[I’m just about catching up with the heavy back-log of posts from the past year….and hence, please pardon the obvious anachronistic sequencing of these posts 🙂 ]
Day 1 – 13th, October, 2007
Ever since I first watched Mel Gibson’s Oscar-winning, epic masterpiece – BraveHeart [..my fave movie of all time]… way back when I was around 13, I had been intrigued by Scottish history and captivated by the sheer beauty of its Highlands!
10 years later …when I first got introduced to Scotch, that affair with Scotland was reinforced […and thanks to Glenfiddich, we’ve been going steady ever since 🙂 ]
However, ironic as it may seem, the one place I had missed visiting during my first stint at Britain (between Oct 2006 and May 2007) was Scotland ! So when my company packed me off to UK again on an assignment in Oct 2007, Scotland had its place high up on my agenda.
Thus, on the very first weekend after having landed at Middlesbrough, I found myself headed towards the vibrant Scottish capital of Edinburgh !!! Edinburgh was just about 3 hours drive away from Middlesbrough…..and so, along with my good friend Krishna and a couple of our colleagues […the ‘Star’ Satya and Srikanth], we hired a ravishing French beauty to take us there – a gleaming blue Peugeot 207 !!!
Our other colleague – Surekha had opted out and was planning to stay back and enjoy the comforts of the Longlands Hotel, where we were put up during our tenure at Boro ! However, on Saturday morning, the 13th of October, 2007, just as we were about to kick-off our journey, madam changed her mind ….and a while later, an hour behind schedule, the 5 of us set out towards Scotland with the aid of our printed AA maps !
I took on the wheels and Sriki was navigating……however,to our misfortune, one after the other, we kept on missing the turns and taking the wrong routes…..In about 45 minutes, we had driven around 50 miles ….and basically gone around in circles !!! Finally, frustrated and bugged, I followed a board back into Middlesbrough and returned to our hotel. We jettisoned Surekha off […who by now was glad to be back home] and started out afresh. Trust me, after that, not a single turn was missed ….and it was an almost non-stop ride until Edinburgh 😀
Both Krishna and I shared the wheels and took turns navigating. The countrysides we passed through were absolutely stunning and it was a real pleasure driving through them ! We stopped at the England-Scotland border….and took a few snaps. Later, paying no much attention to the ceaseless army of speed-cameras on the Scottish side, we pushed ahead.
We arrived at Edinburgh late in the afternoon…about 3 hours behind schedule. We knew we were in Scotland, when we saw men walking around in skirts […or rather a kilts, as they seem to call it :)] ..and there was even a guy playing a bagpiper along the pavement !
Parking was a big problem in the city, and the only spot we could find was along a slope leading up to the Edinburgh castle ! Parking costed 1.75 pounds an hour [….that’s about Rs.150 for every hour of parking !!!]… But then, there was no other choice …and this was definitely cheaper than driving around town burning fuel !
Wasting no further time, we marched into the Edinburgh castle. In Braveheart, William Wallace is shown to have been captured by the English troops here ….But however much emphasis Mr.Mel Gibson had given to detail in this magnificent movie, historical accuracy, apparently had not been high on his list of priorities ! 🙂
The castle was massive – replete with royal chambers, garrisons, chapels and dungeons…….and located at a very vantage point offering some spectacular views of the city below and the sea far ahead !
We managed to get just under a couple of hours in the castle…by then, it was closing time and we were forced to leave.
As we were leaving, just before the main gates, I noticed a signboard leading up to the restrooms….Badly needing a pit-stop, I walked towards it. Just like any other public toilet on earth, there were two sign boards here – the one on the left had a symbol of a figure in a skirt and the one on the right had a symbol without it. I confidently walked towards the right …..But just as I was about to step in, did it strike me !!!
“Holy Cow !!!”, I exclaimed. This was SCOTLAND…..and its the men who wear the skirts here 🙂 The contemporary laws of sign-boards may apply anywhere else in the world, but not here !
I was confused……‘To Right or To Left??? – That was the question ‘ ! Finally, taking a chance, I walked in towards the right ! And thank heavens, it wasn’t the wrong decision after all ! 🙂
That done, the next task was to find ourselves accomodation for the night. Satya and I checked up with the Tourist Information centre at the adjacent Waverley Railway station and got a few leads. Later, we walked around the central area and explored the various Youth Hostels in the vicinity. We finally settled for one on the High Street….called ‘Brodie’s’, that cost us under £15 per head for a bunker bed in a dormitory room.
For dinner, we crashed into ‘Namaste Khatmandu’ – a Nepali restaurant, offering wonderful Indian food, served by blonde waitresses ! […Not a bad combination at all 🙂 ]
By the time we walked back to our hostel, the city had incredibly transformed from the peaceful, mellow place that it was earlier in the day, to one of the most happenning spots I’d ever come across !!! Edinburgh is reknowned for its night-life and is one of the top party scenes in the UK. 100’s of revellers thronged the streets and all the pubs were bursting at the seams. I badly wanted to try some local Scotch ….but unfortunately for me, my mates were all tee-totallers, and I didn’t have a choice 😦
Day 2 – 14th, October, 2007
Surprisingly, I was the first one to wake up ….perhaps, the resonance effect of the combined snoring of Krishna and Satya had obviated the need for any alarms !!!
It was about 7 in the morning and but was still partially dark outside. I walked up to the window and looked outside at the High Street. It was a complete contrast from last night ….the street was
entirely deserted, except for the odd couple of early birds.
We had our showers and got ready. By 8:15 AM, we had checked out of our dorms and were on the streets again ! The weather was fantastic …… bright and lovely, and the city was looking its
elegant best ! We walked up the High Street and took a turn onto the North Bridge and proceeded towards the Omni car Park – where we had left our car for the night.
Enroute, we stopped by to click a few pictures of the stunning views of the city, that the North Bridge presented … Sriki and Satya even managed to get themselves clicked with an old man wearing
a skirt [ …yea, they call it a ‘Kilt’ here] …I didnt bother to join them on that. Honestly, I believe skirts have better purposes than to be wrapped around old men !!!
We pulled the car out of Omni well before the 9AM deadline ….so had to pay just £3.50. Our first agenda for the day was to hit the sea-side. Since it was not listed on any of the tourist
must-see lists, we didn’t really know how to get there or where to pit-stop while there. But neverthless, Krishna drove and I navigated – relying on our maps and some sense of direction ….and
in about 15 minutes we were driving along the clear blue sea !
We found a narrow road leading up to the beach and fortunately, some free parking spaces as well……We spent about an hour and a half on the beach …which Sriki put to good use by posing for his camera in all perceivable ways 🙂 The beach was massive, but deserted … and we had almost the entire place to ourselves.
Later, we drove back into the city centre and stopped by at Carlton hill – a small hillock overlooking the city and the sea beyond ! The panoramic view from up there was simply SPECTACULAR !!! Needless to say, more photographs followed …and once our hungry stomachs began growling [….an apple each was all that we had had for breakfast], we headed back into the city prying for some interesting place to eat ! Ultimately, we ended up yet again at “Namaste Khatmandu”, as the guys didn’t wanna go elsewhere 🙂 …Nevertheless, the lunch was stupendous….and was worth every penny of the £40 we had to shell out 🙂
Next …with our new-found energy, we attacked the High Street…shopping for Scottish souvenirs. The whole place was thronging with people and was very lively and colourful ! I picked up a bottle of Scotch [..of course, what’s a trip to Scotland without having some authentic Scotch :)], some woolen blankets and a Scotland cap !
By about 4 pm, we headed back to Middlesbrough….This time around, Krishna took the wheels first, and got us through the Scottish side of the border ….I took charge across the English side and we arrived back at Boro just before dinner time.
Check out the full album of this Scottish trip at –>
I’ve definitely got to visit Scotland again ……Edinburgh is not just the only place this beautiful country has to offer ! But next time, I’d rather take a guided tour …and explore the heart of
Scotland – the Lochs, the Highlands …and not to mention all those Scotch distilleries in between ! 😉