When presented with a week off of work and school due to Poland’s observance of Labor Day (May 1) and Constitution day (May 3), Marcin and I decided to explore Scotland. We flew from Katowice, Poland to the capital of Scotland in a little less than 2 hours. We arrived to Edinburgh late in the night so we found our hotel and prepared ourselves for the following day.
There was so much to explore in Edinburgh so after grabbing quick breakfast of buttered rolls with eggs, we headed to the Edinburgh Castle. The castle had so much to explore including an armory, dining hall, prison cells for captives, prison cells for their own men, and many artifacts from Scotland. An interesting display in the Edinburgh Castle was the small dog named Bob. He became well-known due to his habit of chasing cannon balls at the battle of Inkerman. He received a metal for his courage and the whole regiment adopted him.
Throughout the day we explored more of the capital city. We saw many monuments scattered through the town as well as sampled real Scottish whisky (Unfortunately, we are not very experienced in this drink so we left it to the whisky expert to match us with a malt of his recommendation).
Following the tasty experience, we explored the Museum of Scotland. There we found displays on Dolly (the first clone), tire display (Scottish invented the rubber tire), and many other elements of Scottish history and past innovations. Among our favorite rooms in the museum was the animal wing. The grand display was on the ground floor but looking up you saw three levels of continued display spanned over three surrounding terraces of the room. I say this was our favorite because Marcin was able to see his favorite animal (Alpaca) and I, mine (rhino). With our appetitive growing as much as our favorite animals, we decided to eat the traditional UK meal – Fish N Chips (deep fried fish and French fries). This meal was consumed numerous times throughout our journey due to its popularity.
The rest of the day included a visit to the Writer’s Museum and to Rose Street (street equivalent to Rush Street in Chicago or to be more specific – Midland Street in Bay City, Michigan). One of the most interesting stops we made on the street was to The Standing Order. This was an expansive restaurant which consisted of a large room with high cathedral ceilings. Large wooden tables were scattered throughout the space with a long, curvy bar situated on the right hand side. Different brews from around the world were displayed and offered here. So this leaves the question burning…what beer represented America, and which Poland? From Poland – Zywiec; while the USA had representation from Brooklyn Lager, Dixie, and Samual Adams. I know Michigan readers; I am surprised they didn’t have Busch Light too.
Day three brought the most exciting challenge of the trip – driving a right hand drive car. Marcin did a great job adjusting to the other side of the road and steering from the opposite side of the car. I believe it was my singing of “Always drive on the left side of the road” (tune from Monty Python’s Life of Brian) that kept him focused. We drove to the city of Stirling where we visited our favorite castle. This castle was an outstanding experience due to its refurbishment of how it would have looked in the days of its glory along with the interactive activities (ex. Dressing up as kings and queens). Following the castle, we visited the William Wallace monument. Luckily, Marcin had me watch Braveheart before the trip so I was able to understand why Mel Brook’s character was so monumental.
We then drove through the mountains to our next destination. The drive was breathtaking. Mountains surrounded the winding road and fenced us in from all directions so as to create the feeling you were being swallowed with their ridged splendor. Sheep were scattered through the uneven scenery and added life to the picture perfect landscape. The town we stayed in was located within this mountain area and we took advantage of the location to hike a small mountain and watch the sun setting over the small town. Dinner following the hike involved the ever famous, Haggis. This Scottish dish is made from sheep intestines; however do not let the ingredients stray you, it was a very tasty food.
Day four began with another first experience of the typical Scottish cuisine. For breakfast we had eggs, toast, baked beans, sausage, bacon, and black pudding. The black pudding (contrary to the picture of being served in a dessert dish with whipped cream as I had planned) was served on the plate as a circular black object. The shape was like a hockey puck with the width cut in half and the texture was rough. It wasn’t until the end of the vacation (and daily consumption of this food) that I learned the ingredients of the dish (those I asked told me they would tell me after the meal…but never followed through).
The day involved more beautiful driving and castle visits. We visited three more castles along the way to our next stop at the Loch Ness. Our stay in the small town of Foyers, located on the Loch Ness Lake, was another great location for hiking (to a waterfall this time) and watching the sunset from the bed and breakfast’s back patio.
After a quick breakfast of porridge on day five, we drove along the lake – looking for Nessie, the Loch Ness monster the whole time. We drove along the Road to the Isle and, of course, visited more castles along the way. An exciting road side stop was at the “Harry Potter” bridge. The bridge is shown on numerous Harry Potter movies as the author is Scottish and includes scenes of Scotland. The location proved to be a very nice place for photos.
Day six brought us to my biggest challenge – climbing Ben Nevis. This is one of Scotland’s most popular mountains to climb. The path started in the middle of a sheep field and ended in a snowy blizzard about two and a half hours after starting. The path varied between small rocks, big rocks, and boulders to climb over at inclines of slight or extreme. We crossed two streams next to waterfalls but due to the weather of rain and wind, did not create any extra dampness to our already drenched hiking gear. When we were about 30 minutes of hiking from the top (and I was 5 minutes from turning into a Popsicle) we turned around after being informed groups were at an impasse and needed ice picks to reach the top. Though we didn’t make it to the top of the 1,344 meter mountain, it was still an exhilarating experience for me to walk through mud, snow and rain, sleet, and wind gusts because it was my first big mountain experience. To be inside a cloud and feel its airless presence engulfing you is thrilling; but to feel it and know you reached it by your own two feet is even more exciting.
The rest of the day was spent drying out and driving to our next bed and breakfast in Crieff. Crieff is a beautiful town with many shops and restaurants (unlike the very rural places we had been staying). The bed and breakfast itself was superb. We were greeted by first names at the door by our host, Mike. After dinner we stopped for a drink at the local bar and were treated with such familiarity, as if we were frequent visitors. Each local who stopped in would say hello to everyone in the bar passing through.
The last day we spent in Scotland we drove to see the Falkirk Wheel. This was really a great engineering structure to see. The wheel connects two canals by rotating in less than 10 minutes to bring a boat from point A to point B. We were able to see the wheel bring a boat from the bottom canal to the top one.
In summary, Scotland is a beautiful country to visit. I would sum up Scotland with the following points:
Sheep (they are everywhere. Seriously)
Castles – they are everywhere too
Moody Weather (light rain and wind on most days)
Tasty Cuisine but an open mind is a MUSTBeautiful Landscape – mountains, lakes, waterfalls
Driving – a great experience!