[Travel Guide] Scotland

Random Observation/Comment #327: I don’t think I spent a day sober in Scotland. I can’t be an alcoholic if I’m on vacation, right?

see lemons scottish

Is Scotland, as a travel destination, right for you?

Things you must like:

  • Drinking whisky (period).

That’s basically it.  If you don’t like whisky, you should at least be open to try it. It’s a big no-no party foul to be closed-minded about trying new things and expanding your cultural horizons.  Of course, you’re still welcome to go to Scotland as they always need designated drivers and the “leftover whisky” from the tasting that will surely be imbibed by one of your drunk friends.

Triumphs during the Scotland trip:

  • Bad Idea Polar Bear Society inaugurated by running into the Atlantic Ocean from Islay in February freezing weather
  • Wore a kilt and received stern nods of appreciation from the locals
  • Stayed in a castle
  • Saw a gorgeous sunset in Loch Ness

Things Scotland does well:

  • Scenery driving through the Highlands. Scotland is very photogenic when it’s not raining.  We got really lucky with the weather so some of the pictures of the mountains and the lakes just turned out beautifully. They do a good job with lakes.
  • Whisky distilleries. These are everywhere and they usually do not charge that much for tours and tastings.  It’s even cheaper than wine tours in Sonoma Valley.
  • Guinness. I guess it doesn’t need to travel that far from the tap source. Heaven.
  • Unhealthy, but delicious foods.  At every restaurant we ate, I basically rotated between 3 dishes:
    • Haggis, neeps, and tatties. For the first 5 days and then realized I had eaten more haggis, neeps, and tatties than a normal person should.   Haggis is mostly sheep lung bits with oats and random stuff.  Neeps and tatties are mashed turnips and mashed potatoes.  The whole thing is served in a bowl layered delicately and drowned in gravy. For those who know me, you can imagine how incredibly happy I was.
    • Fish and chips. They’re deep fried, but so freaking delicious with some lemon and tartar sauce.
    • Steak pie. The crust is usually just a separate fluffy croissant that they put on top of some steak stew with more mashed potatoes, peas, and carrots.  So good.
  • Plaid. Tartan colors are all over the touristy bits, but it just looks so natural for the country.
  • Little towns in the Highlands.  For the towns of … 15 people (that’s a sarcastic estimate, btw), I guess it’s cute to have a small Main St with two-story stone houses, a church, and a few pubs.  I like how the pub is always right across the street from the church.
  • Sheepies. There are so many of them!

Things Scotland needs to improve:

  • Scary roads. Holy crap we almost died many times. The roads are narrow and they drive on the wrong side. At least in South Africa they had some shoulder space, but driving through the 2 major roads through Scotland, there’s just a few feet between you and the oncoming bus making a sweeping left turn.
  • Beer. Every region has their own beer called “<Region>’s Best”.  This is the worst beer ever. Tasteless and watered down, it does nothing for me. There are obviously good beers in the lot, but it’s no Belgium.
  • Women. While we were driving in the Highlands, I think the heavy drinking culture made women a rounder and muffin shaped than I would have liked.  Once we traveled closer to the main cities and college towns in Edinburgh and Glasgow, it was a bit better.
  • English. “We’re from New York.” … “Oh… but whut ar ye doin’ here?” It’ll happen within 5 minutes.

Our Itinerary for the 9 days:

Day 1 – Fly from Dublin to Aberdeen. Drive West to Inverness and settle into the B&B house. Eat at the Crooked Inn and drink an awesome Guinness. Hunt for food in Inverness and learn more about the local town (everything closes early).

Day 2 – Jen runs a half marathon nearby. Go to a Pictish Fort and a few nearby cathedrals and ruins.  Have a meal at a pub with some new friends. Sunset at Loch Ness. Go to a few bars in Inverness and hang out with locals.

Day 3 – Day of wearing suits and drinking whisky. Hire a driver (Alex) to bring us to Cardhu (Johnnie Walker), Glenfiddich (good lunch place there), and GlenGrant. Excellent inexpensive tours. Visited Brian’s old cemetery and had a beer at a bar nearby.

Day 4 – Drive from Inverness to wherever we can find a place to stay heading East and then South.  Go up the mountain. Drop by Rothes and take more pictures. Stay in a hostel at a half-way point to the port.

Day 5 – Drive from Roy Bridge Inn towards the ferry.  Stop for a lot of photos through the 5 hours to make the 6pm ferry to Islay. Stay at Glenegedale House and drink whisky while planning the next day

Day 6 – Run into the Atlantic Ocean for the bad idea polar bear club.  Whisky tour of Lagavullin, Ardbeg (where they had a great lunch), and Laphroig.  Take 6pm ferry back and find a room. Wound up at Stonefield Castle. Drink whisky and hang out at the bar being photogenic.

Day 7 – Wear a kilt and take triumph photos in front of the castle.  Drive from Tarbert to Edinburgh to check-in to another apartment. Drive to Glasgow for Glasgow vs Ulster game.

Day 8 – Free Tour in Edinburgh. Visit the castle and Tartan touristy bits of the town. Drink beer at Brew Dog.  Drink whisky at Bow Bar. Eat a wonderful last Scottish meal at Salsburry Arms.

Day 9 – Early morning flight back to NY. Return car.

Scotland is one of those places I’d recommend my parents go visit. There aren’t many places that I suggest my parents go to because it’s usually too far or too expensive to stay in these areas.  Scotland, however, has a relatively inexpensive flight and provides a lot of beautiful sights and rich culture.  I’m very keen on visiting again and tasting more whisky (I want all the whisky), but for now, I will probably need to go on a diet from mashed potatoes (just kidding, I won’t ever leave you).

~See Lemons Love Scotland