Kilts, shortbread, sipping on whiskey and beer simultaneously, medieval castles, bagpipes and drums, friendly cats, Scottish accents – there are many things that make Scotland great (some people would include haggis, blood pudding, and small dogs on this list too), but nothing beats its incredible landscape.
During a weekend trip visiting some friends in Glasgow we decided to take a little day trip up to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. The day seemed like it would be relatively rain-free, so we bundled up in our coats, scarves and hats, and into the frosty car, ready to witness lakes and mountains.
But first, breakfast! Which was the perfect, sleazy Saturday breakfast, complete with our first (and only) serving of blood pudding – although, I have to admit I opted for a vegetarian breakfast and resorted to nibbling on the blackness of sausage soaked in pig’s blood on Joel’s plate, which actually isn’t as terrible as it sounds. After chasing breakfast with Scottish Iron Brew, we headed North for Loch Lomond.
Loch Lomond is the largest body of inland water in Great Britain. It’s a fresh water lake apparently separating the highlands and lowlands of Scotland, and it basically just one of the most awesome things to see in all of the United Kingdoms – not to mention the incredible drive up and around the colossal lake.
A stop was made in Luss, where we got to take our first photos of the 6°C icy grey, placid waters, disturbed only by some maniac who was swimming in it. A second stop along the Loch was made at Tarbet, where snow-capped peaks against slivers of blue skies surrounded us. While the drive up got colder the further North we went, it was, astonishingly, nearly all cleared up as we stopped in the small town of Killin. I even saw my own shadow, which feels like the biggest accomplishment ever since we moved from sunny Cape Town.
Killin is cute as. A small and skinny town along a beautiful rushing river, with a few streets lined with beautiful, cosy-looking homes, and a shop or two, including the bake shop where we enjoyed mince pies and hot chocolate for basically no money at all (is what it seems like if you live in London).
Also, not only did I see my own shadow, but its seems that the UK’s one and only cat (seriously, where are the freaking cats?) materialised in Killin, just waiting to be stroked and loved. It’s a Christmas miracle.
We headed down to Glasgow via Stirling, which is where I learned all about William Wallace, and, by association, Braveheart, which, regrettably, I haven’t seen – and which is not to be confused with the equally exciting 1996 epic DragonHeart, in which a man shares a heart with a dragon, which I have seen (although Joel keeps insisting it’s not something to be proud about). We visited Stirling Castle, around which some war(s) took place (some of the Scottish independence wars?), the details of which confused me a little, which may have been because the details were narrated by a thick-accented Scottish man who served as our tour guide.
I hesitate to say that the castle museum is overpriced, because I just know that they must receive very little funding, not too mention the 40% budget cuts to afflict government museums this year, but it was…okay. It was nice to see, and it served as a wonderful lookout point (especially around sunset) of the area, especially if you do the ‘wall walk’. The experience would probably be greatly enhanced with kids, as the interpretation for children is actually very well done (complete with medieval fighting demonstrations).
After some hot cider and hearty dinner at the No 2 Baker Street pub, we headed home to Glasgow with the images of green plains, snowy mountains, and medieval castles still fresh in our minds. It was a day-trip that was just so satisfying and awe-inspiring that we won’t forget.
Also make sure you go with crazy fun friends. That always helps.
Since writing this post I have actually watched Braveheart. So Stirling is actually where that battle took place for which Mel Gibson had his face painted blue. Also, I am willing to admit that Braveheart is slightly more epic than DragonHeart, which may have taken place in Stirling too.