Our Brush with Fame and a Scottish Sunburn. Scotland Day 7

So…. the day before, my friend discovered that our favorite show Outlander “might” be filming in nearby Paisley.  We had plans to go sailing on our friends boat today, but were not leaving until closer to lunchtime. We decided to grab a quick coffee and pastry for breakfast and head out to see if we would get lucky and see some Outlander.

We had to make sure we didn’t end up on one of the streets that were to be closed off for filming and somehow, we lucked up and found a parking spot just around the corner from the action and yes there was action!  As we walked up to the barricades we could see multiple large trucks and a vintage car that appeared to be staged for filming, we could not believe our luck and the excitement was building, who would we see?

Imagine our excitement when one of the stars of the show, Caitriona Balfe (Claire) shows up!  I think this was already becoming one of the highlight days of our already spectacular trip.  We were able to watch the entire process of filming the scene with “Claire” exiting the car.  When this was complete, they were like a mound of ants scurrying to clean up and move along to the next set, which appeared to be inside the large church just up the street.  They started allowing pedestrian traffic, so we walked down to the other end of the blocked off street, so that we could get a better glimpse of the activity going on at the church.  We saw many actors in vintage dress and again caught a glimpse of Caitriona.  It was said at the end of filming she came out and met the fans that were still there, this was late in the afternoon so we were long gone and off on our next adventure, sailing!

We hopped in the car and headed towards the marina in Inverkip, near the port of Greenock, which is where you will dock if arriving by cruise ship.  We could not have asked for better weather for sailing, it was a gorgeous sunny day again with blue skies as far as the eye could see.

We were sailing over to the Isle of Bute to have a quick look around.  Our friends had picked up sandwich supplies and sodas as well as some Scottish staples like meat pies and Tunnock’s confections for dessert.  We enjoyed a really nice lunch surrounded by water, fresh air, sunshine and good company.  When we arrived at Bute, we docked at the main town on the island, Rothesay.  The island was known as Rothesay in the Viking era and the town’s name is a carryover from that.  One thing Rothesay is known for and we were told we should see,  are the Victorian toilets located beside the harbor. Yes you heard that right, we were checking out some potties!  The men’s toilets are the one’s that should be seen and us girls managed to get a peek at them too.  It is worth a peek in, if you would like to see a well preserved example of Victorian era plumbing and architecture.  After our look into the loo, we walked around the waterfront of the town, you can see the ruins of Rothesay castle from there but we did not go for a closer look. Instead, we hit up a chip shop and I had the pleasure of trying some vinegar and salt chips served up in a greasy newspaper…sure wish I could have an order of these every day.  (I just realized I didn’t take a photo of these amazing chips, guess I was too busy chowing down.)

It was time to head back, we still had really amazing weather and the cruise back was just as sunny and cool as the trip out.  It was so comfortable in fact, that without even realizing it,  my husband (and I to a certain extent but not nearly as bad,) got a terrible sunburn.  That’s right, two Florida natives got a sunburn, in of all places, Scotland.  It was worth it though, what an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.

We were so exhausted when we got back to the hotel that we changed our plans to walk over to Lebowski’s for burgers and instead made the big mistake of eating in the hotel’s restaurant,  Limelight Bar & Grill.  If you like mediocre food, poor service and high prices, then it is the place for you.  I really regret that decision, we should have sucked it up and walked somewhere for dinner.  No photos to remind myself of that subpar experience.

Tomorrow, we finally head off to the Highlands!

 

 

 

Mary Queen of Scots, Kelpies and yes… more Outlander…. Scotland Day 6 Edinburgh to Glasgow by car.

Today we would head back for another night in Glasgow before heading out into the Highlands.   We started off with breakfast at Cote Brasserie, a French inspired eatery with affordable breakfast.  It was a farther walk from the hotel than the previous morning but breakfast was good…surprisingly I neglected to take photos here which I blame on the long walk before having my coffee.

After breakfast, we collected our bags and checked out of the Indigo Princess street and headed out to our first stop of the day, Linlithgow Palace.  Linlithgow Palace is the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots and a filming location for Wentworth prison scenes in Outlander.  Next door to the palace is St. Michaels church whose unique steeple we had seen (and wondered about) a few days earlier from the train to Edinburgh.  We were in a bit of a time crunch with so much to see so we decided not to tour the inside, which I am now regretting.

Our next stop was a more modern Scottish icon, the Kelpie sculptures at Helix park in Falkirk.  The Kelpies are two, 300 ton, steel horse sculptures that opened to the public in 2014, which makes them quite a lot newer than anything else we were in Scotland to see.  They are located in a pretty park with a canal running to one side and a turning pool that is part of a new connector between two existing canals.  They were spectacular on the gorgeous sunny day we visited but I would love to revisit them at night on our next trip, to see them lit up.

We were starting to get hungry and decided it was time for lunch, we had initially planned to have lunch at a fantastic looking Italian restaurant in Linlithgow but the timing was off.  Since we had our hearts set on Italian for one meal of the trip, a quick search of Yelp found what we were looking for in Falkirk, a fairly nice place called Gambero Rosso.  Again I forgot to take photos of our meal here, which seemed to be a theme for today, so far.  The meal was good but not memorable.

After lunch, the Outlander excitement was building again, we were off to Castle Leoch (Duone Castle!!!!) This castle has also been used for filming in Game of Thrones and Monty Python. It is located in the small town of, you guessed it, Duone.  Parking on sight is extremely limited, when we arrived there were no spaces available and we were told to go find parking in town…… which took some driving around, on often times very narrow streets, to find a spot to park.  I feel a little sorry for the people who live here, I am sure the busy summer season is quite aggravating when it comes to parking and getting around.  Once we were finally parked and made the walk back to the castle, we did pay to tour the interior.  The exterior was having some restoration work done and there was scaffolding, not only on the outside but in the iconic (if you are an Outlander fan) courtyard.  The interior, like just about every place we toured, was mostly bare stone and unfurnished but in good condition.  I would like to go back when restoration work is complete, to see it without the unsightly scaffolding.  When we were through touring the castle, it was time to get going for Glasgow. We had reservations for dinner with our Glaswegian friends and needed to get settled into the hotel in time to walk to the restaurant.

We were staying at the Indigo Glasgow tonight, and after a very pretty drive back, we arrived with barely enough time to get ready for dinner.  We were eating at the highly rated, The Butterfly & The Pig.  This restaurant is another I can recommend, they had very tasty food and drinks served in a charming and cozy atmosphere.  Oh and my dry streak on food photos finally ended here!

To end the day, we made a stop at a couple pubs, including the famous Nice N Sleazy, a pub and music venue that has had celebrity patrons in the past.  It was another amazing and full day in Scotland with great, sunny weather.  We didn’t make it too late of a night because the next morning we were heading out (insert excited scream) to the Highlands!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can you say Outlander?!? Day 5 in Scotland.

I had really been looking forward to this day for a while and it did not disappoint, we were even greeted with beautiful, sunny weather for the day.

We had pre-planned where we would have breakfast this morning, in addition to travel, good food is one of my biggest obsessions.  I used Yelp and Trip Advisor to find a place close to the hotel, with an appealing menu and good reviews, Ivy on the square ticked all the boxes.  It had a really nice atmosphere and the food and service were both great. If you are staying in the area around Princess street, this is a solid choice.

After my coffee and eggs benedict fix, it was time to go check out our ride for the rest of the trip, a giant Volvo station wagon we nicknamed the shagginwagon (just a little Dumb and Dumber humor.)   We loaded up and headed west out of Edinburgh, our first stop was to see the Firth of Forth bridges at South Queensferry.   We spent just a few minutes for photo opportunities at this stop, before heading off to the stars of the show for today, Hopetoun House and Midhope Castle (Lallybroch!!!!)

I could barely contain my excitement driving up to Hopetoun House,  where some Outlander filming has taken place.  You can buy your admission to Midhope Castle at Hopetoun even though it is located a car ride down the road.  We didn’t tour the interior of Hopetoun, just the grounds, which have beautiful walking trails through the woods and along the Firth of Forth.  With the perfect weather, walking the grounds of Hopetoun made for a really nice way to spend an hour or two, I would highly recommend it.  We were able to see the area used in Outlander filming,  where Jamie and Captain Randall dual in Paris as well as the exterior of the Edinburgh brothel and a street scene from the show, all part of Hopetoun.

When we finished at Hopetoun my excitement went up yet another level, we were headed to Midhope (Lallybroch!)   We parked in the small lot for visitors and then, after showing our tickets, began the walk up the short road leading to the castle.  A few people were there but it wasn’t super busy and by the time we left it was just us four and two others.  You really understand the magic of movie/TV show production when you first see it, there was a house, that was being lived in to one side and a sawmill behind it.  Also, walking up to the front door and peaking through the cracks, you will see a dusty room, derelict and empty.  It still looked very much like the Lallybroch you see on the show and I still cannot believe I got to sit on the steps.  It would be nice if they would do some restoration work so that the interior could be toured.

It was now lunchtime and we had pre-planned our lunch stop at The Park Bistro in Linlithgow.  We decided to sit outside because the weather was so amazingly perfect.  The food here was good and I can recommend it as a convenient stop, when visiting Hopetoun house and Midhope castle.  Since I never got tired of beef and ale pie with chips, that is what I had.

Our last stop before heading back to Edinburgh was Blackness castle.  Blackness castle was used as the filming location for Ft. William in Outlander.  We opted to pay and tour the interior. It is pretty well preserved and has been given the nickname “the ship that never sailed” due to its’s shape and the fact that it juts out into the Firth of Forth.

From Blackness castle, we headed back to Edinburgh to get a little break before heading out to dinner and a ghost tour.

We had reservations for dinner at a place called The Chop House, it had fairly good reviews, offered dry age Scottish beef steaks and the atmosphere looked great.  It could have been great but service was lackluster and they overcooked everyone’s steaks, my friend’s steak was also a tough, fatty mess.  This was not a cheap place by any means so we were all a bit disappointed.

To finish out the day, we had booked a ghost tour, we chose the highly rated City of the Dead tour company.  I will say, just based on the look of our guide compared with the guides of other tour companies meeting up at the same place, I am very glad we chose the one we did.  He was just dressed in a long black coat, the other tour company guides were wearing hokey vampire capes and makeup and other equally ridiculous costumes.   I did enjoy the tour but I never find ghost tours scary or in any way supernatural (this one included,) they are just a bit of fun and entertainment.

It was time to head back and pack, we were leaving to go back to Glasgow tomorrow morning and we wanted to get off early because we had plans to visit some more exciting Outlander filming locations (Castle Leoch!!!!) as well as the Kelpies before checking into our hotel in Glasgow and meeting our friends for dinner.

 

 

Scotland Day 4, Edinburgh, a day that didn’t go as planned.

This was the first day of our trip that didn’t quite live up to expectations, all because we booked the wrong tour.   This is the first time in my travels that reviews for a guide/tour have been misleading….. I guess it happens, not everything can go perfectly every time.  The good news is, it won’t be my last visit and I’ll do things differently next time.

We started the day off in Glasgow and our friends in London, we were ambitious in our planning for the day with our friends catching an early flight and then picking up the rental car we would be using the remainder of the trip and us dropping one of our bags at the second hotel we would be staying at in Glasgow (to save space in the rental car) before catching an early train.  We had plans to meet at the hotel, the Indigo Princess street,  just in time to be picked up by our guide.  After taking a cab to the Hotel Indigo Glasgow and dropping our bags, we walked to the Queen street train station, had a quick breakfast there while waiting for our train.  We booked first class and found it to be not crowded and a very pleasant experience.   Everything mostly went to plan with only a small hiccup with road construction and unclear GPS guidance for the hotel garage, thanks to the helpful front desk staff at the hotel getting on the phone and talking my friends in to the garage, it was only a short delay.  It was okay, this was one of the points with our guide, lets call him McBS, that was satisfactory, he was patient and stayed in contact  by phone to pick us up at the proper time.

 

So only a few minutes behind we started our half day tour by car, where we were supposed to do some stopping and looking around along the way, which didn’t happen as much as we were lead to believe it would.  We did stop at Bakehouse close to see the famous scene from Outlander, where Claire returns after 20 years, to Jamie.  The only other stops we made were to Rosslyn Chapel (a filming location for The DaVinci Code,) some stop in the road on the way to Arthur’s seat (we didn’t actually get to go to Arthur’s seat) and a campground to see some Highland coos that the guide told us he “used to ride as a kid.”  We felt like he was, lets say embellishing, a lot of what he told us on the tour so we spent quite a bit of time fact checking during the remainder of our vacation and our suspicions were confirmed.  He did provide quite a bit of entertainment for us during the rest of our holiday, any time the fellas stepped out of line, they were called McBS in his honor.  He did recommend the Sheeps Heid Inn, the oldest pub in Scotland and a place visited by Mary Queen of Scots. He also informed us about Queen Elizabeth II having ate there, he booked her table for us, the problem was he didn’t tell us he would be leaving us there and that it was a substantial distance from our hotel, shame on you McBS!  I suppose it was worth it to experience this bit of history.

 

As for getting out on foot, my friend and I did get out for a some shopping on the royal mile after finding our way back to the hotel, with thanks to Uber.  This is a really lovely area to stroll but can get pretty crowded.

 

Our other misstep in planning, was doing our pub crawl this night, we were all so exhausted we only made a few of the stops we had planned ( I suppose we will just have to give it another try next time.)  We did get to The White Hart, the oldest pub in the city of Edinburgh (yes, that’s how far the Sheeps Heid Inn was from our hotel, it isn’t even considered to be in Edinburgh!)  and to Panda and Sons, which you must visit if ever in Edinburgh, such a funky and fun atmosphere!

 

The next day we had plans to visit some Outlander filming locations outside of the city followed by a dinner of dry aged Scottish beef and a ghost tour!  Day 5 was amazing so stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

Our Third day in Scotland and a trip to Stirling Castle

Today, we would finally be venturing out of the city, to Stirling castle, where Mary Queen of Scots was crowned in 1542.

This morning we enjoyed a scenic drive out to Stirling, first stopping at the Devil’s Pulpit which, if you watch Outlander, you might be familiar with.  To visit the Devil’s Pulpit, you have to park a little way up the road and walk along the side of said (fairly busy) road.  Once you arrive, you will notice that it is located in a steep ravine.  I did not realize at the time that there are stairs leading down, so we just viewed it from above. It is probably for the best anyway, I am clumsy and it had been raining so I am sure the stairs were very slippery.   I am hoping that next time we visit Scotland, we can go back on a dry day and look for the stairs.

After the Devil’s Pulpit, we decided to stop for breakfast/early lunch before heading into Sterling, we stopped at a favorite of our friends, The Woodhouse.  I was able to enjoy more delicious Scottish salmon, this time on my favorite food, eggs benedict.  My husband tried the black pudding on his sandwich… I was never brave enough to try it. I also had my first taste of Scottish tablet, a super delicious confection made with condensed milk.  I would highly recommend The Woodhouse if you are in the Sterling area, they also have a great little shop with gifts and food.

The next stop was Stirling castle…. well sort of…. only after much driving around looking for parking.  Be prepared, if visiting Stirling castle in the summer, to be parking elsewhere in town.  We ended up having to park in a garage by the mall and take a tourist train up to the castle, Stirling was packed!  The castle was worth the trouble, being perched up atop a hill, it offers impressive views, it has beautiful gardens, it is also well preserved and offers detailed insight into life in the castle in the sixteenth century.

After touring the castle we walked back to the car, enjoying the lovely town of Stirling and doing a little shopping.  We also happened upon Lawson’s pub that surely must have belonged to a long lost relative of mine (I was born a Lawson) but sadly it was out of business.

When we arrived back to the suburbs of the city at our friend’s home, we were chatting and I happened to mention tracing my ancestry, I showed them the parts of my tree with Scottish ancestors, some of who were born in New Kilpatrick.  New Kilpatrick church just happened to be very nearby to their home!  We stopped at the church, located in the suburb of Bearsden, on our way back into the city.  What an amazing thing it is, to be able to visit the very place your distant ancestors walked.  Another unexpected surprise, was a visit to some Roman ruins nearby (Bearsden Roman baths) that were neatly tucked into a residential neighborhood.

(I should note to those that may be following along on my journey and that might be confused, that my friends in Glasgow are a couple who live in a home in the suburbs of Glasgow and their daughter and son in law who live in a flat in the West End) 

After returning to the city and our hotel, we ended the day with a walk over to Argyle street and dinner at Finneston’s where I had my first order of fish and chips and my husband had some really delicious Scottish mussels.  All in all a very busy and enjoyable day!

Glasgow, a day in the city center and west end.

My travel style is typically go, go, go and to see as much as I can squeeze in, my husband on the other hand prefers a more relaxed trip.  I am the travel fanatic and trip planner in this relationship and for this trip, I tried to strike more of a balance when planning.

This trip to Scotland was planned at two weeks and that is nowhere near enough time to see everything, especially with adding in some slower paced days.  I decided to take the approach that this would be just the first of many trips to Scotland, where we have friends and also access to a nonstop flight from our home airport, which takes the pain and hassle of connections out of the equation.

The area I chose to take at the most relaxed pace was Glasgow,  it is where our friends live and where the above mentioned nonstop flight arrives into, so it is a city we will definitely be returning to.  We also had the most days there, because not only were our first three days there,  we would spend an additional two nights in between our visit to Edinburgh and striking out into the Highlands. Our final night’s stay before returning home was also Glasgow.

So, with that said, our second day in Glasgow got off to a leisurely start.  We slept in a bit and had complimentary breakfast in the club lounge, that was a perk with our really comfortable suite at the Crowne Plaza.  Our friends then picked us up for a morning of shopping in the city center with us girls browsing Fraser’s and other department stores as well as popping in to check out the gorgeous city chambers.  The guys headed off on their own to hit some gaming shops.  After that we all met up for lunch at a funky, American themed chicken joint called the Absurd Bird, which had surprisingly good buffalo chicken.  I enjoyed my morning in the city center and it proved to be very pedestrian friendly with traffic mostly orderly and calm and with very few bicyclists to look out for.