My Holiday to Scotland: 3-10 October 1987
One of my mother Peggy’s favourite songs when I was a little girl was “Will ye go, Lassie, go?” by The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem. Indeed, she dreamt one night that she was on stage in Carnegie Hall singing it with them! In the dream they brought her for a big slap-up meal after her performance…..and her biggest regret was that she woke up before she had a chance to eat it 🤣. (See the song on YouTube Video at end of this blog post!)
With visions of “wild mountain thyme” and “blooming heather” it’s little wonder that the very first overseas place I wanted to see, as a fresh-faced 21 year old, was Bonnie Scotland. So, in October 1987 (when our final accountancy exams were just over) I took my first ever trip on a plane there with my college friend, Mairéad, and her sister Teresa. The plan was to fly to Glasgow for one
night, take the train to Edinburgh where we would hire a car and drive anti-clockwise around the Highlands. Mairéad had recently gotten her driving licence and would be chief driver, I would be chief navigator and Teresa would be relay driver. Armed with a pocket-full of traveller’s cheques, what could possibly go wrong??
Scotland had a system of “Book-A-Bed-Ahead” which meant we would drive and sightsee in the morning, rock up to a town for lunch where we would ask the Tourist Office to ring ahead to book us a B&B for the night. We would explain our tiny budget and wherever we estimated we would get to late that evening following more afternoon touring. No mobile phones or internet booking back in the day! We would pay a deposit of STG£5 which was deductible from the final cost; go and have lunch after which the Tourist Office would tell us what and where they had found for us.
Day 1 to Glasgow (Sat. 3 Oct 1987)
O3 Oct 1987 Aer Lingus: Dublin - Glasgow EI228 18:45-19:30
10 Oct 1987 Aer Lingus: Glasgow-Dublin EI229 20:15-21:25
Various B&Bs probably no longer in existence 😂.
I was very excited to be on a plane for the first time and I still remember the adrenaline rush from the take-off. The short 45 minute Aer Lingus flight got us from Dublin to Glasgow where we asked directions on how to get into town. At the bus stop some friendly locals advised us what bus to take. We had arranged a B&B up in Hillhead Street. We got there safely and planned our train trip the next day to Edinburgh.
Day 2 Glasgow to Edinburgh (Sun. 4 Oct 1987)
So, we set off walking to the Glasgow railway station and promptly got very lost!! Luckily a very kind man showed us where to go. We were struck by how friendly Glaswegians were.
We paid our STG£3 single 2nd class train fare each to Edinburgh and were soon on our way. Arriving in Waverly Station we soon found the Tourist Office and booked our room for the night in a B&B in Leith (Edinburgh’s historic port).
That evening, we set off into Princes Street for a feed of haggis, neeps (turnip) and tatties (potatoes). Haggis is very like our Irish white pudding. It’s made with sheep’s innards (heart, liver and lungs) minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices and salt, mixed with stock. Traditionally, it was encased in a sheep’s stomach but nowadays they use an artificial casing. The three of us enjoyed it a lot with its crumbly sausage texture and slight peppery flavour.
Day 3 Edinburgh City (Mon. 5 Oct 1987)
So today was a very special day, not just because I got to see the beautiful city of Edinburgh for the first time …but also because it was my 22nd birthday! We decided to do a self-guided tour of the city starting at the Castle.
This most famous of Scottish castles has a complex history and houses the Honours (Crown Jewels) of Scotland, the Stone of Scone (the crowning seat of the Scottish monarchy), St Margaret's Chapel (Edinburgh's oldest building), the Prisons of War, the famous 15th-century gun Mons Meg, the One o' Clock Gun and the National War Museum of Scotland.
Edinburgh's Old Town features the atmospheric skyline of an ancient settlement running from the Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Alleys (known as closes) run like ribs off the backbone of the main through-route - the Royal Mile.
It was pleasant to stroll downhill from the castle exploring the Royal Mile, with its shops, bars, restaurants and various visitor attractions such as The High Kirk of St Giles, The Museum of Edinburgh and Canongate Kirkyard.
We continued to the bottom of the Royal Mile, to the opposite end to Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, commonly referred to as Holyrood Palace. It is the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland, Queen Elizabeth II., Holyrood Palace has served as the principal residence of the Kings and Queens of Scots since the 16th century, and is a setting for state occasions and official entertaining.
Queen Elizabeth spends one week in residence at Holyrood Palace at the beginning of each summer, where she carries out a range of official engagements and ceremonies. The 16th-century Historic Apartments of Mary, Queen of Scots and the State Apartments, used for official and state entertaining, are open to the public throughout the year, except when members of the Royal Family are in residence. We loved Holyroodhouse!
By the middle of the 18th century Edinburgh was still confined within its defensive wall and was very crowded with very high tenements - early skyscrapers! But it had a plan. The civic authorities announced a competition to plan a New Town.
The winner was a young architect, James Craig, whose symmetrical plan had its axis on today's George Street - a street whose width was intended to be just wide enough for a coach and horses to do a U-turn! Little did I know in 1987 that I would partner with the great grandson of a Craig from Edinburgh almost twenty years later!! 😂
Today, George Street is one of the premier shopping streets in Scotland. Both the Old Town and the New Town of Edinburgh are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Day 4 – Edinburgh to Aberdeen via The Highlands (Tues 6 Oct 1987)
Today we picked up our hire car for the next 5 days, a blue Austin Maestro, from Europcar. It cost us the colossal sum of Stg145.53!!
We headed north to Fife across the Firth of Forth. We could see the famous Forth Bridge (a cantilever railway bridge) to our right. It is considered a symbol of Scotland and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
By lunchtime we had reached the town of St Andrews - miles of golden sands, the oldest university in Scotland (attended later by Prince William and Kate Middleton), a ruined castle as well as a ruined cathedral that was once a place of pilgrimage, and of course, the Home of Golf. St Andrews also gives non-golfing visitors plenty to see and do and we found it a fascinating medieval town to explore.
We had lunch here in a Chinese restaurant where I wrote my postcards. In the days before Social Media, postcards were a big part of every holiday. This is the one I sent to my parents:
A week-long tour of Scotland leaves plenty of time to enjoy the magnificent Highland scenery. So after lunch we headed to the Scottish Highlands (via Dundee). What gorgeous scenery as we headed up to Royal Deeside to Braemar (where we had delicious Scottish Afternoon Tea) and then onto Balmoral. Unfortunately, the Castle was closed as the Queen Mother was in residence.
We arrived at our B&B in Aberdeen and took a figary to go to a Scottish Céilí. As luck would have it, we saw a billpost advertising one in a hall. We were so glad we did as we had such a great night’s craic with the mostly grey-haired revellers. Lots of the men were eager to show us how to dance the various Scottish dances (including The Gay Gordons, The Dashing White Sergeant and The St. Bernard’s Waltz).
Day 5 – Aberdeen, Glenfiddich, Aviemore, Culloden to Inverness (Wed. 7 Oct 1987)
OK, it's the second full day on the road.
But we headed first for a walk around Aberdeen. It had quite a prosperous feel to it; no doubt a result of the servicing of the North Sea oil business just offshore. We did a tour of Provost Skene’s House (built in 1545).
What came as a big surprise was the beautiful beach in Aberdeen. Who knew? Granted though there was a sharp East wind blowing in from the sea….so not many sunbathing in early October!
Leaving Aberdeen, we decided we’d do a Scottish Whiskey distillery tour. So we headed to Glenfiddich, just outside of Dufftown.
There we did the “Explorer’s Tour” which took about an hour and a half. It started with a short film about the five generations of family ownership; then a walking tour including to the wash house and still house to see how the whiskey is crafted. We visited the original warehouse; it was fascinating to see all of the casks. It finished up with us learning to “nose” and then taste three of their well-known single malt whiskeys.
Apologies that the photo below is a bit blurry…but it was raining and that’s what whiskey does to you! 😊
Back on the road, with Teresa the designated non-drinker driving, we saw a sign for Aviemore. We decided to check it out on the off chance we would ever return to ski there. The set-up looked impressive but hard to judge with no snow.
After that, we visited Culloden Battlefield - 7 miles (11.5km) east of Inverness. No tour of Scotland is complete without a visit to the excellent visitor centre and exhibition and battlesite walk. The centre explains this historic site and the significance of the famous 1746 battle that accelerated the breakdown of the Highland clan system and the continuation of large-scale emigration from the Highlands. We took a self-guided tour of the centre and the battlesite - which had been restored to look like it did in 1746.
Later, we headed north to Inverness - 'the Capital of the Highlands'. Our overnight B&B request was for a stay on a Scottish farm, so we stayed with a lovely dairy farming family south of the city. They told us about their farm lives and we compared it with Ireland. They had a little girl of about 10 years old who told us she studied Scottish dancing and she obliged us by dancing The Highland Fling. Here’s something similar:
Day 6 – Inverness, Loch Ness, Fort William, Kinlochlevin, Glencoe to Oban
(Thurs. 8 Oct 1987)
In the morning we did a self-guided walking tour of Inverness. It was very enjoyable even if we found the traffic system difficult at times. We then headed south driving along picturesque Loch Ness. Despite keeping our eye pealed for “Nessie” (The Loch Ness Monster) the only Nessie I saw was the toy one I bought as a souvenir in the Lough Ness Monster Visitor Centre!
Even though we didn’t see Nessie, I would still recommend a boat trip on Loch Ness to Urquhart Castle; we didn’t as we had the car so we continued to drive south down the Great Glen towards Fort William (the town at foot of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain).
We took a detour (aka “wrong turn”) when going to Glencoe going clockwise around Loch Leven but were glad we did as the scenery was magnificent even if the sheer cliff drops by the side of the road were scary monsters. We asked a sheep farmer for directions in Kinlochleven and then continued heading south on the main A82 through Glencoe - and experienced dramatic scenery. We stopped at the National Trust for Scotland's Glencoe Visitor Centre - to learn the history (about the infamous Massacre of Glencoe), geology and wildlife of this famous glen. There was a small cafe and gift shop at this centre.
And finally, late that evening, we arrived in Oban, a great base for exploring the West Highlands. Oban has a fine and breezy coastal setting. We found our B&B no problem and slept like logs.
Day 7 – Isle of Mull, Loch Lomand, Stirling (Fri. 9 Oct 1987)
Next morning, we drove onto the car ferry taking us out to the Isle of Mull. Once there we drove up to picturesque Tobermory where we had lunch.
It was fabulous out on the Isle and we were sorry to have to leave; heading back on the ferry to Oban and then south to Loch Lomond through Inverbeg. Words fail me to descrie the beauty of the Loch. We stopped many times for photos but continued on our way south. At Balloch, we headed over to Stirling where we would stay for the night.
Day 8 – Stirling, Edinburgh, Glasgow to Home Sweet Home
After a full Scottish breakfast in the B&B we did a quick walkaround Stirling taking in the beautiful Robbie Burns’ statue. We then made our way at leisure back to Edinburgh with time to do some last minute souvenir shopping. We then dropped back the hire car and headed for Waverly train station in the centre of Edinburgh. It didn’t seem like a week since we’d been there. We again bought our train ticket to Glasgow and from there travelled out to the airport for our evening flight to Dublin. I bought fags and whiskey in the Duty Free shop. Soon we were up and away back over the Irish Sea reminiscing over what a brilliant holiday we just had.
All these years later I’m still amazed at how much we crammed into a week. We drove almost 740 miles and made memories for life. And Scotland has found a place in my heart. Now.... for the YouTube video of "Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go?:
Bucket List Items Ticked Off in the above Blog post
Number 34 - Food & Drink - Eat/ Drink Regional Foods/ DrinksNumber 36 - Food & Drink - Drink Whisky at a Scottish Distillery
Number 39 - Food & Drink - Afternoon Tea in Braemar
Number 57 - Travel - 7 Continents - Europe
Number 58 - Travel - 80 Countries - Scotland
Number 60 - Travel - 80 Cities/TownsNumber 76 - Experiences - 80 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Other Blog Posts
Blog 11 - Sydney, Australia
Blog 12 - Hong Kong, China
Blog 17 - Beijing, Xi'an & Shanghai, China
Blog 19 - California, USA
Have you been to Bonnie Scotland? Tell me about your experience in the comments section below.
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My name is Mary and this is my bucket list blog ...having survived a near-death experience. I hope it encourages you to "live your best life". See how I'm completing my own bucket list items. And let me know how you're getting on with yours!