You might say it took me a long time to write this up.. but should I say – I was a bit lazy and a bit busy ..
So finally we made it to the land of the Scots. Very gentle and polite people.. Excellent countryside… ‘Picturesque’ would be a more appropriate word for it. The language spoken in Scotland is ‘Gaelic’ but mainly they do speak English unlike in Wales. Our plan was to take a train upto Glasgow (4.5 hrs) and then hire a car for our 3 day stay over there. We were going to put up in a friends appartment in Stirling (0.5 hrs frm Glasgow) and then take the nice trail into the countryside touching the highlands and the lowlands as we return..
The first day we got up early and took the early train to Glasgow. We had to change at Edinburgh (pronounced as Edin-bura).
A bit about these 2 cities:
Glasgow and Edinburgh are 2 biggest cities in Scotland, Edinburgh being the capital of Scotland since 1437.It is well-known for the annual Edinburgh Festival, a collection of official and independent festivals held annually over about four weeks from early August. The number of visitors attracted to Edinburgh for the Festival, is roughly equal to the settled population of the city. That expalined why we saw crowded trains and stations when we changed trains for Glasgow. Its a pity we didnt find some time to spend in Edinburgh as we were on a tight schedule. Glasgow in Gaelic language means ‘dear green place’ and is the largest city in Scotland. It came to be known as the ‘Merchant City’ as it gained trading access to the vast markets of the British Empire and soon became prominent as a hub of trade to the Americas, especially in the movement of tobacco, cotton and sugar into the city’s deep water port at Port Glasgow. We hired a car at ‘Avis’ rental company in Glasgow. This time it was a Ford ‘Focus’, silver, brand new, scratchless – again my damn luck !! Comfortable inside and had a large boot space to store all our luggage.. I would say that this was a much more comfortable driving than the Renault Clio I had taken to Wales for our last holiday. We took the car and headed off to the Falkirk Wheel.
Now let me tell you about this engineering masterpiece ! It is a rotating boat lift connecting two ‘perpendicular’ canals. OK…Now lets make it a bit more complex by seperating the levels of the canals by 24 metres (about the same as an eight storey building)!.. So when the boat from the lower canal wants to go up to the upper canal it goes into the water filled vessel(caissons as the vessels are called) at at the bottom of the wheel and another boat (who wants to come to the lower canal) goes into the upper caisson at the top canal. Then the whole huge thing rotates, taking the lower boat to the upper canal and vice versa !! Since the weight is balanced at both ends, it takes about only 22.5 kilowatts of energy to rotate the wheel in 180 degrees. What happens if there is 1 or no boat in the upper/lower canal?? simple.. the wheel still turns because if you remember ‘Archimedes Principle – Weight of water displaced by a floating body is equal to the weight of the floating body itself!!’ So even if we were to turn the wheel with only 1 boat or even without any boats.. the water filled in the vessels would balance each other out, consuming again only 22.5 kilowatts of energy. Ah ! dont u love science now ??!
For more info on the wheel..click on the following link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falkirk_wheel
We spent the day admiring the wheel and the surrounding countryside and after taking a much awaited guided tour in a boat which went up the wheel and into both the canals, we started off to our pitt-stop for the night which was the Stirling village. A grateful collegue had offered us his 2 bed appartment in Stirling for our 2 night stay and we are much thankful to him. It took some time in finding the exact place but once there, we parked the car and set off to explore the village and the market. We soon came to know of an Indian restaurant ‘Indian Cottage’ run by a ‘happy’ Singh who graciously welcomed us and even offered us excellent service and of course not forgetting a 2 £ discount off the final bill. Its worth mentioning this here because nowhere before in the UK we had recieved such hospitality. Had a good nights sleep and the next day we were off in our car again.
This time it was the Scotland countryside road-trip we had planned. The route taken and the entire details of this tour are available in the attached document: Scotland Iternery.doc
We passed through three main areas the Tyndrum Area ,the Oban Area and the Glencoe Area all having some superb and diverse scenerey. The Tyndrum area was absolutely breathtaking and gave us an introduction to Scotland in a way we had only imagined or seen in movies ! We stopped over at many places and wished that we could stop at each and every turn and capture the beauty in our cameras, but oh for time !! The Oban area is basically where the road meets the sea and we drove for miles and miles just alongside the sea..the road twisting and turning but after every bend you would see that the countryside got more pretty!! We stopped in the Oban village and all of us gave a shout when we saw ‘The Taj Mahal’ – erm.. it was an Indian restaurant.But hey! our lunch is sorted!! This being the month of ‘Shravan’ we basically could not get pure vegeterian food anywhere else. After a good lunch the ladies fancied themselves with dollops of ice-cream while we busied ourselves on the coast watching a plane landing in the sea and took a walk alongside the coast. From Oban we started off and our next stop was the Glen-Coe. A glen is a valley, typically the one that is long, deep, and often glacially U-shaped. The name for the famous scotch whiskey-‘Glenfiddich’ comes from the same word meaning ‘valley of the deers’ !! Anyways..Glen-Coe is often considered one of the most spectacular and beautiful places in Scotland.Many climbers,walkers,tourists are found in this part of the highlands. Now to complete the loop,we had to return to Tyndrum but not before passing through the Glen pass which had a long curvy road and finished with a spectacular waterfall at the summit. When we reached Tyndrum, we stopped for a coffee musing on the days happenings and congratulating ourselves on the beautiful weather and a good road trip. We moved on to Stirling and packed some nice hot food from Mr Happy Singh again.!! I wasnt observing Shravan this time and so helped myself with some excellent tandoori chicken and 2 cans of good Scottish ales(beers)!! The next day (sadly the last too) we packed and went to the Scottish Wool Centre. Of course we all know that Scotland is famous for the wool it produces.. but every good thing comes at a price.. (ladies of course.. they dont make them so very soft for men!) we could see some cardigans over there were priced at 40£ start! and went over till 85 £ .. Shocked?? ..we were lucky as this was just their half price sale !!! (We nevertheless picked one for mummy dear).. and I hurried everyone as I was a bit excited for the next destination –
The Scotch Whiskey distillery ! No problems in finding places as such.. since I have been a fan of scotch whiskey for long.. The Scottish people have long known how to capture the sprit of a place.. they just convert it into fine scotch whiskey. The word ‘Whiskey’ is derived from the Gaelic word ‘uisge’ – meaning ‘water of life’. It is said that in the olden days often a traveller was welcomed into the home with a bowl of whiskey locally brewed by the host. The whiskey is thrice distilled in this distellery. International laws require anything bearing the label “Scotch” to be distilled in Scotland and matured for a minimum of three years in oak casks or bear a quality equal to that expected of produce from that region. so if you see anything as Indian Scotch(believe me they sell something like this in Pune)..then better keep away from it, or consume it as you would a normal whiskey.
Single malt whiskey is made in a single distillery. Some people think that a double malt whiskey is better than single malt but they are terribly wrong.. a single malt whiskey is the purest form of whiskey that you can get. Double malt whiskeys are mixed from different distilleries, so you dont actually get the original taste, but a taste of the mixed version. Mass produced whiskey which we buy off the shelf are actually multiple malt whiskeys or grain whiskeys.. Surprisingly 90% of the “whisky” consumed in India is molasses based.(including Bagpiper & McDowell’s No. 1) .meaning that it is technically considered equivalent to ‘Rum’ outside of India.Imported Scotch whisky bottled under its own brand makes up only 1% of the total market share in India.. !!
Back Again- we were visiting the Glengoyne Distillery,Glengoyne means ‘Valley of the wild geese’. This distillery was established in 1833 and has been making fine single malt whiskey since. The whiskey when goes for storage into wooden casks, is as transparent as water. As the whiskey matures, it takes on the colour of the cask and turns in to the golden color which we are so used to see. The longer the whiskey matures, the more expensive it is. We got a 10 yr old matured single malt Glengoyne scotch whiskey for about 30£. We were given a taste of the whiskey before the tour and they also told us some facts about how to taste,smell a whiskey to identify its quality..!
Our journey didnt end here but we had to return to Glasgow where an open-top bus tour was waiting for us. It was hell trying to find a parking space in a busy city like Glasgow. On top of it, you dont actually know the city well enough to find a safe parking. Finally after 15 (sweating) minutes of weaving through numerous traffic lights and one ways and holiday traffic.. We found a good parking plaza at the Waterloo street. Soon we were atop the open-top bus listening to the recorded commentary and admiring the ‘Merchant City’. We went around looking at the old and the new architechture, The numerous shopping lanes, Glasgow university ,the Glasgow tower, the tall ship, and the amusement centre etc.. The city reminded us much about London where we had seen a mix of the old and the new and the young and the old!! Fast, colorful and cheerful is how I would describe Glasgow.
Whew..that brings us to the end of our fantastic stint in Scotland. We returned the car, picked up the bags and headed back to Glasgow Central Station for our train back to Sheffield!!
Truly a memorable and a special one !!
till next time !!