Who goes to Scotland in February? We did, and let us explain.
Marla has a co-worker who met a Scottish fellow in California, who works as a stuntman on the show Vikings. The filming of Vikings is done in Scotland. So when there was a break in February, that was when they got married. That was all the excuse we needed to go!
Los Angeles International Airport
So after buying cheap flight tickets, long underwear, gloves, scarves, knit hats and parkas, us Southern Californian natives left for Scotland. It was great and now we were appropriately dressed.
We flew to London and then took a shuttle to Scotland. The shuttle plane was more like a city bus with little space for carry-on luggage. We had to put on our coats and stuff our “1 extra item” into our carry on luggage to get on board. We cued up on the runway when the snow started to fall.
Best Western Palace Hotel
After arriving at the small Inverness airport, we grabbed a taxi to the Best Western Palace Hotel. The hotel was located right on the river Ness-Inverness , which means “end of the river Ness”.
We promptly went out in search of food and crossed the bridge towards the historic downtown. During dinner we noticed that the colored lights on the bridge would randomly change and that it wasn’t our jet lag fooling us.
After our dinner we headed back to the hotel to crash and awakened to a blanket of snow on the ground. White stuff! Cold white stuff! But handled it like pros and put everything we owned on for another walk about town. The air was clean, clear and c-c-cold as we walked up the hill towards the castle to fine out the castle was a city government building now. Oh well, photo op.
The Scottish kilt can be traced back to the 16th century in the Northern Highlands of Scotland. The original kilt was similar to a cloak which was pulled over the shoulder.
Latter during the 17th century, the garmet evolved into a belted skirt, which was gathered at the waist resulting in folds. The colors were dyed and somewhat bland.
During the 18th century the pleats became more tailored. Also the weaving process became more advanced resulting in many of the tartan plaids we see today. The differences in these patterns became specific over time representing the different regions and clans in Scotland. Today wearing of the kilts is pretty much restricted to formal occasions such as weddings and holidays.
Many of the shops in Edinburgh offer little books where you can look up your families tartan. Allan bought a scarf after looking up his clan. I also think he would have looked mighty fine in one of those matching kilts! Maybe next time!
Mr. & Mrs. McDermot
We hailed an afternoon taxi to the wedding. The taxi driver, after asking if we were from the United States, was so eager to engage us in politics. It’s kind of refreshing to engage in dialog with people from other countries, especially during this politically charged time. The Scottish of course, have their own special history with our current electorate.
The wedding venue was held at a mansion hotel known as Bunchrew House. The surrounding grounds were wooded and overlooked a lake. It was still chilly outside although the snow had melted. This didn’t stop us from ducking outside for a few pics.
We quickly met up with a few friends from work who had spent the night at Bunchrew House. We were glad that we had chose to stay in town since this location, although quite beautiful , was also a bit isolated.
The wedding was such a charming Scottish affair. How can you go wrong with stuntmen in kilts? You can’t! Everyone looked great especially the bride and groom! The guest list included the betrothed families and friends. Many of the grooms friends were also fellow stuntmen and cast members from the show Vikings.
It’s been said that the Bunchrew House is haunted by a benign ghost by the name of Isobel, who was the daughter of Sir Gilbert Ogilvie of Powrie and wife of Kenneth 12th Chief of the Clan MacKenzie. Isobel was a former occupant of the house where her portrait still hangs. Guests have previously reported seeing her ghostly presence in various rooms as well as sitting at her favorite table in the dining room.
My friends who had stayed at Bunchrew were eager to talk about a few odd occurrences in the house on the evenings preceding the wedding. Things such as the late night clickety clack of shoes and creaking of the stairs when no one was around, the shaking of a table at dinner and a distant unexplained sound of a piano in the wee hours.
During the wedding reception we were seated at Isobel’s table. Fortunately no spirits appeared to me this evening, except perhaps the multiple spirits poured to my glass!
The next day we braved a tour of the Loch Ness. The excursion began with a bus ride through the Scottish countryside which passed numerous lochs. Our Scottish bus driver informed us that there are approximately 31,460 fresh water lochs alone in Scotland with Loch Morar being the deepest at 1017 feet. In contrast Loch Ness is about 745 feet or large enough for a prehistoric monster to thrive!
Upon reaching the boat dock we boarded our vessel which glided us through the Loch Ness until we reached the ruins of Urquhart Castle.
Here we had ample opportunity to wander around and explore the remaining structures.
Later we herded back on the bus which took us to the Loch Ness Monster exhibit. After viewing several rooms and presentations of the “facts” and some hoaxes…. they never really say it, but clearly there was never a monster….. or was there??? Either way what a wonderful story to enjoy!
We arose and had breakfast at the hotel before heading off to the train station with luggage in tow. Those little luggage wheels over cobble stones are a pain and the manufacturer should make an European version. So bumpy bump we went.
The Inverness train station was next to the bus depot where we had taken the Loch Ness tour on the previous day, so we didn’t get lost this time.
The train ride was smooth and fast zooming through the Scottish countryside. There was snow in the shaded areas and we arrived in Edinburgh after 3 1/2 hours.
The Edinbough train station was like most European train stations, busy yet well signed for idiots and we made our way towards the taxi que without any problems. The taxis were lined up along a neighboring street in the historic downtown close to where Marla had booked a room. Real close. Travel geek travel tip: always book in the historic district, there is more to do and see within walking distance.
We approached the first taxi and showed him the hotel’s name and address. The cabbie gave us a puzzled look and with a expression of relief he pointed to the stairs across the street and told us to go up those before making a left to find our hotel. So, we did.
The Scotsman Hotel was perfect, centrally located and boosting of old world charm, with modern conveniences. The hot water and wifi was awesome.
We unloaded, refreshed and headed out to check the lay of the land. Or is that ” ye lay o ye land” ? We took a left turn out of the hotel and found a shopping mall where we had a chicken bowl from a Scottish Panda Express.
After refueling we circled back to the historic district and up Princess street towards Edinburgh castle. It was getting dark and after some more exploring we headed back to the Scotsman.
We of course did our lovable Hop On Hop Off bus tour around town noting the Scottish museum and some other areas to explore later.
Most importantly we spied a Mexican restaurant!
Eventually we hopped off at the Dynamic Earth museum. This museum is dedicated to creating an understanding of how our earth was formed.
The exhibition included numerous displays which were separated out according to our earth history. There were also interactive displays such as a mock up to see if you could out run an alligator. You can’t, but as long as someone is slower than you , you are good. Marla did not like that comment. Hey run faster then!
We regret not having enough time and energy to hike up the small hill across from the museum.
Later that night we saw Transpotting 2 which featured Edinburgh and a scene with Ewin Mcgregor running up that mountain-hill.
We had breakfast at one of our favorite go-to European eateries, Preit de Manger. The food was good, cheap and the wifi was awesome. What more do budget travelers need in the morning?
Off we went to Edinburgh Castle and signed up for a tour. The que was not that long and went quickly.
We opted for a self guided tour and meandered around visiting various room and exhibits.
There where dog cemeteries and dragoon museums. Not dragon you Game of Throne fans but dragoons. The dragoons were the Seal Team 6 Rambo types of their day, kilts and all.
The throne room was very nice and very well guarded. The cafe was good and overlooked Edinburgh as the castle sits on the hill.
The were some big ass cannons, rooms (cells) were they kept prisoners and many exhibits on early Scottish life. Early, early Edinburgh life was kind of disgusting and more on that later, let’s just say that flinging poop in a bucket into the streets was a thing to do.
National Museum of Scotland
The National Museum of Scotland was excellent and more importantly dry and warm as it started to chill outside in the drizzling rain. The museum had Planes, Trains and automobiles. There where some motorcycles for Allan too.
One of the most unusually cool exhibits was the stuffed sheep named Dolly-the very first cloned animal. Baaa-baaaa. The museum also included exhibits on important Scottish scientists and inventors that changed our world. But not one stuffed Loch Ness monster to be found. We were disappointed.
Mary’s King Close
During the 17th century the old town of Edinburgh was suffering from increased overcrowding. The city couldn’t expand outward, due to the surrounding protective walls, so it grew upward. Residences grew as high as eight stories along the narrow streets. Wealthy people often lived on the higher floors where there was more light. The lower floors had less sunlight so were dark and damp. There was also a multitude of sewage that was dumped out the windows from the higher floors. Partially due to this open sewage system disease ran rampant. Eventually Edinburgh was rebuilt by burying these lower floors, leaving the original city underground . Many residents of the underground didn’t want to leave. A lot of reasons were attributed to this such as poverty and simply nowhere else to go. As a matter of fact people were discouraged from entering the under ground by blocking the entrances with garbage. Eventually this dark world became not only housing for the poor but continued to be riddled with disease. In addition crime ran rampant. Life in the underground definitely was not without its challenges.
The easiest way to visit this underworld is at Mary Kings Close, which is located under the Royal Mile in the old town of Edinburgh. We purchased tickets which allowed us to be escorted in a small group through the Close. Of course to enhance the experience there were actors dressed in period clothing! At the end of the tour we took a photo for a refrigerator magnet…… it didn’t come out so well due to the lighting.
We had so much fun here that we also decided to take an evening ghost tour of Edinbrough. The “History Walks Ghost Tour” included above as well as below ground haunts.
It was great because our guide took us to another section of the underground, where there were crypts and an abundance of stories about murder, mysteries and lost souls….