Long weekend in Scotland
This article is accompanied by pictures stylized as Polaroid, which I think look interesting and are a fitting match for the topic of travelling. I used the FXCamera app to take them, since dragging a real Polaroid camera around just for these moments was a bit too much, especially when my smartphone is quite good at faking them. And real Polaroid cameras and their present substitutes from The Impossible Project are a tad expensive.
The whole trip was a bit of field research to me and each city was different than the last one, which is why I have chosen them, after all. I wanted to have a picture of the Scottish cities before heading into the wilds and getting overwhelmed by them.
I probably got to experience all possible kinds of weather during the trip – from sun to clouds, rain, and even snow. And all the time it was cold and wet. I don’t know how I would have managed without my Moira clothes and my fingers really suffered, because the fleece gloves were not much help.
I was very impressed by the parts of Scotland that I have visited, and although I didn’t fall in love with it as much as with Bretagne, it was only a little less. And here they even speak a language I understand, the folks are pleasant and it didn’t seem that overpriced. I haven’t seen much of Scotland yet, anyway, and I might yet change my opinion, but I doubt it could be for worse.
I set off for Scotland in a very similar way that I did for Bretagne two years before that. I wanted to visit some friends and get away from work for four days. Above all, I wanted to avoid the travel problems that I had when I went to Bretagne, so this time I planned a bit more and asked the people who were already there. And I must say that it paid off, especially the asking around.
- I’ve been told that its best to buy plane tickets from Jet2.com, well in advance, of course
- I got a recommendation for a very good accommodation in Castle Rock Hostel
- I read all about the places I would go to in the Lonely Planet guide. I know these guides for some time now and I didn’t need to have them recommended, but it was good advice nevertheless
Edinburgh is packed with history and charismatic as it can be.
I think the best attraction I visited was the The Real Mary King’s Close – a tour through the Royal Mile dungeons. As it goes with old cities, new houses were built upon the foundations of the old, but in Edinburgh, they went even further. They built the new houses literally on top of the old ones. In the Royal Mile, you pass cellars over seven storeys deep, which used to be the former buildings. It reminded me of catacombs, just without the dead (though you can find their ashes in the plaster). In theory, it is no more interesting than the underground of any other city, but what makes the difference is the presentation.
Right in front of the castle I was struck by a small weaving museum with a working weaving mill and a bunch of Scotsmen running around weaving machines with tartan.
The previously recommended hostel Castle Rock Hostel was quite incredible with its homey atmosphere and helpful staff, and it was right next to the Edinburgh Castle. Every room has some sort of theme, for example I had Avengers and slept on an Ironman bed – as if they knew my favourites. 🙂
My second day of the trip I visited Stirling, on the route to Glasgow. It was the smallest town that I had planned, but its history is neither small nor inconsequential.
Apart from the local castle, I was especially curious about the stone bridge. It stands in place of the original wooden bridge where William Wallace defeated the six times stronger English army.
A fact that is significant at least for myself is that Stirling moved me to use black and white film (which I hope to develop soon).
I arrived in Glasgow, which was my trip’s destination in a way, in the evening of the second day, and I ended up in the nearest Wetherspoons’ pub. Unfortunately, that evening they didn’t have steaks which I came to love two years before that in London. However, they were willing to feed me despite my food allergies, so I got a double chicken burger with chips without the bun. It wasn’t the expected steak, but when combined with the Thatcher’s Gold cider it satisfied my needs very well. And once I finished eating, my Glasgow friends came and after a few more pints of cider, we took off to their home where I was sleeping over. But on the way they took me to another pub where I found out, despite my dislike for whisky, that some whiskies can be delicious.
In the morning I took a walk through the botanical garden to the University of Glasgow and I was completely struck by its main building. It was dull and cold when I was entering, but when I came up to the first floor, the sun started shining and it got warm. Apart from the changing weather, they also have a very interesting, though a bit small Hunterian Museum. After visiting the universities I continued to the river Clyde and to the Central Station where I was supposed to find a tour guide to show me the rest of the city centre.
The Central Station is a huge metal colossus with little wooden houses inside of it. Had there not been 21st century products in the shop windows, I might have been inclined to believe that I fell through a crack in time.
And when talking about cracks in time, I met several almost-TARDISes in Edinburgh and Glasgow. At least I hope that none of them was the real one, or I would never forgive myself for not getting inside.
I had the feeling that Glasgow was a bit like a small Paris, almost uniformly rebuilt, with only some older or newer places. The more interesting things are certainly worth the trip, but you hav to go looking for them.
In the end, I must say that Scotland really appealed to me and I’m sure I wasn’t there for the last time and that next time I have to go to the country.
Some random notes on the side:
- you don’t need to drag a pack of adapters, nor buy them on site, you can manage quite well with just one and an European two-way or extension cable. I’ve been doing this since 2004 and I can’t complain.
- do not believe in the public transport
- you will find your VISA Electron useless more often than you’d expect
- only theatres and sources of food and drink are open after five o’clock
- get rid of Scottish banknotes once you leave, they tend to refuse them in the rest of Britain
- Duty Free booze from the airport isn’t always for good