A Travellerspoint blog

A stirling day in Stirling

Hello black pudding!

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The day starts with a delicious breakfast, including our first black pudding experience. I admit I'm not the biggest fan, but Simon takes to it with gusto. Moira has a good ol' chat, and gives us a map - our first decent navigational aid of the trip, huzzah! Off we go to Stirling Castle, where all the staff are wearing green tartan pants and tartan ties... Just in case we'd forgotten we were in Scotland. Our tour guide is animated and passionate, and strongly dislikes the English. While learning about the Jameses (IV, V and VI) the recurring theme is that "it's good to be the king". Except that you have a fairly short life expectancy. And we learn that a Scottish pint is actually the equivalent of three English pints, which makes me very ashamed of my pot-drinking past. I redeem myself with a can of Irn-Bru at lunch time, and watch a primary school group ferociously attacking each other with swords and arrows bought from the gift shop.
On leaving Stirling Castle, there is a slight navigational error that sees us driving on the right road, but in the wrong direction. And since this road is the M9, just doing a u-turn is not an option. Boo. Eventually we manage to head north again, stop for an ice cream in Dunkeld (no racecourse to be seen) and eventually arrive in Newtonmore.
Dinner at the Letterbox is amazing - best meal of the trip. Lamb shank and aubergine cannoli - I'm in heaven! And it's complimented with a lovely bottle of Australian wine too, just for fun. I think I like Newtonmore!

Posted by Buccas 01:48 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

A wheely good day

Meeting with the stone-donors

sunny

Another glorious sunny (but still cold) morning in Edinburgh. We all head into town for some breakfast - found a nice cafe but we then discover that the fellow patron is not so nice. A mouthy, loud, cocky American who continually patronises the staff and proclaims his awesomeness is seated near us. Urgh - really takes away from the whole breakfast experience.
Then it's off to the National Museum of Scotland, but only fairly briefly. Long enough to see Dolly the cloned sheep and learn that curling was invented in Scotland. Traipse back to the apartment (finally worked out the best way back), farewell to Steph and off to the airport to send Miguel and Lizzie to Greece and the warm weather they've been missing for the past week!
Simon and I are on our own again, and we head to Falkirk to meet up with Tish and David (who provided the stone for the repairs to the Robbie Burns statue in C'down). Before we meet them though, we check out the Falkirk Wheel, a pretty snazzy way of connecting two sets of canals, one of which is 35 metres higher than the other. Stunning views from the top canal. There's also a Archimedes inspired playground type thing - in the absence of any small children, we make it our job to explore every lever, pully, spiral and pump. Playing with the water would be even more fun if it was actually a hot day! And most importantly, I finally manage to catch a haggis :)
Dinner with Tish and Davy - they are officially presented with their souvenir Robbie Burns t-shirts and posters and shown pictures of what their stone was sent to Australia for! They have organised for us to stay at a nearby b&b, so we head off there and settle in with a cup of tea and some shortbread. Not a bad end to the day at all!

Posted by Buccas 10:50 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Exploring Edinburgh

Haggis, haggis and still more haggis

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Ah what a lovely sleep! Since we're staying two nights in our luxurious Edinburgh apartments, we don't have to pack everything up this morning - such a good feeling!
Simon and I head into town and do the ultimate condensed version of Edinburgh Castle. The Honours of Scotland are impressive, but it's the views from the castle walls that are most captivating. Although our short visit probably doesn't do it justice, it's enough to get some insight into the torrid and brutal history of the Scottish monarchy.
1pm is tour time - we meet at the traditional Scottish cafe (Starbucks) with Miguel and Lizzie (who have now booked their Greek adventure) and Steph. Alan the Hagrid-esque tour guide takes us around the city and tells some fascinating stories. There was Molly Dickinson, who was hung until dead and lived to tell the tale, and Deacon Brodie, who set out to catch himself but ended up being hung on the gallows he built. Greyfriars is an eerie cemetery, especially the prison, but Greyfriars Bobby makes the world seem a better place again. Bobby was a little terrier who stayed by his master's grave for fourteen years - so loyal! Somehow I don't know that Chuck would have the attention or memory for such an act... Then of course there's the heart in the pavement that locals spit on to show rebellion against authority, and this is the very same heart that tourists walk through, and in extreme cases, propose on. Robbie Burns gets a few mentions as well. Plus we see a few Harry Potter themed locations, including the school that fits the description of Hogwart's.
At the end of all this, we are staaaaaaaaaaarving. A hearty lunch/dinner (linner?) at the 1780 pub - Highland Chicken (chicken breast stuffed with haggis, and served with whiskey sauce). Mmm...
We walk back to our apartment for some respite from the cold. Poor Mick and Lizzie are absolutely freezing at this stage, and I'm not exactly feeling toasty warm. Once we've all reached a pleasant temperature (and have put on our thermals!), we venture back out into the brisk Edinburgh night. Dinner is at the Elephant House cafe (where JK Rowling sat and wrote Harry Potter), and Simon shows his true Scottish spirit by having haggis, neeps and tatties. Then we go to the highly recommended Sandy Bells pub. Unfortunately it's a little bit too recommended, and everyone else in Edinburgh is also trying to be there. There's live folk music, but we have to abandon it in the interests of being able to sit down and not be constantly intruding on someone else's personal space. A few beverages later, and we make our way as quickly as possible back to the apartment. Simon and Miguel contemplate a kebab on the way, but decide against food poisoning in the end. A brief reminder of the American Pie phenomenon before bed, and that marks the end of another interesting day in Scotland. Is it bedtime now? Aye!

Posted by Buccas 23:56 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Haggis hunting

... but where are all the fish?

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Today started nice and early with a phone call from Gus, checking to make sure we remembered that we had agreed to go fishing. Yes, we did remember, and yes, we were slightly regretting that decision now that it was 8am and we had to get out of bed! Anyway, we met Gus and Vikki at Tickety Boo's (where else?) and then had breakfast at Wetherspoon's. Only £3 for a traditional Scottish breakfast - with haggis of course! Haggis was much tastier than I expected, and Gus promised that I could go catching haggis (a small fluffy animal with one leg shorter than the other) while the others were catching fish. My favourite thing about Wetherspoon's was the bathrooms - there was a hair straightener in there (£1 for 10 seconds) AND a full length mirror that curved inwards, giving you the illusion of being just slightly slimmer than you really are. How very thoughtful of them!
Jumped in a cab out to Kingennie, where Gus teaches us the art of fly fishing - definitely harder than it looks! I'm happy to supervise and be chief photographer. Miguel and Simon both manage 'one that got away', but overall the fish aren't keen to play with us today. It's pleasant enough when the sun comes out, but when the clouds come over and the wind picks up - brr! Miguel also catches a chip packet - if only we had the fish to go with it...
So we give in, and after lunch our taxi eventually arrives and takes us back into town. We say farewell to Dundee, and it's a pretty quiet drive back to Edinburgh as we're a tired bunch of travellers.
Check in to our apartment for the next two nights - winner! Much better than a hotel room, because we have couches for lounging on and a kitchen for cooking and no stairs to drag our suitcases up. Hooray! The boys volunteer to hit the shops for dinner, and we have a home cooked meal of spag bol, including vegetables. Mmmm... Tomorrow's agenda : exploring Edinburgh. Looking forward to it immensely!

Posted by Buccas 15:31 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Dundee!

Mick & Lizzie, Gus & Vicki :)

semi-overcast

Monopoly Deal update - scores are Alison: 5, Simon: 4. Also taught Simon to play two handed five hundred last night, and it's one-nil my way so far.
Breakfast was just as good as dinner last night - Simon had smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, and this was all included in the cost of the room! Very good start to the day.
Headed north and crossed the border into Scotland, where there was a bagpiper. Of course. Through Jedburgh, which looked like a beautiful spot, and into Edinburgh where we grabbed Miguel (in his Swans jumper) and Lizzie from the airport. With some amazing tetris-type manoeuvres the four of us and our bags managed to squeeze into the two-door Ford Fiesta. Cosy! Off to Dundee, where it took a bit of searching to find somewhere to stay, but eventually found a place that would take us.
Into town and to Tickety-Boo's, where we met up with Gus (a taller and easier to understand version of Steve). And that was the beginning of the end... In no particular order, the night involved cider, Foster's, Guinness, Chinese buffet, some Scottish beer, whiskey (with and without coke) and a liqueur laced with cinnamon. I worked out that adding coke to scotch is an easy way to bring tears to a Scotsman's eyes. We also tried to convince Gus to move to Camperdown and buy the Leura, but Vicki is not going to come with him on account of the crocodiles and spiders. Vicki taught us to say 'eh' instead of 'aye', like a true Dundonian. And apparently if I wanted to order five pies, I'd have to say I wanted 'ferv pehs' [I would have written all this phonetically but I don't have IPA on the ipad]. We saw the place where William Wallace killed his first Englishman, and Lizzie helped out a bird trying to get to a kebab on the way home. After all that, it was most definitely time for bed. Goodnight Dundee!

Posted by Buccas 11:25 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

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