Thursday, July 18, 2013 @ 10:18 pm from England
Eric and I started off by having breakfast at the hotel then we set off to tour the St Andrews Old Course. They have a tour each day at 11 and 2 so we rushed to get to the course in time for the 11:00 tour. The tour lasted about an hour and walked us through a few holes and the Swilcan bridge.
After the tour we had a quick bite to eat and then made our way into Edinburgh to return our car and catch a train down to York. We made our way into the city and successfully navigated to a gas station and back to the rental car center without any issues.
Apparently the Edinburgh Waverley train station doesn't have any trash cans available due to bomb scares or some nonsense so we had to carry all of our trash around for the next couple of hours until we got off the train in York. The train ride was another experience all together. We waited too long to buy our tickets and ended up paying about double what we should have (quite the costly mistake). When we boarded the train, some seats were reserved and others weren't and the non-reserved seats filled up pretty quickly. We ended up standing up for about an hour and a half until the train got near Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and the train emptied out.
We got into York and checked into our hotel. It was nice to have access to an air conditioned room since it was 93 degrees outside and we'd been sweating on a train for the last 2.5 hours. We relaxed for a few and then went out to find some dinner. We ended up at a place called Yo! Sushi and then went to a Tesco to buy a few beers.
We've got a few full days here in York so we're going to walk around the city and explore tomorrow. There's quite a few old buildings and the old city wall is a giant walking trail now which will be fun to go on. I also want to head over to Tadcaster and check out the Samuel Smiths brewery and try some of the beers fresh from the source.
Me on the Swilcan Bridge at St Andrews Old Course
Swilcan Bridge at St Andrews Old Course
Clubhouse at St Andrews Old Course
Wednesday, July 17, 2013 @ 09:15 pm from Scotland
The hotel we stayed at last night had a free breakfast in the morning so we had a nice hot breakfast and then started our drive toward the Glenfiddich Distillery. We did some research last night and found out that both the Glenfiddich and Glenlivet distilleries have free tours and both gave out free samples of whisky at the end.
The first distillery hit was Glenfiddich. The tour lasted about an hour and took us through the entire process from boiling the malted barley all the way to casking. At the end of the tour we were given a sample of the Glenfiddich 12, 15 and 18. The Glenfiddich 18 was really good. Eric ended up getting a small bottle to drink during the rest of the trip.
We had a quick lunch of muffins and apples before heading to the Glenlivet distillery. Their tour was only about 45 minutes but went through the entire process as well. At the end of this tour we were only given one sample and had to pick between the 12, 15 and 18. I chose the 18 year and thought the Glenfiddich 18 was better. The Glenlivet 15 is my scotch of choice when I'm at home though.
In order to get down to Dundee and our hotel for the night, we needed to drive through the Cairngorms National Park (a 1,700+ square mile park). The views along this drive were great. We were taken through some very steep mountain passes and some very narrow roads. We got to one spot and hiked up a small mountain in order to get some great 360 views of the highlands. We were originally planning on bypassing the park in order to make better time but we're glad we took the longer route!
We stopped in Dundee for dinner and to stretch our legs a bit. Our hotel is at the Drumoig golf course between Dundee and St. Andrews and there isn't anything around here so we also wanted to pick up a few snacks and stuff. Tomorrow we're going to head down to St. Andrews to take a tour of the Old Course before returning the rental car to Edinburgh and then heading to York, England.
Me at the Glenfiddich Distillery
Sheep on the side of the road
Tuesday, July 16, 2013 @ 09:15 pm from Scotland
In order to tour the Highlands, Eric and I thought that renting a car for a few days would be the best way to see everything we wanted to. We found the Europcar rental station and picked up our car at the Edinburgh train station. It was rather exciting trying to get out of the city. After several stalls and issues getting into first gear, we made it onto the motorway and on our way into the highlands.
One of Eric's coworkers has a pen pal in a town called Sterling and he gave Eric something to drop off at his pen pal's house. We made our way there and Eric dropped the gift off and then we headed north to Inverness. The scenery was great along the drive. A lot of it reminded me of the pacific northwest mixed with a little bit of Colorado. We hit a little bit of rain here and there but it ended up passing pretty quickly.
We decided to head over to Loch Ness to get some photos before heading into Inverness to walk around. The drive to some viewpoints along the Loch was nice. We stopped at a gift shop so Eric could pick up something for his nephew and then went to the Urquart Castle. Unfortunately they wanted 7.80 pounds to enter the castle so we took a few photos and opted not to go in.
We navigated back to Inverness and found a parking garage and then walked around the town a bit. We saw the Inverness Castle and walked along the River Ness. Both of us were getting hungry so we found a sandwich shop to get some food at. We were thinking about getting a drink in Inverness but decided to head to Nairn where we had a hotel for the night.
Nairn is a tiny town on the North Sea. We got in around 4:30 and the place already seemed a little bit dead. The hotel is definitely a mom and pop run place. The rooms are laid out strangely and there's a really random mismatch of furniture. Fortunately, there are some really nice views from the window.
We walked down to the harbor and took some photos. I got to put my hand in the North Sea. It wasn't quite as cold as I was expecting but there were only two kids in the water and they both had wet suits on. On the way back from the hotel we grabbed some stuff at a local grocery store and then came back to the room.
Tomorrow we're going to go on a distillery tour and then head down near Dundee Scotland for the night.
Monday, July 15, 2013 @ 06:29 pm from Scotland
Today was the day we set out to hike up Arthur's Seat. It's the remains of an old volcano on the east side of town that once climbed, gives a great 360 view of the entire town of Edinburgh and surrounding areas. Last night we planned ahead and bought some blueberry muffins to have for breakfast. After eating we started our journey to the peak.
The walk to the base wasn't that bad. The route Google Maps said we could take didn't actually exist so we had to improvise a bit but we finally made it. The climb started out really easy. It was only a gradual climb and the path was paved. Soon after the path went to dirt and the real elevation started happening. After a few rest breaks we made it to the top and enjoyed the view. The wind had really picked up and it cooled down pretty good up there.
We ate a snack and took some photos and enjoyed the view before heading back down. There was an area called Calton Hill that we wanted to check out so we headed there. There were a bunch of monuments and an observatory at the Calton Hill park. I wanted to climb a tower to see some good views of the city but they wanted 4 pounds to enter. I couldn't justify it after just hiking to the top of Arthur's Seat so we carried on.
We then checked out the Scott Monument (again, I wanted to climb it but wasn't about to pay 4 pounds for the pleasure). After that we were both pretty hungry so we found a pizza place and had a good pizza. Being nice and full, we decided to go find a whisky tasting and after checking out a few places we ended up at a bar called Whiski. Each of us had a flight of 4 different whisky's. My favorite from this flight was the Aberlour 10 yr. It had the right mix of peaty, smooth and creaminess.
We felt pretty good after that flight so we headed to Sainsbury's (the local grocery) and picked up some more snacks and water (unfortunately you can't drink the tap water at this hotel for some reason... there's a big sign in the bathroom saying so). I also picked up a couple containers of mixed fruit and devoured those when we got back to the hotel.
We're just relaxing here for a while before heading out again in a little bit for dinner. Tomorrow we head north up to Inverness and Nairn for the night.
Climbing up to Arthur's Seat
Edinburgh from Arthur's Seat
Sunday, July 14, 2013 @ 06:42 pm from Scotland
Eric and I started the day by grabbing some breakfast at a local cafe. We walked up the Royal Mile towards the castle which we planned on touring. There was supposed to be a great view of the castle from the end of the Royal Mile but they had a big stadium set up there for some kind of event.
We waited in line for about 45 minutes for tickets (If you're going, buy your tickets online... it gives you FastPass access so you can skip all the lines) and then we entered the castle. As soon as we got in they were starting a tour so we jumped onboard and walked around the castle for about 30 minutes listening to the guide give us information about the various buildings on site and the history of the castle.
After the tour we hunted down some water (apparently water fountains in public places in Europe don't seem to exist). We went into a cafe that had carafes full of water and glasses next to it for free drinking. I ended up pouring several into my own water bottle (and didn't feel a bit guilty after paying the 16 pound entrance fee to the castle).
We got to see the Scottish crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny (the rock that's used in all coronations in the UK) and then toured through several of the other buildings and walked through the various museums and memorials they had on site.
After the castle tour we left and walked down the Royal Mile again. We passed a few whisky shops (It's not Scotch here... it's just whisky) and decided to do some sampling. We didn't want to pay for the tour at the Whisky Experience shop so we found a restaurant that was offering some flights. For 11.95 pounds each, Eric and I each sampled 4 different whisky's. I had a Highlands flight and Eric had the Speyside flight. I really enjoyed one of mine in particular and will probably try to hunt it down and buy a bottle before I leave Scotland.
We also went into several wool shops. I'm tempted to buy something woolen but I'm not sure what I want yet. I've been happy to see all of the labels say that the stuff is produced in Scotland and not imported from overseas for tourists.
We stopped into a Sainsbury's to pick up some snacks and breakfast for tomorrow and now we're just relaxing in the hotel a bit before heading out for dinner and another drink or two.
Tip of the Day:
I've heard the name of the city pronounced many different ways, but the majority of people here seem to pronounce it "edin burrow."
Old buildings on Cockburn Street
Edinburgh from the castle
Me at the Edinburgh Castle
Sunday, July 14, 2013 @ 12:00 am from Scotland
Today was a long day of traveling. I started in Galway, Ireland this morning and jumped on a bus to Dublin Airport at 9:45am. I got to the airport about 5 hours before my flight but wasn't able to check in until 2 hours ahead of time. I ended up spending the entire time reading another mystery novel I picked up from the hostel.
I finally got checked into the flight and headed toward the gate area. When it finally came time to board I saw that I was going to be on a really small prop plane. The flight was fine but it was definitely one of the noisiest commercial flights I've been on. Everything inside the aircraft was shaking around.
When I landed I had a couple hours before Eric showed up so I just hung out at the Edinburgh airport. Eric's flight got in a little earlier than expected so we jumped on the bus to the city center and checked into our hotel (the Royal British).
Both of us were pretty hungry so we set out to find some food. It was pretty late already and most of the restaurants had closed down for the night. We ended up finding a place that had a pretty wide variety of food and I got a calzone (I had been craving italian for the last few nights). By now it was after 11 and pretty much all the pubs had their last call so we just came back to the hotel.
Tomorrow we're going to check out the Edinburgh castle and walk the Royal Mile. There will be some amazing photos tomorrow so stay tuned!