Jen- We went to Scotland!

I will totally be writing up a little review of the last episodes, I promise. Before the new episode this weekend, even! But first I figure it’s time to share our amazing trip to Scotland.

Our journey from the US to Glasgow can best be described as Kafka-esque. Possibly a Comedy of Errors, if by “comedy” I really mean “tragic hassle.”

Our flights were scheduled to be Baltimore-Philadelphia-Glasgow. On Sunday afternoon around 2:00 we headed to BWI full of excitement and naivety. We got a message from the airline while we were enroute that our flight from BWI to Philly was delayed for half an hour. “Ok, not too bad,” we thought, and proceeded to check in. As the afternoon wore on, our flight became more and more delayed, until we reached the point where we were definitely not going to make our connection in Philly to the plane that was supposed to take us to Glasgow. We rebooked onto a later flight from Philly to Heathrow, then Heathrow to Glasgow.

Our flight out of Baltimore finally took off, and would have normally been a 20 minute ride. Except our pilot flubbed the landing and just as we should have touched down on the runway the plane climbed up super steeply. After a few minutes of climbing and starting to circle, the pilot came on to tell us that he took the approach too high and would have to try it again. Meanwhile, the guy across the aisle from us has his rosary out, everyone is obviously discomfited, and I am convinced we are going to die. Did I mention I have an extreme phobia of flying?

So, finally, we land in Philly, and we take off running to catch our Heathrow flight, I think we had like 20 minutes to get from one end terminal of the airport to the other. We get there, make it onto the flight, things look rosy. Until we’ve been sitting on the plane for an hour and are then told that they don’t have their third pilot so we all have to get off the plane and go sit in the now empty airport (it’s about 11:00 at night at this point). We rebook onto a later flight from London to Glasgow, as we were again not going to make the scheduled connection. Finally, we get our pilots where they’re supposed to be, and we fly out to Heathrow.

We land there, have to go through customs, then have to go through security. Drew passed security, but I got held up because I forgot about the water bottle I had in my bag, since I’d already been through security twice at BWI and that was a foggy distant memory. We only had 10 minutes before our gate was closing, so I sent Drew ahead to do what he could to hold the gate for me, and the Heathrow security agents went slower than molasses through all the people ahead of me in the extra scrutiny line. OMG. I finally got through that with literally (no joke) two minutes to spare before the flight was scheduled to leave. Ran through the airport to our gate, which was actually being held! Not just for me, there were also a bunch of students traveling together and half of them were held up by security. They were held back so long that the plane was going to take off without them, but first we had to wait for almost an hour while their luggage was taken out of the plane.

So we finally got to Glasgow around 3:00 pm, when our original plan was to arrive at 6:30 am. Our friend who was traveling with us (but had been able to make the original Philly-Glasgow flight) had to wait for us for half a day. To add icing to the day, our luggage was lost and wouldn’t arrive until the next day.

But that’s all in the past now!

Day One, Monday, Glasgow-Edinburgh

We finally got ourselves sorted, picked up our rental car, and drove off from Glasgow onto the M8 to Edinburgh. By the way, I did all the driving over there, and I rocked it! Nary a scratch on the vehicle. And I kind of suck at driving and really suck at parking / de-parking. No scratches, but our psyches were worn and scratched by my complete ineptness at parking (I often need people to get out of the car and motion me into a space as if they are directing a large plane down a runway).

Our hotel in Edinburgh turned out to be in a charming old-looking building, but our room was super comfy, and it was a very pleasant place. Our first order of business after dropping our stuff off was to seek out some dinner. We wandered about, and after being shut down by a place that seemingly had delicious burgers but did not serve food on Mondays, we found ourselves at Nandos. This is hilarious to me because after coming home I discovered the Nandos is blowing up the internet. How timely of us! It was an unremarkable dinner, and marked the first (but not the last!) time we would be confused about protocol in a Scottish restaurant.

After dinner, we walked down to Princes Street so we could get cheap clothes at Primark to get us through until our luggage could join us. Then, we headed over to attempt to go to The Real Mary King’s Close, but they were sold out for the evening. As luck would have it, we were across the street from where all the ghost tours leave, so we wandered there and were just in time to get in on a tour of some underground old timey, totes haunted, vaults. It was pretty creepy, and the tour was entertaining. We ended the tour right down the street from a Brew Dog brewery bar, so we capped the night off with a beer and then headed back to the hotel.

Day Two, Tuesday, Edinburgh

Luckily we had planned for two nights in Edinburgh, so even though were disappointed to have lost half a day of our trip, we still had plenty of time to get in our major must-sees.

We spent the morning at Edinburgh Castle. Pretty sweet, huh? Behold, my inability to properly frame a picture! The castle was awesome, there was so much to explore, and their displays were informative and interesting. Also, one of the areas of the castle is where the Black Dinner was held in like the 1400s or something, and that is what the GoT Red Wedding was based on. Here’s a sweet view looking out from the castle.

After the castle it was time to wend our way down the Royal Mile, and we bought tickets for a later tour of The Real Mary King’s Close. It’s a hugely popular attraction, and for good reason, that was really entertaining and was an hour well spent. Before doing that tour, though, we had some time for lunch (coronation chicken sandwich!). We were right next to St. Giles Cathedral, so here’s a picture of it. We did a lot of walking around, so by the time our Mary King’s Close tour was done we were ready to call it a day on touristing and settle in for some drinkin’. We went back to the burger bar we’d been denied the day before, had some tasty beers, had some tasty burgers, and then moved along to a couple of different bars. Woo-hoo, vacation!

Day Three, Wednesday, Edinburgh-Stirling-Fintry

We bid farewell to Edinburgh with only a modicum of directions/road induced panic. Our first stop of the day was Linlithgow Palace. Like many crumbling castles in Scotland, Linlithgow has some Mary Queen of Scots and various-kings-Jameses claims to fame. It’s basically an empty shell of a palace, but there were lots of nooks and crannies to explore. It also happens to be an Outlander filming location, which was my main motivation for wanting to visit. It had a cool fountain. There weren’t many visitors that morning, just us and a school field trip where half of the children were dressed in historical garb and giving reports about history to their classmates. As you do. I like this picture because it feels so empty, but you can imagine the old timey days when it would have been a… thing. The view from the top of a tower (possibly the tower where Queen Margaret or some other fancy lady went to cry, at least, according to the guidebook).

Next we trundled on to Stirling. We had originally planned on visiting the Wallace Monument first, but parking and my inability to understand a map dictated that we do Stirling Castle first. Before that we walked down a huge hill to a cute little pub for lunch. Then we walked back up the huge hill to the castle that was atop still more hill. The theme of Scotland, by the way, is HILLS AND STAIRS. Everywhere. Stirling Castle was awesome, it was the most done-up castle we visited, with sweet unicorn tapestries and weird face ceiling decorations. There were even a few costumed people pretending to be historical folk. Look at this proper castle realness. Magnificent view, too.

Onward we rolled to the Wallace Monument. The photos of smiling people on that website are a lie. The monument is perched atop a very high hill that you must ascend to get to the monument. The monument itself consists of 246 stairs with a couple of landings where people grimace at each other in communal self-pity for paying 10 pounds to walk up 246 stairs. That’s a lot of stairs. The stairs are all turnpike stairs, very narrow, and there is only one set so people are going up and down the same tiny twisty staircase. Here’s a nice picture of the Scottish flag at the base of the monument. The view from the top of the monument was spectacular, but I was too winded and nervous about the two-way stair traffic to really enjoy it. Also, I guess I only took pictures up there with my clicky disposable camera, which is currently being developed somewhere where film still gets developed.

After all that, we headed to our hotel destination for the night, Culcreuch Castle. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and the evening was just gorgeous. Check out this amazing castle grounds scenery. We had dinner in the dungeon bar. It was tasty. I had my first and only whiskey of the trip. It was disgusting. Also, our badass room had original, hand-painted wallpaper that was imported from China in 1723. OMG! History! It was really cool. We stayed in a real, actual castle!

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