Winding through the highlands

After our nice leisurely day in Edinburgh, we’re on the road again today. We’re told that the drive from last night’s hotel to tonight’s hotel could be done in not much more than two hours, but we take all day to do it, because we take the scenic route and make a couple stops. So, after breakfast was served (I didn’t have any), we had about a 90-minute drive in the drizzle and cold to the Scottish town of St Andrews.

A bustling St Andrews street

This seems to be a really sleepy little place. It has an old ruined cathedral, an old ruined castle, a very prestigious university (the one where Prince William met Kate Middleton), and a very prestigious golf course (if they decide to let you play there, you have to book a year in advance, and it costs about £1,000).

The ruined cathedral in St Andrews

St Andrews on the coast, and it was cold and damp and rainy and windy. For some reason, I had a series of massive coughing fits for about 15 minutes when we got off the bus, so that really got my morning off to a good start :). There’s not a lot to do in town, and neither Pamela nor I were really excited to be there. We saw the old cathedral and its graveyard (where William Wallace’s gravestone is), as well as the castle (from a distance). Then we saw a Costa Coffee, and I was all over that. Hot chocolate and a brownie served as my breakfast, and Pamela bought a gingerbread man with union jack buttons because it amused her.

The ruined castle in St Andrews

We did have a older local gentleman apologize for the weather (“It’s no alwaes like this!”), and then we stumbled across a cute little churchyard that was out of the wind; I took the opportunity to take a few pictures. We had nothing that we really wanted to see, so we just meandered through town. We saw parts of the university (it’s spread out quite a bit), and passed a coffee shop that proclaimed “Will and Kate met here for coffee” (with “for coffee” in much smaller letters). We eventually made our way to the official St Andrews Links golf shop, where we were supposed to meet the bus. We nosed around the tiny little shop, and were quite ready to leave about 20 minutes before the bus was. So I took a few pictures of the golf course, and we hung out with all the other people who were waiting to get back on the warm bus.

St Andrews golf course

As we continued towards Inverness, the scenery really started to remind me of driving through BC. It was hilly, and very green and lush, with streams and even pine trees at times. Quite nice; not exciting.

Pitlochry, Scotland

Lunch was at a town (city?) called Pitlochry. We just stopped for about 45 minutes to grab a quick lunch, but it’s clearly a popular coach stop. There were another six or seven coaches in the parking lot that we were in, and the area was full of restaurants and gift shops. Pamela and I ended up in a fish & chips shop run by a burly Scot. Deep fried food is very popular in Scotland; Pamela’s hoping to find a deep-fried Mars bar somewhere. We had “chicken breast chunks” and chips (with white vinegar instead of malt vinegar, for this first time this trip), and I had an Irn Bru. I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before.

Just some of the coaches parked in Pitlochry

Irn Bru is a soft drink that’s very popular in Scotland. In fact, it’s apparently more popular than Coke, making Scotland one of the few countries in which Coke isn’t the #1 soft drink. Irn Bru is basically orange pop, though it’s got a more complex flavour than, say, Orange Crush; I think it tastes a bit like cream soda.

We kept heading north, and made it to the Glenlivet distillery for a tour and whiskey tasting. It was neat to visit such a well-known distillery, and the free scotch at the end didn’t hurt either! We had three options; I think the one I chose was an 18-year-old. The amusing highlight of the tasting was probably the fact that most of the people on the bus obviously don’t drink scotch.

The Glenlivet warehouses

Quotes afterwards included:

  • “Our tastebuds are destroyed.”
  • “My stomach hurts.”
  • “Very bad memories.”

I was apparently one of the few people on the bus who will actually drink a scotch on occasion. I was probably most amused by our 18-year-old American, who has been enjoying drinking legally for the first time. He…was not a fan of the scotch :-).

The Glenlivet distillery. The new distillery is on the left; the old is on the right

Then, just after leaving the distillery, we passed a golf course named “Ballindalloch Castle Golf Course”. Which amused me and seemed worth sharing.

A nice display inside The Glenlivet.

Overall, the drive today felt a lot more familiar than probably anywhere else we’ve been. Some of the houses could have been right at home in Canada. There were cattle pastures by the side of the road, and forests of pine and birch. Some of the hills and windy roads in the highlands might have been the Trans-Canada through northern Ontario. Of course there were plenty of discrepancies, starting with the fact that we were driving on the left side of the road, but the scene was not nearly as foreign as most of what we’ve been looking at on this trip.

Sheep in the Scottish Highlands

We’re now at a hotel that’s just full of character: the Loch Ness Lodge Hotel. It’s kind of small, and the rooms are freezing, but it feels like stepping back in time. There are about a dozen of us in the library right now: tartan carpet, tartan curtains on the bay window, couches, a wood fireplace with a roaring fire, and one wall covered in a bookshelf full of old books. And we’re all on our iPads and smartphones and laptops because it’s one of the only places in the hotel that you can get wifi 🙂



Posted on May 30, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Dave & Ellen

    OK, now I’m really jealous, St. Andrews golf Course and the Glenlivet distillery in one day. How do you top that? I trust that your scotch was single malt. Love, Dad

  2. I can’t believe how many sheep there seem to be everywhere… I haven’t noticed you mentioning eating mutton at all???? Have you?

  3. Some of the photos of the streets show ‘wavy’ lines painted on them. Is there a reason for that or do their line painters have the hiccups?
    I see you’re finally getting the weather you were expecting all along.
    I looked at the hotel on line and it looks quite nice; really unique. Why is it cold? Just because of the dampness?
    love, MOM

  4. Yes, you have mentioned Irn Bru. Or at least, someone did. I said it sounds like the glucose tolerance drink they make you take when you are pregnant. Perhaps this was on Pamela’s notes?

    I am finding it interesting to here the name of places, because we have places with those names here as well. St. Andrews here was one of the first places with an Anglican church; it was actually very likely where the big wigs from the HBC at Lower Fort Garry would have worshipped, so it is interesting to read that you visited a cathedral in St. Andrews. Inverness is the name of a water system – Inverness Falls – popular for camping. You mention streams in Inverness… So I just wonder if settlers named places after places at home that were similar.

  5. So, I hope you are managing to smuggle some of the 18yo scotch out to me 🙂

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