I absolutely fell in love with Scotland. I was so excited when my program announced that we would be going to Edinburg for our weekend trip, because I’ve been wanting to go for so long, but didn’t think I would have time. Where do I start my love ballad. The trees were so green, the accents were so thick, the food was hearty and the town's history was so rich. What more could I have asked for?
Friday: My trip started off at Kings Cross Station at 7am on the dot. We got on our train and 5 s h o r t hours later we were in Scotland. After we dropped off our bags at the hostel, we were on our way to Scott’s Kitchen for a traditional lunch. There we were served mushroom soup, chicken and potatoes, and then traditional English toffee pudding… even though we were in Scotland. Although, I’m still unsure on whose it is because the head chef was telling us it was Scottish and our program leaders were insisting it was English. Bottom line: It was good.
After Lunch, we had a tour around the town by a local guide dressed in the traditional Scottish attire. The guide told us stories of the town both historical and legendary, while taking us all over.
We went through Old Town, The Royal Mile, Castle Hill, Lawn Market, High Street George IV Bridge, The Mound, Grassmarket, Victoria Street, a bit of New Town, and for all the other potterheads out there… we walked by Tom Riddell’s Grave and the Café where J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book. I can say that I drank a cappuccino from the same place my favorite series was brought to life.
We even saw the grave of John Knox.... which now is in a parking lot of a Scottish law building, but at least it's not like a Walmart or something.
*pictured below from left to right: the statue over John Knox's grave, John Knox's grave, and a lucky dog, whose nose you rubbed for luck.
We needed a break after all that exploring so we got settled in our hostel and then had a drink downstairs. Apparently, it was the start of a very popular college bar crawl through the town, and they offered an incredible student discount. I opted out of the bar crawl and met up with my best friend Maya who happened to be in Edinburgh at the same time. We ended up at a bar called The Wash, which was filled with locals and a good bang for your buck.
Saturday: I woke up and had some decent grub at the hostel before we got on a bus headed towards the beautiful, green countryside of Scotland. Our bus driver and tour guide, Michael, was arguably the best guide you’ll ever get. Dressed to the part in his kilt, he told stories ranging from Scotland’s brutal history to his brutal experience of trying on his first pair of skinny jeans.
*Fun fact we drove by the largest equine statue in the world, which was built in 2014 by Andy Scott and created to draw people into the Helix Park.*
We made it to Glengoyne Distillery around 10:30 in the morning, tasted some amazing whiskey. That definitely woke me up. We went through all four different stages of whiskey making, learning the ins and outs of a distillery. Sadly, we couldn't bring our camera's or phone's inside to take pictures... something about it would make it "blow up"?
I'm not sure I believed that but I abided by the rules.
The next thing on the agenda after the morning shot of whiskey was exploring a local area called Balmaha, which is in the area of Glasgow. We went straight into the Millennium forest trail and surrounded ourselves with more greenery. Our stroll in the forest ended as we head to the Tom Weir’s Bay Lookout of Loch Lomond, where a statue of Tom greets you, along with some unfriendly swans.
In desperate search of a coffee we found this local café St. Mocha.
Running from the Café, we made it back to our bus just in time to leave for our next adventure: Lunch. For lunch, we went to the small town of Aberfoyle, in search of a local dish called Haggis. While majority of the group went for a safer food option, a couple of us braved our way into Aberyfoyle Delicatessen & Trossachs Butcher.
Typical Scottish weather… it started pouring and there was nowhere to sit. We managed to find a small dry space in a porch of a barn attached to a school, and ate our Haggis pies. To my surprise, it was quite delicious, but I've never been queezy with new foods, well...until mind went over matter and I psyched myself out. I got a Traditional Scottish pie and a haggis and cheesy mash pie.
We hopped back on the bus and made our way to Sterling Castle which had the most incredible view of Scotland countryside. SO. MUCH. GREEN.
*did I mention I was the absolute coldest I have ever felt before?*
After strolling through the castle pretending I was in the movie 'Brave', our program took us on a little detour to meet some of Scotland's most beloved. The Hairy Coo's. We were able to feed and pet these fluffy babes before heading back on the bus for dinner.
For dinner we went to Berite’s Resturaunt where we had fish & chips and for dessert, a Scottish delicacy; a fried mars bar. I was told was a whopping 2,500 calories, while I was halfway through my third. Oh well, eat good- life is short.
Sunday- I woke up and had breakfast at the hostel and then we journeyed our way to The Elephant House, which as I mentioned before is where J.K. Rowling wrote the first magical book that started the Harry Potter frenzy.
Then we tried to go to botanical gardens but due to “strong winds and bad weather” it was closed. After our adventure mishap, we then decided to head up Calton Hill, which had a beautiful view of the city and some cool ruins. Back to the hostel we packed then went out on a mission to find some food, before the 5-hour train ride back.
We found some toasties and pastries at Café Edinburgh, and bid a farewell to lovely Scotland.
I could ramble on about everything I loved about Scotland, but then you would basically be reading a harry potter length book… and I’m talking like book 4 length.
Haggis: Sheep’s heart, liver, lungs, and intestine minced together with onion and seasoning and then cooked inside the sheep’s stomach.