If they gave awards for the country’s best, Scotland would win the following:
- Cookie – shortbread. So buttery rich, it is cut into one-inch squares.
- Most creative use of organ meats cooked in a sheep’s intestine – haggis. Tried twice to make sure the first taste was as salty as I recalled.
- Best men’s native dress – is there anything better than a kilt?
- Most ingenious method to differentiate clans/ families – tartan plaids.
- Most vibrant city in the month of August – Edinburgh (see below)
Our Scottish holiday started with the beat of a bass drum leading a 45-member pipe band in their colorful red and black kilts in the 2023 Pipe Band World Championships. It was quite by accident that we discovered this was happening in Glasgow after we landed there for our two-day rest between the end of our Ireland tour and the beginning of our Scotland tour. But we snapped up two tickets to the Friday competition featuring the best class of bands, put on our walking shoes and began the hike Friday morning. Along the way, we met Erin, sister of a drummer from the Dublin band, and a return visitor to the championship. She sat with us, and enlightened us throughout the day. It was so much fun and no doubt, the best $15 we spent during this visit.
Our trip ended with 800 performers led by 240 bagpipes filling the grounds of the Edinburgh Castle as the Royal Military Tattoo came to an end for another season. “A pinnacle of military music and tradition, it seamlessly blends the best of Scottish heritage, military precision, and cultural acts from around the globe.” (Official program.) Bagpipers have historically brought the sound of home to the battlefields and the Royal Tattoo celebrates this tradition. This year’s event brought military musical groups from the US (Air Force), Trinidad and Tobago, Australia, Switzerland, Ireland, several from England and Scotland, and Norway who won the sword for the “best in show” – my term. It runs the entire month of August and was included in our tour and amazing doesn’t tell the story. Along with the Fringe Festival which is a music/ theatrical celebration of all things art at numerous venues across the city during the month, the city is teeming with people. Check out both the Tattoo and the Fringe Festival on YouTube for more information.
In the seven days between the two experiences, we joined 35 other travelers in a motor coach tour of Scotland. Here are some of the highlights:
- Castles. Lots of castles, some even still being lived in so when family dinners happen, they remove the tourist ropes and use the dining room.
- The Culloden battlefield, where I was intrigued with the battles between the British and the Jacobites, clansman who followed Prince Charles Stuart. Again, it was a fight between the Protestants and the Catholics.
- St. Andrews, the home of golf. I know Kathy would have loved to play a round, but time (among other things) wouldn’t allow it. St. Andrews has much going for it, but we only had a couple of hours to explore.
- Breathtaking views of the Scottish Highlands and lakes including Loch Ness.
- Another whiskey distillery where I learned all about single malt vs. most of the whiskeys on the market. And this is where we also learned that water from the mountains is used directly in the whiskey along with yeast and barley. Earlier in the week, our tour guide had tried to cheer us up when it rained the first two days by telling us “today’s rain is tomorrow’s whiskey” and now we knew exactly what she meant.
The disappointing part of this trip was that each hotel was located far enough from the nearest city or town that our dinners were all at the hotels from pre-set menus leaving no chance to eat and mix with the local people. Still, it’s been a great visit and we are happy to be closing up this chapter. But like the last post, wait… there’s still more to come.
Note: I still haven’t resolved my photo challenges as well as some formatting issues. Sorry, you’ll have to use your imagination.