Scotland at Last and an Accidental Trip to Inverness

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Sunrise at West Sands, St Andrews.

I drove north across the border of England and Scotland a couple of weeks ago, and it was a milestone moment.

My family is from Scotland and I’ve grown up with movies, music and food from here. I’ve wanted to visit for a long time and through several twists and turns didn’t until now. Being here means a lot.

So I’ve enjoyed Scotland, and have so far visited Dumfries, St Andrews (where my grandparents met), and Edinburgh, and — accidentally — Inverness. 

A few mornings ago, I bought stagecoach bus tickets back to my family’s town from Edinburgh, a three-stage trip. That afternoon, I showed up 15 minutes early and waited patiently for the bus…on the wrong side of the road. By the time I discovered this, I turned to see the actual bus I needed sitting at a stoplight 50 feet away and unreachable.

So I took a city bus to a stop “five minutes” (so said the city bus driver) downhill from the bus station I needed and sprinted with my rolly suitcase up the slope, trying not to run over small children with balloons. At first, I turned the wrong way and had to double back, still trying to run up a hill.

When I arrived at the bus station, I ran frantically up and down the station, hoping my bus was somehow still there, but it was gone.

I walked to the ticket window, face red. “It appears I have missed my bus.”

I showed the ticket on my phone to the man at the window, and he winced in sympathy and turned his head to the manager to say, “Paid full fare, too.”

The manager immediately picked up the phone to make some calls. He said I could ride the bus to Inverness and disembark at the stop in Perth for a transfer to my final stop. I was to let the bus driver know I had talked with him.

At first, I didn’t think the bus driver would let me on the bus as he looked with raised eyebrows at my substitute ticket, but he finally did. I settled in for what turned out to be a luxurious ride, complete with snacks and drinks distributed by a bus attendant, something I’d never seen before. I was comfortable, writing and watching the scenery.

After a while, I asked the stewardess when we would stop at Perth. 4:45 p.m.

Yet, I paid no attention to the time.

The bus stopped at a place called Something Park (I don’t remember what the name was), and I thought, Aha, our first stop. Next, Perth.

An while later, I thought, I wonder where we are. I had been glancing at the 24-hour clock at the front of the bus, and after I had slogged through the subtraction to figure out the time, I realized we were an hour late arriving in Perth.

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Looking up Loch Ness from the south shore near Foyers.

And then I looked at the green dot on the maps app on my phone.

We were in the Highlands, halfway between Perth and Inverness.

I was supposed to disembark at Something Park.

I was stunned.

I am much better at geography than this!

I covered my mouth and started laughing. This was bound to happen. With all the trains, planes, automobiles, horses, and whatever else I had used for transport over the last 15 months, things had gone remarkably well. A crack in the windshield of my car easily fixed, no major plane delays, no becoming sick on boats in the wild Atlantic Ocean.

So here it was at last, Transportation Mishap Day.

As is usual, the brain reviews the facts after the fact, and I recalled that the front of the bus had said, “Inverness via Perth Something Park.” I had read that and thought that Perth and Something Park were two different stops and didn’t give any more gray brain cells to the words.

But it turned out the Something Park was in Perth.

I texted my cousin to let her know where I was and that I would, sadly, miss that night’s family dinner. Thankful for smart phones, I opened my Expedia app to book a bed in a hostel for a couple of nights, making the booking just in time before the phone died. I thought about just staying one night and heading back south the next day, but Inverness and Loch Ness were places I wanted to visit anyway, so I decided to spend time there, courtesy of the bus I had thought I wasn’t supposed to be on.

I had a nice time in Inverness, hiking on the south shores of the bonnie loch, having great luck with blue skies and no rain, and discovering old boats and rope swings and waterfalls Robert Burns immortalized in poetry.

If I had to write a moral of the story to end this piece, it would be, “When life puts you on a different bus than you think you should be on, find the rope swings. ‘Cause they’re pretty cool.”

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Swingin’ along the shores of Loch Ness.
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