June 2, 2012

Haste Ye Back

Golf is one side of Scotland, but there is also so much more to enjoy. Over 9 days we drove about 900 miles around the country, taking in cities and countryside.

We thought we saw a lot of castles in Ireland, but we saw even more in Scotland. We visited so many – Stirling, Urquhart, Dunrobin, Balmoral, Glamis, Edinburgh, Dirleton, and
St. Andrews – and yet they all felt very different. Some are ruins while others are still in use by the families. 

At Dunrobin Castle, we met a professional falconer who had an impressive family of hawks, falcons and owls. These birds can get up to 200 MPH in a dive. They were so well trained that, on command, they would fly from the rafters of the castle into the gardens right over your head….and by that I mean that their wings actually hit Steve in the head.

Balmoral Castle is really more of a hunting lodge and still used today by the Royal Family as their Scottish summer home. Unfortunately there were no royal sightings, but we did get to see the Queen’s glitzy dresses as part of a special Jubilee exhibit.

Urquhart Castle is set up in the Scottish Highlands, a beautiful section of the country full of mountains and lakes which the Scottish call “lochs”. 

Our favorite lake was easily Loch Ness – famous for its lake monster, Nessie.

While we were walking around the ruins at Urquhart Castle, I spotted this out of the corner of my eye. It could have been Nessie or it could have been the wake from a speedboat…but I’m pretty sure it was Nessie.

The Highlands are full of very endearing wildlife like Highland Cattle and Shetland Ponies.

Game hunting is very popular in Scotland, so we ate a variety of the local catch – rabbit, pheasant, venison and quail. We also ate a lot of weird stuff like ox tongue, pig’s head, and haggis. Haggis is the national dish of Scotland. The ingredients are sheep’s heart, liver and lungs, minced with oatmeal, spices, etc. and then stuffed into the sheep’s stomach. It sounds absolutely awful, but actually, it’s not that bad to the taste! The Scotts seem to serve haggis any time of the day, but we always had it in the morning as part of a Scottish Breakfast.

To wash it all down, we sampled a number of single malt whiskeys, which are famously distilled here in Scotland.

I thought Scotland had really great towns. I would have liked to spend more time in cities like Inverness and North Berwick going into the kilt and scarf shops looking at the endless patterns of plaid, or “tartan” as they call it.

One day we took the train into Edinburgh, which is Scotland’s beautiful Gothic capital city.

In addition to Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile, we saw the coffee shop where J.K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter books and the graveyard where she took inspiration for a lot of her characters’ names. It was a rainy and cold day, but we really liked Edinburgh. Someday I’ll return to spend another 2 or 3 days exploring. 

The Scottish people have the best, best, best accents! I may only be able to understand about 60% of what they’re saying, but I could sit forever listening to them talk. There is a Scottish saying, “Haste Ye Back”, which basically means “hurry up and return”. Will do. Since the start of our trip, this is the first country that we both agree we want to dedicate more time to in the future. Scotland, you can count on us to haste ourselves back.

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