I just spend an amazing week in Scotland! We were planning to go in 2020, but it got canceled due to Covid……we hoped it would get rescheduled in 2021, but Covid prevented that from happening, too! So, finally, we got there! This was a Busy Buddies trip – the group I belong to that does frequent day trips, overnighters, and some longer trips – all expertly arranged by our fearless leader, Mitzy Peglow of Orleans Travel. There were 19 of us that went. When we got there, we joined 20 others from all over the US and one from Australia to make 40 on the bus….42 counting our tour guide and driver. It was a great bunch of people and we had an awesome time touring the stunning country of Scotland!
Here are all 19 of us in the Glasgow airport on the day we left to head home.
This is our tour guide (left) – Michael “Mick”, an Englishman who lives in Spain – and our driver – Tam, a Scotsman. They were awesome…..Tam maneuvered that coach into some of the smallest places – he deserves to be crowned “king of coach drivers”! Mick was so knowledgeable and helpful….and funny! He kept us on schedule, entertained, and fully informed of everything there was to know about everything we saw and Scotland in general! Some “Mick-isms”: “I’m negative…..I’m a negative kind of a guy” – he and Tam were required by their company to take a Covid test every morning before getting on the coach, so he would let us know they were negative each morning. “We don’t have the death penalty in Scotland, except for (insert some trivial offense here) – we take that very seriously” – he would say this when telling us some rule or local law, like parking in a no parking zone. “Does that make sense?” – this would follow every set of instructions or summary of what we could expect each day. Once, we got together and agreed to all say “NO” the next time he said it…..he seemed to enjoy the joke! hahaha And….“If you don’t like rainy, cold weather, don’t come to Scotland” – he explained that the rainy season starts about the first of April and ends oh, about the end of March! LOL – it wasn’t all that bad – it was in the mid-50s and some sun, some drizzle, and one day that it really rained a lot. Mick was wonderful — he even came out the morning we left to be sure we didn’t get on the wrong coach to the airport, since he noticed more than one Cosmos coach loading up and he ran into us at the airport and stopped to chat on the way to his gate.
The tour called “Scottish Outland Adventure” and was hosted by the Cosmos tour company. This is is the itinerary map of all the places we visited in seven days – pretty much saw the entire country! We arrived in Glasgow on Sunday morning and spent our first night there. Then we spent two nights in Edinburgh, two nights in Strathpeffer, and our last night back in Glasgow. Here is the story of our trip.
DAY ONE: We flew out of Buffalo on Saturday afternoon with layovers in Detroit and Amsterdam and landing in Glasgow Sunday morning. We were all pretty tired when we got to the hotel, but our rooms weren’t ready. Some of us just curled up in the lobby to read and relax and some took a tram to downtown and wandered around some. Our first hotel was The Leonardo Inn Glasgow West End – a nice, clean hotel that served an included buffet breakfast with traditional Scottish breakfast items. I slept like a log…..even though the bed was harder than I usually like and was a bit lumpy…..it didn’t stop me from falling asleep almost immediately and I slept soundly all night! This was my room:
DAY TWO: After breakfast the first full day, we boarded the coach to tour Glasgow and make our way to Edinburgh.
Scenes around Glasgow: A typical Police station, a 12th century cathedral, statue of David Livingstone – an explorer born 1813 / died 1873, and the oldest building in Glasgow:
Stirling Castle in Stirling
My friend Pat by the canons at Stirling Castle
Looking down at the countryside from Stirling Castle
Other shots from inside Stirling Castle:
Robert The Bruce – King of Scots from 1306 to his death in 1329
When we left Stirling Castle, we learned a new word: “Dreich” – a word plucked from the slang dictionaries of Scotland. It describes a dull, damp, Scottish day – one that’s devoid of light, warmth, and color…..in other words, a truly yucky day. We were supposed to spend I think and hour or so at our next stop – the village of Culross, but it is all outside stuff, so Mick called the office to get permission to make a couple unplanned stops and spend less time in Culross. We were all delighted by the additional stops – both were awesome and they gave us two experiences we wouldn’t have had otherwise.
The first unplanned stop was to see the Kelpies. Kelpies are water spirits of Scottish folklore, typically taking the form of a horse and reputed to delight in the drowning of travelers and casting spells. The Loch Ness Monster is a Kelpie. We loved that we got to see these huge metal sculptures…..so beautiful!!!
Then, we stopped at Linlithgow Palace – the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots and James V. This was a really interesting place – great architecture. But, what made the Outlander Fans on the coach squeal with delight was that it is the building used for the filming of scenes at the Wentworth Prison on the TV show “Outlander”.
Near the entrance to the Linlithgow Palace
Entering Linlithgow Palace (Wentworth Prison)
The Palace (prison, for you Outlander fans) – they are in the process or re-pointing the building, so it was fenced off, but all the Outlander fans got as close as they could to get photos!
A church on the property
A cottage on the property and a statue of Mary Queen of Scots
Then, we headed to Culross — the village of Culross is used in the filming of Outlander, too. Unfortunately, in addition to the “Deich” day, everything in the village was closed. So, soon after we got off the coach, Mick called Tam and told him to head back to get us. Some used the time to wander around for Outlander photos and some found a small coffee shop that did happen to be open to wait for Tam to return. It was a quaint little village right on the water…..would have been nice to spend some time there if the weather was better and if some of the shops were open.
The streets were cobbled and steep inclines…..very uneven! It tore my knee up and I turned my ankle, which sent a shock up into my knee, but it didn’t do any damage and all was fine after I was able to rest my knee a bit. GREAT example of olde world villages!
We left Culross and headed to Edinburgh to get checked into our hotel. The hotel we stayed at for two nights in Edinburgh was Novotel Edinburgh Park – very nice hotel with an amazing shower, comfortable bed, and another buffet type breakfast that was included and had the same typical Scottish breakfast items – this was my room:
After we settled in, we met down at the lobby so the coach could take us to our first optional excursion. It was so much fun!!! We were taken to a venue that put on a traditional Scottish night out called “The Spirit of Scotland”— dinner, Highland dancers, bagpipers, singers, and the Ceremony of the Haggis! It was a great evening!
For more about the Ceremony of the Haggis and my bravery in trying the haggis, scroll down to the post titled “I TRIED IT!”.
My dinner choice was the Traditional Scottish Broth – very good, but a bit bland, everyone got some Crispy Haggis Bon-Bons (again – scroll down to the “I TRIED IT!” post for more info on this), and my main course choice was Braised Beef, Fondant Potatoes (that square thing), and Roasted Root Vegetables – all VERY good! The dessert was cheesecake, so I passed on that, but we also had Scottish Shortbread with our tea and a glass of wine. A very nice meal, in deed!
And then the entertainment started — awesome!!! Dancers, singers, a bagpiper, an accordion player, a violinist, some sing-alongs, and wonderful traditional costumes. It was great fun!!!
We sang along to familiar tunes, like “The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond”, “Auld Lang Syne”, and “Ten Thousand Miles”, among others. I got all emotional when the lady singer sang “Amazing Grace” with the bagpiper providing the music……so beautiful……I was blubbering over it!
One of our Busy Buddies group got chosen to dance on stage with one of the girls….he did good!
We went back to the hotel and crashed after a full day of touring and still trying to get over the jet-lag.
I’ll leave you with with beautiful video of the song “The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond” – we’ll visit Loch Lomond later in the trip:
So that ends Part One…..Watch for Part Two to come soon!