6 must do’s in Scotland
I did not know much about Scotland before 2009. I knew just some basic facts, such as men wearing kilt without anything under it (no comments :)), beautiful nature, Scottish whisky, a couple of amazing islands, many castles, Loch Ness monster, golf and sheep everywhere around. And definitely strong Scottish accent. Well, yeah, now when I look at it, my knowledge of Scotland was quite good. Maybe because of a friend of mine who was visiting this lovely country every summer for work and telling me stories when she came back.
I remember we were supposed to go to the Shetlands islands (North of Scotland) together in summer 2008. But then the plans changed and I was not happy we did not go. But it looks like part of my destiny really was to visit the land of sheep anyway.
When I started working as a cabin crew, instead of Spain, where I wanted to go, they sent me to Prestwick Glasgow, Scotland. This was the second time already when instead of my favourite country Spain I went somewhere else and it was not my own decision. This time it was for a year, much longer than when I ended up in Italy instead of Spain.
So a year from February 2009 to February 2010 I spent in Scotland. As usual when you live somewhere, it is the best way to learn about the culture, food, nature, nation and everything. And this time it was not an exception either. If you visit Scotland one day, you should do certain things there. This is my lift of 6 must do’s:
- Play golf. Scotland is a country of golf. Is the place where golf was born. Even Mary, Queen of Scots reportedly played golf here already in 1567. There are absolutely wonderful golf courses all over the country – almost unbelievable 600. Such as Turnberry Ailsa, Royal Troon, Prestwick, Royal Aberdeen, Muirfield, Castle Stuart, Royal Dornoch etc. Many of them offer accommodation just next to the field, too. So if you are one of those who find golf a very interesting game, then do not hesitate because Scotland is definitely the right place for you and your friends.
- Watch the Scottish men dressed in kilts playing the Highland bagpipes. It is an amazing experience (unless you girls see something underneath you are not supposed to see; then it becomes a nightmare!). I am sure we all know how the bagpipes sound, but listen to real people playing them is something you will never forget. The sound will be stuck on your mind for a long time after even if you do not like this kind of music. But to visit Scotland and not to enjoy its national musical instrument it’s as if you did not visit it at all. I am sure wandering through any bigger town, you will come across someone playing bagpipes on the street.
- Go shopping in Glasgow. Glasgow is the biggest city of Scotland and the 3rd most populous in the UK. Apart from visiting some nice buildings and places such as Clyde Auditorium (the famous concert hall, called the Armadillo and resembling Sydney Opera House), Glasgow City Chambers, Glasgow University, the Cathedral, Necropolis cemetery, Art Gallery and Museums, the Clyde Arc over the River Clyde (often called the ‘Squinty Bridge’), and many little churches; Glasgow is a perfect place for shopping. Each time I visited it for any reason, in the end I could not resist shopping. Buchanan Street with Buchanan Galleries mall (named after a wealthy Tobacco Lord Andrew Buchanan), together with Argyle Street and Sauchiehall Street offer you a huge variety of shops, from sweets, sport shops, cloth to sex shops. Very often with discounts so prices everyone can afford. There is a designer shopping mall at Princes Square with Hugo Boss, Lacoste, Vivienne Westwood and much more. If you look for designer watches, jewelry and other accessories, have a look at one of the oldest Brittish covered shopping arcades – Argyll Arcade. Besides shopping, Glasgow is a good place for night life with plenty of great pubs, discos and parties and also for eating out. My favourite restaurant there was not surprisingly Spanish restaurant La Tascaat Renfield Street just 5 min from Buchanan Street. If you are big lover of Spanish tapas and other traditional Spanish food like me, it’s a must do while in Glasgow.
- Take a road trip through the remarkable countryside. Characterized by short green grass, small hills , many lakes and few trees. It is properly beautiful even though I missed there dense forests and really high mountains to which I am used to! The Scottish landscape gives your senses a chance to relax and take away all your problems. And you will meet flocks of sheep and hairy cows on the way every couple minutes, sometimes crossing the road just in front of you so you need to wait. I have to say the countryside was one of the things that helped me not to go crazy in small Prestwick town with very few things to do. And the fresh air and watching sunsets at the seaside saved me as well.
- Take a walk in Edinburgh – the capital of Scotland and the second largest city. Its Grassmarket shopping district cannot beat Glasgow when it comes to shopping for sure, but this city has other virtues. It’s a place of culture and history. Especially its Old Town as UNESCO heritage has a lot to offer: Edinburgh Castle on a volcanic rock, the famous street Royal Mile, St. Giles’ Cathedral with crown steeple or the Camera Obscura. Then New Town is UNESCO heritage as well and its Princess Street Gardens appeal to take a little rest with a breath-taking view of Edinburgh Castle above you. It becomes an unforgettable place in summer time with sun shining and flowers growing. Holyrood Abbey and Park are worth a visit, too. Edinburgh holds many festivals throuthout the year, the most known is Edinburgh festival in August when High Street is overcrowded with tourists. While Glasgow buildings are mostly considered Victorian architecture, Edinburgh is more a city of Medieval and Georgian architecture.
- Learn some Scots. It is not easy to understand Scottish accent if you hear it for the first time. I’ve spent half of my life studying and speaking English when I came to Scotland for the first time, I was like ‘What the hell is this???’. Honestly the first days there I felt, I would understand Chinese much better without speaking a word than understand this weird accent. And now I don’t mean Scottish Gaelic which is totally different, but just Scottish accent. To be honest, it is very interesting and funny to listen to. But after a while you get used to it and even learn some words or expressions and how to pronounce them. The most famous one is aye which means yes, wee as little/small, that’s you as here you go, loch as lake, lassie as a young girl, bonnie as beautiful, pooch as pocket etc.