Scotland: Day 10 + 11

Scotland: Day 10

Still sick but determined to do all we had planned today. We set out to tour Edinburgh’s castle. Everyone we met has told us we have to see the castle. That it is something special. Maybe it was the number of castles we’d been to before, or the audio tour (definitely the audio tour), but Edinburgh Castle just didn’t light a spark for us. It’s definitely cool – built into rock formed by volcano, but the audio tour is 90% focused on military activity and war. In fact, the castle is filled with little museums within, and these are almost exclusively related to war and military. Some history is good, but hours and hours worth? We weren’t having it.

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle

There were two sections that we both thought were cool. The prison, which had been housing prisoners since 1100 AD (and maybe before), including some Americans from the Revolutionary War. There is a carving on one of the prison doors from the 1700s that depicts our stars and stripes flag.

The other section is Mary Queen of Scots’ chambers, which also house the Scottish crone jewels and stone of destiny (which we heard about way back during our visit to Scone Palace).

Needless to say, we didn’t dawdle too much. And so we headed off to Loudon café for lunch. Loudon is known for it’s gluten free fare – and so I had an eggs benedict with avocado and bacon on a gluten free English muffins and a piece of gluten free Victoria sponge cake. James had a lamb burger and cheesecake (but his were gluten filled).

We were supposed to go on a Harry Potter walking tour at 3 pm, and so with two hours to kill, we walked around the city, popping into shops and making a journey to Harvey Nichols so I could pick up prosecco glitter (it’s a real thing! And it only exists in the UK!).

We headed to the Benny the dog statue at around 3 pm to meet up for the tour. There must have been 100 people there. The tour guide showed up a little late and we soon realized that about 60 – 70 of the people were on this tour – with one guide. I love Harry Potter. But I don’t love crowds, and I don’t love having to fight to hear, especially when I’m under the weather. So we made the decision to head back to the apartment – and this was definitely needed. We packed, finished laundry and I even took another nap.

Since this was our third anniversary, I had made reservations at The Kitchin, a Michelin star Scottish restaurant. They were absolutely amazing with accommodating my diet, and we opted for the surprise tasting menu.

Tasting menu
Tasting menu

Part of this menu included grouse. I made fun of James for his reaction to grouse three years ago when he ordered it during our honeymoon. He hated it. He was so sad. I didn’t know I was being served grouse and suddenly this little bird looking meal was put in front of me and I knew it had to be… grouse is bitter, smelly and disgusting. I don’t recommend it to anyone. Otherwise, the rest of the meal was fabulous!

James and his grouse.
James and his grouse.

This took almost three hours, and we even cut it short since I was really starting to lag at the end.

Scotland > London: Day 11

This was mostly a travel day. Note to self – next time you take a short flight in Europe, do it in the morning or at night so you don’t lose a whole day.

Our flight was at 1:45 pm, so we left our AirBnb early and headed to Glencraig, which is the town that James’ great grandparents lived in. Today, the town is known as a failed mining town and one of the street signs in Glencraig literally says: the town that died. Not morbid at all!

We drove along to Loch Gerry and Meadows park, which now boasts a significant number of offroad bike trails. That’s literally what is left. We walked around the trails a bit, then headed to the airport.

James and his muses.
James and his muses.

Our flight was uneventful. British Airways wants you to pay seven pounds (seven!!) if you want to switch your seat. Stuck in a window, and James in the middle, I went up to the check in counter and told the woman I had a knee injury and couldn’t sit where I was placed. She moved us for free.

We figured we would take the Tube to the next AirBnb we were staying at since this is cheaper, and generally takes the same amount of time as driving. What a mistake! There were signal line problems, and by the time we were on our way, after picking up our bags and getting out of the airport, it was rush hour. It took a hour and a half. The entire time I was standing, crammed in with tons of people. So much for an easy rest day. I was pretty wrecked by the time I got to the apartment, but we still had to get groceries and dinner. We opted to walk over to Whole Foods in Picadilly Circus since it’s a short walk, and we knew what to expect from there. (It also meant I could pick up the savory biscuits I love that I can only find in the UK).

We got back to the flat around 8 pm. I crawled into bed and not even the sounds of neighbors talking and dogs barking could keep me awake.

Scotland: Day 8 + 9

Scotland: Day 8

It happened. I got sick. Somehow I managed to stay well through multiple weddings and wedding activities, work travel and major announcements and buying a house/moving. But as soon as I let my guard down… hello head cold!

We still managed a packed day though. First off was a walking tour of the old town of Edinburgh. Booked through Sandeman’s tours, our guide, Neale, took us through thousands of years of history and refreshingly we did not talk about the Jacobite rebellion. We learned about the different kings and queens of Scotland, public punishments, unusual quirks about the city (how there is a protestant reformer buried in a parking lot because his dying wish was to be buried by his church – and yes you can park over his grave), how to prevent body snatchers from removing your body for science and so much more. It was a great way to frame the city and build an understanding.

Following, I had booked afternoon tea at the Colonnades at the Signet Library. Imagine a fancy high tea, but in a beautifully set library, surrounded by old books. Even better, they are amazing with allergies. We both ordered our pots of tea, and then they proceed to bring you soup, a tray of savories, a tray of sweets and sorbet. We left incredibly stuffed. This is definitely a meal, not a snack, in case you ever fancy to book tea in the UK.

Some highlights from the trays included: carrot coriander soup, beef blackberry tartlet, roasted red pepper polenta, falafel, pulled pork sandwich, roasted red pepper sandwich, strawberry white chocolate macaroon, chocolate caramel tartlet, coconut mango mousse, two types of scones, and so much more.

Full to the brim, I went on a mission to find a pharmacy because while I packed pretty much everything I could possibly need on this trip, I neglected to pack Dayquil and cough drops. I found equivalents and moved on. (By the way, the cough drops here are crazy. They definitely have medicine in them, and they are ridiculously cheap).

We wandered around Edinburgh, popping in and out of stores, and decided to start working through a small section of the National Museum of Scotland (which is free).

We checked out Dolly, the cloned sheep, who is now stuffed and on display at the museum. We also went through the Scotland through the Fashions exhibit, which highlighted clothing from the last 400 years. Definitely cool and I highly recommend!

After our bite size museum experience, we headed back to the AirBnb. James wanted to walk and because it had stopped raining I agreed. Once back inside, I was determined to not leave again, and so we very quickly became obsessed with and next thing we knew, four hours had passed.

Scotland: Day 9

The full fledge cold – ugh! Determined not to let a mostly sunny day go to waste in bed, I napped until about 10 am and then James and I headed to Arthur’s Seat for some fresh air. This is definitely a hike… don’t let locals fool you by saying you can climb it in your “trainers.” Hiking boots recommended! But regardless, we took it easy and slowly made our way up to the top for fantastic views of the city and the lands further north and south.

We took the main path on the way up, but opted to cut across a glassy slope to a paved sidewalk for our descent (which also put us closer to lunch). From Arthur’s Seat, we headed to Press Coffee for brunch. They have an eggs benedict like dish served on potatoes instead of English muffins. I was in heaven. It was amazing. James had a ciabatta with bacon, brie and cranberry chutney.

I managed to convince James to go into the Surgeon’s Museum that is a part of Edinburgh University. I love medical oddity museums, and find historical records of healthcare fascinating. James not so much. We’ve had a few incidence in the past that have involved throwing up. He was a trooper though and I got to spend an hour reading about the “invention” of surgery. There was a room with thousands of pathology specimens, which James was willing to sit outside while I wandered through, but at this point I was feeling rather lousy and so we left.

Finding a bus stop that wasn’t filled with a bunch of creeps took some time, but eventually we were able to hop back on the bus that took us to the flat.

Exhausted, I proceeded to take a hard nap, and James went for a run. I spent the rest of the evening laying on the couch watching the Great British Baking Show. The silver lining to being sick in the UK!

Scotland: Day 7

We are now making it around the bend into our second week. There was some definite home sickness today – it will be good to be back in cities and a change of pace.

The owner of the Blarcreen house served a fabulously gluten free breakfast for me – even finding a loaf of bread that was definitely more attractive than most. We were on the road by 8:45 am, and back down the winding one way street (but no sheep this time!). Cell signal was rough – and even James’ offline Google maps had a hard time, so we made a few wrong turns, but ultimately ended up in Callander to do the Bracklinn Falls circuit hike. The hike starts off by numerous waterfalls and a very cool triangle bridge.

Similarly to the Glenfinnan Viaduct, it appears that most people stop at the falls and head back. We continued on up the circuit hike and were not quite expecting the strenuous upgrade climb we were about to take on! Nonetheless, the views at the top are once again stunning and it’s fairly quiet, given that most people stay on below.

Most websites say the hike will take two hours and we did it in a little over an hour. In fairness we were going at a fairly good clip. Afterwards, we hopped in the car to head to Doune Castle.

Doune Castle has definitely been my favorite tour. While it is not the most beautiful castle, it is the cheapest (privately owned!) and ticket price comes with an audio guide narrated by one of the creators of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Doune, this is the castle that was featured in pretty much every castle scene of Monty Python. Because of issues with filming at other castles in Scotland (the ones that are operated and managed by the country not privately), they had to make do. So Doune stood in for pretty much all the castles you see in the film. It’s also Winterferll from Game of Thrones and Castle Leoch from Outlander.

Following, we headed towards Edinburgh with a VERY short trip to the Kelpies for a photo opps (but since the clouds had come rolling in, the giant horse heads were about the same color as the sky). We reached the neighborhood of the Airbnb around 4:30 but proceeded to drive past it numerous times because it was listed as 13/6 and I thought it was number 6. In case you’re wondering, it was number 13 and apartment 6. There was no number 6 on the road which led me to be very confused! Regardless, we made it! And found a parking spot right outside. Now to not move the car for three days!

The flat is super cute. Definitely old, but we’re used to that in Boston. The hosts really have made it as comfortable as they possibly can. Once we were checked in, laundry went in immediately and we whisked away to the grocery store to pick up some staples. Back in the flat, we settled in watching the Simpsons but more importantly THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF. They have marathons of those here. It’s amazing.