|The wife and I recently spent 10 or so days in Scotland driving around, sightseeing, and sampling the local aqua vitae. We flew into and out of Edinburgh, visited castles in Edinburgh, Stirling, and near Loch Ness, and drove through or stayed in Callender, Fort William, Inverness, Dinnet, and Aberfeldy.
We sampled and mostly enjoyed the local fare, which largely consisted of fried meats and potatoes, though the haggis was an interesting detour. There seemed to be about ten or so different meals that were available at every restaurant around the country. None of them were bad, but there wasn't much variation.
We visited and toured a few distilleries including Glen Ord, Cardhu, Macallan, and Glenlivet, and I personally tried about 30 different kinds of Scotch whisky throughout the trip. Before the trip, I hadn't tried too many Scotches that I was a fan of, but I came home with an enormous appreciation for Glen Ord, Macallan Amber, and The Dalmore. Even the wife, who is by no means a drinker of hard alcohol, could appreciate the difference between different brands and flavors, and even liked a few.
The landscape was surprisingly stark. There were green pastures and forests followed closely by rocky hills and steep slopes. The weather was largely cool and wet, but we got a couple days of sunny warmth. Because of the on-off rain, my shoes and socks kept getting wet, which was not cool.
Good god, the Scots love their sheep. Every hill and field seen from a distance was covered in tiny white dots. Though the much beloved highland cow was seldom seen.
The castles and history were great to see in person. It's always amazing when you can walk around a structure that's been standing for 500 years. An interesting side note is that many of the churches are no longer churches; instead they're tourist information centers and business offices.
I had driven on the left side of the road one time before in Grand Cayman, so it wasn't entirely foreign. But it was still foreign. I got used to it after a week or so, but it still didn't feel quite right. I attempted to teach my wife how to drive stick, which was interesting because we were in a foreign country with unintelligible road signs, driving on the left while sitting on the right and shifting gears left-handed, on a one-lane two-way road that wound through farms where we had to frequently stop for cattle and sheep. It was a moderate success.
The language barrier was pretty minimal. I expected to have some problems understanding people because I'm bad at understanding people whose accent doesn't match my own. But even in the more rural parts, the language was pretty understandable.
Our visit happened to almost coincide with the Scottish vote for independence from the UK. The "Yes" campaign's alternative "No Thanks" nicely sums up the friendly nature of the vote.
In conclusion, this was a good trip. It was a little pricey because of the length of the flight and the currency conversion. We had a good time checking out the cities, small towns, and mountainous back country, as well as sampling some of the local food and drink. But because of the nearly constant cold and wet, we probably won't be returning. No hard feelings though. #travel