outlander in Scotland

It has been a childhood dream of mine to visit Scotland ever since I started reading Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series in Grade 7, and so I’ve been unbelievably excited ever since we booked our tickets to Glasgow! We caught an early flight and arrived in the very foggy city. It was difficult to see through the fog, but we visited the Glasgow Botanic Gardens, the University of Glasgow, and Kelvingrove Park. There was definitely a different feel to the architecture (apparently it is called “Glasgow Style” because it’s so unique); the stones were faded to an orange colour and there were often symbols like fish and knights decorating the buildings.

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Lunch was absolutely fabulous. We went to a Scottish restaurant to experience the local food, and ended up trying haggis for the first time. It was surprisingly delicious. It came with mashed potatoes and mashed sweet potatoes, So, so delicious. We also had lamb liver, which was also yum. It put me in a great mood for the rest of the day.

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Then we visited the main city and explored the shopping area. The highlight of my day was hearing a man playing the bagpipes in the streets. I closed my eyes and listened as he played Amazing Grace. It was perfect. It made me very happy. We ended up shopping for a while before visiting the Glasgow Cathedral and Necropolis. The sun had set by the time we got there, and so the Necropolis (a famous cemetery) was a bit eerie. The tombstones lied flat on the ground, as opposed to upright, and so we ended up stepping on some people’s graves! I said sorry every time I misstepped.

Places in Glasgow were a lot more spread out than in Dublin, and so by the end of the day we were pretty exhausted. We stopped at a pub on the way home to grab a quick bite where I ended up getting a “Scottish burger” – a burger with haggis. Yum! It was really interesting to just sit at our table and listen to the Scottish accents of the other restaurant-goers. I felt kind of like an outlander, but still, it was like music to my ears!

We chased my obsession with Outlander all the way to the Scottish Highlands. We booked a one day tour of “Loch Ness, Glencoe, and the Highlands.” I was beyond excited to see where my beloved characters lived!

We drove up to the Highlands in a small tour bus. On the way, our tour guide told us so much about the history of the Scots including the clans and the Massacre of Glencoe. In the late 1600s, the Campbells plotted to massacre all in clan MacDonald. A Campbell officer led 120 men of the British Army to the MacDonalds, where they took advantage of Scottish hospitality and stayed with them for 13 days, and then committed mass murder during the night under secret orders. Survivors of the attack, mostly women and children, had to flee. We went to Glencoe, and saw the beautiful landscape. Words cannot describe how stunning the view was. But it wasn’t just beautiful – there was a deep history, a struggle. People had to run across these mountains to escape bayonets with a mission to kill. It really added perspective and another layer of appreciation. We also learned about the Jacobite risings (of which I knew a bit about from reading the Outlander series), and the final Battle of Culloden.

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Then we went Loch Ness. Unfortunately we didn’t spot Nessie (maybe it’s a good thing we didn’t see a scary monster!), but we learned about how the legend came to be so well-known. The first sighting was by a frightened couple driving by, but Nessie’s claim to fame was when a surgeon captured a photograph of the creature. It was published all over the news, and stirred up interest. Unfortunately, the photograph was later proven to be falsified. More recently, sonar recordings have shown evidence of a large moving object! But even now, no one knows for sure because the waters are so dark it is difficult to photograph even with underwater cameras.

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Our last stop was Inverness. In Outlander, this is close to where the magical time-travelling stones were. I asked our tour guide about standing stones: apparently there are many circles of standing stones in Scotland ranging from six stones to sixty. Unfortunately they don’t possess the magic of time travel though. (Or do they?) He was so nice and interesting; I wish I had the time for a cup of tea with him to hear all about them.

Once we got back we had dinner in one of the many Indian restaurants in the city. Glasgow is known as the Curry Capital of Britain and so we wanted to try out the Indian cuisine. We were not disappointed! The spices were great, and we were too full to finish our food!

We celebrated Hogmanay in Edinburgh! (Hogmanay is the term for New Years Celebration to Scots.) We took a bus in the morning and arrived in the middle of a Christmas festival. There was an ice rink, ferris wheel, rides, and lots of street food. We had Scotty dogs, and ate them on the way to Calton Hill, which had a beautiful view of the city. Then, we explored the Edinburgh Castle. It was amazing! There were so many things to see and so many rooms to enter. We saw the Scottish National War Memorial, which was touching, and the Crown Jewels, which we definitely were not allowed to touch. We also stopped for tea. We felt very British and very fancy. Tea and scones, anyone?

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We walked along The Royal Mile to get to Holyrood Park. There were bagpipers, men fully clothed in kilts, and even a violinist who was playing while walking across a tightrope! It was very lively, and definitely a cool place for tourists. Once we reached the park, we began our hike. It took about 25 minutes to reach Arthur’s Seat! By this time it was already a bit past sunset so there was a beautiful night view of Edinburgh. Unfortunately it was too dark to get any good photos.

The street party was such a blast. There were so many people there, many who were not from Scotland, joining in on the celebrations as well. There was so much variety in music – including a stage dedicated to Scottish music, which was awesome! HOT DUB, the DJ, was doing a “Time Machine,” and started playing music from the 1950s. There would be a short section of a couple songs from the year, some with karaoke lyrics, before moving onto the next year. There were definitely some great throwback songs. I was surprised to know so many; I didn’t think they listened to the same music as we do in America! The most beautiful sights of the night were definitely the fireworks displays. There were four in total – one every hour starting from 9 PM right from the Castle!

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After the beautiful midnight fireworks, everyone sang Auld Lang Syne together. Scots sure know how to party!

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Scotland was unbelievable and I really hope I get to come back again someday. The food was great, the cities were beautiful, and I finally mastered the art of flushing their toilets!

Happy New Year!

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