After dawdling around Keflavik International Airport for enough time to enjoy the EVE Online advertisements and the scary bird photographs in the toilets, I boarded a plane and then another plane and finally found myself in gorgeous Edinburgh.
While perhaps I took fewer photographs in Scotland than I did in Iceland, Scotland was more or less the reason that this trip came to be. In September last year two very dear friends of mine moved from Melbourne to Scotland so that one of them could pursue PhD studies at the University of St Andrews. I was sad to see them go but of course, when you are a traveller at heart, you know that that well-worn phrase “I’ll come visit” is not just a cliche that you spew when you are saying goodbye. I, inevitably, meant it. For realsies.* So it was that I found myself in Scotland.
My first night in Edinburgh was my first night all on my own in weeks, so of course I absolutely relished it. Delicious, delicious solitude. I do love travelling in company (so much easier not to miss people that way!) but I am also blissfully content when left to my own devices (read: I need alone time or I turn into a cranky piece of work). I didn’t get up to anything much, to be honest – just traipsed around Leith and ate a dinner foraged from the supermarket, since I arrived quite late. I have a vague recollection of dozing through some truly horrible television (another travel novelty, as I don’t have television at home). But it was nevertheless a restorative night in its own way.
The next day I hopped on a train to Leuchars and spent most of the trip gawping out the window and chatting to a lovely local woman about a campaign to reintroduce wolves to Northern Scotland (who knew?) and how the re-introduced beavers have apparently already naturalised (they have a website!). A bus trip to St Andrews later and I was reunited with my friend, who of course met me at the bus station with a can of Irn Bru (it actually wasn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting, though my expectations were pretty dire).
It took me under an hour to become insanely jealous at my friends’ new home. I mean, LOOK AT IT.
We spent a lot of time just walking around the town and its parks and I am pretty sure I wasn’t bored for a moment of it. It was just so green and beautiful. It’s funny really, how despite being born and raised in Australia I still have very northern hemisphere standards of beauty when it comes to landscapes. Don’t get me wrong; Australia is absolutely stunning in its own way, especially if you go for stark and striking rather than mild and green (though we have some of that too). But when I see the lush green parks and flowery meadows of the UK, something in my brain prods me and tells me that this is somehow correct, this is how things are supposed to look. I suspect it’s because back home we are started on a diet of imported books, movies and television shows from a very young age, where it’s all Enid Blyton’s various mystery-solving children camping in lush green fields or Austen’s heroines taking a turn about the garden. Or perhaps it’s from living in Melbourne where so many of our parks and gardens aspire to the lush green look and do quite well at it until, oh, the first 35+ degree day of summer and then things tend to revert to crunchy brown. Or perhaps it’s knowing that odds are nothing deadly is lurking in the grass in the UK – it took me a few tries before I could stride through the shin-high grass in Kensington Gardens without feeling very, very daring. Who can know?
I have to admit I find this bias rather disagreeable; evidently I need to spend more time admiring my own country (ahem, there might be something in the works on that front, but more on that soon)! But still, there’s no denying that Scotland is beautiful. A few days into my visit we walked part of the Fife Coastal Trail and the sheer variety of landscapes through which we passed blew my mind.
It was a gorgeous walk, definitely worth the sun-burn. Yes, I got sunburnt in Scotland. Badly. Takes talent, I know.
The weather took a turn after this, but we had no shortage of indoors catching up to get done over the next week, and we also managed a day trip out to Dundee (hoping for a sighting of the elusive Dundee Man). And the weather obligingly cleared up in time for a bonfire on the beach on my final night in the town.
We spent my final night in Scotland in Edinburgh, getting soaked to the skin by the torrential rain, pottering around in the National Museum of Scotland, and eating two dinners because we were so hungry. Yes, two dinners! And then the next day it was time for goodbyes, because I was off to a significantly warmer climate. Next post: Malta!
*The promise did, however, come with a disclaimer that nothing would induce me to visit in winter. Or early spring. Or late autumn. Or any season where I was in danger of feeling cold. This perhaps turned out to be a slightly inconsistent promise given that I came via Iceland (!) but when your friend travels such vast distances to visit, surely you don’t give a shit that their promises re: their temperature tolerance are all over the place? Here’s hoping!