My husband and I traveled to Scotland for 11 days in September 2017. Should you have any interest in visiting the land of tartan and bagpipes, here are some thoughts. AKA travel tips. Part 1.
Spend a lot of time outdoors
That’s where all the pretty scenery is. And it’s everywhere.
Dress in layers and carry an umbrella
We experienced rain, clouds, sun, warmth and chill, sometimes all in the same day. So it’s kind of like living in Michigan. T-shirt under a fleece under a rainproof hooded jacket worked for me. I also carried a long-sleeved knock-off Under Armour shirt in my purse to layer as needed and an umbrella to protect my hair from the elements when it rained. (And if you know my family history, you know how important it is to protect the hair.)
Before we left, the woman who waited on me at the money exchange place said not to tip at restaurants. Why? A 10 percent gratuity is already included, she said. No need to add more unless you really like the service. In which case you have an excuse to get rid of that extra pocket change. Turned out most restaurants didn’t add the gratuity so my husband added the usual 15-20 percent tip just like we do in the good old U.S. of A. To the appreciation of Scottish servers everywhere.
Tipping, part 2
The Scots we encountered didn’t have the same money-grubbing, gimme, gimme sense as us ‘Mericans. In fact, one taxi driver said he never expects to be tipped. Kind of refreshing though he kindly accepted the tip offered by my husband.
Pedestrians don’t have the right of way…
…or so it seems. And it’s especially disorienting when people are driving their cars on the left side of the road. So look both ways, then look again.
Make sure you get to Edinburgh
I preferred Edinburgh over Glasgow though the latter has its gems including a cathedral that dates to the 1100s, St. Mungo’s Museum of Religious Life and Art and the Hogwartsian University of Glasgow. But I just loved Edinburgh. Yes, it caters to tourists but like most of Scotland, it’s a visual treat. So pretty.
Edinburgh, part 2
Go to the Edinburgh Castle atop the Castle Rock on one side of the Royal Mile, and the Holyrood Palace (official Scottish residence of the British monarch) on the other. Both are worthy attractions; so is St. Giles Cathedral and virtually anything else along the ancient street in the Old Town.
You’ll either being going up or down (aka Edinburgh, part 3)
Scotland is a land of hills and valleys. Granted there are different degrees of elevation but this was even true in the city of Edinburgh. You’ll either be going up toward the castle, or down toward the palace. Should you use your feet to visit New Town, built in the 1700s and 1800s after the Old Town ran out of room, you will walk down lots and lots of steps. In fact, there is so much up and down walking I nominate Edinburgh as the ultimate bucket list destination for people who use Fitbits.
Wear comfortable shoes
I invested in a pair of light hiking shoes before we left. Though they didn’t prevent me from tripping on our first day in Edinburgh thanks to a dip in the sidewalk. That’s another thing – the walking surfaces are a little dicey so watch your step.
Hike a mountain (even if only to justify the purchase of those light hiking shoes)
Edinburgh has one in Holyrood Park called Arthur’s Seat. We saved our nightmarish experience, er, wondrous adventure for the Ben Nevis (the highest mountain in the UK) near our B&B in Fort William. I thought we were in for a very mild hike – you know, maybe a few hundred feet up the hill (after walking a path along the base of the mountain) and then back across from where we started. But nooooooo. The rock steps we climbed (aka, steps made out of rocks) on so-called Heart Attack Hill never ended, until we finally found a path back to where we started – much further up than I’d anticipated. Cheese and salmon!
Well now, I wanted an outdoor adventure and I got one. While it was hard not to picture a broken kneecap (thanks to the tenuousness of those long and rocky steps), I was happy for our accomplishment. Yes, indeedy. We made it out alive. Thank you, sweet Jesus and McGillicutty.
Stay tuned for part 2.