With God in Heaven and the Queen on her throne, what more can one desire than to have a student [ex – student] in Scotland? I e-mailed Rajinder who is in Dumfries, Scotland, from my daughter’s house in Brighton, Sussex, wishing to visit him and see the sights nearby. And sure enough he promptly invited me, and knowing that Indian currency doesn’t travel far in UK also provided me with the tickets.
Friday the 21st of November I woke up early and to avail of the 6ºclock National Express coach from Pool Valley, Brighton. A little after 8, I was in Victoria Coach Station London and I boarded the coach for Carlisle which left at 9ºclock on the dot.
The view from the window was more than charming. Undulating greens floated majestically and with cows grazing and horses roaming it was reminiscent of Merry England as we remember her. Soon we were in Cumbria and the sheep on either side were munching away oblivious to the traffic on the motorway. We had a couple of halts on the way to stretch our legs and have some snacks too from roadside eateries. It was well after sunset when I got down at Carlisle and hopped into another coach to Dumfries. And sure enough Rajinder was there to receive me with genuine warmth and happiness and took to his quarter at the hospital.
His wife Nibedita and his daughter Gunjan, a sweet 6 year-old greeted me enthusiastically. After a hot tea and snacks, I had a warm bath and joined them for dinner. Nibedita is an excellent cook and had spread a table worthy of a genuine Eepicure: Rajma, rice and fish.
We had an early but sumptuous breakfast next morning and Rajinder and I hit the road by 7 am when it was still dark. We headed for Glasgow on our way to the Scottish Highlands and took the Glasgow bypass. The sun was now shining brilliantly although the clouds were threatening in the distance. Our first port of call was Loch Lomond, a cathedral of a lake indeed. We got down and sucked in the pure Loch air. It was cold, cold, cold all around and Rajinder offered me a cup of hot tea from his flask. It is at Loch Lomond that the Scottish Lowlands end and the Highlands begin.
Now we proceeded for Fort William, the centre of the Highlands being the biggest town of the highlands as Inverness has become a city. The hills rose sharply on either side and a well bred Scottish antler greeted us serenely. It was hilly terrain and grass was sparse, a couple of waterfalls caught our attention and we saw the vast fields where the Highlanders of yore fought among themselves leading to a decimation of the clans.
By noon we reached Fort William and we took a stroll on the main thoroughfare, High Street. A fish and chips shop stood invitingly and Rajinder stood a traditional English/Scottish lunch which we ate strolling down to the river Nevis.
It was time now to proceed to the Famed Viaduct of the highlands: the Glen Finnan Viaduct. It is a beauty and we spent the better part of a half-hour admiring the view. This viaduct has been featured in films of the Harry Potter series like Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
Next we moved to the Glen Finnan monument on the side of Loch Shiel, a site where the bonny prince Charles had raised his standard. Scotland is certainly history personified. Atop this monument the Unknown Highlander stands majestically.
Our last visit was the Ben Nevis as seen from Loch Linnhe. Ben Nevis is the tallest peak of England and a popular tourist site.
With so much to see and so much seen we felt exhausted and Rajinder drove us back to Dumfries; a total span of about 400 miles.