Nathan's and my 1978 Scotland Adventure

David Butler

They say that the beginning is always a good place to start, but deciding what is the beginning can be quite a trick. Nathan had been talking about going to Scotland for a long time. But we started talking in ernest sometime after I got to Seattle. In 1978 we made the decision to go. Nathan came up to Seattle in late-May, we did some galavanting around here and up on the San Juan islands and then caught a plane to London. The day we left Seattle, in fact as we were getting ready to leave the house, a barn swallow swooped in through the front door and did a few turns around the living room. I was thinking "How in the world are we ever going to get this bird out of here." But almost as quickly as he came in he headed back out again. I took this as a good sign.


We stayed in London a couple days. We stayed in North London with a friend of a friend, actually showing up unannounced as they were preparing for a party. It was a group house and they were very gracious and let us sleep on the floor of one of their rooms. On a visit into London I almost got us arrested for climbing up the side of the Greek Embassy so that Nathan could get a picture of me next to a sign that read "Blackburne Mews." I had long hair at the time and neither of us were your average tourist. We got off with just a verbal warning.

The Low road to Scotland

We took a train up to the northern-most town in England (Berwick-upon-tweed) and stopped there. We wanted to hike into Scotland, as a kind of a symbolic thing. We hiked the 4 or 5 miles over the border and slept down an embankment by the side of the road, next to a field of sheep. We hitch-hiked into the town of Dunbar and spent a night there. I forget how we knew (or if we knew) but we went to the library there to try to research family history. Nathan had a sheet of paper from Uncle Ned in which he had worked out some of our Scottish connections.


Next stop was Edinburgh where we spent at least 4 days. We really liked it there, the parks especially, but we did get up to the castle and the library. Holyrood park was a place we spent a bunch of time, because it had places to rock climb which I liked to do and they had a pipers festival which thrilled Nathan and me.

Near Holyrood Park, Edinburgh, Scotland.

We didn't want to try hitch-hiking straight out of Edinburgh, we thought it would be too hard. So we took a bus up to the town of Perth where we got stuck because no one would pick us up. We decided to take a train which left the next day and spent the night there, finding a great dance going at a pub; both live music and a disc jocky playing dance music.

Laggan Bridge to Loch Ness

We reach the town of Laggan Bridge after a hike from the train station at Kingaussie.

Here is where one of the bigger adventures started. We took the train from Perth to Dalwhinnie (a dinky little town on the rail line), hitched and hiked to a small town called Laggan Bridge where we bought cheese and apples, and then hiked from there to Loch Ness going along what they call Landrover tracks and over the Mohadhliadh mountains to get there.

On the hike to Loch Ness. Nathan at the top of Piper's Burn. David overlooking Loch na Larige.

We had a small book called Treks and Trails in Scotland, with very sketchy details on the route but it worked out fine. We spent two nights and three days hiking and it was gorgeous.

On the banks of Loch Ness. Frank Serle takes a moment from his loch-watch to try and figure out what David is up to.

We spent some time around Loch Ness at a small town called Foyers where a semi-famous guy named Frank Serle spent most all day with a camera trained on the loch waiting for a glimpse of the monster.


Then we spent a few days in Inverness. We went dancing, pony trekking and visited the Castle Urquhart on the north shore of the loch.

Waiting for a bus to Inverness. A cat decided to befriend us and sleep on our packs.

Orkney Islands

After Inverness, our next stop was John o' Groats where we caught a small ferry to the Orkney Islands. The seas were very rough for such a tiny boat and I remember getting quite green as we went up and over some of the waves. Not having a lot of transportation options we took a tour bus that gave us a pretty good overview of the island and leaving us in the town of Portree where we found a Bed and Breakfast and spent the night.

On "Souter's Lass" a small ferry heading for the Orkney Islands.

Island of Skye

We came back the next day from the Orkneys on a much bigger ferry and caught a train staight away for parts south. We stopped for "high tea" at the Royal Hotel in Dingwall. For less than a dollar we got scones and tea. Nathan did some antique shopping in Dingwall.

We continued on to Kyle of Lochalsh where we caught a ferry over to the island of Skye. Our basic tactic when arriving in a new town was to walk around until we found a house with a B&B sign in the front window and then get a room. It was incredibly easy and fairly cheap.

On Skye we upped the ante and rented a car for a day. It turned out to be a great idea for a couple reasons. One, was that being in a foreign country we felt the need to be on our best behaviour, but in the car we could laugh, sing and be raucous without offending the locals. Two, we gave a ride to two women hitch-hikers who ended up touring with us for a couple days. Pat was from Ireland and Helen from Wales, but they were going to school in Aberdeen.

On Skye we visited Dunvegen Castle. Where I found one of the few mushrooms of the whole trip: a russula.

Nathan at Eileen Donan Castle.

Fort Augustus / Loch Ness

Pat and Helen left us to get back to their college when we got back to the mainland at Fort Augustus on Loch Ness, I think it was. We have a picture of us in a row boat on Loch Ness, moments before a wind came up and in the resulting waves we broke one of the paddles. They were quite impressed at how we just got down to work to get us back to the dock without cursing and carrying on.

Bus trip from Skye to Fort Augustus. Nathan, Helen and Pat.

On Loch Ness in a rented boat. Pat, David and Helen.

We met up, absolutely by chance, with Pat a couple days later at Sterling Castle. She was there with her parents heading back to Ireland since school was out. She dropped her bag and ran over to see us causing the security at the castle to get a bit unnerved. There being a big concern about bombings and such, and a dropped bag by an Irish speaking girl probably fitting their criteria for concern.


One of our last stops in Scotland was Glasgow but we were getting pretty tired by this point and I only remember going to see a Spiderman movie. The city itself didn't impress me all that much. One interesting tale though is that, as we were leaving Glasgow, Nate and I wanted to buy some souvenirs. I sat with our baggage at the train station while Nathan took a stroll and once he got back, he waited while I shopped. Well, guess what. Chronos-Cartog, the time mapper (see story below) took a wrong turn coming out of the store and got completely turned around. I finally arrived at the station with only moments to spare. As we headed out onto the platform a conductor asked us what train we were on and when he heard, he told us, "Well you'd better run like the hammer of hell 'cause that train is pulling out right now!"

I had the whole thing charted out on calendars and maps in advance, Nathan made sure we danced and partied where possible. Because of that we named each other "Chronos-Cartog, the time mapper" and "Discoz, the poser." We had another game we would play where one of us was the sherpa guide and the other played the tourist couple George and Martha. The sherpa guide would talk with a whimpy milk-toast kind of voice and say things like "I think this is the right way" and "Oh don't be so mean, it makes me want to cry." Meanwhile George and Martha are ranting away saying how did they get mixed up with this tour guide. Finally the sherpa would say something like "I always wanted to be a Sumo wrestler, but my Mom made me be a sherpa guide."