Scotland 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿: Family trip to Edinburgh & Cairngorms National Park

I remember fondly the time Laura and I spent in Scotland just one year ago. What great memories of the Fringe festival, Jen & Sean’s wedding in Dunkeld or our three week hike on the Scottish national trail. This time we came here to belatedly make good on a birthday present for Bodo … a present we gifted more than one year ago yet group dynamics prevented an earlier trip.

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Checking out Edinburgh: Friday for Future Fun

While the masses of the fringe festival held throughout August had left town, it was still pretty busy with tourists. And there was Greta Thunberg and her climate movement. And it was Friday.

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So amidst ~20,000 of people joining the global Friday for future climate strikes, thus neatly avoiding school, we visited Edinburgh on a mild and sunny late summer day. Castle, Grassmarket, Greyfriar church, Royal mile etc. I used a few notes of last years blog to share the stories of Edinburghs most famous dog Greyfriar Bobby, of Maddie Dickson and how the term “shit-faced” came about (see Edinburgh: Beauty. Tales. Art. Friends.).

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In the afternoon we hiked up to Arthurs seat to enjoy the splendid views of Edinburgh and the North Sea. Many others were likeminded and hence it was quite busy up there.

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Nightlife in Edinburgh is always worthwhile – lots of pubs and bars with life music (and lots of more upmarket options if it tickles your fancy). So we enjoyed everything from Scottish folk songs by a group of brothers from the North of the country, improvised fiddle & accordion music and more.

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Dalwhinnie Whiskey Distillery: Getting the taste of it

Saturday we left the city behind us and headed north into the Highlands and Cairngorms National Park (by now easily the park in visited most on the island). Never-mind the destination, the way up there is lovely with stunning scenery wherever you turn your head. You can even spot deer, pheasants, foxes and rabbits … so mainly dead on the roadside. Sadly.

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After two hours we reached the distillery with its beautiful building and distinct roof construction. Dalwhinnie distillery is the most elevated in Scotland (~400m) and facing the coldest conditions (6 degrees average annual vs. 12 in London and 13 in Dresden).

Scotch single malt – What makes a scotch a scotch

  • Produced at a distillery in Scotland from water and malted barley (and yeast)
  • No added ingredients
  • Matured in an oak cask for at least 3 years in Scotland
  • Minimum 40% alcohol

The guided tour takes about 75 minutes and is very informative. At Dalwhinnie they produce 1.5m liters of whiskey per year, most of which becomes the trademark 15y Dalwhinnie scotch you can buy in most duty free shops in the world.

There is, however, also a “winter gold” edition. This one is produced, as you might have guessed, in winter times as the chilly conditions from October through March cool down the alcohol vapour in such a way that its not conducive to producing the standard brand. And i guess the owner Diageo didn’t want to have the factory idle half the year!

 

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Hiking the Ruthven & Glen Tromie circuit

It was still only early afternoon and the weather still splendid. So we hit the hiking trail for a 11km circular hike (viewranger link to route) with about 250m ascent. The path, while well visible, is wild and takes you through a range of different scenery. We even briefly got lost. Barren hills, farm land, deserted houses, rivers, forrest… the trail really offers a bit of everything. Start and finish is marked by the Ruthven barracks.

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After 3:40mins we made it back and headed for the nearest pub for refreshments.

 

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Frances rediscovered her love for horses it appears. Male ones mainly.

 

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Kingussie: Mostly quiet with a bit of disco light

Last year Di picked Laura and myself up from the pub in Kingussie and treated us to a lovely dinner in her house (Scottish National Trail: Crossing Cairngorm National Park & Dinner at Di’s (days 9, 10, 11)). This time we had a little time to explore this 1,400 soul village. Well, there is not that much. We enjoyed a dinner in the best rated restaurant (mc Innes) in town (well, partly best rated as they give you 10% off your bill if you review the restaurant before paying … but it was genuinely decent).

We tried the local pub again (which at the time of our visit didn’t serve food) only to find some crazy old Scottish dude entertaining the locals with disco lights and music mostly suited to the older generation (and in a very random order). We didn’t stay long and rather retired to the hotel after an exhausting, but fun day out.

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And Sunday it was time to head home – naturally not without a short hike around Pitlochry and its hydro power station.

 

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Scottish National Trail: Edinburgh all the way North to Cape Wrath (day 1)

So, the recovery time past the Elbe paddle is up and two big parties are digested. Now it’s time to get back outdoors to hike the Scottish National Trail from Edinburgh all the way North to Cape Wrath, the northernmost point on the british mainland. In total 750km of fascinating countryside, villages and people lie ahead (as well as rain, wind, sore feet…).

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Slateford – Ratho – Broxburn

Today: 20km | Total: 20km

The first day started only about 3pm. First we had to travel back to Edinburgh from Dunkeld, had a publunch before we finally got going in Edinburgh suburb of Slateford. We had no specific destination in mind for today – one of the positives of carrying camping gear.

 

The Scottish National Trail is an 864 kilometre-long long distance walking route running the length of Scotland from Kirk Yetholm to Cape Wrath. Devised by outdoors writer and broadcaster Cameron McNeish in 2012, the Trail offers very varied walking, following long-established footpaths for much of the distance but becoming progressively more difficult as it heads north, finishing with a tough stretch of backpacking – with some pathless and demanding terrain – on the final stretch of the Cape Wrath Trail.

All in, we managed 20km along the Union canal who will be literally on our side for at least two days. Our first major stop was at the pretty village of Ratho with its iconic The Bridge pub and nice residential developments around a small marina. From there further to Broxburn.

 

Obviously, it had to rain on the first day. Welcome to Scotland! Laura’s jacket was not quite up to the job. The rest of the gear was ok though (well, the new boots still need a little more breaking in).

Laura’s comment (day 1)

Otra aventura con Rocket ha comenzado. Las espectativas del viaje son muchas, aún conociendo las condiciones de los diferentes lugares y el común clima de Escocia, tengo la certeza que será un GRAN tiempo en este maravilloso país. 👧🏻

 

One highlight for me came late in the day, as we fixed our empty stomachs with dinner at a Broxburn burger place (one of the traditional ones). I tried fried Haggis… And i loved it. Defo gonna get some more of that stuff while up here. Not sure why i waited that long to try it.

Haggis is a savoury pudding containing sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs, minced onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach though now often in an artificial casing instead. According to the 2001 English edition of the Larousse Gastronomique: “Although its description is not immediately appealing, haggis has an excellent nutty texture and delicious savoury flavour”.

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Edinburgh: Beauty. Tales. Art. Friends.

It was with great excitement that we traveled up to Scotland. Not only was a beauty of a city waiting to be explored at the time of its annual art festival (Fringe), but also Sean & Jen’s wedding and our start of the Scottish National Trail. All in – close to one month in one of my favorite countries lie ahead. I remember only too keenly the time during my Lhotse preparation up here. And I want more 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 🏕️🦕⛈️🌲

Previous blogs in Scotland

Cairngorms winter mountaineering ft. Di Gilbert
Mountain biking around Aviemore: Videolog

Final outdoor training before Nepal – Day 1: Climbing the hidden chimney (Cairngorms)

Final outdoor training before Nepal – Day 2 : Ben Nevis via Ridge Route

Final outdoor training before Nepal – Day 3 : Swing lead climbing the Central Gully (Cairngorms)

Socialising with the wedding crew

After sorting some last yet essential hiking kit (such as boots & sleeping bags), we joined Jen & Sean for a social evening at The Devil’s Advocate pub in Edinburghs old town. Many familiar faces from Ibiza and some faces I hadn’t seen in years. A good time also for Laura to meet some new people including several Spanish speakers. Great fun.

Edinburgh sightseeing – story telling time

I don’t know how many times i have been here before. Maybe more than ten times. But often for work and with little time to get to know Edinburgh better.

We headed straight for the High Street where the annual arts festival Fringe (the largest worldwide) was in full swing. Street performances en mass and a flurry of actors marketing their perforamances for the day. Everything goes really. Great athmosphere.

As usual, i got myself on a free tour. This time with city explorers. What a great way to explore town. Starting from its origins centuries ago, the city wall and its limitations, the subsequent construction of the Georgian new town, the famous children of Edinburgh and Scotland and a few entertaining tales. Some of what i learned I share below.

Adam Smith: Certainly the most famous one of the economists though also very active in philosophy and writing. His book ‘The wealth of Nations‘ remains a key pillar of classic economics and his masterpiece. His contributions to free trade thinking have most certainly improved so many livelyhoods.

Man is an animal that makes bargains: no other animal does this – no dog exchanges bones with another.

– Adam Smith

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Walter Scott: This Scottish novelist might be less well known to many though his works like Ivanhoe might already sound more familiar. The monument dedicated to him remains the tallest in the world dedicated to an author. His novels revolutionised and initiated Scottish tourism in particular his popular works ‘Waverly Novels’ (sold 2m times in France alone… In tbe 18th century!).

Success – keeping your mind awake and your desire asleep.
– Walter Scott

Robert Burns: Scotlands national poet that is celebrated each year at Burns night. In 2009 he was voted the greatest Scot of all times by the Scottish people.

There is no such uncertainty as a sure thing.
– Robert Burns

GAURDY-LOO and the origins of being “shit faced”

Back in the day when they threw their chamber pot contents into the street they didn’t just do it whenever. There was a special time when the bells from a certain church would ring and then everyone would open up their windows, chamber pots in hand. “Gaurdy-loo” would be yelled out and then SPLASH into the street it would all go. Excuse the terrible spelling of that phrase, but it’s kind of hard to hear the french origin with the Scottish accent, essentially in French, that meant “dirty water.” Over time when toilets began to come into play it shortened itself and this is where “loo” came from. (Another fun fact, here in the UK it’s a port-a-loo rather than a port-a-potty. Sounds much classier, don’t you think?)

Now the times that the bells tolled also happened to coincide with another time regulated event, when the bars closed and the drunks came home. Apparently at this time there were a lot of foreigners in Edinburgh, trying to be protected from the English, so they weren’t entirely accustomed to all of Edinburgh’s culture. When someone yelled “Guardy-loo,” instead of running and hoping to escape the splash zone, drunk and disoriented they would look up, and the phrase “shit-faced” was born.It is 3am in a cafe on the last road to nowhere. There is a waitress with no name, past or future, and only the radio to drown out the silence. She seems stuck in the same place at the same time; if she stops, the world may stop too. Merging physical theatre and dance with aerial circus, held together by performance poetry and an eclectic soundtrack, Rogue Play’s 65-minute, high-energy piece explores loneliness and detachment, the tenderness of unexpected connections and the ultimate peace that comes when we accept the world as it is.

I copied the write up from this blog. Nice read.

The story of Maggie Dickson

While exploring the Grassmarket area of town you will most certainly hear of Maggie Dickson. The place was formerly the lifestock market, but also a place of execution.

A popular story in Edinburgh is that of Margaret Dickson, a fishwife from Musselburgh who was hanged in the Grassmarket in 1724 for murdering her illegitimate baby shortly after birth.

After the hanging, her body was taken back to Musselburgh on a cart. However, on the way there she awoke. Since, under Scots Law, her punishment had been carried out, she could not be executed for a second time for the same crime (only later were the words “until dead” added to the sentence of hanging). A subsequent inquiry found that many others were burried alive as scratch marks in their coffins indicated.

Her “resurrection” was also to some extent seen as divine intervention, and so she was allowed to go free (and avoided paying taxes owing to her death certificate). In later life (and legend) she was referred to as “half-hangit Maggie”. There is now a pub in the Grassmarket named after her.

Greyfriars Bobby – a story of a loving dog

The best-known version of the story is that Bobby belonged to John Gray, who worked for the Edinburgh City Police as a nightwatchman.

When John Gray died he was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard, the kirkyard surrounding Greyfriars Kirk in the Old Town of Edinburgh. Bobby then became known locally, spending the rest of his life sitting on his master’s grave.

Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all.

– scripture on Bobby’s grave stone

He is now burried on Greyfriars cementary close to his master and honoured every year. On this cementary you will also find several grave stones with names that inspired A. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter characters such as Thomas Riddel aka Lord Voldemort (she wrote the first two books in a cafe opposite the graveyard and came here to find inspiration).

Let’s got to the theatre… The 3am waitress

I actually never attended a play etc in Edinburgh even though i was at the Fringe before. Laura pick out a dance theatre. Little text from actors, but background voice and lots of expression anfld movement. Liked it as the performance went on. Very different to what I have seen before. Here the promo video.

Description: It is 3am in a cafe on the last road to nowhere. There is a waitress with no name, past or future, and only the radio to drown out the silence. She seems stuck in the same place at the same time; if she stops, the world may stop too. Merging physical theatre and dance with aerial circus, held together by performance poetry and an eclectic soundtrack, Rogue Play’s 65-minute, high-energy piece explores loneliness and detachment, the tenderness of unexpected connections and the ultimate peace that comes when we accept the world as it is.