With a hop skip and a jump, we arrived in Edinburgh, Scotland! The country of beautiful scenery, whisky, a boat load of history, haggis, bagpipes and wittiness. See this post for 17 reasons to visit Scotland.
Hostel life fell right into place with 6 bed mixed dorm rooms (including snorers), communal bedrooms, bathrooms & kitchens. Our accommodation, Kick-Ass Hostels was in the perfect location, right in the centre of town, in an area known as Grassmarket. Right outside was the view of Edinburgh Castle. Pretty awesome.
No trip to Scotland is complete until you make the journey up the Scottish Highlands.
The overdramatic scenery, ever-changing weather and a local Scottish tour guide from Rabbies made for an authentically Scottish day! In the space of 2 hours, we experienced hail, rain, rainbows, sunshine, overcast, snow and everything else in between. The tour guide was a local Scotsman who was also a member of Scottish folk band The Picts and he played us his music throughout the trip.
Driving through the Highlands, we stopped in Glen Coe, a beautiful volcanic mountainous region, to take pictures and were graced with a traditional kilted Scotsman playing the bagpipes. This made for a really surreal experience. A definite highlight of the day.
Loch Ness, Inverness
A short drive away was the famed Loch Ness. We learnt that “Loch” means lake and there are approximately 31, 400 lakes in Scotland. Loch Ness has the most volume of water too, nearly double to that of all the lakes in England & Wales combined.
Pouring with rain and freezing cold, it was only natural we posed as the Loch Ness Monster. Ten minutes later, it was perfectly sunny.
Stopping by a few small towns on the way back to Edinburgh, we had seen a lot of Scotland in one day.
Free Walking Tour
The best way to see a city, especially when you’re working with a tight budget is to take a free walking tour. You tip your guide based on how you feel they did. A very well known & respected company is Sandemans and they run tours all throughout Europe.
Strangely enough, we had an Aussie tour guide, who like a lot of Australians who travel, came for a holiday and then never left.
Never let the facts get in the way of a good story
The most memorable parts of the tour (besides all the history of course 😉 ) were the Scottish stories of how we got our commonly used drinking phrases of “shit faced”, “hangover” and “blind drunk”. Never let the facts get in the way of a good story they say.
Shit Faced: Back in the day people used to throw their faeces buckets out of their window, generally from a few floors up and it had to be done at 10 pm or 10 am. The problem with this was that bars always closed at 10 pm too, so often when stumbling home drunk from the pub, you would get shit thrown on your face. Hence shit faced.
Blind Drunk: Filtering whiskey takes time and generally needs to be done 3 times to remove the impurities. But many could not wait for this filtering to be done, so they drank it after one filtering process. The impurities would turn people blind, hence blind drunk.
Hangover: Hangings were usually held on Sunday mornings when people had their day off, but often people would be drunk from the night before, hence hangover.
This is all making sense now! 😉
Harry Potter in Scotland! Who knew?
The other memorable part of the free tour was the unexpected, yet frequent, Harry Potter references found throughout Edinburgh. We visited the Elephant House cafe, where J.K. Rowling wrote her first 2 books and the Greyfriars Kirkyard (graveyard) nearby, where she got the inspiration for several of the characters including “he who shall not be named”.
After this tour, we went on another free tour of Edinburgh Castle using Sandemans again. This time we had a local Scotsman guide us through the castle, to learn the history and to see The Crown Jewels. Although it was cold with gale force winds, we enjoyed the experience and would recommend it to anyone coming to Edinburgh. It’s a must do. Also, it never gets old to hear the Scots refer to anything “little” as “wee”.
Six hours of tours accomplished and a brain exploding with history!
Wanting to see another side of Scotland, we ventured west to Glasgow. Booking a last minute bus through Mega Bus for £4 each (bargain) we got there in 1.5 hours. To be honest, Glasgow was great for shopping but we wouldn’t deem it essential to visit.
Our highlight here was visiting the Tennent’s Brewery, the working brewery for Scotland’s local and most sold beer. We received some sexy hairnets and bright fluoro vests to don while touring the facility.
I normally don’t drink beer, however, I thought this called for the occasion to sample a few brews. I tried multiple beers which was a huge accomplishment for the vodka only drinker.
To be honest we didn’t explore much food here (we didn’t hear rave reviews) and opted for packed lunches & home cooked dinners, to save a few bucks. You may be more game than us and try their Haggis; a typical Scottish dish consisting of sheep’s heart, liver & lung encased with spices in the animal’s stomach… Hmm, no thanks!
On to Ireland, we went, with a £11 flight! Thanks, Ryan Air.
Marriage days survived: 19 😉