Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Scotland Trip Part 1 (without photos for the time being!)

I awoke on Sunday morning with a jolt of excitement…today was the day we were leaving for the camping trip! I had managed to pack most things before falling into bed the night before, so all I had to do was shower, dress and put the last minute things in my rucksack. I was prepared for anything. I had my waterproof jacket and trousers, my Wellington boots, t-shirts, a pair of shorts, jeans…you name it, and I had it. My friend Sarah came over at about 8.00am, and we packed up the car. We were on the road for no later that 8.30!

The excitement in the car was incredible. Neither of us had been to Scotland before, (unless you’re counting the two weeks I was there after I was born!) so we were ripe with anticipation. Also, Sarah had the added excitement/nerves of meeting her family for the first time. She had found out a couple of years before that her grandfather had separated from her grandmother, and had settled down with a whole new family. It was a bit of a bombshell when Sarah found, but she was eager to meet them nonetheless. As we got further and further up the M1 Motorway, we could almost smell Scotland – or at least the whiskey! About 2 hours after we had set off the hunger started to strike, so we pulled over to a service station named Scotch Corner – we never did find out why it was called that, but we had been seeing the signs for it for miles and miles so felt we had to pull in to it. Also on the way up we passed the famous/notorious sculpture The Angel of the North. I personally do not like it one bit. I think its wings are too wide, and it looks out of proportion. It’s just a hunk of rusty metal in my eyes, but there are many many people who would disagree with me.

Also on the way up, we pulled off the main road to visit Bamburgh Castle, in Northumberland. It’s about 3 miles up the road from where my Mom grew up, and my Great – Granddad helped to rebuild one of the walls. I remember going as a child, when we were there on a family holiday. My parents told my sister and I that we were going to this castle, and it was a guided tour. Now when you’re about 6 years old, the last thing you want on your vacation is a guided tour of some old building. However, when we got there, it was not a guided tour as such, there were just roped off paths and areas and you made your own way round. My Mom let my sister and I go off alone and explore. To this day it is one my most cherished childhood memories. I also think that it was this that sparked my love of castles and old houses. It was incredible to go back – the structure is awesome (in the literal sense of the word). Unfortunately we didn’t have the time or the money to go around the Castle again, but one I day I will do it. I want to live there! The history of the place seeps through the walls into the atmosphere. Even stood outside the Castle walls, looking out over the North Sea you can feel it. To give you an idea as to the age of the building, historians and archaeologists can date parts of it back to the times of the Saxons – 700’s – 800’s.

We left there in awe and amazement, and headed back for the main road. Eventually we passed the Scotland Welcomes You signpost and we knew we were nearly there! We both gave a little cheer as we left England for Scotland. Even though we managed to get ourselves lost along the way to the campsite, we were still in good spirits shouting out the strange names of the towns in our worst Scottish accents! We managed to find the Seaton Sands Caravan Park, and find somewhere to park in order for Sarah to call her Aunt and let her know we had arrived. Sarah was incredibly nervous and a little excited, as she wasn’t sure what to expect when meeting her newly found family. We found the caravan pitch and pulled up alongside. As a woman was walking towards, it was unmistakably Sarah’s Aunt…their eyes are exactly the same – it was spooky! We spent that evening getting to know one another and having a general chat. I sat back a bit at this point and watched as Sarah finally found the family she had been searching for her entire life. Much alcohol was drunk, and a great deal of talking was done. It was a wonderful evening.

Sarah and I slept in the little tent that night, and we fell asleep to the sounds of the waves crashing on the beach, and the wind whipping through the canvas. We were a bit concerned at some points during the night that the tent would actually blow away, but as it was we were safe! We woke up bright early in the morning with the sun beating down on the tent and almost baking us alive! It was a welcome change the freezer we had fallen asleep in. I thought my nose was going to fall off at one point! That Monday was spent playing on the beach with the children, collecting crabs and shells and drawing in the sand. In the afternoon Sarah and I left the family and went exploring the nearest little town, Port Seaton and Cockenzie. We found a friendly little pub, so sat outside and soaked up the local atmosphere. We met a couple of the regulars of the pub, who proceeded to talk to us with the thickest Scottish accents, that all we could do in return was smile and nod! Once we were feeling a little bit merry, we headed back to the campsite to meet up with the family once again. Things were a little easier that day, because Sarah was over the worst of her nerves, so she had calmed down a little and was more like her usual self. I can’t imagine what must have been going through her head. She found out about her Granddad, who she hardly knew – if at all – and more about her Aunt’s family. They all have the same eyes – even down to the new 12-week-old baby.
On that Monday night I experienced one of the tastiest foods…ever! Deep Fried Battered Pizza! It sounds hideous, but trust me, it’s a taste sensation! It’s full of grease, and could be considered a Heart Attack in a polystyrene box…but my goodness it tasted good. It was just the cheapest plainest cheese pizza dipped in batter and then deep-fried…a taste of Scotland right there! Everyone was worn out with all the excitement of the previous days, so we had a fairly calm even just sitting, freezing and talking! It was another incredibly windy night, but it was warmer than the night before…either that, or we just had more clothes on!

We packed everything up in super quick time in the sun-shiny morning, and hit the open road once again, aiming for Edinburgh. We have some friends who live in a suburb of the city, and we were staying with them over night. Eventually, having managed to get ourselves a little bit lost, we found their house. We were promptly fed toast and tea to set us up for the day ahead. We caught the bus into Edinburgh itself, and nothing could have prepared us for what we were about to see. We got off the bus at the Prince’s Street Stop, and had our breath completely removed from our body! The only way to describe Edinburgh is EPIC. The buildings are huge and so imposing, but not necessarily in a bad way. Again, you can feel the history and timelessness of the buildings as you wander around them. Sarah and I weren’t quite sure what to do with ourselves. The sights were in the literal sense of the word, awesome. Also at the minute scattered all around Edinburgh are decorated cows. They’re all over the place, each one as unique as a snowflake. Some designed by school children, some by office workers, some by students, some by individuals, but they are all equally as beautiful.

Edinburgh Castle is also a thing of great beauty. It is nestled on a hilltop over looking the city, with its high castle walls and towers. The strength of building is visible from almost anywhere on Prince’s Street and beyond. We didn’t go up to the Castle because unfortunately we did not have time, but the views from where we were sat in the Prince’s Street Gardens was still amazing. Having rested our minds, which were due to explode with the excitement and awe of being in such a city, we met up with Lisa, who we were staying with that night. She took us down a street called the Royal Mile, which has lots of little cool shops, and a Museum of Childhood, which had us in stitches over the style of some of the old dolls! We wandered around World’s End – so named because way back when the city had walls, that particular point was the perimeter. Out of the city walls were the beggars, the thieves and the general outcasts of society. It was considered to be the end of your world if you ventured out beyond on the safety of the city – hence World’s End. We found a tiny little street of steps called Fleshmarket Close – we never found out why it was so named, but I’d be intrigued to know – on which we found Scotland’s Smallest and Friendliest Pub. Now I can say that it was tiny, containing only about 4 tables inside and 3 outside, but as for the Friendliest…I’m not so sure. The bar tender wasn’t even going to acknowledge us on our way out, if we hadn’t have said goodbye to her. But even so, it was a cute little pub where sat, drank, chatted and soaked up that Edinburgh vibe.

We woke up fairly late the next morning, having slept in a bed for the first time in a while, and boy was it comfy! So just sauntered around for a while, getting everything packed up and ready to go once again. Then once more the road was ahead of us and we were aiming for Callendar. It’s a small little town nestled in the Trossachs – the hills of mid-Scotland – and is most famous for being in Rob Roy country. It also became favourite spot of the trip so far because it’s where we came across A HIGHLAND COW!!! He came out of nowhere, and was suddenly there, in a field right next to the road! His name was Hamish and his horns were enormous! It was the aim of my trip to see at least one Highland Cow! He was as docile as a bunny rabbit, although it must be quite hot underneath all that hair. He was just stood munching on the grass, although his huge horns restrained him from getting to the nice big pile of juicy grass just in front of the fence. He had the biggest brownest eyes – when you could see them under his floppy ginger fringe. I was so pleased to have been able to get that close to such a creature.

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