After five weeks of living amongst the Scots, we have just one thing to say: cheers fur a stoatin time! (That’s “thanks for a good time” in Scots to all you English speakers out there.)
We loved your country, your people, your beers, and your attitude. You are the hardiest people we’ve met on our world tour so far, and you are also the ones who seem to have the most fun. We will not soon forget our experiences in Scotland, and you can bet we will return.
Some of the new things we tried in Scotland:
- Bagging a munro: You guys are seriously understating when you call yourselves “hill walkers.” That makes me think of a gentle stroll on a Sunday afternoon, not a 9-hour trek over giant boulders and 3000-ft ascent. And to think that you do this for fun! In all seriousness, it was an enjoyable way to spend the day and we saw a gorgeous part of Scotland up close and personal. Thank you for showing it to us.
- Visiting the Glengoyne distillery: We learned the difference in taste between peat and wood in making whisky and that it is a hanging offense to use anything but spring water as a mixer to the good stuff. We learned that beer and whisky start off in a remarkably similar process, and that it is more expensive to buy good Scotch whisky in Scotland than in other countries. Go figure. Betsy’s favorite whisky is from the Isle of Jura and is not made with peat. Warren has decided to stick with beer.
- Touring a real ale brewery: Through a connection with the treasurer for the brewing company (thanks, Sean), we were able to get a private tour of the last remaining brewery in Edinburgh, The Caledonian Brewery (“Brewed by Men, not Machines”). Davie, our guide, has worked there for 33 years, and his father for 50 years before him. That’s a lot of history. After the tour we spent a bit of time in the tasting room with Davie and our friend Joan, enjoying beer samples that looked surprisingly similar to full pints. It was really a treat to get so much inside info about the workings of a brewery over much of the last century and to enjoy the day with a good friend. We loved this tour, and we love the beer.
- Storytelling: We love The Moth podcast for live storytelling, and we were lucky to meet and befriend popular storyteller Michaela Murphy back in the US before leaving on the trip. So we thought a night of storytelling in Scotland would be right up our alley. We were right about that, but in a completely different way than we expected. The stories are not personal like expected, but more along the lines of ancient tales, fables, and stories repeated down through the ages. Intermixed with the stories are songs, poems, and instrumental music. It is really a night like no other, and you can imagine people doing similar activities over hundreds of years to entertain themselves after dinner. It is the best kind of group entertainment because everyone brings something to the table and every event is unique because it depends on the audience. It made us think of what we bring to any social gathering and how important it is for everyone to be able to contribute something of significance.
- Scots language: The Scots have a language that is descriptive and lyrical. A dismal, rainy day is accurately described as dreich – sounding just like it feels. To talk a lot is to blether on, and to be scared it to be feart. To understand is to ken, and if you don’t ken then you dunnino. If you’ve read any of Diana Gabaldon’s books you know a bit of how this might sound in a sentence, but to truly appreciate it you have to hear it in person. Och aye!
- First visit to a castle: As you know, Windsor was off-limits to us earlier in our trip due to the Queen benighting people or some lame excuse like that. So we went to Edinburgh Castle instead and saw up close how difficult it must have been to build a castle on top of a big volcanic rock. You really can’t imagine how anyone could get through, but more importantly what the first workman on the job site said when the foreman indicated he wanted a castle built up there. “Ur ye kiddin’ me?”
- First reader meetups: Scotland is also home to our first reader meetups. We met Joan, a fellow world traveler who played tour guide, translator, and party planner – and sometimes all three at once. She introduced us to her friends and family, and we had some amazing adventures together. Maria and Dave were traveling in Scotland to celebrate the completion of Maria’s thesis and come over to sightsee in Edinburgh with us, and then Brie took us to lunch with her coworkers and told us about living in 16 different countries and writing 2 books. Obviously all of our readers are underachievers. We meet terrific people all the time on our journey, but getting to know readers who’ve been virtually traveling along with us is a special treat and one we plan to repeat as we continue our journey.
- Haggis, neeps and tatties: Okay, maybe this is not at the top of everyone’s list, but I couldn’t leave Scotland without trying this sausage made from sheep’s pluck. Warren documented it all on video cause he’s a jerk like that.
- St. Andrews. Yes, we did make the pilgrimage to the home of golf. I still think it looks like a boring game, but Warren was suitably impressed, a little reverent even. I liked the museum inside the hotel, including quite a bit on women in golf. In fact, we saw almost as many women there as we did men. It was also graduation day at St. Andrews – the same university that Prince William and Kate attended – so we were able to see all the students in their gowns and proud parents in fancy clothes walking around town.
During our time in Scotland we were told about all the famous inventors, poets, writers, and artists from Scotland by almost every person we met, and we realized quickly that the Scots are very proud and knowledgable about their heritage. I don’t know if I could as easily state the same things to someone visiting the US, and it humbled me and made me realize I need to be better informed about my own country’s history.
What we’d like to see on our return to Scotland: Hogmonay, a Burns Supper, a tour of the Highlands, a visit to the West Coast Islands, and of course the famous Fringe festival. And yes, we will be returning. Because if it’s not Scottish, it’s crap!