Trip to Scotland

I was trying to decide what to write about today when I looked at my photograph of the Old Man of Stor on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. That reminded me of that trip, so I’ll write about that trip.

My wife and I went to Scotland in October 2012. We decided around April of that year that we wanted to just go. We would just spend the money on the plane tickets and go because we didn’t know when we’d have the chance again. So we looked for tickets online. We figured surely it would be cheaper to fly to London and then ride a train up to Scotland. But we discovered it was actually cheaper for us to fly right into Scotland in Glasgow. So we booked two tickets on US Airways to Glasgow.

We looked around for hotels and found a really nice budget priced hotel in downtown Glasgow city centre called Hotel Ibis. It was somewhere around 45 pounds/night, which equals about $60. It was a nice hotel, not a dump at all. The staff were all friendly and the place clean. They had a full Scottish breakfast every morning, which cost extra, but was a good deal. The menu was mostly meat — bacon, sausage, etc. They also had cheeses and jams and bread and little fruit. My favorite part of the meal was the little packets of Nutella. I would put it on apple or banana.

Glasgow was our home base. We booked the hotel for the whole time from Friday to the following Saturday — 8 days. Since Glasgow was our home base, we took day trips out to various parts of the country within a day’s train or bus ride. But we also had plenty of time to explore Glasgow. Many people say Glasgow is not a very pretty city, especially compared to Edinburgh, but I disagree. It’s not Edinburgh, that’s for sure, but that’s what makes it nice. It’s a very pretty city, architecturally speaking, and it’s unpretentious like Edinburgh is. Edinburgh has the castle, so all the tourists flock to it. Glasgow is just a working city, which I liked alot.

One day we took an overnight trip out to the Isle of Skye. We rented a car in Glasgow and drove (on the left side of the road, no less) all the way to Skye. It was about a 4 hour ride. We visted the Talisker Distillery. It is one of my favorite Scotch Whiskys. We decided to stay the night in the little fishing village called Portree, so we knocked on doors of bed and breakfasts until we found one with a room. That was actually pretty fun. I wasn’t worried that we wouldn’t find a place to sleep because there are bed and breakfasts all over that island. We knocked on one door and a nice lady came to the door. We asked if she had any rooms, and she said she did, but none of them were ensuite, which means with a bathroom in the room. She said if we wanted ensuite, go a few doors down and knock on Ben Lee Bed and Breakfast’s door. All their rooms are ensuite. So we did. We knocked on Ben Lee’s door and an old man came to the door. We asked if he had a room and he did, so we placed our things in there. The price was 35 pounds per person. Then went out to eat. We didn’t know where we’d eat, so we just walked around and found a nice little seafood place called Harbor House. They had a table available (dinners often require reservations in the UK), and we sat down. We were at a table with another couple of ladies who, we later found out, were from the US! They were from California and Michigan and were best friends since childhood and were vacationing together. It was nice talking to them.

The next day we left Portree and drove to Inverness. Along the way, we stopped at the Urquart Castle, which mostly ruins, but it was just beautiful on Lock Ness. Then we drove on up to Inverness and found a pub to eat lunch at. Most pubs have tapas available on the menu, so we ordered some tapas. We then walked around the city for a while and explored. Inverness was OK, but not great. We had to get back on the road because we had a long drive ahead of us.

We stopped on the way home from Inverness at Tomatin Distillery. They weren’t giving tours that day, but they let us taste the Scotch. It wasn’t that great, in my opinion. Then we continued to drive and stopped in at Dalwinnie Distillery. We missed the last tour there, so we just tasted Scotch, which also wasn’t that great. Then we kept driving and stopped in at a small town called Perth and found an Indian restaurant to eat at. It was pretty good. We ate alot of Indian food in Scotland, because it’s mostly safe (read, gluten free). When we were done eating in Perth, we had to find the road back home, so we stopped in at the bus station and asked a cab driver. It was sort of difficult understanding him, but I finally make it out that we had to get on the A9. We finally found it and drove it all the way back to Glasgow.

Another day we went to Oban via train. That was a very nice little trip. Oban is a small village on the western coast of Scotland. They have a distillery there called the Oban Distillery. The Scotch there has a salty flavor. They don’t do anything to get it, it just happens because of the salty air. I like Oban Scotch alot. I might buy a bottle one day. Oban was a nice little village. We walked all over that little town. We found an old abandoned school house that we thought would make a nice place to live, but alas, it’s in Oban! At the end of the day, we rode the train back to Glasgow.

We next took a day trip by bus to Edinburgh. I enjoyed my trip to Edinburgh. We walked all along the royal mile between Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. This is where the queen stays when she’s in Edinburgh. The Scotlish Parlaiment building was right across the street, which we got to go in a tour. It’s a very modern building. We rode the bus back to Glasgow.

Another day we went to Sterling via train. That was a nice little city, too. Sterling Castle is really pretty. Plus there is a monument to William Wallace (Braveheart). It was really pretty too. We walked all over the city and even took the city bus around a bit, too. We rode the train back to Glasgow.

That is all the day trips we took in Scotland. Around Glasgow, we explored the city centre. We caught the subway to University of Glasgow and I had a short meeting with some people from the Digital Curation Centre. That campus was beautiful! That same day we visited the Kelvin Grove Art Museum. Kelvin was a professor at the University of Glasgow and he’s the person who developed the Kelvin temperature scale, which is in use all over the world in the scientific community. Kelvin is approximately 273 degrees higher than Celsius. It’s used for very hot and very cold measurements. We stopped in a restaurant and had bunless burgers (also another safe food), with chips (french fries). Their fries are always much better than ours for some reason. I need to find out way.

That was pretty much the whole trip to Scotland. It was Saturday and we had to catch a plain back to the US. In the airport on the way out of Glasgow, we bought a mug with the Scottish flag on it for a memento. We got back to Knoxville and chilled out for a while since we were a bit jet lagged. Oh yeah, I was also in classes during this whole period we were in Scotland. I think I may have attended one class online and then realized it was too difficult, so I told my professors I wouldn’t be there. They were all OK with it and a bit envious!

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