Finally have some free time to discuss my trip to Scotland…what a wonderful place. We arrived around 11:15 AM via train from King’s Cross Station. It was about a 5 hour trip, but it didn’t seem like it (much different from on the way back, more on that later). Our group consisted of about 18 people. A few from Brazil, a few from Australia (of course), 4 or 5 from China, 1 from India and the rest from America…it was a decently diverse group of people. Upon our arrival, a coach was to pick us up with a “blue kilt” tour guide. Well, when we got off the train the first person I spotted was a man in a kilt (green kilt though, not blue like his title) and immediately assumed he was our guide. Carrying a black brief case, wearing a matching jeffcap and thick wool blazer, our tour guide looked like the stereotypical Scottish person.
We hopped on the bus and were dropped outside of a castle (not Edinburgh Castle) where the guide got off the bus, unlocked his case and whipped out a set of bag pipes…awesome. He began to play and lead us down a path to the front of the castle. I must say, the London tour guides should take a note from the Scottish guides on how to be enthusiastic when giving tours. This guy was hilarious, acting out different be-headings and telling us to play knock-knock zoom-zoom at the castle. Oh yeah…and the whole bag pipes thing was pretty damn cool too.
We were taken to a few other places around the city, but to tell you the truth I was so hungry and tired that I wasn’t comprehending anything that he was saying. The last time I ate was 4 am and by the time our tour was about to wrap up, it was close to 2 PM. It was time for lunch.
We checked in to our bed and breakfast which was really cool. An old building that sat just on the outskirts of the city center, the Elas Guest House was ran by a little chubby old lady that gave each and every person directions about the faulty things in their room. Ours was the toilet (of course) which basically was like a lawn mower…you needed to rip the chord (or flusher in this case) a few times, nice and quick to get it to start (or flush). But, after a few trips to the bathroom the flushing process was mastered by us all.
After settling into our room (the room had 6 beds, but only 4 of us staying in it…Steve, a boy named Tim who was from Millersville, PA and “Jay” a man in his late 30’s from India and me) Steve and I headed to the nearest pub to grab some food. Luckily, right around the corner we found a pub and our first mission was to dominate some traditional Scottish food…and of course we chose the Haggis, Neeps and Tattis. I will start in reverse order: Tattis are mashed potatoes and Neeps are mashed up turnips. Finally, comes the Haggis which after telling you what it is would probably not want to eat it, but to tell you the truth it was quite delicious. Drum roll please: minced sheep’s stomach…woo! It had a spicy, gristly type texture but it was so good! (Or was it the fact that I was contemplating eating my fingers due to starvation?)
After lunch we walked the city a bit and headed to the National History Museum of Scotland (thanks to some directions from a nice man who could tell that we were completely baffled by the map). The museum was pretty neat, but I wasn’t really in the mood to take in 7 floors of history. Later, our guide for the weekend named Tom took us on a little pub crawl. Only 6 of us went on this pub crawl, but it was cool to break the ice with some of the people. By the end of the night I was spent and ready for bed.
Saturday started off bright and early with breakfast at 7 AM and a bus trip to the Highlands and Loch-ness at 7:45 AM. Breakfast was a major upgrade from the hostels, which was awesome. Although, I am not a big fan of hot dogs, pate, tuna fish and cold pancakes for breakfast, the hard-boiled eggs, cereal and pastries hit the spot. The trip was about a 4 hour drive to the highlands with beautiful scenery on the way. We past through 6 or 7 of the 141 major lochs of Scotland, with Loch Ness being the most popular for obvious reasons.
As you can see from the pictures and videos, there was some exquisite scenery that pretty much dwarfed the Wicklow mountains in Ireland. We stopped off at a few places to take pictures of the scenery including a stop at the tallest mountain in the British Isles, Ben Nevis. Standing at 4,409 feet, Ben Nevis was tipped with snow and the top could barely be seen due to the fog and clouds. It was quite an amazing sight though. It blows my mind how much natural beauty is out there.
We hopped back on the bus and headed to Loch Ness, where our tour guide (another great guide who told us he doesn’t speak ‘English’ he speaks ‘Scottish’ and busted jokes about the British the whole time) decided to put on some Celine Dion to pump us up for Loch Ness. However this wasn’t the ordinary “My Heart Will Go On” by Dion, but an awesome rendition with bag pipes.
We pulled up to the Urquhart Castle, which sits on Loch Ness, took a tour of that and then set out to the docks to take a boat ride on the loch. The sun was setting at the time we hopped on the boat and the sky was absolutely beautiful all around. But, once the sun set and we were still on the boat, the temperature dropped and we were all getting ready to get off of the boat. Saturday was an amazing day and pretty much brought my 4 months of travel to a very satisfying end.
Sunday we had until 4 PM to explore Edinburgh, so Steve, two girls we met from New York (Danielle and Angela) and I checked out the Scottish Whiskey Heritage Experience which was very informative. We were taught all about how whiskey is made, plus how to drink it like the “master distiller” does. We got a complementary shot of whiskey as well as a whiskey drinking glass (didn’t know there was a specific glass to drink whiskey out of). After, we got some lunch (more haggis for me, instead this time it was stuffed in chicken!) and then Steve and I split from the girls to check out a planet earth attraction that was described to us as like a Disney World attraction. Much to our disappointment it was more of a museum that took you back in time and put you in different rooms and basically showed you different videos of how the earth became the way it is. It was topped off by a brand new presentation called “We Our Astronomers” which was held in the planetarium dome, which was probably the best part.
By then it was about time to head back to the guest house to catch the coach back to the train. We got the train at 5 PM and after meeting all of the people we were traveling with, it figured to be a shorter ride because you would be conversing with them the whole time. Nah, didn’t happen like that. Yes, we all talked, played games, listen to music, but for some reason it seemed like it took soooooo long to get home. By the time we got back I was ready to pull my eyes out. The commuting was excruciating.
My initial goal was to meet up with my relatives in Glasgow; however, after exchanging many e-mails they were (ironically) in England for the weekend. So, that didn’t work out, but I did get to receive some pictures and such via e-mail to put faces to the people I was talking to– that was neat.
For some reason Scotland felt very “homey” to me. It gave me a sense of warmth that I didn’t have in any other country. I don’t know if it due to the fact that I have family still living over there, or if the fact that the people there are just so damn nice. It was neat seeing all of the souvenir stores that had all of these ‘Taylor family clan’ and ‘Taylor family crests everywhere.’ One of the books I picked up that was the history of the name “Taylor” started off the first paragraph talking about former American President, Zachary Taylor and how he was against slavery which lost him votes in the South (they neglected to talk about how he was one of the worst Presidents ever).
Well, I finished up all of my work last night…what a relief. My last class for Travel Writing was canceled tonight, so I am down to two classes tomorrow–one is at 9:00 AM and the other is at 4:30 PM. Then, it is home free! Thursday and Friday will be dedicated to taking in London for the last time and of course packing. I came here with one carry on bag and one checked bag (much less than most people). My goal is to return with the same. It is going to be a hard feat, but I am going to make it happen.
Before I go, I have fallen behind (again) on my top 10 things I can’t wait to have when I get home, so here you go:
Number 5: Tisin Panicker
I can’t wait to come home and see Tisin Panicker. Plain. and. simple.
Number 4: Driving
I am usually not the type that “loves driving” (i.e. Tom O’neil, Andrew Rubin) but I am pretty excited to come back and be able to drive myself around. Holy shit, I need to think about buying a car soon…
Well, all from me for now. Stay classy bitches.