Scotland was the last country on our United Kingdom tour. Interestingly enough, Scotland only has seven cities dotted across its landscape: Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen, Dundee, Perth, Stirling, and Edinburgh. We traveled through every city in Scotland on our tour, even if it was just a little pass through.
The first stop was Glasgow. First impressions are important, and Glasgow's was pretty nice. It's a larger city with lots of shopping. It actually reminded me of a larger version of Galway in a lot of ways, so much so that in typing this I almost started describing that city instead. At some point, they do start to run together a bit.
Glasgow reminded me a bit of Chicago, mostly because it's my main reference point, but also because I found a lot of things here that I would've found at home. There was a basement shop full of comics and nerds playing trading card games. They sold delicious smoothies and gave away a comic with each one. Now that's how you get my business. There was a hair salon where I got a much needed bit of pampering, and a Warhammer store where I could gaze longingly at all the models I couldn't buy or paint.
The main stretch felt a lot like the modern version of a marketplace. There were no carts selling goods unfortunately, but there were some crazy shops and panhandlers competing for your pocket change using everything from bagpipes to puppets.
(American Candy was basically a shop that sold cereal and Twinkies. Clearly the most candy things America has to offer. The bear is self-explanatory.)
From Glasgow we took the Western Highland train up to Mallaig which just happens to be the same rail line that the Harry Potter movies use for the Hogwarts Express. Does that mean Hogwarts is really in Scotland? I went looking for it but then I remembered I had to do some laundry. (Sorry Muggles, that joke was just for Harry Potter fans.)
The Highlands were just as majestic as you were always led to believe. The term refers to the upper half of Scotland, and if you want a more specific idea this map will help you out.
Mallaig led to a ferry, which took us to the Isle of Skye. This we biked around, taking in almost more mountains than we though possible for such a tiny cluster of islands. Many of the little juts of lands were just all mountain, and also some rocks and sheep.
Skye led to Kyle of Lochalsh, which led to another ferry (they're fairly popular when your land is broken up by so much water). We camped, biked, trained, and finally ended in Inverness.
BUT! Not before stopping at Eilean Donan. Eilean Donan is basically -the- castle. When you see photographs of castles from this era, this is probably the one you see. Its situated perfectly along the river, with a mountain backdrop and overall has been very well preserved. It was a beautiful way to start the morning bike.
Inverness was the second stop on our seven city tour. It was your average city, which in the UK also includes old stone walls and a castle (of course). This castle, however, has been converted into the city hall and courthouse.
From here we biked south down to Loch Ness, which is sort of on the border of the Highlands and the Lowlands. It's a weird, thin lake that was formed basically from the platonic plates splitting apart. It looks basically like a bumpy needle from overhead.
We biked and trained our way to Aberdeen, and spotted some Scottish Kelpies along the way. They are massive metal statues constructed along the river. While we ended up staying a while in Aberdeen, it was primarily to recoup and catch up on some work. It was the Granite City, every building was made of the same grey stone. Paired with a grey sky, it made pictures look... odd. So I left those out.
Because Scotland is full of mountains which, frankly, I was sick of biking over, after we arrived in Aberdeen we took a train through Dundee, Perth, and Stirling to arrive in Edinburgh (Ed-in-burr-uh).
Now this was a city you could take good pictures in.
The main castle was located up on a hilly area, with the main thoroughfare, "The Royal Mile", leading elaborately up to it with old shops and eateries lining the way. The roads in this area were especially cool, though they were often hard to navigate because we just so happened to arrive in Edinburgh at the start of the Edinburgh Festival.
Edinburgh was a cool place. There was Arthur's Seat located directly in the middle of the city, which was just a giant park with a mountain in the middle of it. For those who prefer the subterranean, there was a long tunnel known as the Innocent Railway. Its an abandoned mining tunnel called Innocent because in all the years of use, no one died. No ghosts here! We took some GoPro footage of that you should watch.
The festival was crazy, and brought what seemed like a billion people from all over to walk directly in front of us as we tried to look around. I did manage to find some Haggis, however, and I must say it isn't bad. The sheep stomach that it's cooked in isn't the part you eat, you eat all the insides in a mash that has oats and other spices. Quite good, and I'd recommend it.
This entire trip we sort of played our nightly accommodations by ear, which totally backfired on us here. We lucked out the first two nights, but on the third there were no more rooms at any inns. So, we skipped town.
We headed back to Glasgow, but before this, (technically while still staying in Edinburgh) we made a little detour to a little castle some of you may very well recognize. By day it is only the humble Doune Castle. By film, it's literally every castle and castle-like room in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. (It's also part of Winterfell in Game of Thrones, but you'll be seeing more GoT locations in next week's special issue.)
Doune was awesome. It wins the award for coolest castle, at least for me. It was surprisingly massive, and still very well preserved. It's honestly no wonder it worked so well for the film. The way they would re-engineer parts of rooms to work for entire rooms blew my mind. This, for example, is the fireplace in the kitchen. It's massive because they would cook an entire cow over a huge fire. But in the film, they use this area as its own little room.
And don't worry, if you forgot your coconuts, they were provided... for a price. Apparently inflation affects postage on sparrows as well.
I'll leave you with this little film of our own. We had to shoot some footage for a friend who was doing a scavenger hunt at the time that included needing a video of someone frolicking in front of a castle. What better place than the castle with so many faces?