Its nearly been a year since my last visit to the UK, and with the London Olympics next month, it only makes me reminise on all the adventures I embarked on while there. One of my most memorable trips has to be the week I spent in Scotland, which went a bit like this…
GLASGOW – LIGHTS! CAMERA! ACTION!
Glasgow was the first stop on my itinerary and over the five days I was based there, the city was packed with tourists, office workers and locals going about their daily business but there was one man in town that really caused a stir. Mega movie star Brad Pitt was filming his new movie World War Z and they had turned the city centre to look like downtown Philadelphia, USA. Some noticeable changes were the traffic lights, street signs and the exterior of shop fronts. Crowds of people surrounded George Square waiting in hope to spot the hunky actor and watch some filming. The crew did their best to keep them at bay with barricades and blackened out high fences, but where there is a will there is a way as some people e.g. photographers brought their own ladders to get some overhead snaps/ views.
Over the next few days I would find myself cruising around the city on a red double decker bus checking out the typical touristy things like the museums, shopping and eating areas, gardens, universities and also appreciating the architecture of their the buildings.
No visit to Scotland is complete without making a trip to the local takeaway shop therefore we headed to my friend’s local and order ourselves a deep fried feast. We did some serious damage here and the result of our visit was quiet shocking: 1 x half fish supper, 1 x full fish supper and 1 x doner kebab. As we laid out our meals on the dinner table it could have feed a family of seven. My half fish supper (fish n chips) and deep fried sausages looked like a heart attack on a plate and would soon prove impossible to finish.
On the topic of food, on another night we headed out to a lovely little restaurant called the Mussel Inn. Yes you guessed it; the place specialised in seafood and mussel pots and probably was one of the best places I’ve eaten at for a while. I couldn’t get away with how cheap and good our three course dinner ended up being. We had the set mussel pot menu for 13GBP offering seafood chowder as starter, ½ kilo mussel pot with a side for our main and a choice of raspberry cheesecake or ice-cream to finish. I would definitely go back in a heartbeat… thank god I still have one after the previous night’s meal choice.
A day trip was on the cards for my last day in Glasgow so I decided to go with Discover Scotland for their Loch Ness, Glencoe and The Highlands tour. We departed from the city at 8am and made our way up North to Loch Lomond, Scotland’s biggest fresh water surface. The loch went on for days surrounded by beautiful landscape and old brick/stone style cottages popping up along the way. After cruising along the loch on our small coach catering up to 16 people, all captivated by the beauty of the highlands, we ended up at a small but very old building called Drover’s Inn. The dark grey building was over 300 years old and still offers accommodation to guest since first established in 1705. One of its most famous guests included Rob Roy MacGregor, the Scottish version of Robin Hood so I’ve heard. With many tales of ghouls and ghosts coming to visit their guests, Drover’s Inn has combined the 21st century with the 1700’s by setting up live ghost watch cameras for curious guests and ghost enthusiasts to try and spot something out of the ordinary or see what they may be in for. This place had character and history all combined into one, as you walk into the small reception area stuffed animals, a suit of armour and old paintings fill the place. This is the same for the dining and two bar areas. As you walk along the small hallways to your room, old painting portraits of mysterious people are display on the wall adding to the spooky atmosphere.
Not long after it’s off to Glencoe known for the infamous ‘Glencoe Massacre’ that occurred in 1692. As we travel deeper into the highlands the landscape only gets more picturesque. The mountains begin to tower over us and sparkling clear lochs wind in and out below them. I notice flashes of bright purple, pink and yellow from the meadow flowers as we drive past. Stopping at Glencoe there are many other buses and tourists stopping for pictures at the three sisters. The mountain scenery is truly stunning here but it also has an eerie feeling due to the harrowing event which saw many McDonald clan members slaughtered all those years ago.
We finally arrive at our main attraction stop being Loch Ness, home to the mythical creature ‘Nessie’ the Loch Ness monster. We reach Urquhart castle that overlooks the loch which is mobbed with tourists young and old exploring the ruined castle. After an hour exploring what is left I jump onto a Jacobite Cruise which takes us for a ride along the never ending loch. I notice the water is very dark due to its great depth and soil content proving difficult to see anything beyond the surface. Even though that famous photograph sighting which appeared in the Daily Mail in 1933 was proven to be a hoax, to this day it still doesn’t stop thousands of tourists embracing the myth by visiting the loch and castle each year for a possible sighting.
EDINBURGH – IT’S FRINGE TIME BABY!
It’s the Fringe Festival and Military Tattoo in Edinburgh and the place is a buzz with thousands of tourists and locals enjoying the wide array of shows and performances available. As we walk down the Royal Mile (in the old town) it’s filled with promo people handing out flyers in a desperate attempt to get people inside their venues. The vibe is fantastic here there are demonstrations and busking happening all over the place. With only two full days to explore and embrace the festival I find myself running around like a headless chicken trying not to miss out on anything.
First night I head out to do the typical ghost tour which had our group roaming the dark streets, underground chambers and graveyard, home to the infamous McKenzie poltergeist. We learn of many dark and scary tales of murders, plague, grave robbing and supernatural encounters. Our tour guide is very theatrical, looking a bit like a Scottish gothic version of Neo from The Matrix but with a hint of serial killer to him. We meet him on the Royal Mile standing looking down at his pocket watch waiting, and it isn’t till the clock strikes 11pm that he looks up at us and begins what is to be a terrifying but fascinating adventure throughout the old town.
My days are a blur in Edinburgh after attending numerous stand-up comedy and sketch shows but some that come to mind were The Durham Revue, Quattro Formaggio and Gemma Goggin which were all very good. It can be pretty daunting to plan your assault on the fringe as demonstrated by the 2011 Fringe Listing book being over 200 pages thick. I recommend heading to the half-price hut located on Princess Street (in new town) which has some great deals. Otherwise if you don’t mind who you see, head to one of the many performance venues such as Udderbelly and see their daily listing or walk along the Royal Mile where you’re sure to be bombarded with performance flyers.
A main highlight to my time in Edinburgh was the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo which had the Edinburgh castle as its backdrop. It was a truly amazing and patriotic experience as the pipers and bands performed a number of songs and demonstrations to a sell-out crowd of a few thousand people, all cheering and clapping their hands. The most moving performance of course was the Last Piper who played high above from one of the overlooking towers of the castle.
Scotland with its beautiful scenery, richness in history and never ending list of activities and attractions was for me a fantastic place to visit.
So until next time,