UK 2014: Scotland

So in our last post I told you all about our stop in the Lake District (read here). From there we journeyed to Scotland. I posted a couple of videos (here and here) which showed me at places where water was running. Not sure why, but I became slightly obsessed with running water. This is probably because it’s such a novelty for me.

Before we left (from Rugby, where the Thomas family are based) I realised that my summer wardrobe was ill-equipped to deal with our journey north. In other words, I hadn’t packed a jacket. Not to worry, one trip to TK Maxx and I was all set. (Can I just say how much I love TK Maxx? You Brits are so lucky!)

Before the border, though, we had to see Hadrian’s Wall. This was Mr Thomas recreating a childhood holiday where the car didn’t stop at Hadrian’s Wall, and so he has always wanted to return and actually see it.

Though I recognise how marvellous the wall is, how much work it took, why the Romans bothered with it, etc, etc, – it’s a wall. I could look at it and say, ‘hey, that’s pretty cool,’ and be on my way. Not Mr Thomas. So let’s just say I was pretty bored. Right, seen it, let’s be on our way, yes? No.

Hadrian's Wall
Hadrian’s Wall

Then, when leaving Hadrian’s wall, a bad decision was made. I’m not naming names, but let’s just say it wasn’t my decision to leave a different way than that we came. The idea was that we could follow the wall because on the map it showed a road running alongside it. That was true, there was a road running alongside Hadrian’s wall, but it wasn’t necessarily where we were. What ensued was one of those frustrating road trip moments when the navigator, whether accepting of the role or not, was blamed for us being lost.

I tried to explain this to Mr Thomas at the time, though he’d have none of it – apparently the done thing when being lost is to swear with frustration at the person in the passenger seat as if the lack of road signs is explicitly their fault – it is impossible to navigate, to read a map, when you have no idea where you are in the first place. Yes, there’s a road on the map which leads us to where we want to go. But are we on that road? You tell me. Problems occur when you presume you’re on a road detailed on the map. I claim that we were not.

So our arrival in Scotland was by convoluted means, on some backroad that wasn’t really, dodging sheep and such like and wondering if we would ever make it. Having said that, the scenery we saw was stunning, and probably not as nice as what you’d get on the motorway.

Stirling
Stirling

Once on the beaten track we drove up the centre of Scotland, between those two cities of note, and onto Stirling, which was to be our base for a couple of days. We stayed in a Holiday Inn. For those of you who do not live in Britain, Holiday Inn’s are always found in Industrial estates. You stay there for convenience and economy. Not for beauty. Still. Can’t complain about the Holiday Inn, particularly their staff. We left behind a bag of laundry and the lovely folk who worked there found the bag and posted it back for us. Which we paid for, of course, but at least we were reunited with our clothes.

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We did a lot of driving from Stirling. We went up to see the Highlands, which was amazing. It was there that I felt I was in the Scotland I’d always imagined. It rained quite a bit on that journey but it was exactly as I expected – somehow, I think, Scotland wouldn’t have looked the same in the sun.

The downfall was that I’d developed a cold of sorts. The first couple of days after we arrived, I was trying to convince myself it was hay fever. But then a horrible cough came along, and during a walk in Stirling itself, just up to the castle, I could hardly breathe and was sweating uncontrollably, and, well, miserable. Thankfully Mr Thomas caught said cold a day later so he knew I wasn’t a light weight. A small inconvenience that was over in a couple of days, thank goodness.

IMG_4062

What was interesting was seeing the ‘Yes’ and ‘No Thanks’ stickers and placards around people’s homes. Some villages would be full of blue ‘Yes’ signs, some dotted with purple ‘no’s’. We didn’t talk to one person about the referendum while there. It was a can of worms I didn’t want to open. Yet there was the feeling of unease about the place, of people not knowing what the future of their country was. I must say, I’m glad they’ve decided to stay. It’s for pure romantic reasons, of course. I don’t live there so shouldn’t have an opinion, but I like the idea of Britain including Scotland, and of the Union Jack remaining as it is.

Edinburgh
Edinburgh

We left Stirling and travelled south, stopping in Edinburgh. We walked right up to the castle, and then back down the other side. We got sidetracked by a shop that had a whole cooked pig in the window. I think it was called ‘oink’ or something like that. The only thing this eatery sold were pulled pork buns, that’s it. We had to stop. Whenever there is a whole pig in a window, you have to stop. While we were inside getting these porky delights, we saw several men who halted mid-stride as soon as they saw said pig. Mouth agape, glassy eyed. It’s the same look we women get when seeing a shop window full of handbags or shoes. The pork buns, by the way, were amazing.

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle

Our next stop on the journey was Alnwick, back on the English side of the border. I’m sure I’ll have something to say about that, too.

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