My Heart’s in the Highlands: Notes on Haggis and Scottish Hospitality (Pt.1)

13275353_10205534922926480_1948172517_oHello all! I write to you a day after coming home from one wonderful little action-packed adventure across to the land of the Scots. This is something I’d been waiting for eagerly for a long time. Those who know me probably turn off Facebook notifications because I all about the Scotland-love. When my friend Scott sent me an online deal for a 550$ return flight to Glasgow, I had it booked within the hour. Melissa, the girl I hope to take a big trip with this year, saw my post, and within a day, she herself was booked on the same flight. I was thrilled, because not only did I have a trip to look forward to, but it was with someone who had never been.

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French teachers in Scotland – watch out!

We left on a Thursday and flew into Halifax from Ottawa. We had a 5 hour layover, but the taxis there charge a flat 60$+ to get to Halifax, or anywhere, for that matter. Halifax airport, why you gotta be so far away?? We sighed, then resigned ourselves to the local eatery in the Hotel Airport. We had some local wines and brews, so all was not lost. Our 10 pm flight had us into Glasgow for about 8am. We decided to grab an intercity bus and make it Edinburgh right away, since it is the more touristy of the two major cities.

Our hostel of choice was the Castle Rock Hostel. I had stayed here before and knew it to be worth our money. We dropped our stuff off and decided to wander. We wandered the Royal Mile briefly and joined one of New Edinburgh’s free Walking Tours. I highly recommend it – they give you the history on the city (dark and impressive), many statues and nearby fixtures, as well as the many Harry Potter inspirations if that’s your thing (it is most definitely mine). We decided to finish the tour a little early because we were going to meet my CS friend Greg for dinner. Madyson and I had stayed with him last year and had a great time. He’s a genuine Polish guy with a sweet beard, who took us to the Secret Arcade Vodka Bar for haggis. I call it the leaning tower of Haggis – with neeps and tatties of course. He also dared us to try some vodka shots – why not? Hazelnut and cherry went down pretty easily.

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leaning tower of haggis!

After our dinner, it was time to make our way down to the Inn on the Mile for the first stop in our New Europe pub crawl. Again, I had done this before, but last year did not go so well. It was the same night we had eaten dinner with Greg, but ‘eating’ was actually ‘shove a ton of Polish food down your gullet then RUN because you are late to the pub crawl’. Once the drinks came, I couldn’t cope…. and we’ll just say the night was not as enjoyable after that for me. This time, it was! We met a cool American guy named Gabriel who joined us, along with another American named Morgan. We went to a few bars like the Oz Bar, Malones, and Frankenstein. Lots of dancing, lots of meet and greets, but we were up early for our tour the next day.

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Making friends in Edinburgh

Enter the highlight of my trip: the MacBackpackers 3 Day Isle of Skye tour. It seemed ideal, because it would explore the Highlands, which I had seen and loved, but also provide the Isle of Skye, which would be new for me. Meet the team: our energetic tour guide Graeme, clad in his kilt (bonus points), Kelcie and Tommy from the US, Hannah from Australia, Leike from Holland, and Stefan from Germany. It was a small group, but good one. We called ourselves the MacBackpackers family after a day, since it gave us the opportunity to get close.

On that first stay there were a number of stops, a few of which I’m sure I’ve forgotten. Dunkeld is a quaint little town with a nice kirk where we grabbed our lunches and had some views by the river; we ate lunch near the Highland Museum and passed a few teams playing shinty, which I’d seen in Outlander and thought was field hockey (oops…), did a forest walk (I believe this was the Hermitage) and wound our way north to Inverness. Graeme took us to a great vantage point at the south end where some of the group bravely dipped in the loch — insane!! He then drove us to our hostel.

 

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Melissa and Hannah wandering Dunkeld

It was a cute little spot where the gang decided to team up and cook together. I loved it. I felt like a backpacker again, drawn together into a community of people from all over the world who were open-minded, willing to share, to dine and laugh together. Stomachs full, we wandered into downtown Inverness to catch some music and drink some brews. We tried out the Hootenaney but weren’t fully impressed, so our wandering took us to a kaeroke bar with an odd scene – 20 tall, blonde men in kilts. Turns out it was a stag do – 20 guys from Norway celebrating their buddies looming marriage. To be honest, I didn’t want to leave. Even if they weren’t Scottish. Damn. Anyway, on we went, and finally arrived at a bar pumping top 40s and dance music. We finished our night here enjoying the company and music.

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Looking for Nessie
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Nessie Models of course
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Communal dining
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Night out!

Day 1 over! We were up at at it by 830. Our trip today would take us up to the Isle of Skye. The drive was incredible, as we were now seeing glens, moors, and mountains. I got some goPro shots I hope I can turn into a movie once I retire my ancient laptop to one that supports it. Graeme wanted us up early to we could do the Old Man of Storr ‘the right way’, so we managed a photo op of Urquhart Castle rather than entering it. I’m glad I went last year, as I thought it was worth the money to explore the ruins and relax there.

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Urquhart castle

From there it was a long drive through to the Isle of Skye. We explored a few mountain ranges, a cute town named Portree, and prepared for our hike on Storr. More on that later!

Much love,

Kristy

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