Almost 5 million Canadians claim Scottish as their heritage, and the two countries have strong ties. And we are practically neighbours; next stop from the northwest of Scotland is Canada and parts of Alaska. We loved Scotland and the friendly people of this country. Sometimes we even understood what they were saying!
‘Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o the puddin’-race! Aboon them a’ye tak your place’.
Having an Address to a Haggis is a clear sign of how the Scots love their haggis! It is on every menu in various shapes and forms. We tried it on our last day in Scotland; haggis ‘bon bons’ and they were pretty good although the texture was a little odd. Could be we are not used consuming many of the ingredients; sheep’s pluck (liver, lungs, and heart) minced with spices, salt, oatmeal, suet and onion inside a lining of the sheeps stomach. We only had an appetizer so we didn’t get the classic sides of neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes).
Canadians love haggis too – in 2017 an Edinburgh company adjusted the recipe to meet our food standards and has since shipped eight tonnes for Robbie Burns Day suppers!
We also had other favourites, including fish and chips, beef pie and we tried some whiskey on our tour. Salmon is served a lot here too, and the portions are huge! Scotland is an ideal salmon breeding ground with the freshest water around. We are pretty much Scots now!
Our train to Edinburgh was on the Virgin Rail Line and First Class was impeccable! The table was set with real dishes and there was a menu to select lunch items from! Under pressure to pick from a limited selection, I heard the words ‘I’ll have a bacon sandwich please’ come out of my mouth! Egad! But it was toasty and delicious and Joe followed suit. Also I went to the washroom, and a nice English woman spoke to me inside! It was a recording, but still, she was very friendly. Lol
Edinburgh Castle is a historic fortress that fills the skyline of the city, high on the Castle Rock. Archaeologists know there was human occupation of the rock since at least the Iron Age (2nd century AD). There has been a royal castle on the rock since at least the 12th century, and the site continued to be a royal residence until 1633. Not many of the buildings survived the Lang Siege of the 16th century. The castle is Scotland’s most-visited paid tourist attraction, with over 2.1 million visitors in 2018.
Harry Potter Inspiration Street? Lots of people having a look and taking pictures!
We really enjoyed visiting Edinburgh, it was filled with historical buildings and statues on every corner and a great variety of restaurants.
We stayed at the Apex City of Edinburgh Hotel at the foot of the castle, before and after our tour of Skye. When we returned for the final night, the window wall of our room had odd slanting panels. Joe stood up quickly and smashed his head! There was no blood, so I diverted my attention elsewhere but within seconds he was screaming about a pain in his foot. ?? He had stepped on a wasp of all things and then it stung him again on his hand! I found it confusing and comical, Joe however did not (right away). His finger and toe were itchy and swollen for several days after that. What a bizarre few minutes!
ISLE OF SKYE TOUR
We had a fantastic 4 day tour of Northern Scotland with a focus on Isle of Skye. Scotland’s unpredictable weather meant our guide, John, had to keep things flexible. He was amazing at following the sunshine or at the very least, avoiding the rain, by changing the schedule. Many of the mountain roads were single lane with small pull over spots to let other vehicles past. It was very crazy at times!
Our small group of 9 passengers were from all parts of the world. Having done many tours before, Joe and I were always prompt when returning to the bus after a stop. So much so, we tried NOT to be first but to no avail. Our fellow passengers took their time at every stop, often going out of bounds (so to speak) and causing us to lose precious time. Because of this, we missed out on seeing one of the important castles, Dunvegan. Very inconsiderate and annoying.
Skye is the largest island in the area and is known for its rugged landscapes, pretty fishing villages and medieval castles. During the summer months, the population of Skye swells quickly from 10k to 75k people. Unable to provide accommodations for that many people, the police lock down the bridges and demand proof of BNB or hotel reservations before letting visitors cross.
The town of Portree was the base for exploring the island and we crossed through it several times and enjoyed lunch there each day.
We stayed in a quaint BNB in the small fishing village of Kyleakin. We dined at their popular and only pub every night and were treated to some lively Scottish Rock fusion music one night by a couple of fishermen, aka the band ‘Box of Bananas’. They were hilarious and one fellow played a mean accordion.
John tried twice to cross two different lochs by ferry, but it was not our destiny. The first crossing was going into Syke; there was a ‘big/bike smash’ and the road was closed. When leaving Skye, John was excited because our small group allowed him to go on a ferry he never had a chance to take. But after waiting on the dock for 30 minutes, a motor boat carrying hikers crossed and informed us the ferry wouldn’t start today. So both times, we went around the loch.
The Scottish are proud people with a turbulent history. Tales and folklores are the core of their beliefs, and we tried to understand some of the forklore out of respect. Enter the faeries. At one time, every waterway, well and loch had an ancient faerie to protect it. They Scots believed that upsetting a faerie, being rude or invading their privacy, could result in illness, crop failures or even blindness. Faeries are the balance between good and evil.
Fairy Pools – Skye’s Fairy Pools have existed since ancient times but only recently the media and internet have made this previously little-known spot into a must-see destination. The sunlight was not perfect for us this day, but there were some beautiful colours. It’s a good 45 minute hike up and another 45 down. Glad we were there in the spring.
Faerie Glen – an adorable miniature landscape of grassy cone shaped hills. Legend has it, if you count these cone shaped hills you will find there are 365 but if it is a leap year there will be 366!
I stood in the centre of this area of the fallen tree; a grassy, circular spot. The gusting wind stopped and it became perfectly quiet and still. Purely magical. 🧚🏻♀️
Harry Coos, sheep, deer and wallabies?
‘Coos’ was John’s pronunciation of cows; Highland cattle is the actual name. I was thrilled when he stopped so I could takes pictures of these beautiful bovines! They are a symbol of Scotland and stuffed animals, pictures, etc are found in every souvenir shop.
Pretty sure there are more sheep in Scotland than people! John referred to them as ‘fluffy balls of haggis on legs’. It was lambing season and it was so cute to see them frolicking on the hills. Unlike deer, sheep appear to have an inborn fear of roads and leap out of the way.
The mountains of Scotland are home to thousands of deer. In order to protect the seedlings from them, Scotland installed these fences. Deer could easily jump them but the odd angles confuse the deer and they stay away!
And yes, there are wallabies in Scotland. A colony of them have been living on Loch Lomond since the 1940’s when an eccentric artisocrat brought them over! Apparently ‘the Hound’ from GoT lives near there!
Eilean Donan Castle – Scotland’s most photographed castle sits where three lochs meet. It has been used as the backdrop in Highlander, The World is not Enoughand the Bollywood blockbuster Kutch Kutch Hota Hai. It was breathtaking to see this castle!
Beautiful landscapes and vistas of Kilt Rick
Harry Styles filmed his music video ‘Sign of the Times’ in this beautiful area which funded this bridge
Glendale – amazing views!
Old Man of Storr – created by a massive ancient landslide
Legend has it that if you dip your face in the river water by the Sligachan Bridge for seven seconds, you will be granted eternal beauty. This guide is showing how it’s done!
And if that doesn’t work, there’s a bar down the street with 250 types of whiskey!
Fort Augustus – on the southern tip of Loch Ness. We stopped for lunch and took a cruise to see if we could spot Nessie, the elusive Loch Ness Monster.
Staffin – This part of Skye has a strong Gaelic identity, with the majority of the population speaking the language. We went for lunch in the town, but mostly overheard the languages of other tourists.
Blair Castle belonged to the 10th Duke of Blair until his passing in 1996, when he left it in trust to his distant cousin that lived in South Africa. Apparently they contacted the cousin, now 11th Duke, about 10 times before he realized it wasn’t just a prank. The Duke is also the only person in the UK allowed to have a private army. Joe is hoping someone calls him one day and says ‘Dude! You’re a Duke and just inherited a castle!’
We were sad to leave Skye behind us but thoroughly enjoyed our time there. Such a beautiful part of Scotland! She was very, very cold, but we forgave her!
Glasgow is the most populous city in Scotland as well as being the capital. Residents of the city are known as “Glaswegians” or “Weegies” and speak in the ‘Glasgow patter’, a distinct dialect noted for being difficult to understand. We had a hard enough time with the Scottish accent! Glasgow and Edinburgh have a friendly (?) competition between them on which city is better. (Like Calgary and Edmonton).
Our stay in Glasgow was very short and included a trip to the laundromat, which left us even less time. While a beautiful city, we felt it lacked the lustre of Edinburgh with its historic vibe everywhere. It could be that we just didn’t have enough time to truly give Glasgow a chance.
This Gin Bar was in a building that was originally the Bank of India in 1894. It was gorgeous! (Apparently I talk about gin a lot? I don’t drink it though. 😉 )
We caught a bus across from our hotel that took us Cairnryan Port, less than two hours from Glasgow. Here we boarded a 2 hour ferry for Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Hope you enjoyed Scotland! Please leave us a comment or just say ‘hello’!