[A note: I know everyone wants personal photos, but because I fancy myself a photographer I kinda like to take the photos; not have them taken with me in them! Also, I hate photos of myself; in fact, I prefer photos without people. There’s nothing more annoying than a beautiful view spoilt by a face in the foreground! That said, I do get the point of holiday photographs, though my motive in photographing Scotland was NOT to get holiday snaps. Yes, I’m talking too much… *shuts up*]
Scotland was mind-numbingly beautiful, and I couldn’t believe it when I found myself in the unofficial capital of the Scottish Highlands — Inverness. Recently accorded the status of a city, it is also the fastest-growing one in Western Europe, a tag that appears to fill local residents with pride, but I could only feel a sadness that any more “development” would ruin it all.
That said, we mustn’t evaluate development on the terms that it seems to proceed here. Nowhere in Great Britain did I see any sign of the rampant commercialisation that we in India have fallen prey to. Protecting their heritage is something that they truly take pride in; unlike us — we make a song and dance about it, but actually care little.
Yes, sorry… where were we? Scotland. Right. It is obvious how much pride the Scots take in their, well, Scottishness. And it’s amazing how, in that tiny wet little island, a few hours journey north from England seems to bring you into a different world. It’s not just the kilts and the haunting music — there is something else that is hard to pin down. When the English were universally labelled as “bland”, no doubt they were being measured up against the Scots! (And now I have to make sure no Englishman/woman I know ever reads my blog…)
I spent two days in Inverness, and one of those was taken up by a cruise up the Caledonian Canal to the Loch Ness. Bundled up in as many layers as I owned (thermal tee, woollen polo-neck, fleece jacket, waterproof jacket), I still froze my butt off. It rained more or less incessently as well — all the locals I met apologised profusely for the weather, like it was their fault — but I hadn’t come all the way across the world to sit in the cabin of the Queen Elizabeth and stare out of the window with a drink in my hands.
Indescribably beautiful though the Loch Ness was — and no, I didn’t see Nessie (I’m so sick of being asked!) — the Caledonian Canal was fascinating too. Hailed as a magnificient feat of engineering, it was built in the early 19th century, and connects the east and west coasts of Scotland. There is a series of locks (over two dozen of them) to account for the difference in the water levels. We navigated through one of them, the Dochgarroch Lock. Our boat was locked in the chamber as the lock master opened sluice gates under water to equalize the water level inside the lock and in the direction we were headed. The water level went up by 2.5 feet, level with the Loch Ness, before we could sail on. (There is a series of locks known as the Neptune Staircase, which raises the water level by 60 feet over 500 yards!)
Okay, shutting up once again. Click on the collage as usual for the photo album.