A Scottish Honeymoon
I feel as though a part of me remains in Scotland. When I drive on the highway to work, I half-expect the trees to break and reveal the rolling green hills of the highlands. It’s a strange sensation, because I wasn’t particularly awe struck while I was there. I’d seen greater beauty in the American Midwest. But what I saw in Scotland is lingering even now, almost two weeks after I’ve returned home.
I had fantasized about visiting Scotland for over a decade, and knew without question it was where I wanted my husband Jeremy and I to spend our honeymoon. Those romantic expectations were probably the reason I felt so underwhelmed by the normalcy of the visit. I can’t tell you exactly what I expected, but I know it wasn’t what I experienced. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
The similarities between life in Scotland and life in the U.S. surprised me as much as the differences. Everything felt the same – the same air, same grass, same language – but once I inspected the details, I found the minor differences that made up the whole.
Well meaning fellow Americans tossed a lot of advice at me before I went on my trip. It was hard to keep track of it all. One thing I heard repeated was that food in the U.K. is not good. I was happy to find that this was untrue.
There were differences, like they don’t serve their drinks cold, even when you pull them out of the refrigerator at a convenience store. There were no fountain sodas, which meant no free refills. I was offered ice with a hard cider at pubs. Their bottled sodas are 500mL as opposed to our 590mL, and though they have Coke and Pepsi products, the tastes are noticeably different. Less sweet.
It’s illegal for a restaurant to serve a burger medium well. French fries are called chips, and chips are called crisps. Even though a bag of chips will say “CHIPS” right under the logo. I tried a Kinder milkshake at a place called BRGR in Glasgow, and American-style burger joint. When I asked the waiter what a Kinder was, he took pity on us. The shake was great.
One thing I will need to point out to the folks at BRGR though … this is not a Philly cheesesteak. But, that’s not a Scottish mistake – you should have seen the “Philly cheesesteak” Jeremy and I got in New Orleans.
A Typical Scottish Breakfast
I regret not going out to eat breakfast at least once, but we were on a budget and had free continental breakfast at each hotel. Here’s what they served: “Bacon” (slices of ham), sausage, beans, black pudding, runny scrambled eggs, scones, and what I can only describe as triangle hashbrowns. There was an espresso machine at each hotel and the milk for cereal, and orange juice they served were not cold.
I tried the black pudding, and it didn’t taste like much of anything. It could be because I was at a breakfast buffet at a hotel, and it wasn’t authentic.
The coffee I had while I was over there, no matter where it was served, was awesome.
Scottish people drive on the opposite side of the road, which made crossing the street a fun surprise. I kept looking left instead of right and luckily I’m still alive. The lights there will turn green, yellow, red, the same as here. But they will flash yellow and red at the same time to let you know to prepare for green.
They measure distance in miles, and all signs are in MPH. I found cute speed limit signs like, “20’s Plenty.”
This city has a population of 500,000, but it feels like New York city in its constant chaotic swirl of activity. Every intersection is a round about, they didn’t have crosswalks, and tourists and locals alike seem like they’re all in a hurry to walk uphill. Stores close at odd times, but there’s still constant bustle.
The architecture was impressive. It was a blend of modern, victorian, and medieval that you wouldn’t find in the U.S.. I’d be standing in front of a McDonald’s and look down the street to find a gothic statue towering over me. The most impressive site in Edinburgh is undoubtedly Edinburgh castle. I found this castle to be more impressive than Sterling.
Glasgow felt like a more comfortable city, less insane. Their hub of activity starts at George’s Square and spirals outwards. While Edinburgh boasted its history, Glasgow seemed more proud of its modernism. It wasn’t as cool looking as Edinburgh, but I felt it had more genuine culture. Plus, I had my first good burger in Scotland here.
Sterling Castle was awesome. I feel like a more complete human being having visited it. The highlands surrounding the castle have their own beauty to offer.
Dunkeld, The Hermitage, Pitlochry, Queen’s View, Loch Tay, Loch Lomond, and “Rob Roy” country were all beautiful. My favorite place we managed to visit in the Highlands was Bryn Atholl, where we watched the Highland Games and toured the castle.
Regrets (But Not Really)
I wish I could have seen Inverness, the Isle of Skye, and the Orkney Islands. If I could do the trip over, I would have spent one day in each city, and the rest of my time exploring the countryside. I don’t regret getting to see the cities, they were definitely interesting and fun. Hopefully I will make it back to Scotland and see the rest of the country.
Maybe my romantic expectations blinded me, but I wasn’t struck by Scotland like I hoped I would be. I wanted to stand on a hillside and feel: only Scotland has this and I know it, but I never got that sensation. I felt the same ground below my feet and the same sky above my head as I did standing in my own yard. It must feel similar to meeting your hero – you hold them up on a pedestal only to meet them and find they’re just some other person, with two eyes, a nose, and a mouth.
That all said, I miss it. Not only do I miss waking up with nothing planned but exploration of a new place, but I miss being surrounded by the accent, the culture, and the history. The U.S. has wonders I still haven’t explored, but my first journey outside of the U.S. did not disappoint. I’m not sure if I’ll make it back before my time here is up, because there is so much world left to see. But I hope so.