2 weeks in Scotland – Part 5 : Inverness

Hey, it’s been a while. I’ve been pretty busy in spring, I had to deal with the exams at uni, the competitive exams to get into a business school in September (by the way, I got them all, SO PROUD) and my job, so, yes, I didn’t have a lot of time for myself and the blog. As all is more or less set and as I’m doing pretty much umm nothing, except vegetating in front of my laptop all day long (I’m too poor to go out at the moment *sigh*), I thought maybe I could blog again.
Oh and I actually am working on a new project, with strips, absurdity and stuff. I have this in mind since early July, but I still have to do some extra researches (oh my, so serious). Should be in da place in mid-August.
Also, I feel like I should change the blog banner. What do you think? Haa, SO MUCH TO DO.

Unicorn Inverness WinaSo, after a few days in small cities, we were quite shocked when we arrived at Inverness. We were like “wooow look, they have Mark & Spencer, even Primark! And the pubs, they’re open! At night! Awesome!”. Leave us a week in a forest, be sure that we die the second day.

Shopping Center Inverness WinaShopping center at Inverness

I had a little crush on Inverness, it’s a cute city. The River Ness goes across the city and the bridges lights colours change randomly. The center streets are cobbled. The city is quite small but you can feel that it’s dynamic. I like it. Plus, it’s near the Loch Ness! Street cred.

Inverness WinaThe city

When we arrived, it was Burns night, a celebration of the life and poetry of the poet Robert Burns, author of many Scots poems. You traditionnaly eat haggis, drink scotch whisky and listen to the recitation of Burns’ poetry. And here comes another fail. Because when we went out for dinner at about 9:00 pm, food wasn’t served anymore in the pubs. Oh Scotland, why, why are you doing this to us? Despair and desolation. So we went to an american restaurant. Feel the authenticity of a typically Scottish feast day. Still, Filling Station is a nice place, food is good.

The next morning, we went to the Loch Ness Exhibition Center. To get there, you can take Citylink service n°917 to Drumnadrochit, but there are many buses that can drive you there. Drumnadrochit is a small village, the closest one from the Loch Ness. The Loch Ness Exhibition Center is an interesting attraction, I learned a few things about the seeking of the monster of the Loch Ness, the different ways that have been used in that goal, the different expeditions to find Nessie, etc.

Loch Ness Exhibition Center WinaIt’s interesting, but I wouldn’t say it’s a must-do. It’s nice for the souvenirs shop haha. I found a notebook there for a good friend, I don’t know if I would find it somewhere else. Still, if you don’t have much time to spend at Inverness and around, you can skip that attraction I think.

But if there’s one thing you shouldn’t miss in that area is the Urquhart Castle.

Urquhart Castle WinaWe went there by foot from the Loch Ness Exhibition Center. It took us like an hour I think. We had planned to ride on poneys that day, but it was rainy and we didn’t have the time anyway. The walking was quite funny though, we were singing silly songs (like I Knew You Were Trouble by Taylor Swift)(this is probably why it was raining that day). It was also very nice because we were close to the Loch Ness. The place is very impressive.

Loch Ness WinaVisiting Urquhart Castle was great. Funny thing is that boyfriend didn’t know much about the castle, so when we arrived, he said “but… The castle is all in ruin!” haha.
Well yes, it is. But it has its charm I think. You can feel that it had a harsh story, based on battles and fire. Apart from that, the view from the castle is very cool.

Urquhart Castle View WinaThen, we went back to Inverness and had lunch at Ash Restaurant. We ate some haggis, eventually! And it was very good!

Haggis 2 WinaAsh Restaurant has a 2 courses lunch menu that is very reasonnable. It cost us about £8 per person I think, which is very good value. For the dessert, I had a toffee pudding that was absolutely diabolic.

Toffee pudding WinaThe rest of the day, we walked a bit around the city. We went back early at the hotel (we stayed at the Waterside Hotel and I recommend it, very nice) and slept like bears. We were travelling all around Scotland for more than a week now and we really started to feel exhausted. Our trip is about to end though, because next time, we’re going to Edinburgh, our last destination.

2 weeks in Scotland – Part 3 : Fort William

Hello sweeties,

After more than 3 weeks of silence, it’s time to say goodbye to Glasgow, to go to Loch Lomond and visit the Trossachs national park! 

Except that we’re not going to Loch Lomond. And we’re not going to visit the Trossachs national park. Because we totally missed the bus station and we’re actually at Glen Coe now. 

feelingsYes, it’s the third time I use this gif here, but it’s one of my favourite

You probably don’t get what’s the matter, so let me show you with this desperately sad map:

Loch Lomond Glen Coe WinaBIGGEST FAIL OF THE TRIP. We could go back to Loch Lomond, but the next bus that was going down was in several hours. So we kissed it goodbye.
Now remember what I said in the General Approach post: keep the bus timetable in mind and inform the bus driver about your destination. This will make you avoid this kind of misadventure.

Anyway, it wasn’t such a big deal, because we were going to Fort William anyway and the service we took (n°916) was going over there too.

Day 1

Fort William Arrival WinaArrival under the rain at Fort William

We had lunch at the Café Ecosse and it wasn’t the best choice. The fish & chips is clearly frozen, so not very interesting. It’s ok when you’re hungry and don’t really care, but if you want something fresher and more savoury, this isn’t the place.

After that, we went to our room to rest a little bit. We spent only a night at Fort William and it was at Ardlinnhe B&B. The place is perfect, it’s clean, spacious and very cute, there was a hairdryer, tourism books and all that is necessary for tea time in the room. Moreover, Pam, the hoster, is lovely.

Fort William Room View WinaThe view from our room

At about 5:00 or 6:00 pm, we had a walk in Fort William. There was actually not much to do… Almost all the shops were closed, there’s no attraction in the city center… So after an hour of wandering, we bought some food at Tesco and went back to our room. Wow such adventure much amaze hu.

Fort William Iron Guardian WinaWe met an iron guardian on our way though

Day 2

Fort William Wina

In the morning, we wanted to go to Nevis Range to take the cable-car to Ben Nevis (the main attraction near Fort William and the highest point of the british isles!). But the bus times weren’t convenient as we had to leave in the afternoon for Portree, Isle of Skye. So much for Ben Nevis, next time! 

Fort William Old Man Wina

We decided to do a little shopping and hike a bit in Glen Nevis. And it was great!

Fort William To Glen Nevis WinaOn the way to Glen Nevis

I almost died haha. We first walked on a muddy way and when trying to go back to the main road, I slipped and almost died. Well yeah, at least! We were near River Nevis and I can’t swim. So yes, I almost di-ok hashtag dramaqueen.

Fort William River Nevis Wina“Feaaar and panic in the air, I want to be freeee from desolation and despair…”

Anyway, the sun appeared at the moment we reached our highest point of the hike, it was really nice. The landscape was wonderful.
Fort William Glen Nevis Wina

Fort William Glen Nevis 2 Wina

When we walked down, we had rain and hail (and a tiny bit of snow). Then it became very sunny when we arrived to Fort William cimetery. All the weather changes happened within 20 minutes I think. The weather at Fort William is the most insane we had in Scotland.

Fort William Cimetery View Wina

The view from the cimetery

Our stay there ended with a hot chocolate while writing postcards at the Hot Roast Company. It seems that they make good rolls there, but we didn’t try any (not really in the mood haha).

Fort William is a cute city, but you can quickly get bored. Still, this is nothing compared to the end of days in the Isle of Skye… But we’re seeing that next time.

2 weeks in Scotland – Part 2 : Glasgow

Hello sweeties,

Sorry for the delay, I was pretty sick these last days, so I wasn’t very productive about the blog and the other things I had to do *sigh*. But today we are beginning the adventures! And our first destination is Glasgow.

Ok, imagine. You arrive on sunday at about 10:00 pm at Glasgow international airport. The airport is empty. Almost all the staff have left, the information desk is open, but there’s no one.  No worries, you’ll figure out how to get to the center. You’ve read during your trip preparation researches that there was a train linking the airport and the center.
 You go outside the airport and the signs don’t indicate any train station. Alright. No problem, there are buses apparently. You walk through all the bus stances and it’s never-ending. The tiredness and the rain (there, this is Scotland!) not helping, you stop your wandering and finally ask to someone from the security staff. Yes, there’s a shuttle going right to the center! And it’s passing in front of you! And the shuttle stops at its station, at the very end of the stance! So you run, you run, you run… And you catch it.

This is how it started.

So now, you guys listen to me : if you land at Glasgow in the middle of the night, just take the shuttle (or call a taxi). It operates every 10 minutes, 24 hours a day, so don’t try to find a train station or which bus to take. The service number is 500, you have to take it at the stance n°1 and a single fare costs £6 per person.
To find the shuttle stance : go outside the airport and walk to the left, it’s at the very end of the way.

Once arrived at Glasgow Buchanan Bus Station, we had to get to the hotel. As we didn’t want to get lost, we took a taxi. The taxi driver was really funny (and had that Scottish accent, so cool)(yes, I’m part of the pro-Scottish accent, I love it, even if I understand only half of what is said), that really was a great first contact with Scottish people.

Glasgow night WinaGlasgow at night

We stayed at the Ibis Budget only for a night. When we opened the door of our room… There was someone inside. A man. Half naked. Hum. And he wasn’t alone. HUM. We went back at the reception and we had another room. This one was empty haha.
I guess Ibis Budget is okay. The room was quite small and the shower was in the sleeping room (I mean, it was private, but there was no real bathroom). If you consider that you stay at the hotel only for sleeping and taking your shower, then it’s okay.

Day 1

On our first day in Glasgow, we had breakfast at Willow Tea Room on Buchanan Street. There are 2 Willow Tea Rooms at Glasgow, the other (and original) one is on Sauchiehall Street. The Tea Rooms were designed by Machintosh himself and it’s quite impressive to have a seat in Machintosh chairs replicas. Having breakfast there is a great introduction to the most famous Scottish architect’s work.
I had a Scottish Breakfast (black pudding, sausage, fried egg, potatoe scone, toasts and baked beans) and boyfriend had some porridge (meh). It was quite affordable, I can’t really remember the price, but the total was under £12 I think.

Scottish Breakfast Willow Tea Room WinaScottish breakfast at Willow Tea Room

After that, we had a walk on Buchanan Street and found a T.A.R.D.I.S.! Okay, maybe not, it’s just an *ordinary* police box, but my heart jumped when I saw it.Glasgow Police Box WinaFirst day wasn’t very exciting, we walked a lot (A LOT) around Merchant City and did a little shopping. I now know Buchanan, Sauchiehall and Argyle Streets by heart haha.

In the middle of the day, we met Seimi and Imogen, the adorable Couchsurfing couple that hosted us for 2 nights. The evening, they brought us in at the Hillhead Bookclub. It’s very very cool venue built on 2 floors. The place is huge, the drinks are cheap, the seats are comfortable, the atmosphere is super nice. And there’s a ping pong table! We played a little and it was very fun. It’s definitely a place you should go to if you want to have a drink (we didn’t try the food, but I read great reviews about it).

Day 2

The second day, we first went to the Botanics. In a matter of moments, you don’t feel like in Scotland and you’re in the middle of exotic plants.

Glasgow Botanics WinaTo gently come back to the Scottish greyness, you can have a cup of tea and a slice of cake at the Botanics tea room.

Botanics Tea Room WinaBefore leaving the park, take attention to the seats in it. There are golden plaques on the seats back. You can read sweet messages from people who lost someone close who liked the park. Beautiful and heartbreaking.

After the Botanics, we went to Glasgow School of Art to know more about Machintosh’s work. It’s fascinating, I highly recommend this tour. Best part was the tour of the library, the room is absolutely stunning.

We carried on our visiting with the Light House. It’s a tall building from which you’re supposed to have a great view on the city. But we were quite disappointed : there was a meeting on the plateform that day, so we couldn’t see anything. How sad!

Our day ended by walking around Glasgow Necropolis, at dusk. FEEL THE ATMOSPHERE.

Glasgow Necropolis Wina

I personally like this kind of atmosphere. It’s quiet, mystical and intimate somehow. The view from the top of the Necropolis is really cool. It’s near Glasgow Cathedrale, so if you don’t have the time to visit it, at least you have a great view.

Glasgow Cathedral WinaGlasgow Cathedrale

Well, this isn’t really the end. Before going back to our hosters home, we ate fish & chips and haggis balls at Gandolfi Café. This is a great address if you want a take away, the fish tastes fresh and savoury.

We spent our last night at Glasgow with Seimi and Imogen. When we came back, they were rehearsing songs. Boyfriend and I went in our room, started talking about tomorrow’s planning and they were playing guitar and singing in the background. It was so lovely.
 Before going to bed, we had diner with them (they cooked home made vegetarian curry, yummy!) and talked about politics (that was very interesting, I learned a lot about Scotland) and other things. I keep a really good memory of the time we spent with them. So, if you guys are reading this someday, thank you for everything!

Now it’s time to sleep, because next, we’re going to the Highlands!

N.B.: At the end of the Scotland trip articles series, I’ll post a list of all the places we’ve been to for spleeping, eating, visiting and shopping, so that it’ll be easier for those of you who want to go to Scotland!

2 weeks in Scotland – Part 1 : General approach

Hello sweeties,

So there we are, the so waited post about my trip in Scotland. There are so much to tell!

Let’s go back in 2013. We are mid october, it’s been only a month since I went back to school and I already am considering going on holiday. In a conversation with boyfriend, I pop a “We should go on holiday. In Scotland and then we go to Iceland”, just like that. I don’t really mean it, it’s some kind of fantasy. And he says “we can leave on December or January”. Wait what? Really? Yes. “No. No we don’t”. 

(Skip to 1:40)

Yes, we do. And that’s how we decided to go to Scotland (the budget and the schedule not allowing us to go to Iceland too).

I know he wanted to go there for quite a while, but I don’t really know why I actually wanted too. Probably because some of the Doctors are scottish (David Tennant wink wink)(and Peter Capaldi, but I’m not updated and I didn’t see any episode with him yet, so I can’t say I like him (yet)). Also because some friends of mine went to Scotland last year and it seemed so nice. And because Scotland’s official animal is the unicorn, which makes it the coolest place on Earth. But I didn’t know much about Scotland and it was a really pleasant surprise.

We first planned to stay a small week. Boyfriend wanted to go only to Edinburgh, but I really wanted to go to the Highlands (and Glasgow), because that’s pretty much the point when being in Scotland. But the length of the stay was pretty short, so we extended it to 9-10 days. And when we booked the plane tickets, it increased from 10 days to 2 weeks (well, 12 days actually). Don’t ask me why.

We set 5 main places : Edinburgh, Glasgow, Fort William, Isle of Skye and Inverness. We finally decided to land at Glasgow and fly off from Edinburgh for practical reasons.

Now excitement goes up a notch, here’s the map of the places we’ve been to :

Scotland map WinaClick for more details

Pretty exciting eh? Now let’s be pragmatic. What follows is not very exhaustive and is only based on my experience, but I hope it will help some of you.

How to go to Scotland :

Well, there are many ways. From Western Europe, I guess you can take the train to France or Belgium, before using a local travelling way. From Paris, you can take the Eurostar to London, then take a bus, a train, a local flight, whatever you want. You probably can also take the ferry somewhere on the French west coast. I think you land at Aberdeen if you do so… But I don’t know about this way, so I can’t help.
 Wherever you come from, the easiest way (and probably cheapest if you do it well) remains the plane. We flew with Easyjet, from Charles de Gaulle Airport. It cost us about 130€ per person, extra luggage charge included (20€ per person).

National transports :

Scotland has an important bus network. That’s the travelling way we chose. It takes almost as much time as if taking the train and it’s a great way to discover the landscapes.
For the main routes, we bought a Citylink Explorer Pass. We took the 5 days of unlimited travel out of 10 days. It cost us £62 per person. That’s a very good value. Indeed, if we hadn’t take it, we would have taken the bus only 3 times for the same price. But don’t forget to calculate the cost of your travels without the Explorer Pass before  buying it! Depending on your trip, you don’t necessarily save money.

/!\ What you need to know about the buses : I don’t know how it works in the different countries, but I was quite um surprised about the Scottish buses. Indeed, they don’t indicate the name of the station when they stop (if they stop at the station you want to get off). There is no sign in the bus that indicates the station and the bus driver doesn’t say it. You have to know the timetable of the service you take, so that you know when to get off of the bus. And more important : inform the bus driver about the station you want to get off. 
The first time we took a national bus, we didn’t know it and we missed the station in Balloch and couldn’t go to Loch Lomond. So keep this in mind! 

Local transports :

Glasgow has a subway network, but Edinburgh doesn’t (I don’t get it). On the other hand, Edinburgh has its own bus company (the Lothian buses), while Glasgow uses the national companies. This explains why taking the bus in Edinburgh isn’t expensive.
In the Highlands, we mainly took the national bus companies: Stagecoach to travel through Skye and Citylink for the return Inverness/Drumnadrochit.

Food :

Haa food. You can eat decently for less than £8 in the pubs, snacks or tea rooms.  You can have Scottish breakfast for about £5 or £6, which is really nice. 
If you want to go to the restaurant, then it’s more expensive. I’d say you should count at least £12 for a non vegetarian meal (I noticed that vegetarian meals were generally less expensive). But in most of the restaurants, there is a pre-theatre menu that is less expensive than the classic menus.
 Of course, the most money saving solution is to buy your food at the supermarket. This doesn’t sound very funny, but sometimes you don’t really have the choice, as some eating places close at… 5:00 pm. If you’re French and you’re used to eat at about 8:00 pm, you’re doomed haha.

We mostly ate fish & chips, baked potatoes, pies, sandwiches… And haggis, of course! For those who don’t know what haggis is, it’s a pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach. Yum-my. It is traditionnaly served with mashed turnips and potatoes. I dreaded this moment, but haggis actually tastes good (when you forget what’s inside).

Weather :

The weather in Scotland is… INSANE. It changes really quick. In a same hour, you can have rain (both drizzle and downpour), snow, hail (the small and the big ones) and the great sun. And I’m not even exagerating! When we experienced it at Fort William, it was unbelievable.
It’s not so cold in cities such as Glasgow and Edinburgh. But in the Highlands, it’s pretty freezing. So always have a raincoat or any waterproof outerwear and don’t forget the scarf and the gloves!

A few things to know :

  •  At the restaurant/pub/tea room/bar /café: Most of the time, the service is not included in the check, so don’t forget the tips (well, except if you think that the service was lame…). It’s from 10 to 15% of the total. 
    You don’t need to give tips if you order a drink at the bar counter.
  •  Most of the attractions are closed in winter. Think about checking the opening times of the attractions you want to do before going.
  • If you’re a student, bring your student card with you, it’s a valid ID (if it has a photo on it) that lets you enjoy the concession price of some attractions.
  • The shops mainly close at 5:00 pm, sometimes at 4:30 pm or 6:00 pm. So do the tourist information centers. In the biggest cities, the center shops close later (at about 7:00 or 8:00 pm).
  • And again : always, always check the buses timetables. Trust me.
  • Scottish people are, for the most, adorable.

I think I said it all… If however you have some questions, let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.

Ok, next time, we start the trip town by town. And we’re going to Glasgow first!