I have lived in this glorious, rich with history country for nearly four years and I am somewhat hesitant to admit that I’ve scarcely explored it, only leaving the capital a handful of times. However, I am swiftly expanding my horizons and have booked a trip to Lochinver, a idyllic village on the West Coast of Scotland and home to the world famous pie shop, Lochinver Larder- after all, I am now a sucker for a mac and cheese pie. In the meantime, I recently went on ‘The Hairy Coo’ tour; a free Edinburgh based tour service which runs on tips and donations.
As the Sunday sun rose over Edinburgh Castle, I set out to meet my quirky driver-guide Paddy on the Royal Mile, intrigued and anxious to see what a free tour of the Lower Highlands had to offer. He wasn’t hard to miss and was leaning on a vibrant orange and lime green hairy coo tour bus checking in his passengers as they stepped on one by one.
Paddy knew the winding roads like the back of his hand and had an outstanding wealth of Scottish knowledge to share with the bus full of eager learners. He was a true Scotsman and his charismatic tone told the tales of the land in a gripping and humorous way. Between his bursts of wisdom, he would play songs from famous Scottish artists such as Belle and Sebastian and The Fratellis, staying true to his roots. As we rode through Scotland’s lower towns and trails, ultimately in search for the countries most iconic animal, the highland cow, we stopped at a number of destinations.
First, the world famous structure ‘Forth Bridge’, which towers over the Firth of Forth estuary. Next the National Wallace Monument near Stirling which stands on the summit of Abbey Craig. The outstanding views of the surrounding landscape were photographed by stunned tourists. After Paddy took us to Doune Castle, home to a Game of Thrones set. I took an enjoyable walk around its quaint, historic village peering into the tiny windows of pebbledash houses merely twenty-five feet off the ground. I had lunch in Callander where I tasted my first mac and cheese pie- love at first bite, washed down with a pint of Tennent’s, of course. The mountains and glens of Trossach were perfectly reflected on to the lochs still waters, like a sheet of mirrored glass sweeping over the land. My surroundings looked like a watercolour painting in Autumnal shades. Around the next bend we caught site of the highland cows, lying majestically in their muddy home. They too saw their fellow orange sister roll and park up behind the wooden fence, hurled themselves up and stampeded towards us. Paddy dished out slices of brown bread and we fed our new hairy friends.
I had spent my day immersed in Scotland’s culture and I am fascinated and hooked by its beauty. To end the enthralling day I took a walk around part of Lake Katrine, pondering over the charming and delicate places I had explored. Scotland is one fine country and I am thankful for Paddy, and the fellow Scotsmen who established the wonderful ‘Hairy Coo’ tour company, for guiding me through the Lower Highlands. We arrived back to the Royal Mile at dark and as I stepped off the bus to the sound of bagpipes, I felt proud to live in Scotland.