In April 2012, I took a 3-day trip to the Scottish Highlands with Haggis Adventures. We saw some amazing scenery and visited many interesting places including the Isle of Skye, Loch Ness, Fort Augustus and Culloden Battlefield. I learned many interesting things about Scottish history, their wars with the English and the way of life of the highlanders. The weather was very changeable (as expected), which was great – it led to some nice variation in the photos.
This set was shot with my new FujiX100 (click here to see my Fuji X100 Hands-on Review) and a Nikon d90 with 85 or 35 f1.8 primes. I have to say that I am extremely impressed by the X100. The colours and dynamic range are fantastic, and it handles all sorts of lighting conditions very well. There are several idiosyncrasies with that camera, but the results are way beyond what I expected when I bought it.
Hamish, the famous Scottish Highland Cow (or “coo” with the authentic Scottish pronunciation)
Beautiful view at Kyleakin on the Isle of Skye. I balanced the X100 on a rock for this shot, and used the built-in ND filter, a polarising filter and f16 to get the longest exposure I could in daylight.
Some more views from Kyleakin, Isle of Skye.
Some shots from Edinburgh City Centre
World-famous Edinburgh Castle. Going inside in quite expensive, and it is very crowded with people. But it’s very quiet at night time and you get this great view. Taken with the Fuji X100, ISO3200, f2.
Doune Castle. The town of Doune is famous for its history of making firearms. Allegedly, the first shots of the US War of Independence were fired with guns manufactured in Doune. Doune Castle, below, was also where many scenes from the Monty Python movies were filmed. Of course it was a budget production, so they simply used different parts of the same castle for filming, while pretending they were in different locations.
William Wallace memorial near Stirling Bridge. William Wallace was a famous Scottish leader during the Scottish War of Independence in the 1200’s. He was a huge man (around 6ft 7 (2.0m)) with enormous arms, making him a fierce warrior, especially deadly with the huge Scottish claymore sword. Wallace carried a special sword, reportedly 5ft 6 (1.68m) long which could behead up to 5 men with one swing. He defeated the English army at a battle close to this memorial monument where he strategically forced English soldiers across a narrow bridge and killed them as they crossed.
He was eventually defeated during the Battle of Falkirk, where he was captured, tried and then found guilty of treason. He was then executed in the most brutal and humiliating way that was possible – by being hanged, drawn and quartered. This means that he was repeatedly hanged by his neck until almost dead, then taken down to recover, then re-hanged several times. He was then “drawn” which involved removing unessential internal organs (including genitals) and burning them in front of him while he was still conscious. His arms and legs were then tied to different horses and ripped apart. Only then was he finally beheaded. His body parts were distributed around the country as a warning against further Scottish rebellion, with his head displayed on the infamous Tower of London.
Scottish redheads! The colours match almost perfectly!
Entering the Scottish Highlands. Covered with spongy heather, moss and grass.
Now some beautiful views of the Scottish Highlands and Lochs. In case anybody wondered, a Loch is simply the Scottish word for Lake.
Reindeer in Scotland!
The next day we went back out for a hike in the highlands
This river promises eternal beauty if you are brave enough to dip your face into the freezing cold water for 7 seconds!
Fort Augustus, next to Loch Ness, home of Nessie!
The famous Scottish sense of humour. The stone tells us that Donald Cordon Steele was “killed by a boulder while climbing”. And of course, this headstone marking his burial place *IS* the boulder which killed him.
Culloden Battlefield is the site of one of the final battles between the English armies and Scottish clans, close to Inverness. It marked the end of the Scottish Jacobite movement by Charles Edward Stuart with a resounding victory for the English. The English army crushed the Scottish rebellion in less than 45 minutes, with 2000 Jacobites killed vs less than 60 English casualties. After this battle, the English did their best to wipe out all remaining resistance by banning the Gaelic language and several cultural traditions of the Scottish people. The battlefield is now preserved as a memorial for fallen Scottish clan leaders.
The red flags on Culloden battlefield mark the starting positions of the Scottish warriors.
And these stones mark the places where the leaders of each army fell.
This stone marks the place where the leader of Clan Mackintosh fell.
Nessie looking at her home in Loch Ness. The legend of Nessie the Loch Ness Monster is still alive and well today, and everybody has an opinion about whether or not she exists. Unfortunately, nobody has been able to conclusively prove or disprove her existence yet. Loch Ness does not cover a large surface area, but it is a huge lake in terms of volume, due to its steep sides and significant depth. Personally, I think it’s reasonable for there to be large creatures living in there, considering how many new species we discover in oceans and lakes every day. We are constantly discovering new species in the oceans and even re-discovering ones which we thought were extinct, like the Coelacanth. In a lake this size, large creatures could easily remain hidden, and there are even reportedly underwater channels and caves which we have no explored yet.
To finish off the trip, we visited the distillery responsible for Bells Whisky. Or more specifically, the Blair Athol single malt whisky. The tour guide explained that each distillery makes only one single malt whisky, and they combine different single malts to make Bells Whisky.
Grains from alcohol distilling
Blair Athol distilling
Alcohol “sleeping” in oak barrels to form whisky. As I mentioned earlier, the wood is extremely important in the flavour of the whisky. The longer that the whisky remains in the barrel, the more flavour it absorbs from the wood. And as we all know, older whisky is more expensive. I assumed that it was simply because of storage costs in maintaining huge barrels for decades. But I was surprised to learn that the alcohol slowly evaporates through the wood, and the volume of liquid inside the barrel depletes by around 2% per year. This is appropriately called “the angels share”. So after 20, 30, 40 or even 50 years in oak, the amount of whisky remaining in the barrel has dropped considerably, raising the price.
The Scottish Whisky Experience is a shop with tasting, sampling and lots of whisky information. I knew/know nothing about whisky before visiting, and one of the most interesting things I learned was that you should add a little bit of water to the whisky before drinking it. That isn’t to dilute it, but actually to separate out some of the oils in the whisky which come from the wooden barrels where the whisky ages. Just a little bit of water helps to release different flavours into the whisky and softens the harshness considerably.
Samples of the many types of wood used to create whisky barrels. The flavour of the whisky is very dependent on the type of wood used to store it while it ages. The type of wood, age, and even the history of the barrel are important. For this reason, barrels are often re-used, or even specially imported from abroad. For instance, barrels which were previously used for creating American bourbon, or European rum are popular for the flavour which they give the whisky. Generally, the longer a whisky remains in the barrel, the more flavour it will gain, and the more expensive it will be!
Lots of tourist tat for sale in Edinburgh. There is a whole street full of this rubbish.
Tartan weaving in Edinburgh, just outside Edinburgh Castle
I hope you enjoyed my three day trip to Scotland as much as I did!