Bonnie Scotland, aye.

April 2010, by Tom

We had a few days up our sleeve for the Easter holiday break so what better an idea than to tick another country off the list of "been there, done that".

What we didn't realise, however, was how breathtaking the Scotland scenery would be, how friendly the people are and just how much we would thoroughly enjoy this short break. We quickly were wondering why the hell we hadn't ventured this far north before?

Our early morning cheap flight took us to the outskirts of Edinburgh to the Edinburgh airport. After a bit of fluffing about we were racing out west in our little black automatic rental car. It was a strange feeling being behind the wheel of a car again - after a few trips in Smurfy. It all seemed too easy and too comfortable! No arm workout on this trip.

The first stop on our road trip was to Stirling. With stomach's rumbling from our early morning start, we decided to grab an early lunch from a quaint little tea room off the beaten track. Gini enjoyed a freshly buzzed parsnip soup while I hoed down a ploughmans lunch (with extra bread). Over a pot of what has to be the tastiest filter coffee I've ever tasted, we planned our day.

First tourist attraction - Stirling Castle. Stirling castle is strategically positioned on top of a volcanic crag - with steep cliffs on three sides, it was quite a task to besiege and sack. There have, however, been at least sixteen sieges of the Castle and a number of them being successful - as the ownership changed hands between the Scots and the English on a number of occasions.

We didn't venture inside the castle, opting to save the 30 entrance fee and do the cheap tourist thing by walking around the outside and trying to peer over the walls. It was quite impenetrable.

From the view near the Castle we could see what looked like an amazing tower across the valley. We had to check this out! And so we did. Turns out to be Wallace Monument - a monument created and dedicated to Sir William Wallace, the 13th century Scottish hero. The view from the tower was another amazing sight, with the lush green grass surrounded by a snaking river - in front of Stirling and the snow capped hills beyond.

We continued on westward, past numerous Loch's and rolling hills. Then we spotted our first woolly Scottish Highland cows! These beasts are amazing. So hairy, it's hard to imagine how they can see. One of them was nice enough to let me stroke it's massive horn - although I did so very tentatively. They look docile enough, but you wouldn't want to provoke one into sticking one of those horns into your neck.

Nearing our destination, Callander, we decided to take a small detour to a fancy pants hotel quite a way down a narrow dirt road. It was a pleasant spot to stop for a drink, sitting inside a very homely lounge with the obviously well-to-do guests. We struck up a conversation with one of the staff - who happened to be a kiwi - who recommended we go for dinner at the fish and chip shop in town which was owned by the same owner as the hotel. We heeded his words and took off in search of Mhor Fish!

We were not disappointed. The fish and chips were truly delicious and Gini thoroughly enjoyed her fillet of cod. Turns out the guide book's top choice for a meal out in Callander was Mhor Fish, too.

After dinner, we retired to a comfy nights sleep at our very well chosen B&B. The one thing I love about B&B's is the breakfasts. I was not disappointed as Gini had ticked all the boxes when deciding what I was having. I had bacon, sausages, mushrooms, eggs, tomatoes, black pudding and last but not least - haggis!

I am now a massive fan of haggis. We both are. It's hard to explain what it is, but it's lots of tasty little bits and pieces mixed with other tasty bits and pieces and served - usually - in a pile on your plate. We also sampled deep fried haggis - which was truly delicious - as well as a haggis sauce on our steaks. Yum.

After breakfast, we took off again, following the trail westward. We passed through more beautifully glass like Lochs - what you would see on a postcard - as well as more snow capped peaks. Driving through the Glen Coe area really reminded me of home - driving through the Desert Road - except instead of only a couple of mountains, here we had hundreds. It was immense and incredible.

After a couple of hours driving we ended up at our furthermost away destination - Fort William. After a coffee and a wander around the town we inquired as to where the best place to take a walk would be, and with packed lunch in hand, took off into the hills. Not really prepared for any long distance walking, we opted for a short, one hour walk into the heart of the hills and at the base of Ben Nevis - the tallest peak in the UK. The place was popular with all shapes and sizes. Some obviously more serious than others and one couple even with cross country ski's strapped to their backs as they made their descent back down to the car park.

A fantastic day.

We slowly drove our way back to the B&B to get a bit of rest and relaxation in before heading out to the pub down the road in Kilmahog called the Lade Inn (pronounced "Lady Inn"). This is where we enjoyed the deep fried haggis as an entree and a tasty burger for a main. All washed down with several pints of the brewed-on-premises Lade Inn beers.

After dinner we squished into the adjoining room for some good ol' Scottish (and Irish?) folk songs the locals were singing along to. We didn't know any of the words, but it was a hoot anyway. The band (and the occupants) were nice enough to embarrass us as we left with a cheery goodbye.

The following morning, after our haggis topped breakfast, we returned east again, back to the outskirts of Edinburgh to drop off the car, and then a short bus ride into the center of Edinburgh. We were pretty tired after a busy few days, but still managed to spend the afternoon on a walking tour of some of Edinburgh's highlights. We can see why people would come and live here - it has a much friendlier vibe (as smaller cities do) than London. The people are also a very proud lot.

After the walking tour (which we had to sneak out of early to get warmed up!), we met up with Marcus and Jess who happened to choose Edinburgh as their Easter holiday venue as well.

First point of call, as it should be, was to a local pub. David Morgan (a kiwi who lived here for a couple of years) recommended Tuechters which was in the area. A couple of tasty pints later, we were getting rather peckish! Unfortunately we neglected to book anywhere for dinner and all the guide book recommended places were fully booked! Not wanting to pass up on a tasty dinner in Edinburgh, we rung around a number of places and finally Marcus managed to book us into a steak place nearby they had wandered past. The booking wasn't until 9.30pm so we passed the time with a few more pubs and few more pints (and the odd whiskey!).

Dinner finally came, and it was worth the wait. Massive Aberdeen Angus fillet steaks all round. A great way to top off a fantastic trip to bonnie Scotland, aye.

T
A cute little tea room in Stirling for lunch - Parsnip Soup and Ploughmans Lunch. Yum.

A cute little tea room in Stirling for lunch - Parsnip Soup and Ploughmans Lunch. Yum.

We found it odd the Scot's print their own currency.

We found it odd the Scot's print their own currency.

Gini not wanting to get too close to the "Beheading Stone" - the stone they used to use to execute people on.

Gini not wanting to get too close to the "Beheading Stone" - the stone they used to use to execute people on.

Very impenetrable Stirling Castle

Very impenetrable Stirling Castle

Another woolly beast sighting.

Another woolly beast sighting.

We team up with McMillan Clan at a local pub recommended by David Morgan.

We team up with McMillan Clan at a local pub recommended by David Morgan.

Well worth the wait - a massive Angus Fillet steak with large chips and a haggis sauce.

Well worth the wait - a massive Angus Fillet steak with large chips and a haggis sauce.