Category Archives: Scotland

Scotland, Aye!

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With Jessica off for two weeks at Easter and Aaron off for the Friday and Monday.  We decided to head up to Scotland with a couple from the house we stayed in when we first got here.  After Aaron finished work on Friday at 17:30 so we rushed to Kings Cross station in North London to catch our 18:15 train to Edinburgh.  We made it with time to spare and we can say the first leg of the train was nice, but when we had to switch in York then things got interesting!

As soon as we got on the next train we saw 5 or 6 young Scottish guys sitting with a whole bunch of 12 packs.  From that moment on we knew it’d be a rowdy carriage.  The guys were quite and reserved at the beginning, even gave a beer to Jess, but as we went further into the black of night it got loud.  First off it was louder and louder talking and then an iPod playing to accompany.  Soon it turned into chanting and singing.

There were ten bombers in the air,

There were ten German bombers in the air,

There were ten German bombers, Ten German bombers,

There were ten German bombers in the air,

And the army from Britain shot one down,

And the army from Britain shot one down,

And the army from Britain, The army from Britain ,

And the army from Britain shot one down,

There were nine German bombers in the air,

They subbed in Scotland half way threw and did a few numbers a couple times. It was entertaining, but towards the end of the four and half hour train it was unbearable.  Even when the train arrived in Edinburgh we couldn’t escape their chanting as we could hear it throughout the train station.  Eventually we got away and wound up at McDonalds for a quick late night supper before our search for the apartment we rented for the weekend.

The couple we went with, Scott and Raphael, took the bus from London and got there at 1900.  They didn’t have any issues finding the apartment and now at 23:30 we were going to attempt to do the same.  We were on the right trail, until Jessica had to ask a guy who turned us around the same way we came.  Then we asked these two girls who told us we were going the right way!  Oh boy!  Once we finally arrived, the apartment we rented really WOWed us and Scotty and Raph too.  It was a good size, really well equipped and had a home feel.  We can’t remember the name of the company, but we found it on Edlets.com.  Highly recommend it.  To stay here it was cheaper then a hostel and way cheaper then a hotel.  Plus we could cook our meals.

On top of Carlton Hill

On our first full day in Edinburgh we wound up walking up and around Carlton Hill.  Where you can get great views of the city, although not as good as Arthur’s Seat, and see some cool sights.  Now an extinct volcano, Carlton Hill has an unfinished replica of Athens’ Parthenon called Edinburgh’s Folly, Nelson’s Tower for an even better view, a Portuguese cannon, the City Observatory and a few other things.  It would be a great place to take in a sunset or rise.  After that we wound up walk to the National Portrait Gallery and learn about some famous Scottish people.  To finish up the day we wound up walking around almost aimlessly, but sort of towards the Royal Botanical Gardens.  When we finally did arrive it was closed and we wound up at a pond full of swans and other types of birds.  The last few breathes the day had left, we spent here before heading home to cook dinner and relax.

The following day we had our eyes set on Edinburgh Castle, but had a few distractions and we got there in the late afternoon.  Sited on top of an extinct castle as well, Edinburgh castle provides great views and natural defense too.  In fact, it had such good defense it was never taken over from one single attack (the only way it switched hand was by waiting their water and food supply out) and no army ever got past the 3rd or 4th gate of 7.  There is a lot see here including the Scottish Crown Jewels, the 1 o’clock gun, and the National War Museum of Scotland.  One cool thing about the 1 o’clock gun is traditionally they set off 12 cannons at noon for the ships, however the Scots being cheap on set off 1 at 1 o’clock.  Does the same trick, costs less cannon balls and gives them more time to eat haggis.

We were a bit rushed touring the castle as we had a ghost tour booked at 17:30.  A bit of a shame giving the ticket of admission is a steep £14.50, oh well.  Now the ghost tour I don’t have much to say on that, it was interesting at time but ultimately boring I thought.  Jess enjoyed it and it was sort of neat being in the underground roads/passages of the city.  Earlier in the day we had plans to cook a big Easter dinner and erase our memory of the terrible movie Rob Roy with Braveheart.  We went to Lidl, got all the fixings for supper and headed home.  Everything was going smoothly, the pork roast was in the oven and supper was only a couple hours away.  Until Jess checked on it and noticed the oven was on broil.  Here we had a crispy top with a pink bottom.  Fast forward to around 23:30 and we finally ate a la super rich.  Dinner was fantastic, but maybe not for the wait we had to do.

The Forth Bridge

The following morning after our late night, we had to rush to the city for our Scottish Highland tour with a company called Hairy Coo.  On a suggestion from a teacher Jessica knows, the Hairy Coo runs their tour for FREE!  All they as for is a tip for what you feel the tour is worth.  This deal is great considering most companies charge over £40 for a day trip to highlands and you don’t even get to ride in bright orange buses like the Coo’s.  It was our tour guide, Nicola’s, first tour with the company and she did a great job aside from hitting a pheasant.

The Forth Road Bridge

This tours first stop was at the Firth of Forth where we saw the Forth Bridge an iconic cantilever bridge for trains and the Forth Road Bridge which is a suspension bridge.  Next stop was the National William Wallace Monument, located on top the hill which is where Wallace supposedly watched King Edward I gather his army before the battle of Stirling Bridge.  The monument looks like a Gothic style watch tower that over takes the treed landscape.  After the Wallace Monument, Nicola took us quickly to short look at Stirling Castle and then on to highlands.  Just before the highlands we stopped at the only lake in Scotland, the only lake you ask.  Well it’s the only lake in Scotland that is referred to a lake, the rest are lochs the Scottish Gaelic word for lake.  Not a 100% on the background, but it has something to do with the English on why it’s called Lake of Menteith and not Loch of Menteith.

Lake of Menteith

Almost as soon as we drove a bit from Lake of Menteith the scenery changed pretty dramatically.  What once was fairly low lying land was now hilly with valleys and a more colourful landscape.  It reminded us of the Okanagan with a bit more rock, fall colours and not as green.  It was really pretty to say the least.  After a bit of driving we stopped in a small town for lunch and after a bit of convincing Jess we ate at this on the suggestion of our guide, Nicola.  WOW!  The food here was unreal, they made good sandwiches, pie, burgers.  Out of the four of us nobody had a bad thing to say!  Just full cheeks and big smirks.

Once lunch was done we all piled back on the bus and made our way to see some Hairy Coo’s.  Now you might have asked when you told you the tour company we went with, ‘what is a hairy coo?’  Well it is a hairy cow, just the way the Scottish accent comes out cow sounds like coooooooooooooo.  They are pretty darned cute!  The rest of the tour went pretty quick we stopped at a couple look out points, one other loch, a famous hairy coo in Hamish The Highland Cow, and Duone Castle which is famous from the Monty Python films.

A Hairy Coo!

Overall, all four of us thought the tour was great and a good alternative from the cookie cutter bus tours out there.  Something we would recommend if you are ever in Edinburgh.  After we said our goodbyes to Nicola we went to a whisky bar to indulge.  Just a block or two from where the bus dropped us off, we quickly melted into the pub chairs and drank.  We met this gentleman Stevie who was in town from Glasgow watching rugby.  After a while of chewing the breeze he offered to take us to the Scotch Malt Whisky Vaults in Lieth, Edinburgh.  Scotty and Raph had to jet off cause they were going to meet up with a friend and so off we went with Stevie in a cab to this place called heaven.  Now the Scotch Malt Whisky is a members only and is the only place in the world where they buy casks directly from the distillers.

Both Jess and I learned a lot about Whisky here, Jess even got into Whisky!  Some facts about whisky we learnt were to be considered Scotch whisky it must be oak casked in Scotland for atleast three years and one day, they usually use old wine casks to mature now and even ones from the American bourbon/whisky industry as regulations require them to use new casks everytime.  The gentleman we came with Stevie and the bartenders were fountains of information on whisky.  When we were picking out something to drink we soon found out the whiskys here can be a lot more then to 40% you see on the shelf.  Most are inbetween 50% and 60% however there are some in the +70% range.  So it’s not unheard of for some people to water them down, as they do have water on all the tables here.  Whisky can vary a lot cask to cask and for a brands like Glenfiddich, Macallan, Glenlivet, etc they dilute it with water and use colouring to give it a rich and consistent appearance.  We soon asked the questions well why not cask a whisky and leave it there for 50, even a 100 years.  Every year the cask loses about 1.5-2% a year of alcohol and volume which is known as the angels share.  If you leave it too long you’ll have nothing left and also anything below 40% from the cask is not known as Scotch whisky.

Inside the Scotch Malt Whisky Vaults

After we got schooled in whisky we ordered up a round and some beers and then another round and some beers.  Soon it was last call and time to leave.  We said our thanks to Stevie and parted ways.  That was the end of our last full day in Scotland!  On our last day, we had time to kill until 15:30 when our train left for London.  Scott and Raph were staying an extra day since they didn’t work Tuesday  and Scott has a cousin in Edinburgh.  Our train ride should have been easy, however somebody wanted Subway and we were left with little time to get to our platform.  Running around like a mouse in maze we found our train platform through the construction mess of Waverly Station as our train was leaving.  Well, atleast we live in a major city and the next train was in 30 minutes.  We found some unreserved seats on the train, didn’t get a fuss from the ticket collector, all in all it was good end to Scotland and a quick 4 1/2 hours back to London.

There is another long weekend on the first week of May and Oslo might be the plan.  We’ll report back in then!

Cheers,

Aarissca