First stop in Scotland was Gretna Green, heralded at the Las Vagas of Scotland due to the fact it was made famous for the countless shotgun marriages held here. All the underage lovers from England would come just over the border to here to get married at Gretna Green since the legal age for marriage was and still is I think 16, where as it is 18 in England. While we were there we had our own little marriage ceremony between a couple that had won the spot through a funny blind dating game held earlier on the bus, I do hope it was fake or they will have to answer quite a few questions when they get home!
Next up was Edinburgh which I really enjoyed! The place had a party vibe going on as the Edinburgh film festival was on at the same time and there were people everywhere! The first night after dinner we headed into town for some live music and a beer or three and even managed to find a deep fried mars bar to try... fyi awesome!
The next day we had a full free day here so first up we headed up to the castle and had a good look around. There was a heap of info on the audio guides and we probably spent a good couple of hours wandering around. After a quick bite to eat a hardy few of us decided to climb Arthurs Seat which is a huge hill right by the city, and once you're up there you have amazing 360 degree views over the city and beyond. So off we went charging up this hill and we were frequently rained onwhich slowed our progress, and up and up we went only to find what we thought was the way up was only up a big hill not the biggest hill, so we had to come back down again. Then ahead there were two more tracks up, both looking as formidable as the other with slippery wet wooden and stone steps, both of which did not look very inviting, and with much uncertainty which one to climb I decided on the one on the right. However at the top of that one we found nowhere to go but a steep rock face so back down we came again (with a fair bit of ribbing due to the fact I was the on to choose that path) So third time's a charm, although we weren't feeling very charmed as we were soaked and have been walking for at least an hour. Up the slippery stone steps till what we thought was the top (cue one of the boys playing the "Rocky" theme song as we ran up the rest of the hill side... only to find another god damn hill to climb!! Arghghghgh) So finally we made it to the top and the views were spectacular, so worth the prolonged climb! And luckily for us the clouds lifted and the sun came out and we basked in our achievement. On our decent we chose the back route, which we then found was a pretty gentle track that spiralled around the back of the hill sigh.... we do make it hard for ourselves.
The remainder of the day we moseyed around town and took in some sights and shops until it was time for our Scottish dinner where I tried haggis for the first time! I really thought it was going to be chunkier with kind of recognisable innards in it, but it was actually a lot like mince, and the way it was served with potato on top made it taste a lot like sheppard's pie. We also got treated to a hilarious bag piper that took the piss out of everyone and swore a lot and then played some great tunes that we all clapped along to, great fun! Back in town that night we went on another ghost tour which was fun as we headed underground to the catacombs and heard about some resident ghosts - a girl afterwards even admitted she thought she saw something........ OOoooOoooOOOOooooOO
Then we were off to St Andrews, which means a lot to someone who loves golf, but really meant nothing to me. However I did find out that people still play golf in the rain (I figure the ball would get bogged!?) and they filmed the chariots of fire beach scene on St Andrews beach - fact. But what did float my boat, while most people were taking in all things golf Jess and I wandered up the main street to the other end of town to see a ruin of a huge church in a cemetery. And it was the most beautiful ruin, and I guess the setting did a bit to make it rather unworldly. As it was pretty wet my pikkys aren't that flash but it was a really moving place.
Then it was time for more whiskey, however not my idea of a good time, but I did partake in a tasting, I couldn't turn down free liquor could I? And got deep fried pizza (yes they can deep fry anything!). Then it was time to try and spot Nessie! Off we sailed on a boat with sonar equipment and trawled the waters but alas he/she was a bit too shy to come and say hello, so into the souvenir shop we all went to warm up and I found a baby Nessie to take home and keep me company the rest of the trip.
That night we stayed at a tiny little place, with a whole lot of hotels, and one street of shops but not much else, but it did have a pub so all was not lost. We managed to get most of our bus load of people in there and had a great night drinking and carrying on like idiots.
We then had the treat of cruising through the beautiful Scottish highlands (which actually look a lot like home, green and lush with rolling hills) to the Isle of Skye. On the way we took in a beautiful vantage point called the Queens View (which would have been even more spectacular if the cloud lifted) and saw Eilean Donan Castle along with miles of beautiful scenery. Although it was pretty we didn't do a heck of a lot here more than eat lunch and wander around, and then it was time to be off again. On the way back home we passed Ben Nevis (the highest peak in Scotland -of course covered in cloud!), and a monument to the solders in the world wars.
That night back in the pub it was a karaoke night and we all got nicely liquored up and along with the others that climbed Arthurs Seat we opened with a track from a band called the Killers. Luckily there was so much music and noise that no one could really hear us which was probably a godsend!
Then we made our way to Glasgow, via Stirling, famous for its iconic Castle and William Wallace Memorial. On the way in the bus to make things more interesting we played a few games which involved getting certain objects from the front to the back to the front of the bus before the other team (each side was a team) some interesting objects included a bra - which thanks to Jess we won, and pants, which I forget who won but it was just a damn good laugh having they boys retrieve them from the front of the bus in their undies!
In Glasgow we were all a bit over sightseeing for a bit so we indulged in some shopping which was a nice relief to get some new clothes after the same ones day in and day out. Then that night we had to say farewell to the peeps that weren't joining us in Ireland so we went to an 80's bar - among others, and partied the night away!