I remember it like it was yesterday, hubby said: “We have time for a short break soon, where do you want to go? Paris or Scotland?” He was rather shocked as I chose Scotland – in January! Having recently moved to England, Scotland was on top of my places to visit and I couldn't have cared less what time of the year it was! Since this first visit, that took as to Loch Lomond and the Mull of Kintyre, I have been in love beyond reason with Scotland, its nature, wildlife and its people. Perhaps I have some, unknown, Scottish blood in me? Instead of giving you the usual background information about Scotland, let me tell you what kind of experiences during my Scottish travels stuck in my mind. Perhaps you get also tempted to visit Scotland? Even in January ;-)
Why I love Scotland
Scotland has many things to offer, here my personal five favorites ;-)
The Scottish Landscape
I don't know where to begin. My first vivid memory of Scotland was the sunset over Loch Lomond - all in unreal pink and purple tones! We then drove further north until we reached Loch Long where we spend the night at “The Village Inn” where I had my first taste of Scottish food and language. I liked them both. Our travel took us then the next day over the “mountains” to Inveraray and further down Loch Fyne towards the coast. The ever changing landscape of sea lochs, mountains and finally the coast let me stare like a little child out of the car window, eager to soak up as much as I could in this first, far too short holidays. Finally we reached the Mull of Kintyre, of Paul McCartney and The Wings fame. We drove up and down the peninsula and went for walks on the coast, enjoying the salty, misty spray from the sea. The air was so pure, it was unbelievable. From here I also got my first glimpse of the Isle of Jura and its neighbouring island Islay. Jura took me by storm, one glance and I knew I would be back one day. Funny, I saw Arran also for the first time the same day, but it simply didn't “call me” the same way. We stayed over night on the Mull of Kintyre at the Carradale Hotel, again breath taking views from the bed room window at sunset and sunrise, and during our walks down to the harbour. The next day saw us on our way to Skipness castle at the end of the Mull of Kintyre, close to the mainland, from where we had a even better view over to Arran. We then head back north and finished our travel through Scotland in the Trossachs national park before driving back to England. From this holidays on I was hooked to the islands and highlands of Scotland, I knew I would be back as soon and as often as possible. Until now I can't decide what I love more, the coast and the island, the highlands or the sea lochs that connect the two!
The People of Scotland
As I insisted in going to Scotland my, English, husband remarked “No chance that you will understand the Scots!” Being not a native English speaker, I often have difficulties to understand the different accents and dialects of the kingdom, so I half-heartily agreed with him, that that might be the case and that I was willing to run the risk. And somehow, not sure which Scottish Saint interceded for me, I hadn't – and still have none, any problems in understanding the Scottish accent / dialect. No, that doesn't mean I do understand in a miraculous way proper Scottish Gaelic, just that I do understand the way the Scots pronounce English words without any problems. What wondrous things can happen if you truly love something!
And as for interacting with them, Scottish people are sooo friendly, helpful and fun to be around. Perhaps it was my “happy child in the candy store” attitude, but I have yet to meet one single grumpy Scot! We had a lot of chats, and also in depth conversations, with Scottish people and always felt made very welcome to your country and way of living. No matter if we were just passing by or staying over night. I raise my glass of wee dram to my many Sottish friends!
Haggis, a “sheep stomach filled with offal and oatmeal”, I can't imagine a dish that sounds less appealing, ok, I can, but I don't want to! ;-) As it was, I was rather reluctant to try my very first haggis, but I was also determinate not to leave Scotland before having tried at least one time this most Scottish of all dishes. As the immortal Mr. Burns put it in his famous “Address to the Haggis”:
“Great chieftain o' the puddin-race! Aboon hem a' ye tak your place,...”
Spicy and crispy at the same time, melting in the mouth and entrancing the taste buds with a variety of sensations, eating a haggis is an experience to behold! Again, I was hooked and added another reason to my long list of “Why I want to go back to Scotland”: Eating Haggis! Don't be put off by the list of haggis ingredients, just try it and you will love it – if you are not a vegetarian!
Birds and red squirrels are the first things that come to mind, shortly followed by the famous red deer of the isle of Jura. Birds are incredible tame in the Scottish country side. I remember one incident when we moored with our hired canal boat in a secluded place on the Caledonian canal during our second visit to Scotland. A robin landed next to me and demanded a “mooring fee” for the privilege of allowing us to spend the night in “his” bay. I paid him with a bit of bread ;-)
Another time, a blue-footed seabird joined us whilst photographing dolphins in the the Moray Firth. At first I was concerned that it was ill, as it came so close and was so tame, but one of the “dolphin watchers” reassured me that it was completely normal behavior! So if you are a bird lover, Scotland is the place to go.
Scotland is also the place to go if you want to see and observe the red squirrel, sadly extinguished in most other parts of the United Kingdom and replaced by the bigger grey squirrel.
The famous “wee dram”. No matter if you are a “single malt” man or woman like me or if you like your Whiskey blended, Scotland is the homeland of whiskey and even in the smallest Scottish pub you will find a veritable “Whiskey Menu” to choose your poison from ;-) Just remember that the Scottish measures are double from what is elsewhere usual in the UK. If you put water and / or ice in your wee dram of whiskey is up to you. My personal opinion is that I don't like to dilute the “real stuff”, but that is just me, your mileage might vary, just do us all a favor, don't drink and drive!
So many reasons for me to visit Scotland, what are yours? Care to share them in a comment?