Haggis Anyone?

WARNING – VERY LONG POST – READ AT YOUR LEISURE
After 8 days of travel (2 of which were spent in an airplane), Tyson and I have returned from wonderful trip to Scotland. Unfortunately, we didn’t find time to update the blog during the trip, so I’m going to try and recall only the highlights to prevent reading hypnosis.

We were lucky to have excellent tour guides in Tyson’s brother and sister-in-law, who live in Edinburgh. We arrived early morning on Thursday (25th), slightly jet-lagged but still up for seeing some of Edinburgh. We did a quick familiarization tour of the area around their flat, including the Edinburgh Castle, knowing we would have time later to come back for a more informative tour – thanks to the free admission with Justin and Rebecca’s residence passes.

Day two began our 3-day road-trips through Northern Scotland.
ROAD-TRIP, DAY 1 – PERTHSHIRE, PITLOCHRY, BLAIR ATHOLL – First item of business was to find a specific wool shop outside of Perth so Rebecca and I could treat ourselves to a couple nice purses. Through many winding, one-way roads and sheep fields, we finally arrived to the shop in the middle of nowhere – thanks to a map provided by the shop owner. We then explored and had lunch in Perth, which is an historic town on the Tay river, formerly the capital of medieval Scotland. It’s now known for its theatre and arts. Next, we headed out of town to see Scone Castle, the crowning site for Scottish Kings between the 9th and 13th centuries. It was Justin and Rebecca’s first trip to the castle as well, so we took some time to explore the castle and beautiful grounds. I’ve never seen so many peacocks, both color and white, in one place. After Scone, we did a quick walk through Pitlochry – a much smaller town than Perth and very quaint with its cobblestone streets and small boutique shops. Then we headed out to the popular Blair Castle, located in the town of Blair Atholl. It was, unfortunately, closed for a wedding so we satisfied ourselves with taking pictures of the outside and grounds – including a bagpiper who greeted the wedding guests. Interesting Side Note: Blair Castle has been altered and extended so often in its 700-year history that it now provides a unique insight into the history and changing tastes of aristocratic life in the Highlands. It also hosted important historic figures like Queen Victoria and Bonnie Prince Charlie (info provided by Eyewitness Travel Guide).

ROAD-TRIP, DAY 2 – GLEN ETIVE/GLEN COE, NORTHERN HIGHLANDS – This day was our longest trek, but personally my favorite. Our first stop was to Doune Castle, better known as the Trojan Rabbit castle in Monty Python’s Holy Grail. Tyson and I found ourselves in the castle by ourselves so we took some time to walk through it and take pictures. The next jaunt took us through the picturesque Glen Etive. Words cannot describe how beautiful this place is. The road is a narrow, one-lane road (we had to stop and pull over many times to let people by) that runs parallel to a flowing river bed. We were surrounded by green, rolling hills and waterfalls. The weather was a bit damp and windy this day, but it didn’t stop us from pulling over every 3 minutes to take pictures. As a side note, the Scots are a hardy bunch because we saw many of them camping along the river, bearing the gusty winds and horizontal rain – and I’m talking about tent camping, not RV’s. Once we returned to the main road, we drove past Ben Nevis – Britain’s highest mountain, which was mostly obscured by clouds – and on to our most Northern point of the trip, Eilean Donan Castle. This is one of the most picturesque castles because it stands alone in the middle of water, only connected to land by a pedestrian bridge. Side note: The castle became a Jacobite stronghold in the 1700’s, and was destroyed by the English in 1719. It was later restored in the 19th century (info provided by Eyewitness Travel Guide). The castle’s exterior is more interesting than its interior – the kitchen actually displayed Disney-type mannequins and goods, which was a bit tacky and erie. We also had to sprint through it because the staff followed us through the castle checking their watches and turning off the lights behind us. To our defense, it’s easy to lose track of time this time of year because the sun doesn’t set until 10:30pm.

ROAD-TRIP, DAY 3 – STONEHAVEN, ST. ANDREWS – Our last day with the car took us up the East coast to Justin and Rebecca’s favorite castle, Dunnottar Castle (I know it sounds like we saw a ton of castles, but the fact is we only saw a mere few). Located on a hill over-looking the North Sea, we quickly understood why it is their favorite. We spent at least 1.5 hours wandering the grounds, breathing in the sea air and taking a ton of pictures. We then drove up to the seaside town of Stonehaven to have lunch. Tyson was introduced to Cullen Skink which is basically the Scottish version of clam chowder, only with smoked haddock instead of clams. It was actually pretty tasty. After lunch, we headed back South to the home of golf, and Scotland’s oldest University town – St. Andrews. We first explored the ruins of St. Andrews cathedral. I went, alone, up the very tall winding staircase of a still-standing tower of the cathedral to get some aerial shots of the town and coastline – it was worth the cramped thigh muscles. We then walked over to the 18th hole of the world-famous golf course, which tourist are allowed to walk on, and all Tyson could say was “I can’t believe I’m actually here.” The University campus is also beautiful. We walked around it and pointed out all the houses we wish we lived in. I guess if it’s good enough for Prince William, it has to be nice.

Our last two days were spent exploring Edinburgh. Tyson and I made our second trip to Edinburgh Castle so we could take pictures and do the official tour. We also did some shopping, coffee-drinking and people-watching. We felt at times that we were back in the 80’s with the footless tights under the short jean skirts and off-the-shoulder shirts with big belts. I’m just hoping it doesn’t make its way back to the U.S. For our last dinner in Scotland, Justin and Rebecca took us to a modern-Scottish fare restaurant called A Room in the Town. Since I’m not much for weird meat products, I tried a vegetarian version of haggis (normally oat mixture stuffed in a cooked sheep’s intestine) which was wrapped in filo dough. It was quite tasty, and different enough from what I’d eat at home. As for Tyson, since they have an endless supply of salmon in Scotland, and I don’t eat it, he took advantage of it whenever he could.

We are a little slow in getting our film developed, but I promise as soon as the pictures are available, I will send them out.

We hope this finds you well (and still awake).

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