Scotland Recap – Part one

Flying in

Transport from home to airport almost uneventful. Almost, because we witnessed a car hit two pedestrians! The kids were crossing the street between stopped cars and never looked the right way. To top it off, they started yelling at the driver, and then just walked away. I think they were flying pretty high – even before being hit. We made it to the airport on time and even had the chance to enjoy the Maple Leaf lounge (More on that in the next paragraph).

Plane ride to London (Heathrow) uneventful. Left 30 minutes late, got there on time – damn winds! The fun began when we tried to access the Maple Leaf Lounge at Heathrow. Since we were landing at terminal 3, but flying out from terminal 1, we weren’t permitted to use the Maple Leaf Lounge located in terminal 3 – even though we were assured in Ottawa that our access was valid for each layover until we reached our final destination. That was 90$ out the window. We waited 6 hours un the general area. Oh well. Our friends landed 30 minutes after us and were permitted to use the Maple Leaf Lounge. They met us in the general area a couple of hours later. Everybody was tired and slightly cranky, so not much conversation was had.

Flight from Heathrow to Edinburgh was bumpy near arrival, because of strong winds – or what we thought at that time were strong winds! Waited for the luggage (everyone got theirs) and took a taxi to the B&B. Taxi driver recommended we drank Belhaven’s Best, and while in Pitlochry that we visit the “Creensvew” (Which turned out to be the “Queen’s view”).

Edinburgh, day one

Day one was really just a half day. Or was it? Even though  we landed in Edinburgh (pronounced more like “head-in-bra”) around 2PM, we still managed to climb a freakin’ volcano before the afternoon was over, thanks to LovelyWife.

the_volcanoLovelyWife convinced us to climb this. We climbed this.

LW_Happy

Look how happy she is. We’re thinking about pushing her off the cliff. (Not really)

We then wondered for a little while around town, walking up the Royal Mile – which is about 1.12 mile when you factor in the conversion – and finally settled on The Beehive for our first real Pub experience. The food was okay, but I think the fact that we were kinda dead tired affected our appreciation a wee bit. 😉 We walked back to our B&B, and crashed for the night a few minutes before my BFF called to ask if I could go play outside with him, and we went for a few pints at the Cask & Barrel. 😉 First night in Scotland: success.

Edinburgh, day two

After an amazing full Scottish breakfast at our B&B – the Southside Guesthouse owned and operated by Lynn and Franco – we walked to Waverley Bridge and hopped on a tour bus.

bus

The Majestic bus.

This bus took us around town and had a very helpful soundtrack playing in the background, pointing things left and right as we drove. Unfortunately the timing was slightly off, and it ended up talking about the magnificent garden to the left as we were passing a cemetery, or pointing Easter Street after we drove past it. The highlight of the soundtrack were the “Ooooh”, “Aaaawww” and clapping sounds peppered through. It became the soundtrack of our vacation.

After the bus tour, we grabbed lunch at the Doric, the oldest gastro-pub in Edinburgh. We had our first haggis and it was awesome. We again walked the Royal Mile, shopping for cashmere scarves and other things for the kids before it was time to figure out a plan for dinner.

Our Secret-Scotland Guide recommended a few nice places to dine, and we settled on Merchant’s, on Merchant Street. The decor was slightly kitch, but the food was excellent. I had pigeon. Seriously. 😉

We ended up having a few pints and drams at a pub near our B&B, and called it a night.

Edinburgh, day three

Our last full day in Edinburgh was filled first with a visit to the Edinburgh Castle.

Edinburgh_CastleArriving at the Castle after a slight shower.
ceilingThe original timber ceiling of the Great Hall. Impressive.

cruising_bar

LovelyWife charming a mannequin… Well, trying to.

We then had lunch at the Elephant House, aka the birthplace of Harry Potter.

Elephant_House

The Elephant House.

I think they really take their “Birthplace of Harry Potter” moniker seriously. They even have a shrine dedicated to J.K. Rowling. I couldn’t take a picture of the shrine, but LovelyWife was kind enough to grab my iPhone and snap a few pictures between bouts of laughter.

shrine

Shrine to J.K. Rowling. Not kidding. You can see a faint ass print.

Note that there are two stalls, and only one of them is “shrined”. Maybe the Scots think Harry Potter is crap, and that this is the actual birthplace of Harry Potter? Either way, J.K. Rowling sat on this toilet at some point (or hovered). You can be jealous now. Edit: Maybe I wasn’t explicit enough, but this is the actual place where J.K. Rowling wrote all the Harry Potter books, while she was on welfare.

Dinner and drinks were had at Rêverie, the restaurant-bar we could see from our B&B room. I should point out that the cost of Whisky in Scotland is way less than what we are used to in Canada. What we pay between 10$ and 12$ here, we could get for £3 or £4 there – roughly 4.50$ to 6.00$. That gave us the chance to taste a variety of Whiskies during our trip. 😉

Edinburgh, day tree (not a typo)

When Monday rolled around, it was time for us to leave the city behind at embark on the road trip portion of our vacation. First step was to pick-up the car, so we all piled into a taxi – luggage and all – to make our way to the car rental place. Picking up the car was a slight adventure, as they tried to give us a Nissan Juke instead of the Nissan Qashqai we had booked. After seeing that there was no way four adults plus their luggage could fit in a Juke, they finally agreed to let us have the Qashqai.

qashqai_boot

The Qashqai packed trunk boot.

The Qashqai was just a better choice all-around; since it’s the exact same model I drive here, i was used to the size of the car and most importantly I was also used to getting the most out of the trunk space, as demonstrated by that Christmas 2008 picture.

loot_in_car
The Rogue packed trunk, circa 2008.

Driving on the wrong left side of th road took some getting used to, but not as much as I thought it would. A note on driving: Scots are driving insanely fast, but are extremely courteous at the same time. Speed limits are like the minimum drinking age in Québec (just a suggestion), because the roads are so narrow, curvy and located near cliffs of death that I didn’t think it was actually possible to reach 60 mph (~100km/h) until I was overtaken by several cars.

So we drove slowly to Stirling Castle, where we took a brief tour that was interrupted by the closing of the castle due to insane winds. We still managed to have some fun with some of the displays, continuing the tradition of posing with mannequins.

fun_with_mannequinsLeft, Martian serving turkey. Right, LW helping to carry a dead pig.

In fact, pretty much all of Scotland was hit by a severe wind storm that day, but we didn’t realize that at the time.

After being kicked out of Stirling Castle, we drove a short 20 minutes to Doune Castle.

Doune_CastleDoune Castle. If it looks familiar to you, it’s because it is.

Maybe you’re not quite sure where you saw this castle before, and that’s probably because your father was a hamster and your mother smelt of elderberries. Still nothing? Don’t make me fart in your general direction

MonthyMaybe this will help you. 😉

When we arrived at Doune Castle, the power went out in the gift shop. We were told that this was nothing, and that the castle never closed. Ever. Sure enough, about 40 minutes later the castle was shut down, there were trees falling everywhere around the castle including near Maude and in the parking space right besides the car. The long drive to the next B&B became the really long drive to the next B&B, as we had to change course five times because of fallen trees on the road. At one point I had to decide between brushing up against a stone wall on the left, or a fallen tree on the right. I chose the tree and did damage the car in the process. Luckily I had paid for the full coverage.

damaged

This car is now “previously enjoyed”.

A mere ten hours after leaving Edinburgh, we finally arrived near Tarbert where we slept a few hours before getting on the ferry to Islay.

And thus concludes part one of the massive Scotland recap. Stay tuned for parts two and three (and possibly four) of this magnificent adventure. 😉

You can read all the recaps by following these links:

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10 comments

  1. I know you have been planning and dreaming and plotting this trip for quite a long time but I am really impressed by how well-planned your trip seems to be. Almost seamless, like “okay today we’re going to hit this castle, this pub and this volcano and then tomorrow we’ll do X,Y,Z”. I’m always lost on vacations.

    Of course, if I were investing that much time and money into a trip, I’d probably be more of a planner 🙂

    1. Ha. Maybe I wasn’t explicit enough, but this is the actual place where J.K. Rowling wrote all the Harry Potter books, while she was on welfare.

      Castles were awesome! Wait until you see the one we slept in. 🙂

  2. Excellent photos. Ah, didn’t know JK Rowling wrote the books in that place. I initially thought they were just celebrating the fact that she took a dump there or something.

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