Trips around Scotland so far – part 1

Dundee is pretty centrally located in Scotland, with much of the country relatively nearby. Since getting cheap flights to Europe isn’t an option from here, I’ve been taking advantage of the location, and touring as much of Scotland as I can. Hiring a car is reasonably priced, especially if you don’t really care much about what car you drive – e.g. last time I ended up with a Nissan Micra. If you’re feeling charitable, you would describe it as a scooter – fun to ride, but you wouldn’t want your mates to see you on one.

Anyways, Scotland trips – the first one outside Edinburgh/Dundee was a short trip up to Aberdeen. The train goes up along the coast, and is a lovely trip on a fine day. Aberdeen had a different feel to Dundee – you could almost feel the oil money floating around. It’s almost multicultural (well, within reason…). Take a look at photo here of the beach:

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Doesn’t look all that bad right? Could almost swim there? Well, on the edge of the horizon, you can see oil rigs, where men walk around in survival suits. All people going over on helicopters must be dressed in survival suits, and even then they’d be lucky to survive 5 minutes in the water…meanwhile back here in Aberdeen mothers are pushing their kids into the water. Scary.

Next weekend trip was to Stirling, Falkirk and Linlithgow, followed by a morning in Fife, and watching the last afternoon of the British Open at the Old Course. Stirling was pretty cool, if packed with bored American students. The approach to the castle is just fabulous – it really dominates the surrounding plain. Something I hadn’t realised was that the castle used to all be a golden colour – it was clad with King’s Gold. Currently only the Great Hall is, but it must have been quite something with the whole castle that colour.

Getting to Falkirk was a bit more..interesting…than it should have been – I was following the signs to the Falkirk Wheel, but then they just seemed to stop. I ended up going around a few times, and until I finally saw the smaller, different coloured sign, that pointed the way down the last road to the Falkirk Wheel. It’s really quite cool, and it’s made me really want to hire a canal boat for a week, just cruising along between pubs at 4 knots. I don’t understand how the whole EU/millennium funding works, but who cares, it was pretty good.

Linlithgow castle was very interesting – it’s ruins, but relatively complete, as far as ruins go. Unlike some other places, you get pretty free reign, and you can go pretty much anywhere. Not really sure what they were doing with that weird thing on top of the church next to the castle though.

On the way back, I went via the Forth Bridge – I really don’t understand why all the fuss is made over the rail bridge – personally I quite like the road bridge.

Visited Scotland’s Secret Bunker on the Sunday morning. Really quite interesting – makes you wonder what else is around that we don’t know about. Suprisingly few people seemed to know about it though.

On to the golf at St Andrews – huge crowds, all pretty exciting. Not cheap to get in, but I figure I’ll probably never have the same chance to go to a golf major again. The course was weird – it was basically a paddock, with some mown strips. It would take me about a week to get around if I was playing I reckon. Good to see Michael Campbell playing, with huge numbers of Kiwis following him, all dressed in Kia Kaha shirts.

It was about time I got organised with this…

I’ll start uploading more photos and trip details shortly, but for now, here’s a picture of me after climbing Ben Nevis.

It’s somewhat odd that I can go from nearly sea level to the highest point in this whole country in about 2.5 hours. It wasn’t much of a walk, but it was good to do. I was lucky to get good weather – misty in the valley, then clear from about a third of the way up. It was actually quite warm and sunny.

I was reasonably well-prepared, but perhaps not as much as I could have been. I was suprised at the people who were doing the climb in jeans and t-shirts. If the weather had changed, some people would have been in serious trouble. You can see why more people die there every year than Everest – it’s not that it’s difficult, it’s just that people don’t treat it with the respect it deserves.

Look at the second photo, taken from the top – notice how the cloud is quickly moving in? The weather can change quickly here. The trail was pretty hard to follow in the top section. That last photo is taken quite close to the summit – that drop is only a few feet from the trail. Would be interesting in thick fog.

It’s good to have done it, now maybe I can go and do some of the nice hill walks around here.