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Euston Station, London, 10:57 pm

Our Trip to Scotland

August 2021

We're back in London after a very bonnie week in Scotland! Our travels took us to Edinburgh, St. Andrews, Dundee, Glasgow, the Highlands, and the Isle of Mull, a small island in the Inner Hebrides. So, over the course of the week, we spanned Scotland east to west, but not north to south. We will be going back!

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A DAY IN EDINBURGH:

We squeezed into our sleeper car on Friday night in London, and woke up the next morning in Scotland. Our stroll through Princes Street Garden was so lovely, with Edinburgh Castle in the distance.The monument to Sir Walter Scott is perhaps the tallest monument to a writer in the world! It looks like one of the "drip" sandcastles we made as kids.


After a pass through the farmer's market, we took a walking tour of the Royal Mile with a charming guide. So much history and intriguing folklore! The kilted gentleman next to Kevin was Deacon Brodie, the real-life inspiration for "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (by Scotland's own Robert Louis Stevenson). The curvy street of shops is said to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley (JK Rowling lives in town). And we even found John Knox, a leader of the Scottish reformation, buried in a parking lot -- space number 23.  


After the tour, we had a delicious lunch at the National Gallery -- I had cullen skink, a smoky haddock chowder. Yum!

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Top, Edinburgh Castle and the path  into Princes Street Gardens. Above and right, the Walter Scott memorial.

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Our tour guide, a proud Scot. A likeness of another proud Scot, Deacon Brodie, the model for "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," and a pub recalling Edinburgh's many public hangings.

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While some famous vistas disappoint when you see them in real life, not so with the lovely town of St. Andrews, on Scotland's east coast. The North Beach (location of the opening scene of "Chariots of Fire") was stunning, and right next to it was the famous St. Andrews "Old Course," often the site of the British Open and the home of golf itself. St. Andrews is also home to the venerable University of St. Andrews, and our knowledgeable guide was a student there -- he even looked like Harry Potter! He showed us around the town's famous sites, including the ruins of both a castle and a cathedral. Hamish McHamish was a wandering cat beloved by the townspeople. Well-deserving of his own statue!

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SundayMorning in St. Andrews

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Dundee

Just across the Firth of Tay, Dundee is home to the RRS Discovery, a ship that traveled several times to explore Antartica a century ago. Right next to it is the new outpost of London's Victoria and Albert Museum, designed to look like a ship in the harbor -- or perhaps a whale? We enjoyed our stay in Dundee, but sadly they do not have a marmalade factory anymore!

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Glasgow

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We based ourselves in Glasgow (pronounced GLAZ-go) for three days, giving us plenty of time to explore both the east and west ends of this friendly if a bit scruffy city on the River Clyde. The saying goes: "Glasgow made the Clyde and the Clyde made Glasgow." Dredging of the river deepened it enough to make Glasgow one of the premier shipbuilding cities in the world -- the Cutty Sark, the Lusitania, the QE I and II and the Queen Mary were all built here.

 

On our first day there, we took a helpful, narrated bus trip around the city. Then we focused on the east end, visiting Glasgow Cathedral, the Necropolis (a really big cemetery on a hill), and the International Piping Museum where we learned a lot about the history of bagpiping while waiting out a torrential downpour outside! Glasgow is famous for its wall murals, including the two pictured here of the city's patron saint, St. Mungo (known for restoring life to a robin) -- depicted as a baby (cradled by his mother, St. Enoch) and as a homeless man.

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A Bus Trip to the Highlands

On our second day in Glasgow, we took a bus trip into the Highlands. Our jack-of-all-trades guide served as bus driver, narrator for our journey, and as DJ cueing up some lovely Scottish tunes as we rolled along. After a short boat cruise along the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond, we toured through the Trossachs natural area, and stopped to feed some friendly "hairy coos." We ended the day at Sterling Castle.

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Glasgow's West End

 For our final day in Glasgow, we visited its famous West End with posh homes and shops, the University of Glasgow, and several museums. Unfortunately, COVID restrictions kept us from visiting the famous Kelingrove Museum and the home of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Glasgow's famous architect and designer.

 

We started our day at the Botanic Gardens with a walk along the Kelvin River. At the University of Glasgow we visited the Hunterian Museum, a something-for-everyone museum in a lovely, two-tiered gallery, and the Hunterian Art Gallery which was featuring an exhibit on James Abbott McNeill Whistler and had a permanent exhibit on Mackintosh. The day was about as rainy as it comes, so we tried out Glasgow's mini-subway system to get within a sloggy walk of our final museum of the day, the Riverside Museum along the Clyde. This new, award-winning museum focuses on all modes of transportation, with a bit of general entertainment history thrown in.

 

Oh, and that orange soft drink Kevin has is called Irn Bru, a local favorite known as "Scotland's other national drink." The closest I can think to describe its flavor is one of those orange circus peanut candies. An acquired taste!

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The Isle of Mull

Leaving Glasgow, we took a train west to Oban where we caught a rainy ferry trip to the Isle of Mull, one of the Inner Hebrides islands and our home for the last three nights of our trip. We stayed in the blue cottage and were greeted by a lovely rainbow when we arrived. That combination of rain followed by glorious sunshine breaking through was typical of our week in Scotland.

 

Our cottage was just up the hill from the beautiful harbor town of Tobermory, the primary (that is, only) town on Mull. On Friday we took a bus across the island to Calgary Beach. The expanse of sand looking out toward the North Atlantic was beautiful, as was the bus ride across Mull's hilly and rocky, but lush terrain.

 

By the way, did you know that Scotland has more sheep than people? Most of the roads in Mull are single-lane which made for some scary traffic encounters. We were happy not to be driving. Whatever the bus drivers earn, they deserve double!

 

On Saturday we took a boat tour around the top of Mull to the Isle of Staffa, famous for Fingal's Cave, a cylindrical sea cave made out of lava formed into what almost look like organ pipes. Mendelssohn visited the cave and was inpired to write his Hebridian overture.

 

We scrambled up to the top of the island and were treated to brilliant sunshine (yes!) and gorgeous views. There was purple-pink heather everywhere, and I was reminded of the song from Brigadoon, "Heather on the Hill." Our return trip took us past some frolicking seals and a white-tailed eagle roosting on a high rock. Unfortunately, the zoom on our phones wasn't good enough to capture the moment.

 

We returned to Tobermory Harbor and stopped by the "Chip Van" for some local scallops and haddock, our final vacation meal.

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