Day 7: I was up about 4 AM. There was already light in the sky. I got about 7 hours of sleep. The heat went off during the night, but the hotel had given us so many blankets we didn't notice. I wasn't sure if I had it set right to begin with. It was so peaceful, so beautifully quiet. The sheep alarm went off at 4:40– sheep in the adjacent field started to get up. Most remained hunkered down in the field. I figured they would all group together for the night, but they didn't. Each of them just bedded down where they were when it got dark. About 5 AM, I heard somebody's alarm go off. I went to take a shower, and found yet another different faucet. It consisted of two dials, one on top of the other. The outside one controlled the water's temperature, and the inside one controlled the force of the water. There was plenty of hot water to go around. The shower curtain, however, only covered part of the tub. I tried to nap a little, but it just didn't take. I got caught up on my writing while Donna slept. Donna always got up before me, but since arriving in England her internal clock had been messed-up. Back home, she always had a pretty good idea what time it was, but not in Britain. I was feeling it, too. As soon as it started to get light, I felt like I had to get up, and I'd keep going until my body shut down from exhaustion. 

About 6 AM, Wednesday, May 30th, I went ahead and got dressed. We'd been away from home for a week. Outside, I took some pictures. Donna and I ate breakfast with Annisa. We found out she was a technical writer on vacation. She was going around the world. Her next stop was a wedding in New Jersey. In Australia, after 10 years employment, businesses are required to give employees a three month paid vacation. I felt like I lived in the wrong country. The beauty and serenity of the place made it hard to get packed up. I would absoutely go back to Laggan. We boarded the coach, and were on the road just after 8 AM, looking to see Loch Ness that day. It was very recently that there another sighting at the loch. 

It was still cloudy and chilly out. We got some sprinkles. We took off down some of the narrow country roads we'd traveled the day before. One stretch of road was so narrow, the coach had to pull over to let a truck pass. Beyond, foggy mists stretched over the mountaintops and crawled towards the valleys. The coach took us through Newtonmore, home of the Highland Folk Museum. Just past that was where we got on the A9, a two-lane road headed for Inverness. The road widened on hilltops to allow faster vehicles to pass; in Britain, it's called the "overtaking lane."  Ducks along the road seemed to be enjoying the wet weather. In the distance, we could see the ruins of Ruthven Barracks. The day after the battle of Culloden in 1746, as many as 3,000 Jacobite survivors assembled at Ruthven, eager to keep fighting. Instead, a letter from Bonnie Prince Charlie advised everyone to disperse and save themselves. Pretty waterfalls greeted us as we passed below rocky mountainsides. It was soon pouring down rain. East of Inverness, we turned off the road onto B851. That took us to the Culloden battlefield. Bright yellow gorse bushes lined the road. We pulled into the parking lot of the visitor's center. Off to the side, construction had begun on a larger, more comprehensive center. I pulled on my raincoat, and Donna ducked under her umbrella. The inside of the visitor's center was welcome and dry, but I didn't come to see a gift shop. Two sets of doors led out the back, and a muddy path directed you straight out into the battlefield. A yellow flag, flattened against the flagpole by the rain, marked the position of the English troops under Cumberland. Far off in the distance was a red flag– where Bonnie Prince Charlie commanded the Jacobite forces. It was there, April 16th, 1746, that the 5,400 Jacobites met against almost 9,000 English. 

Only a handful of our tour group braved the miserable weather, but I had a mission. It was muddy going, even while trying to stay on the path. The whole battlefield is about the size of four football fields. I passed the round monument to the battle, and not far beyond I found what I was looking for. There are stones on the field, large grey stones marking where the different clans fell in battle. Squinting against the rain, I found the Fraser stone. About 400 Frasers under were in the center of the Jacobite line. The stone marked where they were killed. I touched it, a sad, lonely memorial to brave souls fighting for their homeland. Some dried flowers were laid on top, along with a tiny pile of pebbles. It's a Cherokee tradition to place a stone on a person's grave. (It's a Jewish tradition, too.) I placed a stone on the memorial, then said a little prayer. They are not forgotten. My clothes soaked, my pilgrimage complete, I walked back to the visitor's center. It felt good to get out of the rain.  (Nick later called the weather "diabolical.") Donna and I got some presents in the gift shop. Donna actually ran into someone else from Broken Arrow! He was wearing an Oklahoma jacket. We couldn't believe the coincidence. It was still raining at 10 AM when we got back on the road. 

 Inverness is a city of about 60,000 people, about the size of Broken Arrow, but we didn't even stop there. We drove on through, past the new city hall. Overlooking the River Ness, it was being built to look like a castle. We crossed to the other side of the Ness and followed the road that ran along its banks. On the far side, we passed some locks of the Caledonian Canal. Designed to link the lochs of Scotland together, it was built in the early 1800's. It's mostly used for personal craft these days. Ian Anderson of the rock group Jethro Tull had a castle on the banks of the Ness. We could see in on the far side of the river, deep among the trees. Jimmy Page, of the group Led Zeppelin, also had a mansion in the area, but you couldn't see it from the road. 
About a half hour after leaving Culloden, we pulled up to the Clansman Hotel, overlooking Loch Ness. The rain was relentless. Even a few moments outside left you soaked. A bunch of us got off the coach and followed a path down from the hotel. A stream of rain water led us into a tunnel cut under the road. We were on the banks of Loch Ness. There was a small dock for boats. Loch Ness is famous for trout and salmon, and not just for monsters. We were visiting in the off-season, before the annual summer rush when thousands of people line the banks looking for the Loch Ness Monster. A nearby sign advised the establishment was not responsible for damages caused by monsters. 
The clouds added to the mysterious allure of the place. We slogged through the running rainwater back up to the hotel. The gift shop was amazing. It was full from floor to ceiling of every possible Loch Ness nick nack, trinket and souvenir. The hotel restaurant was called Café Ness. (I figured they were afraid of being sued by a coffee company if they called it the Ness Café.) 
We journeyed down the road, climbing into the low-lying clouds and through canyons of tall trees. The impressive ruins of Urquhart Castle appeared on our left. It wasn't part of the tour, but we stopped long enough to get some pictures from the parking lot. I tried to get as close as I could without going over the retaining wall. Sharon came down and said there were better views from the top of the hill. 
Now, the interesting thing about this picture isn't just the castle, it's the ripple in the water behind it. A few moments before I took this picture, a boat zoomed down the loch, leaving a wake behind it. As this wake got closer to shore, the waves churned it up until it looked like a line of lumps in the water... like something big and bumpy might be swimming just below the surface. 
We were quickly on our way again. At Fort William we saw more locks of the Caledonian Canal. We were traveling southwest on the A82. At Invergarry, the coach slowed down long enough for us to get a glimpse of the Well of the Seven Heads. In 1663, two members of the Keppoch family were killed by seven of their own cousins. The murderers were captured and beheaded. Before their heads were presented to the clan chief, they were washed in the waters from the well. The monument near the well was built in 1812. We passed the fresh water lake of Loch Lochy. I wanted to ask about the Battle of the Shirts, which took place there in 1544. It was a terrible battle between the Clan Fraser and the Clan Donald. I wish we could've stopped to look around. 
We did stop further down the road at the Commando Memorial. During World War II, over 25,000 men received military training in nearby Achnacarry. The soldiers came from America, France, Belgium, Poland and Norway, as well as Britain. The memorial commemorates all those soldiers that died during the war. Nearby is a small, humble memorial to fallen soldiers since World War II. Most of them were tiny, homemade memorials. They reminded me of the memorials posted on the fence around the Oklahoma City Bombing site. One memorial was only two months old, remembering a British soldier that had been killed in Afghanistan. The travel brochures said the Commando Memorial would give us a view of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British isles. That day, however, it was completely hidden behind storm clouds. 
We pulled into a little town beside the road. That's where we stopped for lunch. By then, the rain had mostly let up. There was a hotel, a couple of places to eat, a gift shop-- and a post office. It was a little general store that doubled as a post office. We managed to get to it right before it closed for lunch. I needed to exchange my money for British money. That's not all I got. Scotland prints its own paper money, and even some banks in Scotland have their own currency. They all had fascinating, colorful designs. I remarked to the lady at the post office that British money was so much prettier than American money. She replied, "Have you seen the Jack Nicklaus five pound note?" I never got around to seeing that. 
Nick the tour guide had bragged about one restaurant in town having some great soup. On a cold, wet day like that, soup sure sounded good. By the time we were done with the post office, there was a long line for soup. So, we walked around to the hotel, which had its own café. Donna and I ordered fish and chips, which were delicious. We found a place to sit outside under a picnic shelter. We ate fish and chips in a drizzling Scottish rain, washed down with a 9 proof bottle of Kingfisher beer, and I thought, I like Scotland. Before we left, I stopped in the gas station and picked up one of those no-holds-barred British tabloids I'd always heard about. One of them had a picture of the prime minister on the cover, with the headline "Vanity Blair." 
We left the little town at 1:35. We went through Fort William, but didn't see much more than the train station. Loch Linnhe was a cloudy blur out the windows. The rain got so bad that taking pictures was almost impossible. The coach passed a bridge over water. To the right was Loch Linnhe, and to the left was Loch Leven. We turned southeast towards Glencoe. Great monstrous mountains appeared out of the ground with little warning. Glencoe was the site of a terrible massacre. In 1692, 37 MacDonalds of the MacDonald Clan were killed by their guests the Campbells over their allegiance to the new king, William of Orange. Their homes were burned, and their livestock stolen. Donna, being a Campbell, had mixed emotions. The mountain views were breathtaking. Part of the movie "Rob Roy" was filmed nearby. In the winter, the rugged landscape becomes ski country. One mountain had a chair lift that disappeared into the clouds. There was still some snow left on the higher elevations. We saw some dramatic waterfalls off on the right. 
In every direction we saw hikers, backpacks piled high, bundled-up against the weather. They were following the West Highland Way through the mountains. At one point, I put down my camera to just marvel at the scenery. Mile after mile, the land rolled past like ocean waves, huge hills of mossy earth surrounded by craggy titans. In trying to describe the Highlands, words fail me. I was just overwhelmed. Stunning scenery. 
I tried to ignore the traffic as it zoomed along past us. Vehicles were barreling down the tight, narrow roads at breakneck speeds, flying mere inches past each other. I didn't understand why there wasn't a dozen head-on collisions in Britain every day. At the foot of one mountain, more hikers watched as a train rumbled by. Leaving the mountains behind us, we pulled into the Trossachs, called by some  a "mini-highland." Our coach passed through a thick, wooded area. Rob Roy MacGregor is buried in nearby Balquhidder churchyard. The road narrowed to 1-lane, and going around a wide corner was exciting. 
It was a relief to arrive at Loch Lomand, the largest expanse of water in Great Britain. A Highlander greeted us with some bagpipe music as we crossed from the coach to a small dock. A ship awaited to take us on a short cruise. Donna and I climbed aboard and found seats near one of the windows. The air was brisk. We cast off and began a casual cruise along the water. The boat ride seemed like a ride back in time. Riding out on the water felt simple and pure, a classic manner of travel for thousands of years. The water of the loch was dark and slate grey. Completely opaque. After being cooped up in the bus for hours, it was wonderfully refreshing to be out in the fresh air. Donna and I sipped on some hot tea. Many people took videos. We were out on the loch for about an hour before returning to the coach. Back on the road, we passed the Loch Lomand Golf Club, the most expensive golf club in Britain. It costs 70,000 pounds to join. Sean Connery and Bill Clinton were both members. Above, the rain stopped, and the sun finally started to break through the clouds. We passed the garage where race car driver Jackie Stewart worked for his father as a mechanic. Nearby was the port of Faslane, where British nuclear submarines came to dock. The sun appeared and shone over the bright green landscape. The sky turned blue and completely clear. Why couldn't it have been like that all day? 
We approached the River Clyde, and crossed over the grand Erskine Bridge towards Glasgow. The Queen Elizabeth II recently put to port in Glasgow, which was still a major shipping and shipbuilding point. Glasgow had two soccer teams, the Rangers and the Celtics. The Rangers were supported by local Presbyterians, and the Celtics were supported by the Roman Catholics. Ahead, a traffic jam appeared. The driver pulled off the highway to get around the jam. We pulled down Seward Street to Paisley Road, then turned into an apartment block. Turning around, the driver explained, "We're just experimenting." He got us around the traffic jam, but after putting up with congesting on the Broken Arrow Expressway it didn't look that bad. We arrived at the hotel just before 6 PM. Pulling up to the lobby, we had our only traffic incident of the whole trip. The rear-view mirrors of the coach stuck out in front of the vehicle like the lures off a huge angler fish. One of them scraped against an unexpected artsy overhang that stuck out from the hotel's exterior. There was no damage. It looked like that overhang had been bumped before, too. The Glasgow Crowne Plaza was a very ritzy hotel. Inside, we took the "panoramic elevator" to our room on the fourth floor. A complimentary terry cloth robe was laid out on the bed. The hair dryer was in a drawer next to the Bible. The mini-fridge was full of expensive items we tried not to touch. I turned on the TV, and found a bunch of weird programs... and "The Simpsons." The news was covering the story of the parents of a kidnaped British girl who got to visit with the Pope. Out our window, the view of the River Clyde was tremendous. 
A lot of the group went out for a "Glasgow Evening"side trip. Donna and I opted out of that. We went downstairs for supper. The brochure said the hotel had three places to eat, so we stopped at the front desk and asked for the "casual" one. The girl's Scottish accent was so thick neither of us understood what she said, so we just went in the direction she pointed. We were the only people in the restaurant. The buffet had 5 different kinds of salads, 4 different entrees and 7 different desserts to choose from. I had cheesecake! I checked out the health club, which had lots of exercise machines but no sauna. There were German tourists everywhere. In the lobby, I passed Colin and Joan as they returned from seeing Glasgow. They said it was getting colder outside. I could see scary, dark clouds gathering in the grey sky. A bitter wind blew through the lobby every time the front doors opened. I decided to check out the bar. I didn't recognize any of the labels displayed, so I ordered a Mangers. I thought it was beer. The bartender got out a glass and started putting ice in it. I asked if that's how it was usually served, and he said yes. That's because it turned out to be Irish cider, 4.5% alcohol. I found it refreshing. I couldn't taste the alcohol at all. I sat down and got caught up on my writing. The hotel gift shop had electrical adapters that let Donna plug in her stuff-- that was an achievement. 

We'd been away from home for a whole week. It seemed longer. That first day seemed like two or three. I was running out of clean clothes –or, I should say, cleaner clothes. Fortunately, I found spray deodorant in the gift shop. That made me feel much better. 

Preparations -- Day 1 -- Day 2 -- Day 3 -- Day 4 -- Day 5 -- Day 6
Day 7 -- Day 8 -- Day 9 -- Day 10 -- Day 11 -- Day 12 -- Epilogue
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