A Trip To Scotland, Part One: An Overview

Thousands of moons ago, in the spring of 1977 to be exact, I backpacked around England, Scotland, France and Italy for six weeks. I had little money at the time, lots of hair on my 29-year-old head, and enjoyed the hell out of the trip.

In ensuing years I returned to England, France and Italy. And entertained the idea of visiting lovely Scotland once again too. You know what? It finally happened, because my wife Sandy and I spent eight days there in late May. This time I had a decent amount of money to my name, but distressingly less hair on my head. And, as before, I enjoyed the hell out of the trip.

Scottish Highlands
Scottish Highlands

Sandy and I were based in Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital. We took day trips to other parts of the land (the county of Fife, which is north of Edinburgh; and the Scottish Highlands, a majestic territory of mountains, forests, meadows, lochs and charming villages), but otherwise spent our moments in that hilly, fine city. Which was our game plan. When traveling nowadays, you see, we prefer to linger in whatever locales we’re visiting, rather than race from one town or city to another. You can’t see and do everything anyway, so why put pressure on yourself trying to?

Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens

Edinburgh doesn’t have the knock-your-socks-off looks and attractions of, say, Paris and Amsterdam. But it’s got plenty going for it. For one thing, it’s very walkable. Most of what anyone might want to see is no more than two miles apart. Its buildings, solid and stoic and constructed from stone far more than from steel, create a comforting sense of permanence and often one of mystery. It boasts Princes Street Gardens, an enormous park that is one of the most magnificent I’ve ever seen. And not only does the city ooze history and culture, it is filled with pubs, bistros and restaurants where hungry and thirsty souls may find nourishment and refreshment. A low-level beer geek, I was anxious to check out the brew scene in town. Success! Each night I quaffed an ale from a brewery that I’d never heard of before.

Old Town
Old Town
Warriston’s Close, in Old Town

The sections of Edinburgh that visitors spend the most time in are Old Town and New Town. Old Town was the first part of the city to be inhabited, and though few ancient structures remain, much of what stands in Old Town is old enough, dating from around 1600 to the late 1800s. Old Town, built on a ridge, is heavily cobblestoned. It is peppered with winding streets and with alleys (known as closes) that often are steep and that connect one street with another. Ergo, Old Town is highly atmospheric. I preferred it to New Town, which actually is pretty old, but flatter, more open and far less funky than Old Town. And I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Old Town was mobbed with tourists and locals while I was in Edinburgh. New Town was busy with people too, but less so.

Street performer in Old Town
Old Town

Sandy and I went on two walking tours of Old Town, accompanied by our Parisian friends Martine and Alan. That handsome couple was with us for the first two and a half days of our Scottish experience. The four of us also wandered here and there on our own for hours, both in the Old and the New. It was good to hang with folks with whom we’re very comfortable and on the same wavelengths. Life’s better that way.

Left to right: Sandy, Martine, Alan, Neil
New Town

I could write loads and loads of words here about all that the four of us saw and did, and loads more about the experiences that Sandy and I had after Alan and Martine returned to Gay Paree. But that would be too much information for this humble essay. After all, A Trip To Scotland, Part Two will follow fairly soon to fill in some gaps. And who knows? Maybe Part Three also will emerge.

Exterior view of Edinburgh Castle

For now, then, I’ll toss out a few comments about Edinburgh Castle, which sits high on a hill at the western end of Old Town and looms over the city. Its history is long and complicated, too much so for the mostly-in-one-ear-and-out-the-other likes of me to understand and retain, though the leaders of both walking tours went into great detail. But let me say this: The castle complex is a maze-like assortment of buildings. There’s a palace, prisons, barracks, a chapel and many other structures, only a few of which have present-day usage.

I dug the palace, which holds the Scottish Crown Jewels (a crown, a scepter and a sword) and also the Stone Of Destiny, a slab of sandstone that was the coronation seat of Scottish queens and kings during long-ago centuries. The Stone Of Destiny was last used by a Scottish monarch in 1292. (Damn right I’d like to include photos of the Jewels and of the Stone, but taking their pictures is forbidden.) Within the palace I also saw the tiny room in which Mary Queen Of Scots gave birth in 1566 to a son, James, who in 1603 unified the Scottish and English crowns. See, somehow I retained a few iotas of historical information!

St. Margaret’s Chapel
A window in St. Margaret’s Chapel

And I especially admired the castle complex’s St. Margaret’s Chapel. Built in the 1100s, it is the oldest-surviving building in Edinburgh. The chapel is small and plain-looking. That was its main appeal for me, as those two adjectives describe yours truly very accurately. And I thought that its stained glass windows were beautiful.

The proper way for me to close out Part One is to note the most intriguing event that happened during the vacation. Namely, I met in person the one and only Andrew Ferguson, who lives not far from Edinburgh. Andrew is a multi-talented guy, being a lawyer, a writer, a musician, a wine lover and who knows what else. One of the places upon which he places his written words is his WordPress blog (click here to reach it).

Somewhere in the misty past, Andrew and I discovered each other’s WordPress sites and quickly developed an online friendship. When Sandy and I made our plans to visit Scotland, I contacted Andrew. He and I then arranged a meeting date. It’s amazing that WordPress brought the two of us together, in the flesh.

Left to right: Alison, Neil, Sandy, Andrew

I’m here to tell you that Andrew and his wife Alison are swell. They drove Sandy and me around Fife, where we stopped at a couple of fishing villages. And, before returning us to our hotel, they gave us a mini-tour of some of Edinburgh. In all, they took out a day from their lives to show Sandy and me a good time. They couldn’t have done more. Wait, that’s an overstatement. Shit, they should have picked up the tab for Sandy’s and my hotel stay!

Anstruther, a fishing village in Fife

I have a couple of other online Scottish buddies via WordPress. Alyson and Anabel, I’d have liked to have met you. But the trip was too short to allow for any additional socializing. I hope you understand. (Click here and here to read, respectively, Alyson’s and Anabel’s blogs.)

Readers, thanks for joining me on this journey. Goodbye till next time.

(Please don’t be shy about adding your comments or about sharing this piece.)

(If you click on any photo, a larger image will open in a separate window.)

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148 thoughts on “A Trip To Scotland, Part One: An Overview

  1. cath June 10, 2019 / 10:39 am

    What a lot you fitted in to your trip. I’ve been to Scotland about six times, now, and have not yet got to Edinburgh. You’ve picked out most of the bits I’ve been wanting to see, a real appetite tester. Glad you had such a good time, and look forward to reading more.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger June 10, 2019 / 12:30 pm

      Hello there. Edinburgh’s worth a visit. I think it’s busiest in August during the Fringe Fest. So, if you don’t like huge crowds, that’s a good month to stay away.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Alisa June 10, 2019 / 6:59 pm

    I’ve traveled to Edinburgh 3 times now, and always find it magical. But I agree — avoid August if at all possible (unless you’re married to a scenic designer/university professor, as I am, and must.) It’s insane then.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger June 10, 2019 / 7:59 pm

      Hey there, Alisa. I’m glad to hear from you. I guess that Edinburgh’s Fringe Fest has become incredibly more popular than anyone would have predicted. In some ways, I suppose, it put Edinburgh on the map.

      Like

  3. Silver Screenings June 11, 2019 / 12:20 pm

    Edinburgh looks like a fabulous city, with lots to see. But I must say my fave photos in this post are of the Scottish Highlands. I had no idea they were so beautiful!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. candidkay June 12, 2019 / 6:17 pm

    Looks like a wonderful trip! And you see it with eyes of wisdom now . . . the gift of the years that have passed:).

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger June 12, 2019 / 7:29 pm

      Hi Kay. You know, I never thought of things that way. Maybe you’re right!
      Thanks for visiting. I appreciate that a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pam Lazos June 12, 2019 / 9:54 pm

    Sounds like a fabulous trip, Neil, especially because you took the time to stop and smell the roses — or at least drink the beer. :0) I have Scotland on my list of to-do’s. It does look divine.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. veeds June 14, 2019 / 5:22 pm

    “swell”? ha ha ha ha ha ha

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger June 14, 2019 / 10:13 pm

      Hi. Yes, this trip created a lot of good memories. I’m fortunate in several ways to have been there.

      Like

  7. America On Coffee June 21, 2019 / 2:06 am

    Oddly too Neil, there is such a great connect with the Scottish and. the Irish vs with England proper. Scotland and Ireland are both like picturesque fairy tales.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. grimspound June 28, 2019 / 12:03 am

    Really enjoyed this, Neil! Edinburgh is a lovely city; Scotland magical, especially the Highlands and the Islands.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger June 28, 2019 / 6:57 am

      I’d like to get to a few of those islands. We shall see. Have an excellent weekend, Dianne. Many thanks for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Anonymous June 28, 2019 / 4:59 pm

    Thanks for the ‘tour’. What a lovely place.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Linda Thornton June 29, 2019 / 12:18 pm

    Just looking at the tour books and to-do list on my desk reminding me to get cracking on researching our trip to Scotland and then your post appears; amazing!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger June 29, 2019 / 1:25 pm

      Hi. You’ll have a great time in Scotland. If you’re thinking of taking a bus tour of the Highlands, you might want to look at my most recent piece. The bus tour has drawbacks. Anyway, see you!

      Neil

      Like

  11. Emma June 29, 2019 / 1:49 pm

    As a Scot, I’m always delighted (and proud) when people visit the country and enjoy it. Did you go to the fish and chip shop in Anstruther (called Ainster by the locals)? My husband and I are fish and chips aficionados and we reckon they are the best in the UK.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 5, 2019 / 7:08 am

      Hi there. If I ever get back to Scotland I’d like to spend some time in Glasgow. We planned to visit that city during the trip, but it didn’t work out. See you!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. janetsm July 17, 2019 / 3:19 pm

    Your blog post brought back many great memories for me and my time in Edinburgh. I love that city!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 17, 2019 / 4:35 pm

      Me too. We did a lot there. Still, there were a number of things I didn’t get to, such as climbing to Arthur’s Seat. Next time.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. Dave Ply July 18, 2019 / 1:57 pm

    Interesting parallels. It was late spring/early summer of 1977 that I too scoped out western Europe, including England, Scotland, France, Italy, and several other countries. The theory was to skim a bit with the thought of returning to favorite places. Just last August I finally made it back to Scotland (and Ireland).

    We did enjoy Edinburgh, although we didn’t have a lot of time there, and exhaustion was setting in from the whirlwind pace of the prior two weeks travel. Your post brings back the memories…

    Liked by 3 people

  14. arv! August 31, 2019 / 8:58 pm

    Happy to hear that you made it to Scotland, finally. Great pictures.

    Liked by 1 person

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