Courtney and I have returned from Scotland, our first proper vacation—just the two of us—in more than six years.
Why Scotland? Well, Courtney had a conference in Glasgow, and that seemed like enough of an excuse as any to turn a work trip into an actual vacation. My mother and stepfather agreed to watch the kids while we were gone (thanks Mom and Chuck!), and all the pieces fell into place.
Scotland is a beautiful country, full of rich history, castles, whiskey, and very friendly folks. We started off in Edinburgh (pronounced Edin-BORO—don’t get that wrong, or you’ll immediately give yourself up as a tourist), a city that’s probably most well-known for the castle that sits high on a hill right in the middle of town. It’s an impressive building, and it’s story, like that of all Scotland, is incredibly bloody. Seriously. I think every bit of Scottish history that we were regaled with ended in mass murder or at least one gruesome death. Beautiful architecture, though!
We also did a lot of exploring in Edinburgh beyond it’s impressive castle. We found an amazing restaurant well on the outskirts of town. We went down a “close” (basically a cross between an alley and a side-street—pictured above), discovered a local pub, and stopped in for a drink that turned into five. We went on a “haunted” tour of a graveyard and some of the underground city that exists beneath Edinburgh proper. And yes, we did eat haggis, and no, it’s not anywhere near as gross as it sounds. A traditional Scottish breakfast consists of eggs, potato, baked beans, sausage, and haggis, which really just tastes salty and goes well with the eggs. Sorry if that’s anti-climactic. Because we were in the United Kingdom, of course there were some scones, tea, and warm beer (though not usually at the same time.) There’s also a hiking trail called Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh that is popular for people to climb. Courtney and I trekked up to the top, and I’ll admit that it wasn’t easy—probably because once we got to the summit, we realized that we took the most difficult and steep way up possible. Whoops!
After we were through with Edinburgh, we ventured west to Glasgow, a city that quite frankly, lacks a lot of Edinburgh’s old-world charm. Glasgow felt very modern, and was chock full of Subways, Pizza Huts, TGIFridays, and other such establishments. But it wasn’t all bad—we found some great restaurants and a fun pub in town, and from Glasgow we went on a day tour of the Highlands. The Highlands are home to woods, mountains, hairy coos (cows), and the famous Scottish lochs. We saw some beautiful scenery, walked through a small seaside town with its own whiskey distillery, and explored the well-manicured grounds of yet another castle.
The weather in Scotland is certainly unpredictable—it can go from downpouring to sunny in a manner of minutes, though the sky does tend to default to gray. But it never got cold, and armed with our ponchos, we were never uncomfortable. Traveling around the country by cab, bus, and train was simple, though Glasgow Airport is a terrible, awful place that should be avoided at all costs.
A few other stray Scottish observations:
- It’s one thing to see James Bond driving on the wrong side of the road, but traveling around that way at legnth is actually terrifying.
- For some reason, the Scots seem to be opposed to flat sheets—both our hotel beds had fitted sheets and comforters, but no sheet in between.
- Tipping isn’t nearly as big in Scotland, with most restaurants not even asking for a gratuity when you get the bill. I laid a few pounds down after getting served in a pub, and a few rounds later, they were still there.
- Speaking of pounds, the British currency system is massively confusing, with a separate coin for every imaginable denomination, from one pence to two pounds.
- As we went through customs on our way home, the agent asked if we were coming back from our honeymoon. Obviously those days are long behind us, but it was flattering to hear!
I wouldn’t mind exploring England and Ireland on future trips to the U.K., and of course we missed the kids and Meatball, but all in all it was a great vacation and a fantastic opportunity to see another part of the world we might not have otherwise had the chance to explore.