Alas, no Nessie – An Exploration of Scotland
We left the City of Lights behind and headed for a new adventure in Edinburgh, Scotland. Why Scotland next, you may ask? Well, while in Greece by the pool, we consumed a little too much Ouzo and purchased flights on a whim (whose whim remains unknown). Once we sobered up and saw we had already spent the funds, we decided we may as well just go with it. Craving another longer stay, we decided to do eight days in the land of kilts, giving us enough time to relax and to venture out into the Highlands. Katie’s teammate KP had lived in Scotland for four years and gave us a laundry list of suggestions for sights to see, bars to visit, and food to try. We were ready for some colder weather.
What We Did
Day 60 (9/21/16): We landed in Scotland, bussed into town, and found our Airbnb. Feeling tired from travel, we decided to simply relax around the apartment, plan our attack for the next day, and enjoy dinner out at a local restaurant called the Mad Hatter (after we discovered that none of the Chinese places were open yet).
Day 61 (9/22/16): Waking up more motivated, we decided that we could use some exercise, and headed out to hike up Arthurs Seat. After a 45-minute climb, we reached the top, snapped some pics, and surveyed the capital of Scotland. We descended on the other side of the hill, ate lunch overlooking the river and the Holyrood Palace. We spent the rest of the day strolling down the Royal Mile and Princes Street, seeing the Scott Monument (giant memorial to Sir Walter Scott), and purchasing our Hop-On, Hop-Off tour for the next day.
Day 62 (9/23/16): After some mix-ups and screw-ups (on my part -sorry Adam), we finally made it onto our tour bus. Since we had listened to most of the tour information on our first go-around, we decided to spend the rest of our day focused on two main attractions: Edinburgh Castle, and Holyrood Palace. At the castle, we braved to bitter-cold wind to explore the various halls, chapels, armories, and dungeons that it included. We even got a look at the Scottish Crown Jewels. Needing a break from the cold, we hopped back on the bus, ate our packed lunch, and headed for Holyrood Palace. We did a tour of the place, old abbey, and the gardens before walking back to our apartment. That evening we made dinner and got ready for a night out. We hit up a bar called Ghillie Dhu and a couple bars on Rose Street before calling it a night.
Day 63 (9/24/16): After a bit of a lie-in, we readied ourselves to head down to the coast and tour the HMYacht Britannia. Although it is now retired, we learned all about its famous past and got to see the inner workings of the engine and the service staff. The cold weather promoted Katie and I to purchase new sweaters before heading back to town. We stopped by the grocery store and got stuff to cook before returning to the apartment to eat enchiladas and relax.
Day 64 (9/25/16): We woke up on Sunday and decided to have a Sunday-Funday complete with brunch, champagne, and screwdrivers. After brunch, we continued to celebrate Sundays (Katie and I especially), That night we stayed in and planned for our trip out into the Highlands.
Day 65 (9/26/16): After sending Adam off on an adventure to the airport to get the car, we were off towards the Highlands. Our first stop of the day was Doune Castle. We quickly found out it was a famous filming sight for shows like Games of Thrones, and Outlander (oh yea baby!!!), and movies like Monty Python and the Holy Grail. On our way out of town we made a pit stop to pet and feed some of Scotland’s most famous residents, the Highland Cows. We stopped for lunch in a department store (really strange) just past the cows, before heading north towards Ben Nevis and Glen Coe. We stopped for pictures and to marvel at the mountains and impressive scenery. We continued north through Fort William (which was somewhat of a disappointment) and arrived in Loch Ness. We spent some time wandering the lochs and the town in search of the famed Loch Ness monster (Ole Nessie J). Feeling hungry, we departed for our final stop in Inverness. After trying to find several recommended local establishments, we opted for a more adventurous dining spot: KFC. From there, we headed back to Edinburgh with our Highlands adventure now complete.
Day 66 (9/27/16): In the morning, we headed back into town to wander through the National Museum of Scotland, with its complimentary admission! We explored Scottish history, modern technologies, and period-specific furnishing and clothing. Afterwards, we returned to the apartment to relax.
Day 67 (9/28/16): The boys got a reprieve from their husbandly duties today, and headed out to see Sausage Party at the local movie theater. Equally enjoying our time alone, Katie and I delved into the world of 1940s hairstyles; most notable the Victory Roll. While our success with this undertaking was more limited than our finger waves, we enjoyed the afternoon none-the-less. After the boys returned, we decided that to celebrate our last night in Edinburgh with a dinner out at a traditional pub where we enjoyed fish and chips, savory pies, curry (which is shockingly common pub food in the U.K.) and local ales. We went back to the apartment, saying our goodbyes to this wonderful city.
What We Learned
- Just because the name of the town in Fort Whatever, does NOT mean there is a fort there. We had this happen to us twice during our trip through the Highlands. We spent a long time driving around Fort William before we discovered that the fort was long gone. So, when planning your trip somewhere somewhat unknown, do some additional due diligence and see if the historical sights the places are named after still exist. That way, you will not be disappointed.
- KFCs in Scotland do not have biscuits or mashed potatoes or mac and cheese. Although the chicken remains delicious, the coleslaw is good, and they still have gravy (although it is for dipping french fries in). You have been warned.
- Apparently, Scottish people don’t go out hard on Fridays. We waited for our going out night until Friday seeing as a lot of the time when we get a hankering to go out it is a Wednesday and that leaves us with almost no chance of meeting new people or seeing what the locals do. Rose Street turned out to be almost a total bust. While there were one or two places with a decent sized crowd, the majority of the street was deserted and our pub crawl was a little sad. We later discovered that most young Scots prefer to do the heavy drinking on their Saturday evenings, and if we had gone it then, the story may have been a bit different.
- A Scottish summer is a Cincinnati fall. When we arrived in Scotland, we commented to our host that it was a little bit nippy outside. He giggled at us before saying that this was the best weather they had had in weeks and it was practically back to a Scotland summer. We later learned just how right he was…… Scotland is in the north. It is cold up there. The next day at the Edinburgh Castle we were practically running between the different parts to escape the battering winds. This wake-up call is what prompted the purchasing of additional sweaters by Katie and I.
- There are a lot of lochs in Scotland. Being an ignorant person, I assumed Loch Ness was something very unique and special in Scotland. And while it was really amazing and worth the visit, there are literally TONS of lochs to explore in the north. They vary in size and landscape too, so if you are planning a trip up into the Highlands, take some time to visit another one besides Loch Ness.
- Edinburgh’s food scene extremely diverse. We were delighted to find a mix of traditional and modern cuisine. There were also several spots serving Oriental and Middle-Eastern food, which made choosing dinner tough. Additionally, we trued haggis for the first time. While home-made it can be a bit like goetta (you Cincinnati people know what I mean) but sweeter, it was recommended to be served with a whiskey sauce. This should make it pretty much amazing.
- Hiking up Arthurs Seat was one of our Scotland trip highlights. You are able to see just how big the capital city of Scotland is. The hike up is fairly short (no more than 45 minutes), although it does get steep in parts. We have all become very big fans of hiking during this journey around the world.
- Watching Adam trying to master the art of driving on the other side of the road, from the other side of the car was quite interesting. He quickly found out that even though the driver’s position in the car was reversed, the gear box was not. This caused him to have to change his shifting patterns while doing it left-handed. He did really well though, and after about 20nminutes he had the hang of it. He told me the hardest part was actually the round-abouts, which he now had to enter the opposite way. There was a slightly longer pause than usual every time we went into one, just enough time for him to make sure he was entering the correct way. Let me tell you, it was also an odd experience trying this out from the new passenger side. I felt strange sitting there without a steering wheel in front of me and felt the need to use imaginary brake pedals every once in a while.
- Visiting the highlands was amazing. The landscape is so idyllic with sharp peaks, moss covered hills, enormous bogs, expansive fields, and loads of little streams. We pulled over on our way to Glen Coe at what looked like a field with little pools in it to get some pictures and quickly discovered why such places were referred to as bogs (my shoes can attest to it). There are also so many castles and ruins and little towns to be seen when driving through that I would recommend the excursion up there. I wish we had had more time, in fact, as hiking around Glen Coe is supposed to be spectacular. And if you stumble upon some highland cows, in all their fuzzy glory, remember that they like carrots and potatoes!
- After Sunday-Funday brunch, Katie and I went on a walk to get some fresh air. It turned into more of a dance or a skip than a walk though and I am sure we were looked at very strangely as we frolicked around town together. Sometime, walking is just not good enough.