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Scotland 8/02
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Glasgow architecture, Edinburgh history and Loch Ness in three days...

Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Glasgow School of Art

In our fast-paced travel style, Ben and I covered three separate aspects of Scotland in a three day visit. We started from Philadelphia and flew via Chicago to Glasgow where we focused on Charles Rennie Mackintosh's architecture. I got the sense that Glasgow is a city moving in the right direction, emerging from years of tough times to become the new cultural center of Scotland. We continued on to Edinburgh for its history and to catch the end of the yearly Edinburgh festival. Edinburgh is a beautiful city, but touristy. We finished our trip with a day-long tour of the Scottish Highlands, castles and a cruise on Loch Ness.

Friday August 30th - Glasgow

Our flight from Chicago arrived at 9am. We took a taxi to the Glasgow Marriott where we changed and headed out in search of Glasgow's famous architecture. It rained steadily throughout the day. Glasgow is not a good looking city - it looks like its roots, which are in heavy industry. Nonetheless, one native son, Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868 - 1928) was an architectural genius who influenced Frank Lloyd Wright and many others. His designs included both the exterior and interior of buildings with influences from Japanese forms and art nouveau. His theory was that "decoration should not be constructed, rather construction should be decorated".

Scottish Highlands with Hammish the bull calf

We started at the Lighthouse, which is a multi-function museum and school of architectural art. It has a floor dedicated to Mackintosh's work and style (map of Mackintosh's Glasgow buildings in first picture above) along with the original spiral-staircased Mackintosh Tower with a view of Glasgow's rooftops (middle two pictures above). From the Lighthouse, we headed up "pedestrianized" Buchanan Street (fourth picture above) to George Square and the City Chamber which was designed by William Young (first picture below).

 

We ate lunch at one of Mackintosh's most famous locations, The Willow Tea Room (exterior second picture below, interior third picture below). Lunch was surprisingly good, having expected tourist fare going in. Ben had a BLT sandwich and I had the "haggis, neeps and tatties" which is a traditional Scottish dish consisting of haggis - made from sheep's offal (windpipe, lungs, heart and liver), which is boiled, minced, mixed with beef suet and toasted oatmeal, then cooked inside the sheep's stomach, neeps - mashed turnip or swede, with a little milk and allspice added, and tatties which are creamed potatoes flavored with a little nutmeg. Okay, it sounds disgusting, but it was really good. Hey, we eat hot dogs in the US don't we? From the Willow Tea Room, we walked to the Glasgow School of Art (large picture top of page) which covers an entire city block.

 

After dinner at the Axiom, we took a quick walk on the River Clyde (fourth picture below) and then finished the day at a Scotch bar getting some expert advice on the best Scotches. We were often reminded on this trip that the people are Scots, and the drink is Scotch. My taste went toward peaty, dark single malts. Here is my short list after exhausting research: Lagavulin 16yo, Ardbeg 17yo, Macallan 18yo, Laphraoig 10yo and Bowmorg 17yo.

Saturday August 31st - Edinburgh

We took Intercity Bus #900 for the 50 minute trip from Glasgow to the Edinburgh Marriott. I loved the statue "Wincher's Stance" at the meeting point in Glasgow's Buchanan Bus station (first picture below). Edinburgh is divided into "old town" and "new town" areas. We started in old town with the City Art Centre (second picture below), where there was an "Art of Star Wars" exhibit Ben wanted to see . From there, we headed up the long hill to Edinburgh Castle (third picture below) and then walked the length of the "Royal Mile" to Holyrood Palace (fourth picture below), the Queen's Scottish residence.

From there we walked through Princes, George and Queen streets in the new town area, which were packed with tourists in the last days of the Edinburgh festival. After dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe, we relaxed at the hotel before going back to town for the festival fireworks, shot from the Castle with a projected multimedia show on the cliffside below it. Due to poor planning, we got to town too early and ended up having to leave early and watch the fireworks from the Marriott.

Sunday September 1st - Scottish Highlands and Loch Ness

We took a 12 hour bus tour with Gray Line Edinburgh to see the Scottish Highlands countryside, castles and Loch Ness (route in first picture below). Usually I avoid organized tours for a number of reasons, but this seemed the only practical way to cover all this ground in a day. Past Stirling Castle, we pet a Highland bull calf named Hammish (large picture, top of page at right). Highland cows were bred with light colored fur to make dying it easier than the native black fur. The Scottish countryside changed throughout the trip, starting with low rolling hills in Rannoch Moor (Rob Roy and William Wallace country - second picture below), crossing the Highland boundary fault, then becoming more barren and mountainous higher up near Glencoe, site of the 1692 clan massacre (third picture below). For 95 miles from Milngavie to Ft. William, the West Highland Way is a famous walking path taken by thousands of people traversing the lowlands and mountains of Scotland. All along this portion of our trip, we spotted hikers on the paths (fourth picture below).

In Ft. Augustus at the southern tip of Loch Ness (a Loch is just Scottish for a lake), we boarded the Royal Scot for an hour cruise (first picture below). We never spotted Nessie, despite incredible expensive sonar equipment (they've got to be kidding) on board, but the location is truly unique. Ben pointed out that there is only one place in the world that looks like Loch Ness, and once you see it you realize why (second and third pictures below). With the benefit of small decals stuck on the boat windows, everyone on the cruise gets a picture of the monster (fourth picture below).

 

From Loch Ness we traveled north to Inverness, capital of the Highlands, and then took the motorway south back to Edinburgh, spotting castles along the way. We grabbed a late dessert in Edinburgh. The next morning we headed back to Glasgow for our return flights to LA.

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