Scotland’s Gems

Last Thursday my friends and I landed in Edinburgh a day before our UC Education Abroad Program trip started, so we had time to explore the city on our own. The first morning I went to the National Museum of Scotland, a friendly, hands-on place that is perfect for kids. It had a lot to offer, with a total of seven floors–I only had time for two. I particularly liked the space exhibit and Dolly, the first cloned mammal. I caught up with my friends soon after and went on a free tour of The Royal Mile, Grassmarket and many of the closes (neighborhoods) hiding just behind the main streets. I had a nice time talking to people on the tour and listening to our cheerful tour guide. I could tell he loved his job and that he was passionate about Scottish history. After the tour I headed to Edinburgh Castle, which is by far the most impressive castle I’ve seen on my study abroad adventures.  For starters, it’s huge! There are about 20 museums within the castle you can explore, and most of the rooms are open. You can catch sweeping views of the city here as well. It’s worth paying the admission price if you get excited anytime you hear the word “castle” or want to see the Honours of Scotland and some cool dungeons.

Edinburgh by night
Edinburgh by night
Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh as seen from the castle
Edinburgh as seen from the castle
The Royal Mile
The Royal Mile: architecture you can fall in love with

Our first day as a group we went to see the Railway Bridge, Blair Castle and Culloden Battlefield. The Railway Bridge in South Queensferry is massive, but I liked the bridge next to it because it reminded me of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA. At Blair Castle I lingered at the back of the group so I could read most of the signs and look at the detail in the rooms. While the castle was nice, my favorite part was its grounds. We followed a trail that led into the woods and took a ride on the swings at the playground. At Culloden Battlefield we learned about the Jacobite defeat by the British–they fought a losing battle and roughly 2,000 men died. The exhibit took forever to explore, but once we stepped on the battlefield itself it became entirely worth it. We saw the blue and red flags of the Jacobites and the Brits swaying in the tall grass and imagined what it must have been like to do battle on April 16, 1745. I liked the lone cottage with peat moss on it standing in the field. I thought I would see something picturesque like this in Ireland first, so it made me laugh.

Grounds at Blair Castle
Grounds at Blair Castle
The cottage at Culloden
The cottage at Culloden
Culloden Battlefield--poor Jacobites!
Culloden Battlefield–poor Jacobites!

That night we ate a traditional Scottish dinner of haggis, meeps and tatties. The haggis surprised me, as it wasn’t firm and looked like finely ground beef. While I thought it tasted OK, I couldn’t finish it, as I’d had a filling meal of fish and chips in Aviemore for lunch. I wasn’t a huge fan of the meeps (turnips), but I was game to at least try it. The tatties were simply potatoes, and I found that the haggis tasted better when I mixed them together. The raspberry dessert ended the meal on a refreshing note.

After dinner we listened to a Scottish folklore storyteller for about two hours. He was entertaining and I stayed awake for most of it. The food coma left me slumped over the back of one of the chairs for some minutes!

The next day we went on a Loch Ness boat cruise with Jacobite Cruises. We started at Clansman Harbour and braved the cold in the top deck for half of it, and then sat in comfort in the enclosed lower deck to watch the scenery. In the afternoon we stopped at Glencoe to take pictures. Personally, it was the best 10 minutes I spent in the Highlands. The views of the mountains were stunning and I loved the colors. I highly recommend seeing Glencoe (and spend more time there than I did!)

I have to say that I’m sad time is passing by so quickly. Still, I’m really glad I got to go because it was such a good experience to meet people from other UC schools and appreciate another culture’s history, architecture and natural beauty.

Spotted this photo opportunity at Glencoe.
Splendid photo opportunity at Glencoe.
Glencoe!
Glencoe!

Thanks for reading. If my post triggered any memories of Scotland for you, please share!

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