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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Scotland--Day 13

As we travel today, I get to see the Loch Ness Monster. Just look at his photo! It proves it.

Suffice it to say that all the lochs are beautiful. Loch after loch flows through the magnificent Highlands affording visitors unparalleled vistas of all heights and hues. Boaters cross Scotland this way. It’s also easy to see why the Scottish Highlands has long been a hiker’s paradise.

Yesterday we took a cruise on Loch Lomond, and today from the shores of Loch Ness, my tour coach friends and I spotted that which has eluded other less savvy and observant travelers. The Loch Ness Monster.

Loch Ness is beautiful. It’s 23 miles long, but its real depth is unknown. Down deep in the unknown is where Nessie has his den. Boats enter Loch Ness, motor or sail its length, and then take the Caledonian Canal to the next loch. It must be a beautiful way to cross Scotland.

The absolute highlight of the day, however, is not Nessie. It is a visit to a sheep farm for a Scottish sheepdog demonstration.

You’ve seen my photos of the mountains and the open land. Sheep may graze over 12 miles of fields, and they must be rounded up. The dogs, which begin their training at the tender age of six weeks, travel the ranges responding to the whistled commands of the shepherd. Each dog answers to different whistles, so the shepherd becomes a conductor, orchestrating the gathering of the flock. The shepherd needs to use his dogs wisely, preserving their energy to finish this task which may take up to five days.

Our shepherd manages ten dogs at once. Dressed in his wellies and with his shepherd’s crook nearby, he demonstrates his dogs’ skills in corralling and moving herds of sheep across the fields, directing them through “gates” formed by other dogs, and performing different movements in response to his whistled commands. It is absolutely fascinating.

Then we watch him shear a sheep, and we have an opportunity to feed the sheep and play with the dogs and the puppies. Hmmmm A puppy would have been a good souvenir.

I am also adding this video clip. Watch the dog as he maneuvers the sheep through "gates" formed by the other dogs! The sound isn't so hot, but you can hear the shepherd directing the dog. It was quite amazing to witness.

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