Scotland Diaries: Last Day in Glasgow

Friday, August 23

Soundtrack: “Scotland” The Lumineers

Itinerary:

  • sleep in
  • late breakfast
  • sightsee
  • souvenir shopping
  • dinner
  • final nightcap

Finally, the first morning of our trip where we could actually sleep in!! It was sorely needed after the previous night’s karaoke journey. Our only plans for the day included some final sightseeing and shopping, so we had most of the morning to get ourselves together and properly turn back into functioning human beings.

Necropolis/Glasgow Cathedral
For our day of sightseeing, we met up with Elizabeth’s friend (hi Erik!) who had recently moved from Chicago to Glasgow, his wife’s hometown. We grabbed a pint in a beer garden near the Cathedral to catch up/chat for a bit, then walked to the Necropolis, a Victorian-era cemetery situated atop a grassy hill.  Among the crypts and headstones are monuments from various architectural styles, and from the top of the hill, you get an incredible 360-degree view of Glasgow.

I am almost as obsessed with medieval cathedrals as I am with castles, pretty much ever since reading The Pillars of the Earth in high school. Glasgow Cathedral first opened in 1136, and it’s one of the few Scottish medieval churches to survive the Reformation intact. With dozens of other tourists, we walked through the nave, gazing at the intricately carved ceiling and admiring the way sunlight filtered through the stained glass windows. It’s impossible to capture the beauty and ornamental details in iPhone photos, especially with a bunch of other tourists wandering into the shot, but I tried my best. I also lit a votive candle (something I do in every church I visit).

Outside near the St. Mungo Museum, we spotted a Clootie Tree, covered with pieces of cloth that have been blessed in a holy well and left as offerings by people seeking healing.

We walked back to the city center to get some food and do the last of our shopping. A sausage roll and a Diet Coke was exactly the fuel I needed to finish up my shopping and make important decisions like, Do I need this cashmere scarf? (yes!), and Do I need this kilt yoga calendar (decided no but I already regret it!!). Erik pointed out the statue of the Duke of Wellington, which locals consistently top off with a traffic cone on his head. The prank first began in the 1980s, and in 2017 the city gave up fighting it and proclaimed the cone an official part of the statue. This is a true story and I love it.

After walking all day, we were ready to sit down and eat a real meal, so we made a quick run back to the Airbnb to drop off our purchases and begin packing up some of our suitcases (insert all the sobbing emoji). We headed back to Argyle Street and made a few stops for pre-dinner cocktails, including a nice outdoor gin garden (as Elizabeth put it, “Scotch is like the deep dish pizza of Scotland because everyone who lives here drinks gin”).

For our final meal, we went to Fanny Trollope’s Bistro for traditional Scottish food (I highly recommend that you read their story because it is great). I ordered cullen skink,  a thick soup made with smoked haddock, onions, and potatoes, and it was delicious. Seriously, anyone who claims that the food in Scotland isn’t good didn’t go to the right restaurants, because I loved just about everything. We all felt the emotional weight of it being the last night of a fantastic trip, and so we went around the table and shared all of our favorite moments. After dinner, we walked to another bar for a final nightcap and a toast to our Scottish adventure.

 

 

Scotland Diaries: Glasgow Karaoke

Thursday, August 22

Soundtrack: “I Wish I was Sober” Frightened Rabbit

Itinerary:

  • surviving the night in a ghost-ridden castle
  • breakfast
  • horseback riding!
  • Clydeside Distillery tour
  • karaoke in Glasgow

Dalkeith
In the middle of the night, I had to pee. Not wanting to turn on a light and wake up my roommate Anita, I made my slow, careful way down the stairs of our suite towards the bathroom. At the bottom of the stairs, a mirror hung on the wall. GODDAMNIT. If I’m already in a scaredy-cat mood, as one might be when staying in an allegedly haunted castle, there’s nothing that scares me more than a freakin’ mirror in a dark room. I tried to not look directly into it, avoiding any chances of seeing the ghost of Mary behind me. I’m not sure what I would’ve done had I seen anything–maybe blurt out “So what do you think of Saoirse Ronan?” then dive back into the bed and cower beneath the covers. Thankfully, I made it to the bathroom and back unscathed, and was able to fall back asleep.

In the morning, the four of us met up for continental breakfast; no one reported any ghostly encounters though some had had a rough night of restless sleep. We’d been going hard nonstop this whole trip so far, and exhaustion was catching up.

BUT! It turned out that there was a stable nearby, and they had availability to take us out on an hour-long trail ride. So far on the trip, our only major disappointment had been missing out on riding in the Highlands, so this was our chance to make it up.  We checked out of the castle and drove a few short miles to nearby Lasswade Riding Centre.

besties

Amongst our group, we had a mix of experienced riders and beginners, and the folks at the stable matched us up with appropriate horses. I was put on a dappled gray named Oscar, and we got along swimmingly. Our guide took us on an ambling trail across a river, then through a scenic meadow and a wooded park. At one point, we rode on the road (on the left side!! I was all geeked out about that), and did some light trotting. I love going on trail rides in Europe because they use English saddles, so I get to brush up on my posting skills from junior high. Everyone did a good job, and nobody died!

Our horses: Hugo, Tom, Oscar, Lucy

After an hour on the trail, our inner thigh muscles/allergies were fully awakened. We stopped for some Benadryl and Doritos, then got on the road to Glasgow, our final home base.

Glasgow
We had booked an Airbnb in Finnieston (the Logan Square of Glasgow), and our first destination, the Clydeside Distillery, was an easy 5-minute walk away, which was fortuitous because our legs were fried. We had signed up for a tour and tasting. Our guide was informative and the facility was located in a scenic spot right on the river, but let’s be real, the reason anyone tours a distillery is for the tasting. The Clydeside is so new that they can’t serve their own brand yet–since they opened in 2018, their premier whisky is still aging. But, we got to sample some whiskys provided from distillery friends of the brand, and if you are knowledgable about your spirits, you can even try to guess what they are Blind Date-style (though our guide swore she’ll never confirm nor deny a guess). We grabbed some bites in their cafe, and I enjoyed a dram with my coffee.

After resting/napping/reading for the rest of the afternoon, we geared up for some Glasgow nightlife. We grabbed dinner from an excellent seafood place called Crabshakk within walking distance from our flat, then went in search of karaoke.

From that point on, the night became a blur. I sang “Party in the USA” at the first bar and was pleasantly surprised when a woman stood up and yelled “Yeah Miley!!” and everyone began dancing (Glasgow is Team Miley, y’all). After getting in a few songs, the host stopped taking new slips so we moved on to the second karaoke bar, where things got even more hazy. Rounds of St. Mungo lager were purchased. Shots were shot. A fog machine overtook the karaoke stage.

who knows, honestly

We let the night take us on a real journey. We danced, sang, went in search of late night pizza, then settled for McDonald’s. I challenged a Scottish man to a pushup contest in the street. We met a squad of Glaswegian college cheerleaders and one of them did a backflip for us. Sometime around 3 a.m., Adrienne flagged us down a taxi and we poured ourselves into the backseat. Everyone did a good job, and nobody died!

 

 

Scotland Diaries: Arrival in Glasgow

Friday, Aug. 16/Saturday, Aug. 17

Soundtrack: “Dry the Rain” Beta Band

Many months ago, three friends and I first began kicking around the idea of planning a trip to Scotland. The four of us are writers, and the plan originated as a writing retreat, but then our wanderlust, Harry Potter/Outlander fandom, and sense of adventure kicked in, and the plan for the quiet week in a Highlands cabin turned into a country-spanning road trip.

a street on a sunny day. A person in a yellow city smock leads a crowd of people waving rainbow and trans pride flags.

Glasgow Pride Parade

I was the first to arrive in Glasgow, having booked an earlier flight. I left work on a Friday afternoon and headed to O’Hare. On the plane, I watched Brave to get into the spirit. After a layover at Heathrow, I landed in Glasgow on Saturday morning around 10 a.m. From the bus stop, my 10-minute walk to the hotel turned into a 45-minute adventure as I ran into Glasgow’s Pride Parade. In no big hurry, I watched for a while, cheering and waving, then eventually found enough of a gap in marchers where I could dance my way across the street with luggage in tow. It was such a perfectly positive and joyful way to start my trip.

After I dropped off my luggage, I began my solo exploration. I love walking and wandering around a new city. I went into a local coffee chain, Cafe Nero, and tried to order, but was quickly reminded of the scarcity of drip coffee in Europe. Duh, this is why Americano is a thing, I reminded myself, ordering a large. My love of an oversized black coffee is very Americano.

As I walked along the River Clyde, the weather turned from sunny to gray, and the skies opened into torrential rain. I stayed out on the street just long enough to snap a pic of a large mural of Billy Connolly, hometown hero, then began sprinting in the direction of my hotel. Before I could get to the end of the block, the rain stopped and the sun came back out.  Ah, Scotland weather. As a Chicagoan, I have fond feelings for challenging weather, so I tied my rain jacket around my waist and continued my wanderings.

who knew Titanic Live was in town??

In the evening, my friends arrived after slogging through two layovers in two different countries. We were all in that slippery state of half-exhausted, half-exhilarated, so after a quick freshen-up, the four of us went for a few pints at the BrewDog DogHouse. After we grabbed an outdoor table, two locals asked if they could share with us. They began dispensing local tips, mostly consisting of how to properly trash talk each other’s favorite football club, when it’s acceptable to drop the c-bomb in Scotland (all the time), and the importance of ending a night of drinking with pizza crunch (i.e. deep-fried pizza). They also jokingly warned us of wild haggis potentially attacking our car in the Highlands (i.e. the Scottish Jackalope, but with way more fabulous hair).

After drinks, we said goodbye to our table friends and grabbed dinner at an excellent tapas restaurant. On a stomach full of sangria (speaking for myself), we explored the City Centre at night. I love being this far north in the world, where the nighttime light looks soft blue and magical.

Glasgow City Chambers