Thirty-five TASIS England ninth graders learned about the wonders of Scotland during their October break. It was an adventure of discovery as they explored the country's rich history and beautiful landscapes.
Kindness and Bagpipes in Glasgow
Despite an early start on Saturday, the students were in good spirits, with plenty of smiles, laughter, and animated chatter about the week ahead. After lunch and checking into their Glasgow hotel, everyone gathered for some delicious cookies while the trip leaders introduced a theme for the week – kindness. The students were asked to think about the importance of being kind, how acts of kindness can hugely and positively impact others, and how compassion allows us to connect with other people and build meaningful relationships.
A walking tour of Glasgow followed, visiting iconic sites like George Square, the Duke of Wellington statue, St Mungo's, and Pitt Street before concluding at the National Piping Centre. Students learned about the Great Highland Bagpipe and its influence in other countries. Afterward, they were given the opportunity to play the bagpipes, which they did with great enthusiasm. Some were remarkably good, given they had never played before! TASIS talent!
Despite the long day and a lot of walking, the students remained engaged and energetic as they enjoyed a delicious Italian dinner at Cafe Antipasti. The trip leaders were pleased to note several acts of kindness during the day, with members of the public praising the group for being polite and respectful.
Art, Birds of Prey, and Owl Encounters
After a great breakfast, they set off for the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, which showcases Glasgow's artistic and historical heritage within its fabulous architecture. The students explored 22 galleries, finding everything from art to Ancient Egypt and the Avant armor to Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
Next, everyone enjoyed a flying show in the woodland at the Loch Lomond Birds of Prey Centre. Seeing a variety of hawks, buzzards, and kestrels at close quarters while learning about their unique features and the threats they face in the wild was exciting. Screams were followed quickly by giggles as the birds flew close over our heads. During a surprise Owl Encounter, eight students had the unique opportunity to handle and fly two owl species.
The day concluded with a scenic drive to Fort William through the stunning backdrop of the Scottish Highlands, including Loch Linnhe and the snow-capped mountains.
Loch Ness and Highland History
A morning boat cruise on Loch Ness was the perfect way to experience its sights, wildlife, and history. Students watched as the boat’s Sonar equipment beamed live images from beneath the deep water, fueling the debate over the existence of Nessie. The mystery lives on!
Next stop – the Clansman Centre, a 17C Highland turf house recreated to provide a small theatre. During the show, students gained insights into the Clansman and Highland way of life in days of old, the clan system, and local culture. Marlana and Harper volunteered to help demonstrate the Highland dress by wearing the traditional Feilidh Mhor and Arisaid.
An afternoon visit to Urquhart Castle provided a breathtaking view up and down Loch Ness from its rocky promontory. The students took in the Grant Tower, imagined splendid banquets staged in the Great Hall, peered into the gloomy prison cell said to have held legendary Gaelic bard Dòmhnall Donn, and saw the Urquhart Ewer and other medieval artifacts left by castle residents.
The group wrapped up the day with bowling at Rollerbowl Inverness, displaying great team spirit and enthusiasm as they clapped and cheered each other on. After a hearty dinner at an American diner called The Filling Station, everyone was ready for a good night's sleep.
Highland Folk Museum and Outdoor Adventures
The students stepped back in time as they explored Britain's first open-air museum, the Highland Folk Museum. The historical buildings provided a glimpse into how people lived, worked, went to school, and enjoyed their leisure time in the Highlands from the 1700s to the 1950s.
The group then traveled to Cairngorms Activities, participating in various versions of golf on the beautiful 9-hole par-3 course alongside the River Spey and with a backdrop of the Cromdale Hills and the Cairngorms. Laser Tag proved to be the highlight, however, with the students displaying remarkable teamwork, strategizing, and respectfulness.
After making their way to their hotel set in a beautiful 65-acre woodland estate, everyone enjoyed a tasty dinner and settled in for the night, tired and happy.
Edinburgh's Rich History
A traditional Scottish breakfast re-energized our tired group for the coach journey to Edinburgh. There was time for lunch and a bit of shopping before a tour of the Royal Yacht Britannia. Exploring its five decks, the students learned about life at sea for the Royal Family and the 220 Royal Yachtsman who served on board. Highlights included the State Apartments, Queen Elizabeth II's favorite room, and the gleaming Engine Room.
A walking tour of the city, old and new, included iconic landmarks such as the Scottish National Gallery, Princes Street Gardens, Scott Monument, Grassmarket, and Greyfriars Bobby. The tour finished at Vittoria on the Bridge, an authentic Italian restaurant situated on George IV Bridge in the heart of the Old Town
The day's adventures concluded with an Evening Ghost Walk that included a visit to Greyfriars Kirkyard, known as the most haunted cemetery in the world. The fantastic Tour Guide walked the group through the "dark climes and wynds" of Edinburgh’s Old Town, regaling them with scary stories about the darker history of the city.
The final day started with a visit to Edinburgh Castle, where the students explored its rich history and stunning views of the city. Storm Babet made the return to London Kings Cross station more challenging than expected, but it didn't dampen their spirits.
During the trip, our ninth graders displayed not only their curiosity and thirst for adventure but also the power of kindness, leaving a positive impact wherever they went. This remarkable journey will undoubtedly leave them with lasting memories and an appreciation for the beauty and history of Scotland.
You can see the trip photos in our Flickr album.