Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sightseeing and Scotland.

After the few days in London, we relaxed a bit (read: explored and spent too much at the giant mall in walking distance) at my Dad's flat in Derby. We had our first fish and chips (and mushy peas, in Kate's case and extreme delight) and too much chocolate. We did some redecorating (with the posters I made and by framing some pictures) to make the place more like home.

Then we hit the road again. First stop: Whitby.

In my extensive planning of my two-week exploration, I constantly passed ideas through Dad to make sure that I wasn't boring him to death and that the schedules made sense with his work. He never had any feedback except to say that he really wanted to go to Whitby. I had never heard of Whitby. All he could offer was that Dracula was filmed there.

So we went to Whitby. Turns out it's a super cute fishing town. We hiked up the 199 steps to the old Whitby Abbey, or the skeleton that remains of it, around the equally old graveyard and church, then back down for some fish and chips.

After dinner we toured the other side of the harbor, met a very friendly black cat without a tail that we named Dracula, stood in an arch made of the jawbone of a whale and given to the town of Whitby from the people of Alaska and learned about Captain Cook and his roots in Whitby. We crashed at the Bagdale Lodge that night, which I would highly recommend. The rooms were more of the size Americans are accustomed to, breakfast was cooked-to-order, and the location was great.

In the morning, we swung down to Robin Hood's Bay before hitting the road to Edinburgh. Robin Hood's Bay is named totally off of legend, but we enjoyed exploring the bay while the tide was out and imagining our favorite tales.

Anyway, on to Edinburgh. We stayed for two days at the Edinburgh apartHotel and again, I would highly recommend. It's located off the Royal Mile, which is where all the touristy stuff is. I would say it's where everything is, but I wouldn't know that. The hotel was an apartment-style place so it added that perk of a living room and kitchen. But the hotel isn't as fun as our touring around. So this is what we did in Edinburgh, list style because I'm already too wordy and only half-way through:
  • Guided tour of the Real Mary King's Close for a look into life in way back when. The close is underground now, adding to the spooky factor. Super interesting and worth it in my book.
  • Holyrood Palace. I loved this for the history of Mary, Queen of Scots, and to see how the Queen lives now when she visits the couple of times a year.
  • Edinburgh Castle. The views from here were amazing. We saw the Scottish crown jewels, the Stone of Scone, and the room where Mary gave birth to James, the first king of England and Scotland. I also had one of the best scones ever in their restaurant.
  • Calton Hill. We climbed to the top with three brides and the reason was clear: the views are amazing. You can see the entirely of the Royal Mile (from Holyrood to Edinburgh Castle), new town and old town, Arthur's Seat, and even the sea. And you can enjoy it, complete with my bad caption job.

Here's the view from Edinburgh Castle for some perspective, with the unfinished monument and all:
  • Scotch Whiskey Experience. This was a card for Dad. After palaces and castles he needed some scotch in Scotland. We did the tour, which is a mini-ride through the process, then smelled the aromas from the different areas, got to taste a scotch (it buurrrnnneeedd), and saw the largest collection of scotch.
  • Scott Memorial. I can only hope that I get a memorial this intricate and fabulous when I become fabulous. Okay, maybe he deserved it.
  • The Elephant House. JK wrote the first Harry Potter here! And you thought we were only nerdy enough to take a bus tour.

Obviously, Cat just couldn't contain her excitement. Thus her scarf wrapping on the side. Note the extreme sarcasm. She is not a fan. I'm working on it, guys.

After we exhausted our Edinburgh plan we hit the road for a day of Scottish highlands. They are everything you imagine - the misty mountains, the lush and vibrant green grass, the tranquil lochs. Pictures honestly do not do it justice. We took off from Edinburgh to Inverness, the gateway to the highlands. We took the scenic route, ambling along and taking it all in. Then we ambled on down to Loch Ness. And, YOU GUYS, WE SAW NESSIE.

We couldn't stay for tea because we had sights to see. She understood. Nicest swamp monster dragon ever.

We hopped back in the car to Glenfinnan. You know Glenfinnan. Well, if you insist. But I can feel your judging eyes and I do not like it. Anyway, the Glenfinnan viaduct is the bridge the Hogwarts Express traveled over en route to Hogwarts.

You see?
Courtesy of Google Images. Hogwarts Express in all it's majesty.

Except the view wasn't like that. It was more like this:

And the weather was like this:

So we shivered our way back to the car and hoped for better weather at Castle Stalker. But not before two (two!) cases of double rainbows and our first trip on a ferry.

The sun welcomed us to Castle Stalker. That, and coconuts making the sound of hooves. No, that would be too perfect. It was an actual horse. The only thing that would've made it that much better would have been an African swallow.

Still lost? Watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail and try not to snot your drink out of your nose.

Finally, to wrap up our tour of Scotland, we stopped by Douglas. My friend Kate traced her heritage back to the remains of this castle and we happened to be visiting on her birthday. It was made even more special by our stumbling upon the Douglas Heritage Museum and meeting the nicest man who let us in to the museum when it was closed, taking up to the a monument in the town and then letting us into St. Bride's Church where we saw the family vault. It was an amazing end to an amazing weekend trip. Well, extended weekend. The post is a highlight hit of the Thursday afternoon to Monday evening trip.

For the first part of our adventures, see my London post over here. Next up: a day trip to the Amsterdam tulip fields, Dover, Hampton Court, Canterbury, Derby, and much more.


  1. Thank you, thank you! I'm going to need one for Sweden soon!!


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