That is to say, Gullible went to Scotland.
I’ve just sat down on the train to Newcastle from Edinburgh. From there I’ll be taking an overnight ferry to my next stop: Amsterdam. I’m in a first class coach for the next hour and a half.
Cork will easily go down as the most relaxing leg of my journey, I think. Beautiful countryside, and none of the city bustle that goes along with staying in a major centre like Glasgow. Vanessa was a most kind and gracious host and really went out of her way to make me feel at home. I’ve got some fantastic photos of Ireland that have thus far made their way to Facebook, but my connections have been a bit spotty and uploading is a bit slow going. One I’ve got a good strong uplink I’ll be posting all of my photos to Flickr and embedding them here for all to see.
My train ride from Cork to Dublin and then on to Glasgow was much more pleasant than my journey from Dublin to Cork. No headache to speak of, this time. I actually got to enjoy some of the countryside! Once in Dublin I grabbed a trolly (I’m calling it a trolly, I don’t now what they’re really called. Essentially an inn-city, above ground metro) to change train stations and go to Belfast for a night. Belfast was quite uneventful, as I was really only using it as a knee on this leg of the trip. I booked a combination ticket that would take my by bus to the ferry terminal, and then ferry to Scotland and bus again to Glasgow. I was informed by the front desk that a German fellow was also making the same trip, but on an earlier service, and advised me to see if I could change services since I would be there in time for it. For the low low fee of only £1.50, I was on the earlier service.
Once actually to the ferry terminal I found my fellow backpacker as well as a New Zealander also backpacking through Europe. We were all easily brought together as the three of us were each directed through additional security scanning. Young men with large packs, we’re used to getting checked out. And thus I suddenly found myself with two interesting companions for the next few hours. We never did exchange names or information, but the German fellow was fallowing a similar path to mine in Scotland, going to Glasgow and then further north to travel the malt whisky trail of the highlands. A route I’m very much interested in but ultimately decided to forgo this time, but definitely sometime I’ll be coming back for someday. The New Zealander has been traveling around for the past 6 months, having been through Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, and now the UK before going back home for a two month rest and then venturing to South America. Like myself, it’s also his first time traveling alone. Unlike myself, though, he’s going on quite the journey.
I also met an older couple from Winnipeg on the ferry, whom I had a lovely conversation with about where we’re each going, and what’s been going on back home. Hockey and the CFL were hot topics.
After disembarking from the ferry and saying goodbye to our New Zealand comrade, the German fellow and myself continued to Glasgow where we then parted ways. I made my way to my hostel and got a taste of Glasgow’s public transit system (very frequent. I’m consistently impressed with European transit systems, and am sorely and increasingly disappointed with Saskatoon’s). My hostel is on the aptly named Hillhead Street, which is at the top of quite a hill off one of the main streets of Glasgow. I regret not taking photos, because it is by far the most character filled hostel I’ve yet to be in. If anyone is interested, it was the Bunkum Backpackers Hostel.
From Glasgow I arranged a bus tour that would explore lochs, castles, and most importantly of all: Oban. Our tour guide, David, was absolutely fantastic, great fun, and full of knowledge and stories. I’ve got some amazing photos I can’t wait to share, the lochs and castles were absolutely wonderful and the weather was incredibly beautiful. Unfortunately, however, I missed being able to tour the Oban distillery by 15 minutes. I took a quite explore around the exhibit they have set up, did a small tasting with a very nice young lady who assured me that Sunday tours are not the most interesting because they don’t produce on weekends, and listened intently to my story of travel thus far. After leaving the distillery, a little less disappointed and a little more buzzed than when I entered, I ran into the two lovely your Australian ladies who were on my tour bus and explored the town with them. The rest of the tour was wonderfully lovely and full of fun.
While I didn’t get to tour a distillery that day, I did get to try haggis. Our guide David recommended we find a pub called The Drum & Monkey, claiming they have the best haggis in Glasgow. By chance I happened to walk past said pub on my walk back to my hostel, and popped in. I was not disappointed. I can honestly report that not only did I try haggis, but I liked it! Maybe there is some Scottish blood in these veins.
I spent the next day mostly planning my journey to Edinburgh, and then ventured out to explore Glasgow by foot and hopefully buy myself a kilt as a souvenir. After visiting the most reputable kilt makers in Glasgow, which I fully intend on visiting again to have a true and proper kilt made up, I eventually arrived at a shop where I did indeed find an off the rack kilt that not only fit but whose tartan means nothing to me but is lovely none the less. Look forward to seeing it at future parties. With my shopping complete I explored the city a little more before making my way back home for the night to get ready for my journey to Edinburgh.
The next morning, after a short, comfortable, first class, 50 minute train ride, I was in Edinburgh. While it immediately started raining as soon as my train arrived, I couldn’t help but note just how beautiful the city is. Full of old world Scottish architecture, Edinburgh is thus far the most picturesque city I’ve stepped foot in. And conveniently enough my hostel was not moe than 4 minutes away. Or, it would have been if I’d walked the right direction. But I got there without any further issue and checked in for the next four nights.
The first thing I did was get settled and go for my usual walkabout the city, getting a feel for where I am and what’s around me. My hostel, Haggis Hostel for those curious, is located in the heart of the city and a stones throw from almost everything in the city. Within a minute I was on the Royal Mile in the heart of Old Edinburgh. I had dinner at the World’s End pub, and scheduled another bus tour for the next day, this time to Loch Ness.
After retiring early so I could wake up the next morning and erroneously Skype nick to wish him happy birthday a day early, getting first crack at breakfast, I went on my bus tour to Loch Ness, led by another fantastic tour guide by the name of Joe, who is a “true highland Scot”, and who’s first language was actual Gaelic. Great sense of humour and a fantastic story teller once again.
Loch Ness was, is, fantastically lovely. I never knew just how big the actual loch was! supposedly it’s large enough and deep enough that, if drained, could contain the human population of the world 5 times over! And contains more water than all of the other lochs and lakes of the UK combined. Wowzers! Did I see Nessie? Well, I’ve got some interesting photos, that’s for sure. And, of course, I tasted some fantastic whisky on the boat.
We got back to Edinburgh later that evening and I once again found myself at The Worlds End, where I enjoyed mo Scottish ale and the best fish and chips I’ve ever had. A bold statement from someone who can’t stand fish and chips at the best of times.
The next day I went on a walking tour of Edinburgh with another fantastic tour guide, Andy, and got to see most of Old Edinburgh and hear so much about the rich history of not only Edinburgh but Scotland as a whole. The walking tour was free and Andy was such an amazing tour guide that I couldn’t help but book on his paid tour of Edinburgh Castle that afternoon. Once again, such an amazing site and so full of history. A very rare occurrence, the British royal guard were at the castle, royalty are visiting! We were able to witness the ceremonial changing of the guard outside of palace within the castle grounds. The castle itself is amazing, and would have been completely self sustaining during its heyday, almost like a small village unto itself. I’m very glad I decided to take the tour, I don’t think I would have even gone to the castle otherwise. I was also able to speak with Andy extensively about whisky after the tour and got a fantastic list of whiskies from him and advice on his favourite whisky shop in the city, which I headed to straight away.
I was able to taste quite a few whiskies at the shop, but ultimately didn’t make a purchase because there was much more tasting to do and I had a proper distillery to tour the next day. Tat night I also went on another pub crawl, run by the same company that ran the pub crawl in Dublin, and also runs the walking tour of Edinburgh I went on. It was great fun and I managed to escape with a much milder hangover than Dublin.
The next day I took a train to Dalmuir to tour the Auchentashen distillery recommended by the most knowledgeable staff at the whisky shop the night before. The only triple distilled single malt in all of Scotland. And an amazing tour, I’m so glad I took the time to go all the way there. I’ve sworn to myself I’ll come back to Scotland and do a real tour of multiple distilleries some day, marking my own whisky trail. That night after getting back to Edinburgh I just relaxed and got ready to check out.
And that brings us to today! I bought some new, proper walking socks, and am now almost in Newcastle. I’ll leave off for now because typing this much on an iPad is far from a desirable activity, and look forward to arriving in Amsterdam tomorrow morning.