On our first full day in Edinburgh, we took a tour with The Hairy Coo Tour company. This was a "free" tour, in that we put our own value on our experience and pay at the end accordingly. Allowing anyone on any budget to get a great experience.
At 8:45am the sun was just rising and we jumped onto the bright orange mini bus, designed to look like a Highlands hairy coo (a.k.a cow said with a Scottish accent). Our tour guide and driver was Donal, the founder of the company and a proud Scotsman.
Our first destination was the Firth of Forth bridges, all three of them. Quite a confusing tile for a newbie to the region, but to clarify: there are three bridges over the estuary or "firth" of Scotland's River Forth. To add another alliteration to the mix, they all cross from Edinburgh to Fife.
Each bridge was built in a different century and in a very different style, this was to accommodate for the previous bridges "short comings".
So you have the Firth of Forth bridges leading to Fife. Phew...I reckon they might as well add another bridge into the mix just to make it more difficult.
The two bridges from the 19th and 20th century are easily visible in the picture below, and if you look closely over on the far left side you can see the 21st century bridge starting to take shape.
We then jumped back on our Hairy coo and began the voyage to our next destination, Stirling Castle. On the way we listened to some well known Scottish talent, such as the Proclaimers ("I'm on my way" and "I'm gonna be (500 miles)") and some less well known Celtic music.
Upon arriving at Stirling castle we were learning about Sir William Wallace, what he means to Scotland, and how wrong Mel Gibson's movie portrayal was.
Continuing on from Stirling Castle, we took a short drive to the National Wallace Monument. Here you can walk or take a free shuttle up to the top of the hill, for scenic views of Stirling, and an optional visit inside the monument to see its treasures, for £9 (armour and swords etc)
Getting our bus through the quaint little streets of Doune was the next task, to reach Doune Castle. Hidden away amongst the forests surrounding it, this modest looking castle has been the film set to many famous TV and movies. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) is its most well know set, but it has recently been used at Winterfell in Game of Thrones and Castle Leoch in the new Outlander TV series (both of which I am a huge fan of). So with coconuts in hand (Monty Python fans will get the reference) we clip clopped our way around Doune Castle.
We were racing the day light at this time of year (late December), so we decided to skip the entry fee of £5 and enjoyed the views from outside.
Lunch was then enjoyed in the little town of Callander, situated on the cusp of the Highlands, right next to the River Teith. As recommended by Donal (our guide), we went to a "Mhor Bread", a local bakery, and got ourselves a Steak and haggis pie. Let me preface this with, we come from New Zealand, and New Zealand does some pretty amazing meat pies... but this one blew our socks off, it was so good. So meaty! I wish we had got another one to take home with us. We then took a walk around the town (didn't take long) and fed the ducks before getting back on the bus for our next insight into the Scottish landscape.
Our next stop did not disappoint. If you are looking for inspiration, rest and relaxation then put this place on your list. Loch (not Lake) Katrine was awe inspiring. It may have just been luck that we saw it on such a still and beautiful day, but I can certainly understand how so many artists such as Sir Walter Scot (famous author of "Lady of the lake"), were inspired by this place.
The air had a nice chill to it, with leftover pieces of ice in the grass, the mountains gathered a airy mist around them, and the lake looked smooth as glass, and reflective as a mirror.
Next was our tours name sake, the HAIRY COOS!!! When the bus turned up, the cows were up grazing on a hill, but with a few short toots of the horn, to let them know we where here, these adorably hairy beasties came trotting down the hill towards us, with their calves in tow. Bellies swaying, eyes covered with their unruly orange fringe and pink noses sniffing out the tasty bread we had with us.
Our last stop of the day was The Lake of Menteith. With the water lapping against the ice layer near the shore and the sun starting to set in the distance, it was a great way to end our busy day.
If you want more here is a link to the Vlog I took while on the tour, I hope you enjoy it.