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The land of castles, kilts and bagpipes.



"The wish to travel seems to me characteristically human: the desire to move, to satisfy your curiosity or ease your fears, to change the circumstances of your life, to be a stranger, to make a friend, to experience an exotic landscape, to risk the unknown." - Paul Theroux 



It's said that "the best things in life are unexpected, because there were no expectations". My trip to Scotland was just that. Alex's company shipped him off to Edinburgh for training. When he arrived he phoned me and invited me to join him... it didn't take much convincing. The next day I booked a flight, and three days later I was on a plane to Scotland. #yolo

Generally I find that Scotland tends to get overlooked, often overshadowed by its neighbours England and Ireland. I can't believe it's taken me this long go get there. Scotland has earned it's place in my top 2 countries, after New Zealand. In fact, Lonely Planet ranked it the #3 travel destination of 2014

Walking around Edinburgh feels like you've stepped into a postcard. When you pull into the train station, you find yourself staring up at a gigantic castle seated on top of an extinct volcano, overlooking the city.




The Royal Mile extends from Edinburgh castle, through Old Town to Holyrood Palace. Holyrood Palace is the Queen's residence when she's in Scotland. We wandered around the Royal Mile, exploring charming little nooks and crannies and closes and courts. We even found both Alex's grandmother's and great grandmother's houses. 


             


We climbed Arthur's seat, another extinct Volcano, that gives a 360 degree panoramic view of the city.






From the summit we noticed some intriguing looking pillars, and set out to find them the next day. We thought the pillars were ancient ruins, but apparently the monument was never actually finished. I later learned that's it's referred to as "Scotland's Disgrace". And here we are, posing with Scotland's Disgrace. 



They started constructing the monument modelled after the Parthenon in Athens but the funds ran out. Anyways, this is part of town is referred to the "Athens of the North". Most of the architecture in Edinburgh is very gothic, so it was interesting to see this Greek neo-classical design.



While Alex was in class I hopped on the train and rode through Braveheart country to Sterling Castle. Sterling Castle is one of the most significant parts of Scottish history and has been attacked or besieged at least 16 times.






From the top you can see the rolling highlands in the distance.



The town of Sterling is quite charming itself, it's like a tiny Edinburgh.




I took the train to Gasglow and wandered around their university. Their campus is actually a castle. Like Hogwarts or something.


 



Then I was escorted out of the city hall by an angry Scottish man. Apparently there is more marble in this building than the Vatican in Rome. And apparently it isn't open to the public after 5 o'clock. (Whoops)



This is Gasglow's infamous traffic cone statue. The government pays around £10,000 a year to remove the traffic cones, but they keep reappearing. Gasglow City Council proposed a motion to double the height of the statue in order to discourage cone pranksters (£65,000 project). But the city revolted and signed petitions to "Keep the Cone". For the record, I am pro-cone. 



Another day I took a trip to the Scottish Highlands. I was beyond delighted to find Highland Cows, or "Hairy Coo's" as the locals call them. They're basically a cross between a cow and a teddy bear. Alex calls them "Beiber Cows" due to their awesome hairdos. 




I saw 3 more castles in Highlands. Inverary Castle was especially interesting because the Duke and Duchess of Argyll live in the castle today with their three children. 



Note to self: don't mess with the Duke of Argyll, he has a lot of gun power. 


On my last day we took a boat to Incholm Island and explored the ruins of a medieval abby built in the 12th century. 



Apparently the abby wasn't designed for tall people. 

                       
My favourite part was this narrow spiral staircase (you could have an epic game of spotlight here)

We tried to walk around the island but got viciously attacked by seagulls. It was absolutely terrifying. The seagulls were nesting, apparently, and they were absolutely vicious. One of the visitors got dumped on 4 times!! And another one got scratched in the head! Poor souls. 

And that concludes my Scottish adventures. In summary: if you ever have the opportunity to take a spontaneous trip to Scotland, do it.