Okay, I was in Scotland from September 20th to 29th together with my gf (now my wife).
Day 1 - 20/09
Waking up at 4am after only three hours of sleep. Dammit... why do you always get so little sleep on the day before your travel? Well, our flight takes off pretty early (7am) and we had many things to pack.
We ordered a taxi that should bring us to the airport, because it's easier this way. We don't have to worry where we leave our car and my gf hates to drive when she's still tired (I can't drive because I never learned it = I don't own a drivers license, heh)
At the airport nothing interesting happens. Just checking in... Flying....
Landing at London Heathrow, Terminal 5 - 7:50am local time. Our connection flight to Inverness takes off at Gatwick, so we have to take the bus connection. We buy two bus tickets for 40£, but the bus driver doesn't really pay attention to our tickets, so I guess we could've saved a lot of money here if we just had entered the bus without buying tickets first. :/
Arriving at Gatwick after about 1 our of driving, now we have some hours to spent before our next flight takes off. We look around at various shops and eat a second breakfast at a nice restaurant. The breakfast was a bit expensive, but well, that's airport prices for you. At least it was tasty and it was quite a large portion.
14:35 local time, our connection flight takes off. A pretty small machine, but at least I have some legroom (I'm about 6'1'' [1,86m] tall, and sometimes there's absolutely NO legroom at all in planes for me. I wonder how persons taller than me manage to do this...). I ordered something to eat and to drink on the plane because I didn't drink enough on this day and I'm feeling a bit faint and it's hours since our second breakfast already.
We land at Inverness at 16:20 on a very small airport, only one runway.
After we get back our luggage we wait for the bus to take us to the city centre of Inverness. After we get there we have to walk quite a bit to our B&B, but before we do that we plan to buy two tickets at the Bus Station: One for Urquhart Castle and back, and one train ticket to Glasgow. I checked connections on the internet prior to our journey at home and I found out that booking early almost always means a great discount (I think 40 Pounds for two tickets instead of 40 pounds for a single ticket). We are lucky with the bus ticket to the Castle, but it seems all cheap train tickets are already sold. The woman at the counter tells us that we should simply try to buy tickets on the day of our travel.
Now, on the hotel. We are quite happy when we see the McDonald's in the City Centre on our way to the B&B and we order some cheeseburgers there.
Not only are we quite hungry but we also visited a McDonald's upon arriving in Scotland last time we where here, so it's also a kind of a nostalgic thing.
When we finally arrive at the B&B it's already dark outside. We get the keys to our room and we go upstairs, we are very tired now.
But before we go to sleep we have to settle down a bit. It's kind of weird: Traveling the whole day makes you very tired, but you cannot fall asleep right now because your mind is still so damn active.
So we check out the TV Programme a bit, eat some of the snacks on our room and drink a nice cup of tea.
All in all we traveled for 17 hours on a single day...
Day 2 - 21/09
Our plan was to visit Inverness Castle today, but we learned that it isn't open to the public. Bummer.
So, we just look around a bit on the outside. There seems to be a court hearing going on at the time we are there. Some very strange figures are hanging around, having some sort of argument. We can hear the word "fuck" very often. ^^
Anyway, we decide to go on a city walking tour today. Actually we planned to do this on day four, but we will find something else to do on that day.
Inverness is called "Capital of the Highlands" but it still is a very small town (for us anyway, we live in Germanys second largest city, Hamburg). But "small" doesn't equal "boring". Inverness is a very interesting town, with lots of old houses that are really worth to see. Especially the Victorian Market - where we have a Cappuchino, some ice cream (me) and cake (my gf). But I still can't imagine living here permanently.
We also visit Inverness Cathedral. It looks a bit like the two towers have been cut off, but IIRC it was planned to build the towers but due to some strange reason they where never finished. In the cathedral there are paintings that show the cathedral with the two towers intact.
Later that day we go to a indian restaurant that has a sort of "all you can eat". It's located at Bank Street, just at the bank of the river. After three courses we both are stuffed and we make our way back to the B&B. The food wasn't extraordinarely good, but it wasn't bad either. I cannot complain, especially since we only payed 10£ each.
Day 3 - 22/09
We visit Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle today. We already bought bus tickets on Monday (so called "Apex return tickets", they are cheaper than normal return tickets but you have to travel at a certain time).
The roads to Urquhart Castle are just wide enough for the bus to drive on. Right before a pretty narrow turn we see a car that obviously crashed into the trees. The bus driver - who was talking to another passenger - says something like: "You can see that quite often here. It always happens when people don't follow the speed limit."
But luckily we reach our destination spot unharmed. It is a cloudy day, sometimes we can't even see the opposite waterside, but it still looks pretty cool.
Admission to visit the Urquhart Castle is 7 Pounds now, we also buy a souvenir guide for 2 pounds (or 1,50... can't remember anymore, but it's worth the money anyway).
The castle itself is mostly in ruins, but there's still a lot to see. It's also nice that they show a little movie right before you go down to the castle, it helps to put you in the right mood.
Later that day it starts raining, so we have to use our umbrellas, but the castle is still worth the visit, despite the bad weather. Later on the sun comes out again and it becomes a bit warmer. Still, our plan to hang out a bit on the waterside of Loch Ness doesn't seem to be such a good idea anymore. Too bad it's still over an hour until the bus back to Inverness arrives. Outside on the parking lot we see a travel group from Germany, who seem to have lunchtime. They are eating sausages (Bockwurst, as far as we can tell). We think about just walking over, saying "Guten Tag" and grabbing a sausage. But we decide against it. Now in retrospect I'm thinking we should actually have done that.
Well, it's STILL about an our until the bus that we have a ticket for arrives at the Castle. But we had the impression that bus drivers here aren't that interested in the tickets, so we grab the next bus that arrives, hoping the driver won't mind that we actually shouldn't be on this bus. The bus driver has a look at our ticket, but he says nothing, so we get in.
It's still pretty early when we return to Inverness, so after a short rest in our room we once again have a small city walking tour. This time we walk all the way to the Ness Islands.
Day 4 - 23/09
When we where planning our vacation at home we planned to have a city walking tour on Day 4, but since Inverness Castle wasn't open to the public we already had that on Day 2. We decide to visit Culloden Battlefield, which isn't too far from Inverness. We already where at the tourist information center last day plus we also grabbed a time table for the busses in Inverness at the bus station. Once again we are quite shocked how unorganized the timetable seems to be: In Germany (or at least in Hamburg) EVERY SINGLE STATION the bus stops at is listed, plus all the stops have names (usually it's the name of the road the stop is on, or in case there is already a bus stop with that name it's the name of a nearby road) that are clearly visible even from inside the bus.
But here? Only a few stops are listed, some stops are hard to even identify as a bus stop, because there's only a small sign on a post saying "this is a bus stop". But no timetable, no indication on the bus's destination, not even an indication on which busses stop there at all. Not very tourist friendly if you ask me. >_>
Anyway, we still manage to reach Culloden Battlefield. We buy tickets and we say that I am a student (which is true). The lady at the counter doesn't even want to see any proof, so we can save some money here.
I like the way this attraction is set up. One learns quite a lot of the historical background, which eventually lead to the battle at Culloden. There's even a small movie which places you right in the battle, it's quite intense. Now we want to see the battlefield itself, so we go outside. It's raining a little bit, so we have to use our umbrellas again. There are some pathes to choose from, we choose the longest path, which should take about 35 minutes. Too bad the rain gets stronger with every minute plus the wind is really cold. So I decide to put on my raincoat, which proves to be a very wise decision. Shortly after we put the raincoats on it begins to rain very hefty and the wind gets very strong as well, so the rain almost comes from the side. We seek shelter behind a small stone to protect our legs, but it's too late. My trousers are soaking wet within a few minutes, but at least the rest of my clothes are still dry. We decide to continue on the path, now that we are wet it doesn't matter anyway.
After about 15 minutes and a few minor puddles we reach a very big and very deep puddle. There's no way around it, left and right of the path is rough terrain (with even deeper puddles) and the puddle on the pathway is so deep that our feet would get soaking wet as well. We have no other choice but to go back.
Back at the tourist center we buy some Cappuchino and I also have some tomato soup and a cake. After all, my trousers are still wet, so I need something to put me in a better mood. Luckily we only have to wait for 30 minutes until the next bus brings us back to Inverness and by the time we get back "home" the trousers are mostly dry again. I'm still quite lucky to not have catched a cold on that day.
Day 5 - 24/09
We travel to Glasgow on this day. We get up quite early to catch the bus at 9:10, but we are unlucky. We where supposed to buy the tickets at the bus station, not from the bus driver. The bus driver says he could take us to Perth (where we have to change), but he could not guarantuee that we could catch a bus there that takes us to Glasgow. So we have to wait one hour for the next bus, but what's even worse is that the next bus stops quite a lot between Inverness and Perth (the bus at 9:10 is a non stop bus), so it travels for a longer time. If we would wait yet another hour we could catch another non stop bus and we would arrive at the same time in Glasgow... but waiting another hour would be silly. It's always easier to just sit in a bus and have the feeling to get closer to your destination point than to hang out at a not too interesting place.
The bus ride is quite nice anyway and we get to see a bit from the Highlands. Once we change in Perth and go to Glasgow the landscape changes. It's still a landscape of rolling hills, but it isn't so "rough" like it was in the Highlands (still the name "Lowlands" is a bit misleading, I think. We live in the North German Plains and there are hardly any hills at all. The picture in the article is a very good one. This is how it looks almost anywhere in the north german plains).
Finally we arrive at the Buchanan Bus Station, from here it isn't very far to the Victorian House, where we are staying. Only about a 10 minute walk.
The room in the Victorian House doesn't look so good as we hoped. The first impression is that it's pretty run down plus three light bulbs aren't working but at least the window leads to a backyard, which means hardly any traffic noises at night here.
But the three not working light bulbs are really a hassle so we complain to the receptionist who promised to send someone to change the bulbs. After about 15 minutes of waiting we get a call, the receptionist explains that she's sorry but right now she hasn't anyone to change the bulbs, but she can give us another room.
Secretly that was what we where hoping. Our new room is a room for three, which means we have some more space. Plus it looks a lot nicer than our previous room. One disadvantage is, that our windows lead to the street, so maybe we have some traffic nosies at night. The other disadvantage?
The room is on the top floor, so we have to climb some stairs to get there. At least the room doesn't look so run down like the other one, even though the wallpaper is coming down from the walls in some places, heh.
Anyway, we set out to explore the city a bit... well, actually we have been here before, so we already know some parts, but we never had too much time to walk around Glasgow last time we where here.
So we walk around Buchanan Street, Sauchiehall Street, etc. . We also visit St. Enoch Square and that little Tourist Information Center next to it. Wait a minute, this is a Café (Nero Café to be exact) now, the Tourist Information Center is gone, pity.
We decide to go back, eating something on our way home (propably a sandwich from Subway, can't remember anymore) and spending the rest of the day in our room, watching CSI and some of the other "US Crime Drama" on Five US (they sure show a lot of commercials on that channel, right?).
Day 6 - 25/09
Today's the day. We plan to meet up with Bezman, Black-Ops and Lazypint. But before that we want to watch football. You have two tries to guess which glaswegiean team we are going to watch.
Celtic? WRONG AGAIN!
So, which team? Well, of course the only team in Glasgow that plays in red and yellow, Partick Thistle FC. ;)
They play in the Scottish First League, which of course is the SECOND league in Scottish Football (you know, not only do british people drive on the left side of the road, they also do other confusing things, like calling the second league "first league" and the first league "premier league". But they are still nice people in general ;) ).
The game starts at 3pm, so we have some time to waste until then. We visit the St. Enoch Centre. Yesterday we only walked by, this time we go inside. The glass roof is pretty cool and the toy store on the third floor is quite nice (they have a huge Darth Vader made out of Lego in the shop, cool!).
Now, back to the hostel, putting on the Thistle Strips and catching the bus to the Firhill Stadium.
After we get to the stadium we still have some time to waist until kick off. So we have a look at the merchandise store; I buy a scarf for 4 Pounds. We also buy a match day programme.
All we need now are tickets. It's a bit confusing that the selling point for tickets is on the back side of the stadium, but we get our tickets nevertheless. ^^
I even get a student discount here. They asked for proof (unlike at Culloden Battlefield where they didn't want to see any proof) so I get out my wallet and get out my students cards. As soon as the lady at the selling point sees my semester ticket (I can use the public transportation system in Hamburg with it) she's satisfied. I'm pretty sure she never saw such a semester ticket before, but oh well. I'm not complaining. :)
It's a very warm and sunny day today, and I really hope I don't get any sunburns. I have a very bright skin type so I get sunburns very easily. Nobody would ever believe me if I say: "Oh that sunburn? Yeah, I got it while I was on vacation in Scotland."
Anyway, it's time for kick-off now. About 2,000 people are here. Not too much, but the stands aren't too empty either (except for the main stand, which isn't even open to public). Thistle does play some nice football and they even have a very big chance after about 3 minutes, but Liam Buchanan can't get the ball past the goalie.
After the first half it's 1-0 for Dunfermline. They are top of the league while Thistle is the bottom team of the league on that match day, so I wasn't expecting too much from this game. But Thistle where very unlucky to be 1 down in the first half.
However, after the second half it's 2-0 and Thistle where lucky to only concede one more goal. Very poor performance from the team in the second half, some fans boo after the final whistle.
A bit disappointed by the result we head back to our Hostel, where we rest a bit before going out again.
We meet up with Bez in front of the hostel and we go to a pup called "Nice n Sleazy" and it looks just like the name suggests, nice and a bit sleazy. A few minutes later Black-Ops joins us and we go to the next Pub, which is called "Firewater", I think. We stay a bit longer here since the music is quite nice. My memory is a bit faint here (but not from drinking too much ;) ), so I don't know exactly how many or which pubs we visited before we finally meet up with Lazypint. We didn't stay for too long in those pubs anyway, some of where very crowded.
When Lazypint arrived we went to some karaoke bar. Me and my gf are lucky, because we don't have to sing a song. It's the best for all who are there anyway. ^^
Lazypint has to leave quite early because he lives a bit outside of Glasgow and he has to catch his train. After that we go to the Classic Grand, but since it's payed entry tonight we decide to not go inside.
We take Black-Ops back to the train station since he has to leave as well, on our way to the station we enter some cool shopping center which has a very nice architecture. I forgot the name, but I think it's located on Buchanan Street.
Since Bez has locked his bike in front of the Victorian House we walk back together.
Day 7 - 26/09
Together with Bez we do a little cycling tour today. We visit Pollock Park, which is really worth a visit. We are very lucky again with the weather since it's sunny today. A little cold maybe, but still sunny.
We also visit the Burrell Collection, which once was a private collection but Burrell gifted it to the city of Glasgow in 1944. We also have something to eat here. After that we walk around a bit to get to see something of Pollock Park.
After we are done here it's time to go back. Me and my gf aren't very trained cyclists so our legs are pretty tired already. We head to a nice tea shop which is kind of hidden in some backyard. It's called Tchai-Ovna and is really nice. Each tea is served in a special cup to drink it from. We order a tea that is really strong and it is served in some kind of "coconut"-like cup with straws.
We also have a very light tea, which builds a nice contrast to the strong tea. I think we also order a third tea, but I can't remember anymore.
What I do know is that I ordered something to eat and it tasted great. :)
After that we decide to call it a day so we head back to Bez's place to return the bikes and then head back to our hostel.
We wanted to go back by train but we have to learn that the subway closes at around 5pm or was it 7pm? Anyway, it closes really early which is very unusal for us. In Hamburg the subway NEVER closes on weekends. Okay, there's a train only every 20 to 30 minutes, but at least you can get home by train.
Not sure which bus we could take (I mentioned it earlier, bus stops in Scotland aren't very tourist friendly) we have no choice but to walk back home. Bez explained to us which way we have to walk, but of course we already forgot half of it. But with some basic orientation skills and a small map which just ends shortly before our current location we find our way back home without too much trouble.
Funny thing: We decide to buy some milk at a store. Just before we enter it we are asked by some guys for directions. Since we just walked along the street they want to head to we can explain it to them. But we also add a "But we are only tourists, so we aren't too sure." just to be on the safe side. XD
Day 8 - 26/09
Oh my god, our holidays are coming to an end already?
Anyway, we visit Loch Lomond today. This means some traveling by train and getting off at the last stop. A very huge train station with only one platform...
After a short walk (about 10 minutes or so) we reach the Loch, but damn, it's really cold today. We look around a bit and then decide to take a boat tour on the Loch. It's too early to go back home now, but it's too cold to stay outside as well. We buy tickets for a two hour trip (but only pay the price for the one hour trip, strange).
It's a nice trip, even though not too much is happening (well, it's a normal boat trip, what COULD happen there?). We have some tea on the boat and take some nice pictures.
After the trip is over we look for a café to have our daily dosis of cappuchino. We don't find a café, but a very nice pub, where we have something to eat.
Since Bez "threatened" me to eat Haggis while in Scotland I decide to have the Haggis today.
It's actually a very nice meal, tastes a bit like minced meat.
Day 9 - 27/09
When doing the planning at home I didn't plan anything for this day. Since our last vacation was so fully packed we wanted to relax a bit and decide spontaneously what we would do on this day.
We decided to have a small trip through the town again (Glasgow is a pretty nice city) and later that day we visit "The Tenement House", which is just around the corner of our Hostel.
It shows what living was like in the early 20th century. We can see all this, because Miss Agnes Toward (who lived here at 145 Buccleuch Street from 1911 to 1965) seems to have kept almost everything. Bills, Coupons, Newspaper Cuttings, wartime ratio books and her victorian furniture.
Today those kind of people might be labled as "compulsive hoarders" but it is a very interesting place to visit. It's hard to imagine what life was like when only seeing pictures, so it is a very nice opportunity to actually see an appartment from that time. Too bad you aren't allowed to take any pictures inside the appartement.
We where quite late to this place, since our city tour took a bit longer than expected, so we arrived about one hour before closing time. So we only could have a very quick look, but it was definitely worth it.
Day 10 - 28/09
Oh man, holidays are already over? I really would like to stay longer. We get up quite early to catch a bus to the airport at around 7:20 am. This time we fly from Glasgow Airport to London Heathrow and from Heathrow to Hamburg, so no need to get to another airport this time.
At Heathrow Airport we have our "second breakfast": Cappuchino with Double Chocolate Fudge Cake and Vanilla Ice (no, not the rapper, but the 'real stuff').
Sadly I don't know which time we land at Hamburg Airport, but it isn't that important anyay, right?
We have to wait quite a long time until we get our luggage back. Of course it was one of the last suitaces that got out of the plane. But we are lucky with catching the subway. We have to run to catch it, but on the bright side, we don't have to wait for the subway to arrive. So, OFF WE GO!
Home awaits us. :)