The land of haggis and whisky
Scotland Travel Blog› entry 3 of 17 › view all entries
I arrived in Edinburgh to be met by some family friends at the station. After a scenic drive back to their place I was fed some yummy food and tried my first wee dram of whisky. Can't say i was all that fussed by the whisky, but i was willing to work on it....
The following day I went into the city centre and wandered around Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, Princes St Gardens etc. I later found out the gardens were once a Loch (lake) that was filled with the most putrid, disgusting water! Apparently, hundreds of years ago, people would empty their buckets of 'waste' onto the pavement, which after a rainy day (which there are plenty of in scotland!) would trickle down to the loch. This loch used to be Edinburgh's drinking source, so you can imagine how healthy people must have been after drinking virtual sewerage water! Funnily enough, the gardens look very plush today.. a fine example of the virtues of fertiliser!
I began my tour of scotland through a company called Macbackpackers. It was a jump-on jump-off tour that could be done in 3 days.. a crazy tour that would've been! I spent a lovely 7 days meandering thourgh the lowlands, highlands, lochs, glens and bens of scotland... although I could easily have spent weeks and weeks here - it's such a beautiful country!
Our first stop of the tour was at a town called Pitlochry, the gateway to the highlands. I jumped off here and met an Israelian who also felt the urge to climb up Ben Vraki. And that we did. On the return journey, we found a lovely pub that brews their own beers and couldn't resist having a try.. yum! We'd tried some whisky earlier in the day on the tour and I admit, the taste was beginning to grow on me!
Next stop on the tour was Inverness, via the Culloden battlefield and Loch Ness (unfortunately, no Nessie sightings reported.) In 1742, there was a huge battle between the Jacobites (ie. braveheart) and the government at Culloden. The jacobites were absolutely annihilated and the government hence decided to ban all things scotland - haggis, whisky, tartan, bagpipes, Gaelic etc etc. So, fittingly, as we drove away in the bus, we played Scottish music, drank whisky and said 'slanjavah' (a gaelic word for cheers or something!)
Next stop the Isle of Skye, otherwise known as the misty isle, was definitely one of my favourite spots. The tiny village we stayed in had a festival the day we arrived (just for us i'm sure!) There were pipe bands and jumping castles during the day, but in the evening, they'd set up a big marquee where a scottish band played some great music! Despite a touch of a hangover the next day, five of us decided to pile in a hire car and drive around Skye. We'd been told about 'the Fairy Glen' by some of the hostel staff - a tour group had visited there a few days earlier. Apparently it is taboo to take anything from the area as the fairies don't look upon this too kindly. Despite the warning, one of the guys on the tour took a pebble, claiming he didn't believe in that stuff anyway. As they continued on their journey, the bus broke down. Lesson to all - don't mess with the fairies! It was a beautiful spot, a highlight indeed, and we made sure to leave the fairies a wee gift. That night, went to a pub that had a traditional Scottish band playing. They were awesome! I got so into the spirit of things, I even bought myself a whisky.. och aye!
We left Skye on the macbackpackers tour again and visited Eilen Donan castle (where hghlander was filmed.) The weather was absolutely terrible, the worst so far on my trip. Unfortunately, we couldn't even catch a glimpse of Ben Nevis (the highest mountain in Britain) as the clouds were so low! Luckily, I jumped off at Fort William and stayed a night there. The next day, although not brilliant, was slightly better so I made my way to Ben Nevis. I met a random Englishmen at the bottom (who had a map and compass.. very handy) so we walked up together. Since I was jumping on the bus again later that day, I decided to be super sensible and turn back down even though I was over halfway up Ben Nevis. The return trip was supposed to take 6-8hours and although I'm sure I would've done it in about 6, I didn't want to take the risk and miss the bus. However, the views I got, even half way up, were magnificent!
The next stop was Oban, a lovely seaside town. I made sure to have some fish n chips and spent the night catching up with some friends i'd met earlier on the tour. The following day it was back to Edinburgh, but not before stopping at several castles, a pub, a river, a church and a visit to the hairy coo, Hamish... so cute!!
Visited some relatives in Glasgow and Helensburgh over the next couple of days. Had a night out on the town, albeit a pretty early one, in Glasgow and got to meet some relatives i'd never met. Great fun!
Back to Edinburgh for my final fling. It was fringe festival time and Tam was meeting me for the weekend. We had a great time - drank many pints, saw three fringe festival shows and went to the Military Tattoo.. awesome! Can you believe... I even tried Haggis!! The vegetarian version anyway! There was a fantastic vibe in Edinburgh - we met quite a few random Scottish people (so friendly!) and also squeezed in a visit to Edinburgh Castle and Arthur's Seat (the extinct volcano where you can get great 360 degree views of Edinburgh.) I'm now back in London, but can't wait to visit Scotland again!!