Ah, Scotland, the land of whisky, kilts and… unicorns?
In case you didn’t know, the unicorn is the national animal of Scotland. So when it came to picking a destination for Easter break, it was a no-brainer: Fluffy is going to a family reunion!
Aga, Terese, Fluffy and I fly to Edinburgh and check in to St. Christopher’s Inn, which is just a stone’s throw away from our airport shuttle drop-off. Our dorm is pretty cold and the facilities are basic(ally shit), but the hostel has its own bar, and honestly, I am all about that these days. I prefer getting plastered within crawling distance from my bed.
The bar – Belushi’s – is a pretty busy sports bar with an extensive list of bomb shots. We quickly make it a goal to go through all 14, starting with Glitter bombs, that taste like my 25th birthday, but with less glitter. Since it’s busy by the time we go check it out, getting a table seems nearly impossible. I’ve approached some guys with empty seats who are claiming their “friends are coming”, so we just stand awkwardly around the bar until we realize they were lying and we are drunk enough to be rude without caring. We walk over and take a seat without any protests from the guys. While getting drunker and having dinner, I state my goal of finding a bar with live music. Through a quick Google search, we establish that the nearby Whistle Binkies is a great spot, so we head off.
Whistle Binkies is a dark and super crowded bar, but we manage to squeeze our way towards the stage and eventually find some seats. Now, when I think live music, I imagine an acoustic set, where some guy plays Wonderwall at least once. Instead, we get a full band with a TRUMPET, which just seems excessive in the best possible way. They’re quite good, and play some original tunes as well as Gorillaz, Britney Spears and Franz Ferdinand. Sick. Back at the hostel, there’s a dude playing an acoustic set in the reception area (but no Wonderwall). We have one last drink while the bartenders try to get us to go to bed.
When morning arrives, we roll out of our three-tiered bunk beds and have breakfast downstairs. I am incredibly dehydrated and down several cokes and Irn-Bru to settle my nausea. We then head towards Parliament House, where a guy is chilling on a bench in 10 degree heat (or should I say cold?) wearing nothing but shorts. From here, we join a walking tour led by guide Richard, who has a degree in History, and my God, have I ever met a person so interested in history before. He is a passionate, although long-winded storyteller. We can easily stand in one spot for 45 minutes while he talks about history, politics, literature and everything related to every single landmark. It’s informative, interesting, and freezing.
We follow the Royal Mile, seeing the outside of St. Giles’ Cathedral and the grave of John Knox, which is now a parking lot. We pass the colourful Victoria Street and Greyfriars Kirkyard, where we learn about body snatching and Greyfriars Bobby, who is basically the Lil’ Sebastian of Edinburgh.
After some tea at the Grassmarket Community Center to warm up, we walk back towards the Writer’s Museum, where Richard tells us how the surrounding apartments used to throw their waste into the streets, and how drunk people walking home from the pub could easily get shitfaced in the literal sense.
After the tour – and the strongly encouraged and well-deserved tip – we head down the stairs of Advocate’s Close, which reminds me of The Exorcist. As if someone read my mind, they have put a bar in the middle of all the steps, so you can head in and catch a break (and your breath). The Devil’s Advocate (how appropriate) serves us local Achroous Gin and Fever Tree tonic. We enjoy it with slices of grapefruit while freezing in the beer garden, as everywhere inside is full.
Then it’s time to head back to Ct. Christopher’s Inn, because SHARON IS HERE. She had originally booked a 6 bed dorm, but changed it to a 12 bed over phone to stay in the same room as us. Despite this, reception tell her they’ve upgraded her to a 6 bed, and she is probably the first person ever to refuse an upgrade.
We go back to crossing bombs off the to-do list at Belushi’s, and I keep track using the back of a receipt. I lose this at some point during the trip (I was drunk), but I believe we go through 9-11 of the shots by the end of our trip. Drunk, we all go to the ladies’ room together and find an interesting vending machine with gems like inflatable sheep, condoms, sticky boobs… and travel pussies! Like you, we are very curious about the last one, so I put €4 in the machine and this is what you get, apparently:
What looks like a deck of cards has a plastic bag inside, not unlike ice cube or fruit bags. We inflate it using warm water and apply the lube for a good laugh. At this point, an older woman walks in and at first she is very confused, but ultimately, she agrees it’s a pretty great purchase.
We take an evening trip to LUSH and Primark and get lost in Retail Hell for what seems like 17 days with no sign of civilization. I buy a unicorn sleeping mask and a mermaid blanket, because I make good investments. After we escape, we have the National Burger Awards 2016 finalist back at Belushi’s and then it’s time to cross off all the bombs at the bar. Again.
We play my made up drinking game Wham Bam Slam with our roommate, Shaggy. Once we’re thoroughly hammered, we head to Stramash, which is another bar with live bands that has trumpets. Are trumpets a mandatory band instrument in Scotland or what? We observe the band from the upstairs balcony while getting rowdy to the point where Terese is suddenly on the shoulders of some guy who does not have any balance. She almost falls off, but luckily she isn’t hurt.
We meet two guys, Graham or Gregory (who knows, really?) and Dylan, who looks just like an old crush of mine, so I immediately love him. We talk about Fleetwood Mac, which makes me love him even more, and then his husband on the cobblestones after we’ve been kicked out of the bar – because it closed, not because we fell off some guys shoulders or anything. Aga and Terese go back to the hostel while I’m deep in Fleetwood Mac-conversation with Dylan, but eventually I have to take a very drunk Sharon home. I am 100 % certain, both in my drunken *and* sober state, that I know the way back, but G-dawg insists on getting us a cab, and walks us in the opposite direction of the hostel, where he claims there’s a nearby taxi stand. We eventually realize there are no taxis or taxi stands, and he’s basically doing the biggest detour through plenty of dark alleys. Oddly enough, none of us are that worried about it, although Sharon *is* warning him that he better not rape or murder us. A lot. Like, to the point where he asks her to stop saying the words rape and murder in public. We are back in our bunk beds at 5.20, which is quite a feat for me.
With alcohol still in our bloodstream, we wake up close to noon and grab breakfast at Southern Cross Café. Then we embark on our own walking tour, and Fluffy tags along to see the unicorn sculptures. Our first stop is the cathedral, which we finally get to see from the inside, and I get scolded for sitting in a fancy seat. We pass Victoria street yet again, and giggle at Aga accidentally calling it Victoria’s Secret. We might still be under the influence.
After climbing the hill, we reach Edinburgh castle, but don’t go in, ‘cause we’re cheapskates. Instead, we just get some pictures in front of it and go get drunk at the Scotch Whisky Experience. It starts off with a weird ghost ride, and then we join a group lead by our guide John, who looks like Zayn. He tells us about whisky-making and different regions and flavours, while letting us sip on the juice. I learn that I don’t like whisky, Sharon learns that she really does, and we then get a whisky cocktail at their bar, while writing that our guide was cute in the Customer Satisfaction Survey. Slàinte mhath!
Normally when I’m tipsy, I crave a burger and fries, but today we’re going for haggis, the least appetizing meal I can possibly think of. Nonetheless, we are feeling brave (and also forced) to see what the fuss is about with the whole liver, heart and lungs in sheep’s stomach-thing. Per tour guide Richard’s recommendations, we head to The World’s End pub in Old Town. Either Richard has sent everyone there, or it’s just a very popular place, because we have to wait for a table, which just gives us an excuse to go to the bar for more hunger-enducing booze. When our table’s ready, we each pick a dish and get a slice of haggis with mashed potatoes and gravy to share. Big surprise, haggis is actually quite tasty. We finish our food while watching cat videos, and the waiter puts a “thank you xx” on our bill, and we don’t know if he’s flirting or if it’s been entertaining for him to watch four drunk girls react to haggis and cat videos.
Back at the hostel, we are once again making our way through the bomb list. We play Wham Bam Slam, and I’m sorta upset that Aga keeps winning even though I invented the game. My constant quest for acoustic live music, that has somehow ended up with trumpet-bands each time, is also getting on my nerves. I just want to hear Wonderwall, dammit!
This evening at the hostel, two guys (involving a Niall look-a-like – what’s up with all these One Direction dudes?) does an acoustic set at the reception bar, where it’s pretty chill and quiet. Although this is the kind of live music I’ve been looking for all along, they don’t play Wonderwall. Guess I can’t be too picky!
In the morning, Sharon heads back home, and we head to the airport to pick up a car.
We are supposed to be there at 9, but it’s almost noon when we drive off in our little blue Kia.
Our first stop is to be Devil’s Pulpit, but since the crew of Outlander is filming on location, the area’s closed. Instead, we walk along the fence to see a few trailers and find a spot to pee but tourists keep following us. Then we make it to Loup of Fintry, a waterfall on the River Endrick. We take some pictures, chat to another traveller and then it’s lunch time. We eat at Macca’s, because of course, and then we stop for more pictures at Loch Lomond, and I sit in bird poo.
We stay the night at the gem that is Rowardennan Youth Hostel, which has absolutely gorgeous surroundings, and is located in the middle of nowhere.
It’s foggy and raining the next day, when Blue Little Kia takes us to another waterfall; Falls of Falloch. Then we stop by the ruins of Kilchurn Castle, and get our shoes completely soaked in the wet grass and mud as we approach it. If that wasn’t bad enough, we struggle finding the Fairy Bridge of Glen Creran on the map (and in person) and bicker about it as we hike up the hill supposedly leading towards the bridge. You could say that it’s fairy hard to find, hahahahaha. We do find it though, and it’s magical. The narrow path through the woods give off a fairy colony-vibe, and the bridge is really cool stop, if you’re able to make it there. On the way down the hill, I slip and fall in the mud and we laugh about for it a long time. When I say we, I mostly mean Aga and Terese.
Stopping for lunch in Fort William, I get a steak and ale pie with an Aspall cider, and then we do some souvenir shopping. If it wasn’t for the lack of room in my bag, I would have bought the unicorn wine glasses, but I guess I’ll just have to come back someday for those. We check into Chase the Wild Goose Hostel and try to clean ourselves and dry our clothes for the rest of the trip. We spend the evening hanging out in the lounge area of the hostel, watching football on the TV with some other guests and sharing a few ciders.
After the sun has risen on our final day in Scotland, we drive through the beauty that is Scotland, with mountains embraced by fog, shades of green as far as the eye can see, and geese randomly stopping traffic. It starts to rain and snow as we reach Glennfinnan viaduct, featured in the Harry Potter series. As we walk towards the viaduct, we pass people whistling the Harry Potter theme, which really gets us in the mood for a trainride to Hogwarts. Man, if only. We snap some pictures, and at this point, even the back of my head is starting to look unphotogenic.
We have fish and chips in Fort Augustus, a cute little village. The sun has finally come out, giving us the will to look around town, rather than jump straight into the car. Once we do, we set for Loch Ness and the ruins of Urquhart castle to find the Loch Ness Monsster. Unfortunately, the only mythical beast around is Fluffy, thus forcing me to conclude that Fluffy was the Loch Ness Monster all along. Disappointed, we make our way back at Edinburgh, where we have dinner at Five Guys, before going to the airport to turn in Little Blue Kia and wait for our flight home.