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  • -Hi, I'm Rick Steves, back with more of the best of Europe.

  • This time, we're packin' light,

  • but there's always room for puppies, sheepdog puppies.

  • We're in the Highlands of Scotland.

  • [ Wind whistling ] Thanks for joining us.

  • ♪♪

  • ♪♪

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  • ♪♪

  • The Highlands are where dreams of Scotland are set.

  • The land of kilts, clans, and lonely castles,

  • the Highlands offer the quintessence of Scottish charms.

  • In this episode, we'll connect with clan heritage,

  • be awestruck by Highland beauty,

  • marvel at early British engineering,

  • join in the search for a monster,

  • time-travel back to the Iron Age,

  • watch sheepdogs do their thing --

  • -[ Whistles ] Hold 'em back! Hold 'em back!

  • -...and check out some traditional folk music.

  • ♪♪

  • The United Kingdom includes England, Wales,

  • North Ireland, and Scotland.

  • Scotland includes a third of Britain's land.

  • Its main cities are Glasgow and Edinburgh.

  • To the south is the Lowlands and to the north, the Highlands.

  • Focusing on the Highlands, we'll visit Inveraray, Oban,

  • follow the Caledonian Canal to Loch Ness, Inverness,

  • and the battlefield at Culloden.

  • Here in Scotland, the Highlands have more than half the land,

  • and only 5% of the people.

  • Still, it's these Highlands, so vast, yet so sparsely populated,

  • that give us the classic image of Scotland.

  • The highest mountains in Britain are here in Scotland,

  • in the Highlands.

  • While only around 3,000 feet in altitude,

  • they offer a dramatic welcome and a backdrop

  • of constantly changing views for road trippers.

  • Long lakes, called "lochs" here, cut like fjords into a land

  • where the heritage remains strong.

  • -In this region, so much seems proudly Scottish.

  • Clans gather to celebrate traditional sports,

  • girls grow up dreaming to dance like their mothers did,

  • whisky is savored with reverence for the culture --

  • ♪♪

  • ...and pipers still stir the Scottish soul.

  • And, in this land so steeped in culture,

  • Scotland's beloved hairy coo feels perfectly at home.

  • These shaggy Highland cattle

  • have evolved to fit the environment.

  • Their adorable bangs protect their eyes

  • from both insects and the persistent wind.

  • Historically, Highland society was centered

  • around the clan system.

  • In medieval times, long before being tamed

  • by any central government,

  • the Highlands were inhabited by a collection of proud,

  • and often bickering, tribes, or clans,

  • each with its own chief and deep-seated traditions.

  • ♪♪

  • Castles dotting the landscape evoke this strong clan heritage.

  • Scottish people, whether in Scotland;

  • or abroad, as part of the Scottish diaspora;

  • still relate to their historic clan

  • and many venerate a particular castle

  • as their historic capital and almost spiritual center.

  • Inveraray Castle, the residence of the 13th Duke of Argyle,

  • has a stately turreted exterior set in a delightful garden.

  • ♪♪

  • Historically, a stronghold of the Campbell clan,

  • its walls are well-hung with portraits

  • of the many dukes who've called this palace home.

  • Here's the first duke,

  • with dukes number two and three on deck.

  • As with many such castles, the aristocratic family

  • still lives here, like clan royals.

  • Displays are like a family scrapbook,

  • showing the current duke and his family,

  • who still occupy the private half of this palace.

  • ♪♪

  • The public half is a museum,

  • filled with precious, if you're a Campbell, artifacts.

  • ♪♪

  • This case features pendants

  • of esteemed family members through the ages.

  • This one's filled with dirks and daggers,

  • set against a nice Campbell tartan.

  • A highlight is the Armory Hall, which fills the main atrium.

  • Here, swords and rifles

  • are artistically arrayed in starburst patterns.

  • Docents are standing by and happy to answer questions.

  • -So, our halberds here date from the 1600s.

  • They come from the earlier castle, before this one.

  • -Now, what is a halberd?

  • -So, a halberd could be used against charging cavalry

  • and you'll notice they've got tassels on them.

  • It's not just for decoration.

  • Don't know about you. If I'm killing someone,

  • you don't want their blood dripping down your weapon,

  • making it all slippy.

  • -So, the tassels actually had a function.

  • -That's right. So, the tassels would soak up the blood.

  • -And these muskets?

  • -So, this is our Brown Bess flintlock muskets,

  • all dating from the 1740s.

  • These are all original

  • and they were last used at the Battle of Culloden, 1746,

  • the last battle fought on British soil.

  • Yes, so, we have, in this cabinet,

  • some of the belongings of Rob Roy MacGregor,

  • a kind of famous folk hero.

  • -The famous Rob Roy?

  • -That's right, Rob Roy MacGregor.

  • So, this is his sporran here.

  • -And what is a sporran?

  • -So, a sporran, if you think of a kilt,

  • there's no pockets in a kilt.

  • -Right. -So, you'd have your sporran

  • and, in your sporran, you'd have maybe a wee bag of oatmeal.

  • -So, this is your bag of essentials,

  • -Exactly. Yes, for sure, yeah. -hanging right here in front.

  • Yeah. -Yeah.

  • -You'll find castles like this all over the Highlands.

  • Today, countless Scottish Americans

  • make a pilgrimage of sorts to their ancestral clan capital.

  • If you're a Campbell, you'd come here, to Inveraray.

  • The main town of the west coast of the Highlands is Oban.

  • ♪♪

  • With the arrival of the train in 1880,

  • Oban became the unofficial capital of this region

  • and a destination for tourists.

  • Today, Oban's harborfront seems eager

  • to please its many visitors.

  • Victorian facades recall those early days of tourism.

  • Before then, its economy was dominated by whiskey --

  • its venerable distillery has been busy since 1794 --

  • and by fishing.

  • Even today, a tiny fleet stays busy.

  • When the rain clears,

  • sun-starved Scots enjoy their esplanade

  • and the beach brings joy to young families.

  • [ Birds squawking ] ♪♪

  • The town's port has long been a lifeline

  • to Scotland's Hebrides Islands,

  • earning Oban the nickname "The Gateway to the Isles."

  • But we'll save the islands for another episode.

  • We're driving north, deeper into the Highlands.

  • Of course, here in Britain,

  • you drive on the left-hand side of the road.

  • You get used to it.

  • The roads are good, the traffic's light,

  • and the scenery is gorgeous.

  • The stunning valley called Glencoe offers the essence

  • of the wild and stark beauty of the Highlands.

  • While the valley is massive in scale,

  • at its entrance is a tiny and practical home base.

  • Glencoe Village is basically a one-street town

  • gathered around its church.

  • There's the humble folk museum,

  • plenty of B&Bs...

  • We're staying with Jackie and Iain.

  • Bye-bye.

  • ...and a memorial to a terrible tragedy,

  • a tragedy that, while three centuries old, still resonates.

  • [ Melancholy tune plays ]

  • To be sure we get the story right,

  • we're joined by my friend and fellow tour guide

  • Colin Mairs.

  • This is a beautiful valley.

  • -Yeah, well, it does have a sad story, though.

  • In 1692, there was a massacre here

  • and government troops -- Redcoats,

  • made up mostly of Campbells -- they were sent here by the king.

  • They were given the orders to ride

  • to the homes of the MacDonalds of Glencoe

  • and to await further instruction.

  • So, they enjoyed the hospitality,

  • the Highland hospitality, of the MacDonalds of Glencoe

  • and, after 12 days,

  • the further instruction arrived

  • for the Campbells to massacre the MacDonalds of Glencoe.

  • As the MacDonalds slept in their beds,

  • the Campbells carried out the order.

  • We know that 38 MacDonalds were killed as they slept.

  • Others fled for the hills.

  • This was midwinter, in the Highlands of Scotland,

  • and many others perished and died in the cold.

  • Ever since then, this has been known as the Weeping Glen.

  • ♪♪

  • -It's fitting that such an epic, dramatic incident

  • should be set in this equally epic and dramatic valley,

  • where the cliffsides still seem to weep.

  • [ Wind whistling ] ♪♪

  • Glencoe valley leads up into the vast Rannoch Moor.

  • This moor, the biggest expanse of uninhabited land in Britain,

  • is hundreds of desolate square miles,

  • much enjoyed by hikers and lovers of nature.

  • [ Wind whistling ] ♪♪

  • [ Triumphant music sweeps ]

  • When filmmakers want a stunning, rugged backdrop;

  • when hikers want a scenic challenge...

  • ♪♪

  • ...and when Scots want to remember their hard-fought past,

  • they all think of Glencoe.

  • ♪♪

  • [ Mid-tempo tune plays ] As we drive north from Glencoe,

  • we find a massive fault line slashing about 60 miles

  • across the Highlands, nearly cutting Scotland in two.

  • The drive from here, northeast to Inverness

  • follows three long, skinny lakes,

  • created by the great Glen Fault,

  • and a series of 19th-century canals that laced them together.

  • This is the Caledonian Canal.

  • ♪♪

  • Perhaps the most idyllic stop along the canal

  • is the little town of Fort Augustus,

  • built around an impressive staircase of locks.

  • Today, this historic piece of British engineering

  • is a welcoming park.

  • [ Birds chirping ] ♪♪

  • 200 years ago, as Britain was at full steam

  • during the Industrial Age, it connected these lakes

  • with about 20 miles of canals and locks.

  • That was so its ships could avoid the long journey

  • around the north of the country.

  • The Caledonian Canal took 19 years

  • and cost a fortune to construct.

  • It opened in 1822.

  • [ Upbeat tune plays ]

  • While these locks were an engineering marvel

  • in their day, they were quickly antiquated

  • and a disaster, commercially.

  • Shortly after the canal opened, ships were built too big to fit

  • and, shortly after that, with the advent of steam trains,

  • the Caledonian Canal became almost useless,

  • except for Romantic Age tourism,

  • and, today, the canal remains a hit with holiday-goers.

  • The most famous part of the Caledonian Canal route

  • is the long and skinny Loch Ness.

  • 22 miles long and over 700 feet deep,

  • it's essentially the vast chasm of that fault line,

  • filled with water.

  • They say Loch Ness contains more water

  • than all the lakes of England and Wales, combined.

  • Loch Ness is deepest near Urquhart Castle.

  • While thoroughly ruined and little more

  • than an empty shell to climb through,

  • in its medieval heyday, this strategically situated castle

  • was one of the most important in the Highlands,

  • controlling traffic along the great glen.

  • Today, so gloriously situated,

  • with a view of virtually the entire lake,

  • it's extremely popular with tourists

  • and the perfect place to look for the Loch Ness monster.

  • ♪♪

  • While the lake is, frankly, boring,

  • the local tourist industry thrives

  • on the legend of the Loch Ness monster.

  • It is a thrilling thought, and there have been

  • several seemingly reliable sightings.

  • And, of course, there's a touristy exhibit

  • that would love to tell the story.

  • The Loch Ness Exhibition is spearheaded

  • by scientist and naturalist Adrian Shine,