Friday, November 4, 2011

Scotland Part Two

Scottish heather

Your road trip to Edinburgh could include the Whisky Trail. Edinburgh is the capital city and home to Holyrood or the Scottish parliament. It is also the location of Edinburgh Castle. It is much, much more touristy and you will find museums and homage to all things Scottish at every turn. It all happens along the Royal Mile. There is a massive Edinburgh International Festival once a year around August called The Fringe. Think stand-up comedy and theatre. It’s a place for newcomers and old timers to show what they can do. The whole world seems to rock up for this event and if you are not inclined to mega crowds you will be glad to have missed it. If you love bagpipes you could plan to visit around the time of the Edinburgh Tattoo. Shopping in Edinburgh is not all that. Sorry to say. The shopping area in Edinburgh is Princes Street. I recommend the Haymarket area for a walkabout. Edinburgh has a few famous musicians, namely KT Tunstall, Shirley Mason of Garbage and Idlewild.
Ferry to Isle of Harris

After a day in Edinburgh you can drive to the north-east via Stirling and the castle which is geared to tourists. Swing past the Falkirk Wheel which is an engineering feat. It's a boat-lift shaped something like The London Eye, it rotates boats in a circle in lieu of a boat lock and connects the Union Canal with the Forth and Clyde Canal.

Aberdeen is the third largest city. It’s a working city. Aberdeen was once a fishing village but is now the oil capital of Europe. All the buildings are built of big grey bocks of granite. The east coast is not as classically scenic as the west coast. The beauty of the eastern areas lies just inland where beautiful villages dot the area. If you cut across from Edinburgh to the east coast area you can visit quaint towns like Arbroath, Stonehaven and Montrose. Balmoral Castle, the Queens favorite, is also located in the Royal Deeside area not far from Aberdeen. You could drive up from Edinburgh via Perth and Dundee to Aberdeen. Aberdeen is also on the Megabus route and you can add on another 3 - 4 hours from Glasgow should you wish to go direct to Aberdeen. It's a bum-numbing 12 hours from London. Aberdeen's most famous musician is Annie Lennox.
Piper playing in central Aberdeen

Scotland has banknotes from the Royal Bank of Scotland and Clydesdale Bank. English banknotes are accepted in Scotland but the reverse is not always the case. So make sure you spend your Scottish pounds before you leave Scotland. Scotland is not metricated so road signs and your car speedometer are in miles. Glasgow to Skye is about 200kms as the crow flies but in real time the trip will work out more than a straight journey.

Things you really should try to do while in Scotland are. Try a typical Scottish breakfast complete with black pudding. The Scots do a good and hearty breakfast. You should try vegetarian haggis if you don't eat offal and we are led to believe the best steaks come from Scotland, the Aberdeen Angus.
Narrow country roads in Scotland

Do find a piece of family tartan. Almost everyone has a connection to a family or clan in Scotland and it makes you feel part of the country.

Please watch Scottish Star Trek on You Tube Scottish Star Trek so you can practice listening to Glaswegian patter which is nigh impossible to understand. These people are speaking English but you would never know it.

Do try the local ales. They take their beer drinking very seriously in the whole of the UK and you can spend hours browsing the supermarket shelves with the ranges on offer. Beer is not just beer. It's a bitter, or a lager, or an ale and the brewers are masters. If beer is not your thing, then try an Iron Bru. It's the local fizzy drink of choice. Scotland is the only European country where a cola is not the top soft drink.
St Nicholas Kirk Aberdeen

Don't eat out too often if you can help it. It's so expensive and often disappointing. Some pubs offer great food and good value but the UK is not known for it's cuisine. The range of ready meals and imported fruits and cheeses in the supermarkets is staggering.

Lookout for the highland cows on your way, they're easy to spot and are so cute and shaggy.

Try www.laterooms.com  for accommodation. You’re looking at from £50 per night for a room. Usually includes breakfast and the standard of accommodation is good in the UK.

Outsider music festival
Scotland is colder and wetter than England. It is colder in the west than the east and as you head north to Aberdeen it get's even colder. The BBC weather site shows Edinburgh in June and July months at the height of their summer as having average 5 - 6 hours sunlight a day, average maximum temperatures as 17'C - 18'C and average monthly rainfall as much as 83 mm. The sun comes up about 04.30 am and goes down about 10.00 pm. Read more about the weather and seasons here - Scotland weather and seasons.
Stone circle Templewood

It is the opposite in winter when average day temperates are  6'C to 7 'C and at night it will be close to freezing. The sun comes up at 08.45 am and goes down 15.45 pm and average sunlight hours are 1 hour a day. It can be a grey country. Bands like Wet Wet Wet and Travis singing “Why does it always rain on me?” are telling us something.

It does snow in Scotland. As you drive about you will see snow poles on the sides of the roads and big yellow bins with a mix of grit and salt to melt the snow on the roads. In Aberdeen it is possible to see the Northern Lights in winter. If you have a world map handy you will see that Aberdeen is on the same latitude as Moscow. Scotland is a long way up north.

If you are going in winter pack warm and always pack a Mackintosh – aka a raincoat. Scotland is famous for it's inventors. Some other well known  inventors apart from Mackintosh and his raincoat include James Simpson - anaesthetics, Johan Loudon MacAdam - tarred roads, Alexander Crum Brown - chemical bonds, Thomas Telford - iron bridges, Joseph Lister - antiseptics, James Boyd Dunlop - tyres, John Napier - the decimal point and Sir Alexander Flemming - penicillin. This is by no means all the Scottish inventors and a Google search will yield some surprises. The Scots are canny lot not only with their money.
Edinburgh Tattoo - tattoodonkey.com

It's not just the country but it's people that are so much a part of the experience. Get cracking looking up your ancestors and head north to find your roots. The next time you hear the bag pipes you can check to see if the piper is a wearing your clan tartan.


Click here to go to Scotland Part 1.

Go to - My Holidays and Trips - at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on - this link.



Outsider music festival - Peatbog Faeries