checking out every nook and cranny while following along in the visitors’ guide. As I headed down a winding trail on the hillside, I realized that I couldn’t decide which was better- the view of the castle from the town, or the view of the town from the castle!

A bit of blue sky surrounding Dunkeld Cathedral.

A bit of blue sky surrounding Dunkeld Cathedral.

You might be wondering, when does the fog roll in? Soon, but not quite yet. The next day, when my tour began, the weather was more of the same. Stretches of blue sky led us as we headed for the highlands and enjoyed some incredibly scenic stops. I climbed around at the Ruthven Barracks, said a prayer at Dunkeld Cathedral, went monster hunting at Loch Ness, and enjoyed a performance about Scottish traditions and history. Day turned to night which turned to day again, and this time, it was a rainy mess. We bundled ourselves up for this chilly day and pressed forward.

My first view of Cuith Raing.

My first view of the area around Cuith Raing.

Out of nowhere, the bus suddenly stopped and pulled over onto the side of the road.

“Alright guys, ready to explore Cuith Raing?”

Umm, what? My tour guide was leading us off of the bus and talking like we were someplace, but all I could see was a little bit of road ahead, a little bit of grass to the sides, and foggy hills all around. I pulled my jacket tighter around me as my tourmates and I whispered to one another about what, exactly, we were supposed to be looking at.

A great shot from the highest point I hiked to. Off to the right you can see  a few of my tourmates near the edge of the hills, and just right of center, the little yellow spot is our tour bus.

A great shot from the highest point I hiked to. Off to the right you can see a few of my tourmates near the edge of the hills, and the tiny yellow rectangle in the center is our tour bus.

“Who wants to join me for a wee hike?” he said now.

I followed him into the fog, and it took a few steps to realize we were actually going up a fairly steep hill. It was so foggy you could hardly see where you were going. We walked on for a while until the guide finally told us to turn around and look at the view. I gasped. I couldn’t believe how high up we had already gone. The wind was really whipping now, but a few of us decided to hike even further. It seemed that the top of the hill wasn’t too far off. Once we reached the “top of the hill”, however, it became apparent that there was still a long way to go. As we got through and above certain patches of fog, we could see more pieces of the hill that were previously hidden. I felt like I was on a different planet, somewhere mysterious and other worldly. I don’t even think the dozens of photos I took will do it justice.

The wind had made keeping my hood over my head impossible.

The wind made keeping myself dry impossible, and my hood was consistently blown off of my head.

By the time we got back to the bus, I was soaked and chilled to the bone. We hit a few more stops that day, but none quite as memorable as Cuith Raing. The sun had peeked out ever so slightly toward the end, and it made me believe that on a sunny day Cuith Raing (and most of the Scottish Highlands, for that matter) would look completely different. Someday, I hope to see the Highlands in full sunlight!

When the sun came out!

When the sun came out!

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