We started off with a wedding in a wee castle near Stirling. It was brilliant fun and very energetic, as they had ceilidh dancing (“kay-lee”) which I LOVED. Breathless, sweaty, whirling and spinning about and trying not to stomp on each others toes. They had a guy telling us all what to do. He was very patient.
Then came down to Edinburgh. A really neat city – layered and more condensed and somehow feeling more whole than London, all that old stonework. I can see how grim it would be in winter, though. Very very grim. Even there in the middle of July, I was defeated and had to buy an emergency hoodie for warmth. Thank you H&M for my vibrant wont-ever-get-run-over-by-a-car-in-the-dead-of-night-because-i-stand-out-like-a-road-cone bright red hoodie. Although the sunshine was warm, the air was not, and the sunlight had that low glare that reminded me of NZ wintertime sun.
Personality and independence – lots of hippies, not so many chain stores – and beds of lush roses everywhere.
We visited Edinburgh Castle, perched atop the ridge in the middle of the city, then walked the Royal Mile down along the ridge, peeking into all the fantastically named closes that run off each side down the slopes. Imagining how they were back when the buildings towered crookedly, precariously, above, blocking out the sky. We were told several times about how, before plumbing, people chucked their waste out windows & doors twice a day and it ran down the streets to form ponds of raw sewerage on each side of the ridge.
Must be why those roses grow so well today, in the former site of that north loch. Or loch of sewerage.
We did a couple of ‘underground’ tours which take you beneath the current city to see boarded up closes or the underside of old bricked-up bridges. Visited the Museum of Scotland because I was keen to learn more about the Picts. Left none the wiser – one of the worst museums I’ve ever been to, unfortunately. Is in the process of being upgraded so is all very pretty and handsome, but fails as a museum – objects collected by ‘theme’ such as death & burial, rather than chronologically or by the people. Thank goodness for Wikipedia.
On one day we did a day tour out of the city into the highlands – a ‘lochs & castles’ tour. We drove past Stirling Castle, the Wallace Monument, walked around Doune Castle where Monty Python & the Holy Grail was filmed, then visited the best one of all, Kilchurn Castle.
Kilchurn Castle is a ruin which sits on a rise in the middle of a field of wild grasses and flowers, once a lake. You come around the corner from the carpark and there it sits among the waving grasses, its broken spires & turrets against the blooming sky. The only clue to modernity the shapes of pylons loping across the hills beyond.
(this is the best photo I’ve taken so far – I’m totally stoked with this new camera!)
Then to Argyll Castle, which was more of a posh house really, where Duffster & I thought we spied the current 13th Duke of Argyll walking around, all tanned and posh.
On the way back to the city, we stopped at (The Bonnie Banks o’) Loch Lomand and had ice-creams and I dipped my feet into the freezing water, and we stopped at a pass called Rest & Be Thankful, which gave a stunning view over a long green valley with its old road twining along the side and up. Our tour guide was lovely, telling great stories and dealing calmly with the kid who threw up all over the floor (and Duffy’s shoes) only a short way into the trip. Yeah, that van didn’t smell too good for the rest of the day…
Another day, we made an afternoon trip on a bus out to little village called Roslin, where we stumbled across another ruined castle. Boy the amount of fallen masonry in this country is impressive. We passed on paying to enter Rosslyn Chapel, which was in the Da Vinci Code. Sometimes it’s just another church.
On our last night we had some beer & whiskey with others from the hostel (a good hostel, clean and quirky) including the managers of the hostel, who were like a double act – the flighty chatty outgoing scottish one and the quiet smiling chinese one.
I ate haggis a few times. I liked it, Duffy did not. Duffy drank whiskey a few times. He liked it, I did not. He also sampled Irn Bru, the local fizzy drink which sells better than Coke. It tastes like weird bubblegum. We didn’t end up finding any deep fried Mars Bars. Or deep fried anything, really, apart from fish & chips.
Apparently the Scots are the 3rd most obese people in the world (after Americans & Australians). It may have a wee bit to do with the Deep Fried Everything, the beer and whiskey, the Irn Bru!
We heard this song on the radio one day — it kind of sums up the country: