The train ride up from Edinburgh gave an excellent view of some of the most rugged, beautiful scenery I've seen yet, and it definitely hit home how different the two places were. Edinburgh and the lowlands, while colder and wetter than northern California, ultimately aren't too much different from the rest of England in terms of land and climate. The highlands, on the other hand, gave a very strong sense that every bit of land and living people could make up here had to be scratched, hacked, and carved out of the foreboding lands further north.
After the train trip (by the way I LOVE the rail system in Europe so far! Great for catching up on writing, looking at the scenery, unwinding, and NOT WORRYING ABOUT TRAFFIC!) I arrived in downtown Oban. A much smaller place than everywhere I'd been before minus the colder weather and ancient ruins it wouldn't have been out of place on the central coast or New England, reminding me as different as things may be in terms of history, geography, and culture there are still so many things people share in common everywhere. I wandered on the streets a bit before stopping off at the hostel, dropping my stuff off and grabbing a little dinner.
The joys of local caught fish! If you stop through Oban I'd highly recommend getting some of the local seafood. They know how to make it up here! The next day, after much desired rest, I got up and got to seeing the sites and doing some hiking up in the hills above the town.
From there I headed up into the hills above Dunnolie Castle, the ruins of what once was the seat of Clan MacDougall. We'll get back to them in a minute, first up is the beauty of the highlands!
This boat below is how Clan MacDougall ruled the islands in the lands of Lorn, as the local region is known. Based on the design of the old Viking longships the main improvement by the progenitor of the clan was replacing the traditional starboard steering oar with something much closer to what we would call a rudder and tiller. This allowed their ships to turn tighter, faster, and maneuver more effectively than other vessels in the confined lochs, bays, and sounds of the western Scottish coast.
Dunnolie Castle itself has long since fallen into ruins. It once boasted a three story keep with a great feasting hall where all clansfolk and travelers were welcome to grab a spot to sleep and a bite to eat from the Chief's table. Time and history were not kind to the seat of the MacDougalls, first seeing a loss of station from siding with Edward II against Robert the Bruce during the Scottish War of Independence, then seeing occupation by Cromwell's troops during the English Civil War, before finally being broken all together when the MacDougalls backed the Jacobites during the Jacobite uprisings and losing what little they had left, leaving them with a simple house just down the hill from the castle they once ruled the isles from.
After hiking around it was time for another excellent bite to eat in town, some rest, and to get ready for the trip back down to Newcastle and the hop to Amsterdam!