Tag Archives: exploring scotland

Christmas and New Years break, 2016 into 2017: Exploring Edinburgh – Hiking Arthur’s Seat

Christmas and New Years break, 2016 into 2017: Exploring Edinburgh – Hiking Arthur’s Seat

Exploring Edinburgh – Hiking Arthur’s Seat, and walking through portraits.

Thursday, 29-Dec-2016

We’d spent a lot of time with the family… so Sarah and I took this chance to split off from the group and do a bit of exploring and hiking on our own. Serious hiking. Or at least as serious as Edinburgh had to offer.

And what was on offer was a hike up Arthur’s Seat – a cliff near the center of the city. From the distance, it looked massive; a huge mountain surrounded by cliffs. The map, however, showed a much different story – a walk barely 3 miles from the apartment.

The best way to rectify this difference was to walk up. So, we did.

We walked in via the Wojtek statue and Holyrood palace, two seriously cool places to see. But this is Edinburgh, so we were a little oversaturated with seriously cool places at this point, and so we went through them pretty quick. The neat details of the hike, however, were definitely memorable…

    • A small ruined abbey for skin conditions – turns out, they knew about skin conditions back around 1150, which was the first record of the abbey. A record detailing repairs, so… who knows how old it actually is?
    • The hiking was really fun, and even had some mini bouldering sections! Sort of… not full bouldering problems, but still enough to keep us busy.
    • Sarah took the pack… awww… I wanted more training weight… but that meant I got to run around and scramble a bit extra, which is always good.
    • The summit is packed with random people, because it’s super pretty! Amazing views of everything, though the intense wind keeps us from staying too long.
    • Take pictures and enjoy said intense wind, before heading down and enjoying some more intense wind! It’s amazingly pretty. Also windy. Intensely windy, in fact.
    • Hike down via another mini-summit, saying hi to some people in a sumo suit and a lemur costume. Because that’s normal, right? You see people in inflatable sumo suits and lemur onesies all the time in Scotland, right?
    • Find a cool ancient well body, which is cool. And by ancient, I mean it was moved there in the tenth century sometime. As in, it had already existed for who knows how long before then.

After our hike, we linked up with the rest of the family for a relaxed lunch of bangers and mash. Or at least, a relaxed lunch at a fancy bangers and mash place. I had beef ribs. Relaxingly. Extremely so, we learned, because while the food was amazing, the service… well, it was super relaxing. Barely any intrusions by the staff at all, in fact.

Then the national portrait gallery!

Again, more awesome galleries and views and things to look at. So many. Ohh my lord I couldn’t even anymore.

  • We saw an amazing portrait competition, where the winner was clearly chosen because of their social connections instead of their talent. Though the rest of the portraits in the gallery were amazing to look at, especially one called “Three oncologists”.
  • I learned about a young king, who looked kind of like a jerk in his painting. Turns out, he wasn’t all that bright in real life, either. In battle (The one the painting was about) he accidentally rode into the enemy lines, trying to find his generals. He then had to be rescued.
  • Scotland has super cool historic rock climbers! Ladies from so long ago that they climbed (technical, vertical rock climbing) in heavy dresses and pettycoats, using hemp rope and fancy boots. Holy… badass!
  • There was a cool library. It had medallion portraits (small ivory carvings), but I enjoyed the feel of the old area, full of many leather bound books.

The rest of the night… meh, it was fun. But nothing too special after the hiking and paintings. We ate at an Italian place that doesn’t hold a candle to Boston’s North End, though it was really nice to have after a whole day of exploring and walking.

Christmas and New Years break, 2016 into 2017: Exploring Aberdeen – Castles, grocery stores, and tea houses.

Christmas and New Years break, 2016 into 2017: Exploring Aberdeen – Castles, grocery stores, and tea houses.

Exploring Aberdeen – Castles, grocery stores, and tea houses.

Monday & Tuesday, 26-Dec & 27 Dec.

Monday, 26-Dec-2016

One of the things that I’ve picked up from Sarah, in regards to adventuring, is checking out grocery stores and gas stations.

Probably not what you expected. But it’s neat – you can see what items are important to a culture, what they have in stock, what they don’t, and what variety is available. It’s cool, and you can learn a lot about where you are. Also – get great ideas for food and snacks!

But Monday didn’t start with a grocery store. It started with a snowball fight. It was thick and fluffy snow; not particularly good for packing, but very fun to run around in. And once us kids saw how much there was (a solid 3 inches or so) we suited up and ran outside to play!

Sarah and I formed one team, of course, battling against Henry & Leah on the other team. Since Sarah and I were the first ones out, we prepared a few stockpiles around the yard, giving one of them to Leah and Henry when they came out. But it pretty quickly devolved into a “grab an armful of snow from the car and chuck it” sort of battle. None of us played baseball, so none were particularly good at throwing the few snowballs we were able to make from the fluffy stuff.

The rest of the day was spent having an excellent lunch at a cafe in the grocery store, exploring said grocery store, and also exploring a pharmacy nearby. Turns out, the UK doesn’t have nearly the selection of burn medication that the US does… or maybe Sarah and I have gotten spoiled by always having first aid gear around the house (thanks to blisters being a major part of hiking… yay!).

But it was fun! Hanging out, exploring, learning that the Scots love their Indian takeaway and their venison, and having some traditional bangers and mash at the shop. We even got to see an artificial ski hill in town!



Tuesday, 27-Dec-2016

Tuesday? Adventure day. Breakfast was quick, because we had places to be! Adventures to have! Stone circles to photograph, hill forts to hike, and old ruined castles to run around and play hide and seek in.

First stop: The Eastern Aquhorthies stone circle. A small neolithic stone circle, in a beautiful bit of the Scottish countryside. We explored and took awesome pictures – one bonus of the short days, is that the sun traverses lower than we’re used to… which leads to sunrise / sunset light all day long. Excellent for cool landscape photos!

We got back on the road after exploring a bit of the forest behind the stone circle – It was also very pretty, Super dark though; I can totally see why people feel like Scotland is enchanted.

On to Dunnideer (pronounces Dun-ee-deer) castle!

    • Our first attempt resolves with us driving up to a locked gate that involves calling a dispatch center to open – they make sure that no train is coming before we drive across. The lady that owns the land is (luckily) driving out when we arrive – she tells us that there’s actually a real place to walk up, but that we’re more than welcome to walk on her land, and just hop a barbed wire fence. So polite, it’s painful.
    • Drive to the real place… this makes a lot more sense.
    • Park, and instead of waiting for everyone, Sarah and I walk in ahead. We take the extra time to do some climbing, stealth makeouts, and enjoy ourselves before everyone arrives
    • Ruins up top… are amazing. The main ruin is, surprisingly, the whole hill – it’s an ancient pictish hill fort. The bumps and hedgerows on the way up are the remains of ancient earth works. The castle ruins up top (barely anything) are a 13th century addition.
    • Continue on, finding some really picturesque views and neat standing stones.

Lunch at a cool tea house… Fish and Chips finally!

Drive down to Cruden Bay; a place that Greta and Bill have been to once or twice before.

    • Park, and Sarah and I take a jog in – stretching our legs is pretty good.
    • The castle… this is a serious castle. Ruins, beautiful. It’s called New Slains Castle, and was built sometime in the 17th century. It was then expanded in the 19th century, and was actually where Brahm Stoker wrote Dracula.
    • We’re just around Sunset… but thanks to the elevation, Sunset lasts ~1 hour +
    • Sarah and I play hide and seek, amateur archeologist, and do some light bouldering around as well. Holy crap this place is amazing. Just… so cool!
    • Take lots of pictures, hang out with Henry and Leah, and even get to talk to an old Scotsman for a while. Fun & pleasant adventures!

Then, we’ve got to get back to the house. The next day was planned as our travel day, taking a train down to Edinburgh. But that meant returning the rental car that they’d got from the airport (Bill & Greta only have one car normally, and fitting six people in it wouldn’t have been pleasant). That return entails a bit of adventure, but it does leave us close to a Chinese market, where we stop in to get ingredients for Henry to make us Ramen! Which is like… triple awesome. So that’s nice 🙂