Tag Archives: whiskey

Loch Lomond (Conic Hill)

Though there was lots of drinking throughout my trip to Scotland (and Glasgow was no exception) I was at least countering some of the calories I was ingesting via beer in the form of hikes!  As Anna is also a big fan of hiking, we set off for Loch Lomond to take on Conic Hill!!!  Markie also joined us for the day of fun!! 🙂

Now, while we are fans of hiking and walking in general, we aren’t necessarily the most organized of people… Real hard-core hikers are prepared in advance.  They pack the necessities, make sure they have the right shoes, get up at the rear of dawn to make it to their destination so they can get in a good hike before lunch.  Yea…. this was not us at all!!  We woke around 10, made our way out of the house maybe around noon?? Left in jeans and random everyday-use sneakers. Then went to get Markie, headed to Conic Hill to climb the “mountain” (it’s really just a hill!!) got some candy bars and some water at the little store at the base of the hill, then headed on up!  Actually, had it been completely up to Markie, we would have just stayed at the base where there was a little restaurant and had some whiskey and beer instead of climbing at all (he was like “you were serious about hiking??” lol!!).  So after convincing him that yes, we really were going for a hike, we headed off!

Though again we kept calling our hike “a hike up a mountain” it literally was just a hill.  The climb was not tough or really that steep, just cold and quite windy at the top!!  The more movement we made though the warmer I felt (of course from circulating the blood) but the second we would stop, I would freeze!!  It only took about 45 minutes to get to the top at a very leisurely and relaxed pace.  The view from the top was splendid as you could see all across the Loch and each of the little islands in the Loch.  Sadly, that particular Loch is quite popular for parties in the summer and such… I say sadly because apparently there are a lot of deaths that occur in that Loch due to people getting too drunk, then getting on their boats or trying to swim or what have you… And because of the currents/depth/clarity/size of the Loch, it’s more like people just go missing… The bodies aren’t always found:(  In fact, not that long before we were there, a news report had come out that a foot had washed ashore on one of the beaches on the Loch… Joy!!  It was thought to be from a case years before of a child that had apparently drown, but the body was never found…

Another interesting thing to note about Loch Lomond for those seriously into hiking and camping out during hikes… It is the start of the West Highlandway which is a 4-5 day walking camp route!!  It is quite a popular route and in fact even as we were coming down off the Hill, we passed several younger people with their backpacks, yoga mats and wee tents strapped to them.  Obviously they were off to tackle the West Highlandway!

For sure had it been actually warm weather I could see being interested in doing something like that… But you all already know how much of a complete wimp I am in the cold!!  Good times!  In any event, once we made it back down, to reward ourselves we just had to stop in for a pint and some whiskey to warm up!!  Since Anna was driving though, she could only have coffee… poor thing!!  Don’t worry though, she caught up to us later that evening once we ditched the car! 🙂  We hung out for a couple of hours enjoying our beverages then headed back to town for the evening festivities!

Almost forgot!  On the way back we actually stopped in to visit with Anna’s dad for a few moments where we were scoffed at each time we called “Conic Hill” a “mountain” 😉  Obviously we were trying to sound tougher than we actually were and her dad knew better!!  Lol!!!

On to Lochgoilhead

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Huntly

It wasn’t terribly far, nor a bad bus ride over to Huntly.  To my disappointment later I realized that Huntly wasn’t technically inside the Highland area at all, but rather about half way between the highlands and the coast…  There was another place I was looking to go to -Tomintoul- that I know for SURE was in the Highlands, but it was only accessible by bus on Tuesdays and that would have meant about a week killing time in other areas nearby.  Tomintoul sounded appealing simply because first it was in the Highlands and second it’s the highest point of the Highlands… Getting there is half the battle though!!  In any event, Huntly was a simple quiet and quaint little place.  When I arrived however the weather was not quite cooperating as it had been so far.  It was wet and cold and simply dreary!!  Very Scottish normal weather I’m sure, just not what I had been used to thus far.

When I arrived I was dropped in town center square.  Since I of course didn’t have a planned place to stay for the night, I wandered toward the tourist information center in the square… It happened to be closed and looked as if it would only be open when whomever worked there decided to show (I love small towns!!).  There was a little map in the window however that marked a few spots for B&Bs/hotels.  I made a mental note of them and started heading in their direction.

Mind you, there was a hotel in the town square itself called Gordon Arms, but I figured being THAT close to the center square, it would probably be too expensive!  So I wandered off down the road in the cold and the mist and found the first place of interest.  No vacancy, but the nice woman did refer me to another potential place.  So off I went back down the road, down the side street, straight on till morning, and found the next lovely place.  No vacancy… Hmmm… I really didn’t take Huntly to be THAT popular a destination, especially since there was no one on the streets or no other signs of life really aside from the Hotel owners/workers and some shop employees along the way!

I asked once again about any other place potentially open, but sadly no.  So I wandered back to the square and in the opposite direction from where I went before and found another place. No answer… At this point it looked like I could be running out of options… So I wandered into the Gordon Arms hotel holding my breath at the potentially huge sum of money I would have to pay for the night.  The hotel clerk greeted me but asked me to hold for a minute.  When he arrived ready to check me in, he asked “Are you staying at the hostel?”??

The HOSTEL????  You have a HOSTEL here???  Sure enough, just around the corner not a stone throw away was the Highlander Bunkhouse!!!  A hostel for all the crazy cheap backpackers like myself:)  Yay!!!  Oh and best part too of the hostel, only a few steps from the pub!  Double yay!!!  So I paid for a night and settled in to my room.  I was the only one in my room, which was great, so it was like having a private though there were several other people staying in the hostel.  At this point I really wasn’t sure how long I would stay in Huntly.  There was certainly much to do there- several castles to hike to, lots of whiskey distilleries to tour, etc, etc. But with the weather being as it was… Well, let’s just say that it just didn’t inspire much of any sort of effort on my part!!  So if the next day had the same weather, then I would go.  But if it cleared up or showed some promise of clearing up, then I would stay!

In any event, after settling in it just happened to be about beer o’clock… So I headed into the pub for a pint!  Now, K and I have had a few chats before about how great pubs are just from the perspective of being able to meet locals fast and chat them up on things to do in their town!  This pub was… well… a tiny bit different, but not at all in a bad way!!  I wandered in and at the bar were 6 men.  Literally as I walked in it was like the room silenced and all heads turned to see who was coming in… I wasn’t sure if that meant that the regulars were all already there so they simply weren’t expecting anyone else to come in, or if they were an unfriendly type, or what really…!!

I sheepishly walked over to the side of the bar (trying my very BEST to seem confident and not sheepish at all!!) sat down and asked the bar maid, who suddenly appeared from around the corner for a beer.  And that was basically all it took!  Within a few minutes it was like I was just part of the gang.  They asked questions of me, I of them, and it we were all best of buds in no time!  Everyone was buying everyone else drinks and the festivities just went on like this for hours!  As the evening went on, more and more people came and went, which really gave me the distinct feeling that this pub was probably one of the only ones in town as well!!  Funnily enough, the 6 original guys who were in the bar (and then another 3 that came in later) weren’t locals at all.  They were simply contracted workers who were staying in Huntly to work on wind turbine projects near Huntly.  So they weren’t able to give me much information about the area and what to do (nor could the barmaid as she had just recently moved there too) but after a few drinks, I lost interest in that kind of information anyway!

I will say that at least I did behave myself!!  I cut myself off at a point, got some food and went to bed so I wouldn’t be hung over the next day!  Generally, well, I do like to drink and have quite a hard time moderating myself… But I guess as I get older it gets a little easier as the impending thought of the hangover is enough to make me stop with the booze and start with water!!

I bid farewell and thanks to my fellow bar mates for the night and headed to my hostel.  The next day unfortunately had the same dreary and cold weather as the day before.  So true to my word I packed up and headed to Inverness.

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Aberdeen

While it was time to take off and travel more of Scotland, I really was quite reluctant about it because it meant having to leave K&E!!  I still miss hanging out with them for a beer (or 20 in the case of K & I, lol!! AND whiskey on occasion!!) or for a delicious home cooked meal!  I had my first Cullen Skink there, and though I’m not at all a fish fan, the soup was VERY delicious and had no fishy taste to it at all!!  I miss the lean event we did together on the garage, driving around town in style, being shown all the exclusive and local parts of the area, the awesome conversation and company, and Sunday night burritos!!  Yea, I wasn’t looking forward to leaving, but it was time…

When looking up where to go next, I settled on Aberdeen then on to the Highlands, which are in central Scotland.  I was first thinking to keep going north from Aberdeen along the coast, but it would have been trickier to get around since I didn’t have a car and only relied on buses and trains.  Which brings me to a point… Scotland visitors would definitely benefit from renting a car!!!  There are sooooooo many nooks and crannies to see in Scotland that aren’t possible to see because the buses don’t go there, or they only go there on Tuesdays, etc, etc.!!  So if you really want to get into Scotland, rent a car!!  Or a car AND a chauffeur, which is how it would have to be in my case because they drive on the “wrong” side of the road and I could totally see myself killing myself within the first few minutes of attempting to drive alone!!

Moving on… I happened to find a train ticket to Aberdeen in first class for only 3 pounds more than the 2nd class ticket.  Having never traveled any mode of transportation in first class before, I thought heck, why not?!  And man oh man was it ever worth it!!!  Free food!  Free booze!!  Free WiFi!!!  Comfy seats!!!  I can’t say that I would have paid much more than 10 pounds more than the 2nd class seat to get a 1st class seat, but then again… Now that I know all the perks of 1st class, well it certainly made me want to always go that way!!  But I’m too cheap to do that!!  Or rather, the more I spend in one way means the less I can spend in traveling!!  So being thrifty always wins out!!

Aberdeen is an interesting mix of a place.  It is modern yet built in an old style.  The whole city is quite grey due to the granite they use on many of the buildings, both old and modern.  It is a very industrious town and has lots of oil business there and ship yards for various tasks such as fishing, oil, etc.  Funnily enough I learned that Aberdeen is where my sister’s place of work is based out of!  It’s definitely just a business place, with some character in the old buildings and the cemetery in the center of town, but that was about it.

Luckily I had only planned to simply get there, spend a few hours walking around (which I almost got lost at one point, lol!!) and then head out via the bus to Huntly.  And that’s what I stuck to doing.  I checked my luggage into the storage facility at the train station, walked around, then gathered my luggage and waited for my bus.

On to Huntly

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Edinburgh Zoo

Before getting into this section I will say that when it comes to Zoos in general, I have a love/hate relationship with them… I love them because one is able to see so many different kinds of animals that would otherwise never be possible to see, but I hate them because in a way zoos are exploiting the animals too.  I don’t doubt for a second that people who work in zoos absolutely love the animals and want to do right by them, but while it’s great to see a polar bear or chimpanzees,  etc., I wonder if we are doing right by them taking them out of their natural habitats… Again, I know that many zoos work hard to recreate the various animals natural habitats and that in some cases in the wild so many of the animals are on the endangered list so perhaps the only way to continue the species is because of zoos, but part of me wishes we didn’t have to interfere so much… If it wasn’t for us destroying the animals natural habitats or hunting them to near extinction then we really wouldn’t have a need for zoos at all… If only it were a perfect world…  Perhaps at this point as well the whole debate is moot because so many of the animals nowadays are born in captivity to begin with and could never survive in the wild as they are supposed to… I just wish it wasn’t that way… But wishing doesn’t do any benefit to anyone or any animal… I also realize that in my buying a ticket I’m supporting the efforts of zoos, so I’ve no right to dislike them since I’m supporting them… Basically as you can see zoos to me open up a huge can of debatable worms!!  Love them and hate them… Grrr!!

Ok, I’m off my soapbox… I’ve been to several zoos around the world at this point and I must say that while some were VERY disappointing and I felt really sorry for the animals (Costa Rica Zoo in San Jose) I thought that the Edinburgh zoo was quite well done!  The habitats for the animals are very spacious and the grounds go on forever!!  Thanks to E I was able to score a discounted ticket for the zoo and literally spent about 9 hours walking every inch of the zoo!  The variety of critters was impressive and again the habitats themselves were spacious (for those critters that need the space!) and the animals seemed generally content.  I must say my favorite bit (aside from the big cats) was the baboons!  They were so darn entertaining that I could have watched them alone for hours on end!  Just watching the interactions between the, probably 50 or so, baboons was better than any reality show on TV today!  There was drama, comedy, action, and lots and lots of mating!!  Must have been the season I guess… Anyway, if any of you reading this are fans of zoos, I do recommend the Edinburgh zoo.

Oh, and by the way, if any see the Wild Cat, I want to hear about it!!  Apparently there is a running joke among people who have visited the Edinburgh zoo where they say that though there is a habitat for the Wild Cat, there isn’t actually a wild cat in the habitat because no one has ever seen it!!  Personally, I have seen it and had I known about that running joke I would have taken a picture to show K&E, but alas I didn’t… I actually spotted it twice.  The first time did take me quite a while to find it because it was curled up sleeping way up high in a tree.  It was about mid-day the first time I saw it.  Then later as the zoo was starting to close I made my way back to the Big Cat area and saw it on the floor of the habitat awake and having a sip of water.

Sorry I’ve no pictures to share for this section… I did take a few pictures for myself but find it a bit exploitive to post them up… I know, I’m odd!!

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Trafalgar Square

Here we come to another fun little story…  The man on the top of the column in Trafalgar square is indeed a man named Nelson, NOT Napoleon…  However Nelson was responsible for winning one of the battles against Napoleon.  Sadly, he also lost his life in that particular battle.  The location of the battle, as you may know (it was news to me!!) took place in Trafalgar, Egypt.

So the story goes (as told by my tour guide) that Nelson fought bravely and valiantly, and with the Royal Navy at his command was able to defeat Napoleon in the battle at Trafalgar.  When Nelson lost his life in the battle, the soldiers, well really all of the United Kingdom wanted to honor his brave acts and his victory on his behalf.  So they decided to bring his body back to England so that it could be properly buried.

However, there was one little issue… The body was on a ship in the waters near Egypt, and it would take several days to actually get back to England… So preserving the body became an interesting challenge.  No worries however, they had several barrels of whisky on board!!  And what is the best way to preserve a body??  Well, dunk it in whiskey!  So they opened a barrel of whiskey (they had 5 or 6 in all) and placed Nelson’s body inside.  They replaced the cap of the barrel and marked it so that they would know which barrel had his body inside, and which were just full of whiskey…

When the ship got back to London, they cracked the barrel labeled with Nelson’s body inside and found it to be curiously only half full of whiskey… hmmm… What happened to the other half???  I thought perhaps the body simply absorbed the whiskey up and the body would therefore be a bloated yucky mess.  However, this was not the case.  What apparently happened instead was that the crew, having been so happy at their victory decided to celebrate all the way back to London.  Along the journey they managed to run out of all the whisky (they drank up 4 or 5 barrels of whiskey on their own!!)…

So… what else were they to do after running out of whiskey yet still wanting more??  Yup, they started to drink out of the whiskey barrel with Nelson’s body inside!!  They apparently felt the best way perhaps to really honor Nelson was to literally drink from him… “eeeewwwwwwww!!!!!”  is all I have to say!!!  And, as my guide noted, it certainly gives a new meaning to the term “full bodied” when describing imbibes!!!

On to Horse Garden, PM House, Westminster & Big Ben

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