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Archive for the ‘United Kingdom, The’ Category

The Ghosts of Edinburgh

Posted by Heliocentrism on March 25, 2018

Friday, September 29th, 2017

Before going to Edinburgh, I thought about doing a ghost tour. I hadn’t really made up my mind whether to do one or not. I don’t believe in ghosts, but after seeing Edinburgh, I just knew if ghosts were a real thing, this is where they would all hang out. It’s not that Edinburgh looks creepy, it really doesn’t. The city has a historical look and at sunset, there is a dusting of magic. It looks very Hogwarts-like.

Walking up the Royal Mile, I saw many flyers advertising ghost tours. Some were free, some were expensive, a few were on buses. Mark and I wanted to do a free one first. If that was okay, we would do a reasonably paid tour right after. Around noon, we started looking for a tour. We found one that started at 4 o’clock followed by a paid one that started right after that one ended. This was great because both of them started before sunset, giving us enough sunlight for photos. Unfortunately we lost track of time and got to the meeting point half an hour too late.

We tried to find another set of tours that worked out as nicely as the ones we missed. As we were walking around we were handed a flyer for a new ghost themed tour. Since this was its first day, they were doing a special free promotion. It sounded great, but didn’t start until 6 o’clock that evening and the meeting point was down by the train station.

We could have still done the paid tour we had planned on, but we would risk missing the bus. We decided to skip the paid tour, placing all our hopes for a good evening on the bus. After that we could always just walk around looking for another free walking tour even though it would be too dark for our cameras.

Around 5:30 that evening, we walked to the meeting point for our free bus tour. We were greeted by the bus in the photo above. We both gave a sigh of relief; our evening was looking like it would be quite fun. We approach the costumed man with a clip-board in his hand and told him our names. He looked through the names on his board. “Oh,” he said sounding very disappointed. “You’ve booked the other bus, haven’t you? That one has been canceled. They can’t seem to get the bus started.”

The bus was filling up with tourists as it started to rain. We stood there like sad naughty children at Christmas watching all the good kids get their presents. We wondered if we should just buy tickets for this bus, when we overheard another free bus tour guest asking clip-board man a question. “Sorry,” he responded, “this one’s full.”

We walked back to the Royal Mile to where many of the walking tours start. We found a decent looking paid tour that wasn’t too expensive. We asked when the next tour was and was told that it would start in 10 minutes. We met the tour guide, a friendly guy in a ghoulish suit. He talked with us and other tourists. I liked the guy and hoped for a good tour.

The guide was nice, but the tour was boring. We walked around in the rain as the sunset. The rain added to the eerie look of the city, but it did nothing for the tour. Never were the names of Burke or Hare mentioned. These were Edinburgh’s most famous serial killers. Their story told in Greyfriars Cemetery in the misty rain would have been entertaining.

For contrast, there was another tour in Spanish across the cemetery at the same time we were there. Their guide was really getting into her story. I could see a few of the Spanish speaking tourists holding onto one another. Most did not look scared, but they were intently listening to every word the guide said. They were clearly enjoying the show. Even some of the people on my tour were paying more attention to the Spanish tour than our own.

The creepiest part of the whole tour, was the walk back to the meeting spot. At this point, the tour was over, so we were just quietly following the tour guide. We had wandered through Edinburgh’s streets going this way and that, so most of us had no idea where we were. There was some obstruction on the sidewalk and everyone was just standing around waiting for the way to clear. As I waited I looked up at the building next to me.

It was the church of Scientology!

This time in Edinburgh, we did the Ghost Bus Tour; not the free one (I have no idea what ever happened to them). This tour was not scary or creepy. But, it was funny and entertaining. It was worth every penny!


The United Kingdom

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land via an underwater tunnel, air, or sea.

Check with your local UK embassy for visa information.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • If you’re going to do a lot of travel by train or bus, looking for a Rail card or bus pass before you buy your first ticket.
    • Railway Cards
    • Oyster Card
    • Even getting a day pass on a bus could be cheaper than getting 3 single passes, or a return ticket and a single pass.
  • If you’re going to travel around the United Kingdom, you might want to get membership at one of the following:
    •  English Heritage – £54 / year for 1 person
    • National Trust England – £64.80 / year for 1 person
    • Scottish Heritage –  £49 / year for 1 person
      • All of these are a little cheaper when getting a group or family membership.
      • Many come with discounts for other things, like:
        • The Scottish Heritage gives you 20% off at all of their gift shops and cafes.
        • English Heritage gives you free parking at many of their sights.
      • As a bonus, it helps you when planning what to do and see in the country.
  • If you are going to stay in hostels, join Hosteling International, or any of its subsidiaries.
    • YHA – England & Wales
    • SYHA – Scotland
      • Membership at any of these will get you the discounted rate at any of the other hosteling organizations.
      • These hostels tend to be better than most hostels.

Edinburgh Castle

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £17.00
    • Free with Historic Scotland membership
  • Adult £3.50
    • 20% discount for Historic Scotland Members

Hours:

  • 9:30 – 17:00

Video

Notes:


Things to look out for:

Map:

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Posted in Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom, The | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Castles with no Crowds

Posted by Heliocentrism on March 20, 2018

September 27th – 28th, 2017

After the Orkney Islands, Mark and I went on a castle bender. We drove from Inverness to Aberdeen and saw just about every castle in our path. After we left Scotland, Mark never wanted to see another castle again. I could still go for another round. I might be a castle-o-holic…

Here are some of the reasons I’m so obsessed with old Scottish Castles.

I sat down after posing for Mark for 20 minutes

1. No one else is.

Looking through my photo album of this time, you will find only Mark and me. There were no huge crowds to negotiate through. I didn’t have to patiently wait to take a photo of anything. I could sit in a corner or stand in the middle of the room and not bother anyone. This was great for Mark because, although he is in denial about this,  he is one of those tourists who take forever to “frame a photo”. Without the crowds, he could take all the time he needed.

2. No more walking for miles in muddy sheep fields.

I like hiking up hills for miles through muddy fields filled with sheep and their “presents”. But I have to admit, I liked driving up to castles with paved non-muddy parking lots a lot more. It was nice to not have to search for the cleanest puddle to wash the mud off my shoes and then wipe them off on the driest patch of grass before getting back into the car. Instead, I could have tea and cake in the cafe when one was available like a civilized person who isn’t constantly stepping in what one hopes is just mud.

in the Price of Wales bedroom

3. The staff love to answer questions.

There were a few castles where we stayed way longer than we had planned to because we started chatting with the staff. These men and women who take care of these castles are very knowledgeable and will chat your head off. They are more than happy to answer any and all questions you might have about the castle, the past, the town, the best place to get ice cream… I really enjoyed my trip to Scotland and the staff at these sites made everything that much more pleasant.

4. I got to learn a lot about Scotland.

I was taught absolutely nothing about Scotland in school. Well, there was a map of the world and Scotland was on it so I might have casually learned where Scotland was. But, that was just happenstance. Before this trip, I could not name one Scottish monarch that wasn’t also an English one. But now I know something about Jacobites and the weird things rich people got up to in castles back in the day…

5. These castles are beautiful.

I’m no great photographer and I’m only using my phone to take pictures. So, it might be hard for you to tell how wonderful the Scottish castles look. Some of them function as museums now. Some of them are partial ruins. A few of them are not intact enough to be used for anything, but they look beautiful none the less.


The United Kingdom

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land via an underwater tunnel, air, or sea.

Check with your local UK embassy for visa information.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • If you’re going to do a lot of travel by train or bus, looking for a Rail card or bus pass before you buy your first ticket.
    • Railway Cards
    • Oyster Card
    • Even getting a day pass on a bus could be cheaper than getting 3 single passes, or a return ticket and a single pass.
  • If you’re going to travel around the United Kingdom, you might want to get membership at one of the following:
    •  English Heritage – £54 / year for 1 person
    • National Trust England – £64.80 / year for 1 person
    • Scottish Heritage –  £49 / year for 1 person
      • All of these are a little cheaper when getting a group or family membership.
      • Many come with discounts for other things, like:
        • The Scottish Heritage gives you 20% off at all of their gift shops and cafes.
        • English Heritage gives you free parking at many of their sights.
      • As a bonus, it helps you when planning what to do and see in the country.
  • If you are going to stay in hostels, join Hosteling International, or any of its subsidiaries.
    • YHA – England & Wales
    • SYHA – Scotland
      • Membership at any of these will get you the discounted rate at any of the other hosteling organizations.
      • These hostels tend to be better than most hostels.

Spynie Palace

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £5
  • Free for Scottish Heritage Members

Hours:

  • 1 April to 30 September: Monday to Sunday, 9.30am to 5.30pm
  • 1 to 31 October: Monday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm
  • 1 November to 31 March: Closed

Note:

  • Built in 1150AD.

Elgin Cathedral

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £7.50
  • Free for Scottish Heritage Members

Hours:

  • 1 April to 30 September: Monday to Sunday, 9.30am to 5.30pm
  • 1 October to 31 March: Monday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm

Notes:

  • Built in 1224AD.

Duff House

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £7.50
  • Free for Scottish Heritage Members

Hours:

  • 1 April to 31 October: Monday to Sunday, 11am to 5pm
  • 1 November to 31 March: Thursday to Sunday, 11am to 4pm

Notes:

  • Built in 1740.
  • The Duff House has a lot of art on exhibit.

Tolquhon Castle

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £5
  • Free for Scottish Heritage Members

Hours:

  • 1 April to 30 September: Monday to Sunday, 9.30am to 5.30pm
  • 1 October to 31 March: Closed

Notes:

  • It’s pronounced “toh-hon”.
  • It was built in the early 15th century.

Huntly Castle

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £6
  • Free for Scottish Heritage Members

Hours:

  • 1 April to 30 September: Monday to Sunday, 9.30am to 5.30pm
  • 1 to 31 October: Monday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm
  • 1 November to 31 March: Daily except Thursday and Friday, 10am to 4pm

Notes:

  • Built in the 12th century.

Balvenie Castle

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £5
  • Free for Scottish Heritage Members

Hours:

  • 1 April to 30 September: Monday to Sunday, 9.30am to 5.30pm
  • 1 to 31 October: Monday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm
  • 1 November to 31 March: Closed

Notes:

  • Built in the 12th century.

Kildrummy Castle

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £5
  • Free for Scottish Heritage Members

Hours:

  • 1 April to 30 September: Monday to Sunday, 9.30am to 5.30pm
  • 1 to 31 October: Monday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm
  • 1 November to 31 March: Closed

Notes:

  • Built in the 13th century.

Don’t Miss:

Map:

Posted in Aberdeen, Banff, Dufftown, Elgin, Scotland, United Kingdom, The | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Eaten by Otters

Posted by Heliocentrism on March 15, 2018

September 21st – 26th, 2017

When you visit all these neolithic sites on Orkney, you come across the same questions over and over again. Who were these people? Where did they come from? Where did they go? What were they doing with all those large rocks and cairns? The answers are a little hard to come by.

Who were these people? Picts? Maybe… It is believed that the ancient people of Orkney either became the Picts or they were invaded by the Picts. Or neither could be true. Maybe some of them were Picts. There is evidence that people came and went. There might have been several peoples moving about the islands throughout prehistory. It all started sometime after the last ice age when area thawed out and people walked to Scotland.

checking out a cairn

Where did they come from? Europe, most likely; maybe Scandinavia. We know that later on the Vikings showed up and started placing their loot and sometimes their dead in the cairns they found on the island. The Vikings didn’t build the cairns… Well, not many of them. They might have made a cairn or two. Who knows?

But we do know they liked writing on one cairn in particular. Inside the Maeshowe cairn there is a lot of Viking graffiti. Some of the writing is of a woman’s complaints that men just aren’t real men anymore. There is even a few lines about Ragnar Lothbrok and his “smooth sons”, whatever that means. I guess someone would have been a fan of (at least the first few seasons of) Vikings on the History Channel.

Besides the Vikings and the Picts, there might have been other people coming and going. I spoke to a man working at the Broch of Gurnes and he told me what really amazed him. He said that someone would find a wall or some other evidence of a building. Excavation would start and the building would be unearthed. In that process another building further down would be found. In removing that building, yet another would be found underneath.

For some reason, people kept just building on top of buildings instead of picking some place new. Why? Well, he told me that they haven’t figured that out yet. People kept building in the same spots regardless of whether the people one level up knew about the existence of the people one level down. We can only guess what their reasons were.

What are cairns? Cairns are man-made mounds built of stone with grass grown over them. When archaeologists look inside, sometimes they find bones of humans and animals. Oddly, they don’t usually find any complete skeletons. For example, in the Cuween Hill Chambered Cairn they found mostly sculls. Some were from humans and some were from dogs. So entire bodies are not being placed into cairns like we would put a body in a crypt these days.

The cairns are a lot like the homes. But, cairns did not have a fireplace. The houses were round with shelving; the cairns were round with shelving. There is a theory that a building started off as a home. Then after some deaths, the fireplace was removed, bones were placed inside, and it became a burial chamber. Then after some time the stones of the cairn were used for something else and bigger stones, like monoliths, were place around where the cairn once was.

In other words, something like the Stones of Stenness is now on a spot where some house that was turned into a cairn was. Since the islands have a lot of houses and many cairns, but there is a huge lack of standing stones, it is believed that the last part was reserved for only very wonderful people.

There is another belief that these “monoliths of honor” over the years became a religion. Many people deified the dead that they honored. People walked in circles going from one set of monoliths to another for ceremonies at certain times of the year.

Of course, all of this is mostly speculation. No one wrote down, in a way we could understand today, what they did or why they did it.

Then there are the burial places where things are just bizarre. One is the Tomb of the Otters. The other is the Tomb of the Eagles. What makes these places stand out is that it seems that the bodies of the dead were given to animals to be eaten. No where else on the island is there evidence that this was common practice. So, why here?

Both these tombs appear not to have too many people buried in them when the length of time these tombs were being used is considered. So, why were otters and eagles allowed to eat these specific people. Were they especially loved or hated?

Who knows? But, it’s all very interesting.


The United Kingdom

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land via an underwater tunnel, air, or sea.

Check with your local UK embassy for visa information.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • If you’re going to do a lot of travel by train or bus, looking for a Rail card or buss pass before you buy your first ticket.
    • Railway Cards
    • Oyster Card
    • Even getting a day pass on a bus could be cheaper than getting 3 single passes, or a return ticket and a single pass.
  • If you are going to stay in hostels, join Hosteling International, or any of it’s subsidiaries.
    • YHA – England & Wales
    • SYHA – Scotland
      • Membership at any of these will get you the discounted rate at any of the other hosteling organizations.
      • These hostels tend to be better than most hostels.

Orkney Islands

Basic Information

How to get there:

Information by Wikipedia:

Website

Downloads:

Notes:

  • Leave the umbrellas at home.
  • Bring a good rain coat, rain boots, rain pants, and hope it doesn’t rain.
  • Before visiting any of the sights, get membership in either Historic Scotland (mainly if you plan to travel all over Scotland) or Orkney Explorer Pass.

Yesnaby

Basic Information

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • 24hrs

Notes:


Maeshowe

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £6
  • Free with Historic Scotland membership

Hours:

  • 9:30 – 17:00

Videos:

Notes:


Earls Bu and Church

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 24hrs

Notes:

  • This is the oldest surviving round church in Scotland.
  • This is near a walking path.
  • This is right next to the Orkneyinga Saga Centre.
    • It’s free and unmanned.
    • The door is left unlocked.
    • You can use the bathroom.

Skerries Bistro

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

Hours:

  • MONDAY 12-4 PM   &   6-9PM
  • TUESDAY   12-4 PM
  • WEDNESDAY 12-4 PM   &  6-9PM
  • THURSDAY 12-4 PM
  • FRIDAY 12-4 PM     &   6-9PM
  • SATURDAY 12-4 PM  &    6-9PM
  • SUNDAY 12-4 PM

Notes:

  • You can book and pay for your tour of the Banks Chambered Tomb.
  • Great local dishes.

Banks Chambered Tomb
Tomb of the otters

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £7.50

Hours:

  • 11:00 – 17:00 (last tour 16:00)

Notes:

  • Personally, I think this is a must see.

Tomb of the Eagles

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £7.50

Hours:

  • March          10:00 – 12:00
  • Apr~Sept     9:30 – 17:30
  • Oct                9:30 – 12:30
  • Nov~Feb      Closed

Videos:

Notes:

  • This is one of the oldest building in Britain.
  • You are given rain boots and rain pants so your clothes and shoes can stay dry and mud free.
  • It’s also a really lovely walk along the cliff.

Highland Park

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 17:00
  • Closed Sundays

Notes:

  • It’s best to book a tour in advance.

Don’t Miss:

Map:

Posted in Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, Scotland, United Kingdom, The | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Departure of Summer

Posted by Heliocentrism on March 10, 2018

September 21st – 26th, 2017

You’ll be there at the right time

On my last night in Inverness, I was talking to two of my room mates. We were giving each other tips we’ve discovered on how to better travel through Scotland. I had mentioned that I would be leaving soon to visit the Orkney Islands. One of them asked me, “Will you be staying on the main island in the next few days?”

“Probably,” I told her. I didn’t know for sure. We would be in Orkney for almost a week and we had no plans for island hopping. I was fairly sure that we would be on the main island the whole time.

“There is a Druid celebration,” she went on to tell me. “It’s the summer equinox. They go to one of the ancient stone circles there. Anyone can go and join in.”

And, of course I went. I’m not turning down a chance to hang out with Pagans doing things they believe Pagans did thousands of years ago.

No one knows what exactly the druids did in their celebrations, but there are many really good theories out there. One of them is that some rituals started at the sight above, the Ring of Brodgar. The ancient people would walk around the ring and then down the road to the Stones of Stenness. There were commemorating their dead, nature, or maybe both.

Our Druids did not do the walk. They just met at the Stones of Stenness. This celebration was about the end of summer and the start of the new season.

The event started about an hour before sunset. We all stood around in a circle. Scripts were given out to anyone who wanted to read them, with a special paper given to the youngest female. I so badly wanted to read something, but I wanted to just relax and observe the ceremony. In the end I didn’t read any of the lines, so I could fully pay attention to what was going on.

You can see the drinking horn and the mead in the circle.

We started off by reading from a script. Some of them, more familiar with Druid activities, recited the lines from memory. Most of the people there were like Mark and me, not Pagan, but there to see what it was all about.

Some of the lines involved us talking to the 4 directions. When we addressed the north, we faced north. When we addressed the west, we faced west, and so on. After some reading, we shared a bottle of beer. I think it was referred to as mead. It was poured into a ram’s horn and passed around. Since I was one of the first to be handed the horn, I took a sip.

Next a pan of honey cake was sliced up and that too was passed around. Again, I was one of the first to be served. I took half a slice, not wanting the cake to run out before every one had had some. I think more people showed up than was expected. I began to regret that decision. The cake was really good and in the end there was a lot left over. I wasn’t the only one to take only half a slice.

After the cake, people were encouraged to share poems, songs, or dances they had created themselves. When no one came forward a talented lady who had written a few songs stepped up. She didn’t just sing, she taught us all a song.

After singing the lovely song, we went back to reading the script to close the ceremony. We talked to the directions again, facing each, and spoke of our hopes for the next season. We chanted for a little bit and then it was over.

It was a nice ceremony. I went over to thank the couple who put this all together before Mark and I left.

Overall, I felt it was a lot like church, only outdoors.


The United Kingdom

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land via an underwater tunnel, air, or sea.

Check with your local UK embassy for visa information.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • If you’re going to do a lot of travel by train or bus, looking for a Rail card or buss pass before you buy your first ticket.
    • Railway Cards
    • Oyster Card
    • Even getting a day pass on a bus could be cheaper than getting 3 single passes, or a return ticket and a single pass.
  • If you are going to stay in hostels, join Hosteling International, or any of it’s subsidiaries.
    • YHA – England & Wales
    • SYHA – Scotland
      • Membership at any of these will get you the discounted rate at any of the other hosteling organizations.
      • These hostels tend to be better than most hostels.

Orkney Islands

Basic Information

How to get there:

Information by Wikipedia:

Website

Downloads:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Leave the umbrellas at home.
  • Bring a good rain coat, rain boots, rain pants, and hope it doesn’t rain.
  • Before visiting any of the sights, get membership in either Historic Scotland (mainly if you plan to travel all over Scotland) or Orkney Explorer Pass.

The Bishop’s Palace and Earl’s Palace

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £5
  • Free with Historic Scotland membership

Hours:

  • 1 April to 30 September: 9.30am to 5.30pm
  • 1 to 31 October: 10am to 4pm
  • 1 November to 31 March: Closed

Notes:

  • Look for the statue of St. Rognvald on the outside of the Reid Tower.
  • Parking is between the Bishop’s Palace and the Earl’s Palace.
  • Built in the 1570’s
  • The was built by Patrick Stewart, not Patrick Stewart

St. Magnus Cathedral

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 1 April – 30 September Monday – Saturday, 09:00 – 18:00 and Sunday 13:00 – 18:00
  • 1 October – 31 March Monday – Saturday, 09:00 – 13:00 and 14:00 – 17:00
  • (Cathedral is closed for lunch – 13:00 – 14:00)

Notes:


Grain Earth House

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • Since you have to get the key from Judith Glue, it’s only available within the hours of Judith Glue.

Notes:

  • Before you go, stop at Judith Glue to pick of the keys.
    • Judith Glue is right across the street from St. Magnus Cathedral.
    • Open M-Sa 9:00 – 18:00 and Su 11:00 – 17:00
  • Bring a flashlight.
    • You are provided with a flashlight, but the battery might be dead.
  • This one is a claustrophobic’s nightmare.
    • It’s a very cramped space, underground, and with no light.
  • Iron Age

Broch of Gurness 

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £6
  • Free with Historic Scotland membership

Hours:

  • 1 April to 30 September: 9.30am to 5.30pm
  • 1 to 31 October: 10am to 4pm
  • 1 November to 31 March: Closed

Notes:

  • Building started from 500 to 200 BC.
  • Right outside, near the parking lot, is  St. Magnus Way.

Dounby Click Mill

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 24hrs

Notes:

  • The path can be very muddy, wear rain boots.
  • You must park near the road, next to a sign that says, “No cars beyond this point”.
    • Walk the rest of the way.
    • It might not look like you are in the right place. You will not see the mill until you are quite near it.

Birsay Earl’s Palace

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 24hrs

Notes:

  • built between 1569 and 1574
  • There is free parking across the street from the St. Magnus Church.
    • St. Magnus Church is free to enter.

Brough of Birsay

Basic Information

Websites:

Cost:

  • £5
  • Free with Historic Scotland membership

Hours:

  • Mid-June to 30 September: 9.30am to 5.30pm (tides permitting)
  • 1 October to mid-June: Closed

Notes:

  • You can only go during low tide.
  • Parts of the island can be muddy. Take rain boots.
  • The island can get very windy.
  • There is an unmanned light house in the island.
  • If you come at the right time of the year, you can see puffins here.

The Kitchener Memorial

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 24hrs

Books:

Notes:

  • There is a 20 minute walk from the parking area to the memorial.
  • There is a walking path that goes past this memorial.
  • You cannot enter the memorial.
  • You will see many rabbits on your walk to the memorial.
  • The path can be very muddy, wear rain boots.

Wideford Hill Cairn

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • 24hrs
  • Though, it would be hard to get to at night

Notes:

  • Park near the tower.
    • Either walk past the stone block to find the path or walk along the road to find the path.
    • You will not see this cairn until you are very close to it.
    • Follow the path around the mountain. After about 10 minutes of walking down you should see a sign. There aren’t other signs or posts, just a footpath made by people walking on the grass.
  • The path will be muddy and there is poo everywhere. Why not wear rain boots?
  • Bring a flash light.

Rennibister Earth House

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 24hrs

Notes:

  • The bones of 6 adults and about 12 kids were found in here.
  • 400BC
  • An easy 2 minute walk from where you must park.
  • Bring a flash light.

Cuween Hill Chambered Cairn

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 24hrs

Videos:

Notes:

  • Cuween Hill dates to around 3,000 BC
  • The path to the cairn will be muddy. …Rain boots!
  • Bring a flash light.

Ring of Brodgar

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • 24hrs

Videos:

Notes:


Skara Brae Prehistoric Village

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £7.50
  • Free with Historic Scotland membership

Hours:

  • 1 April to 30 September:  9.30am to 5.30pm
  • 1 October to 31 March: 10am to 4pm

Books:

Videos:

Notes:

  • The settlement dated from around 500 BC.
  • Part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney.
  • There is a really nice cafe and restaurant where you can get local dishes.
    • You get 20% off with Historic Scotland membership.
  • Your tickets include access to:
    • A short 5 minute film.
    • A small museum
    •  A recreated house
    • the actual prehistorical settlement
    • A visit to Skaill House

The Barnhouse Neolithic Settlement

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 24hrs

Videos:

Notes:

  • The settlement dates back to circa 3000 BC.
  • Very closes to the Standing Stones of Stennes.

Standing Stones of Stenness

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • 24hrs

Videos:

Druids:

Notes:

Map:

Posted in Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, Scotland, United Kingdom, The | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Brochs, Cairns, & a Castle

Posted by Heliocentrism on March 5, 2018

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

Mark and I bought memberships in the Scottish Heritage. This allowed us access to many castles and abbeys throughout Scotland for free. It also included a booklet that tells us where those things are. But, not all the historical sites cared for by the Historical Scotland Society charge admission or have caretakers watching over them on a set schedule. Many of them are just out in the open next to grazing sheep.

On our drive up north to get the ferry to Orkney we stopped by many of these open sites. To see some of them you had to park your car on the side of the road and follow a series of black and white poles for a mile or two, up hill, through cow or sheep fields, and in the mud. Sometimes the walked didn’t seem worth all the hassle. There were many times I stepped in poo and had to wash my shoes off in muddy puddles. Other times, we had a wonderful view of the country side on the path to see the ruins of an old castle or old sets of rocks.

There were some areas where we were left to our own judgement how safe we wanted to be. But those gave us the most wonderful views. The best part of it was we were the only ones there. There was not an Outlander fan to be seen. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Even though hikes were sometimes long and hard, the weather cold and windy, and I always managed to step in poo, I would do it again if given the chance.


The United Kingdom

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land via an underwater tunnel, air, or sea.

Check with your local UK embassy for visa information.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • If you’re going to do a lot of travel by train or bus, looking for a Rail card or bus pass before you buy your first ticket.
    • Railway Cards
    • Oyster Card
    • Even getting a day pass on a bus could be cheaper than getting 3 single passes, or a return ticket and a single pass.
  • If you’re going to travel around the United Kingdom, you might want to get membership at one of the following:
    •  English Heritage – £54 / year for 1 person
    • National Trust England – £64.80 / year for 1 person
    • Scottish Heritage –  £49 / year for 1 person
      • All of these are a little cheaper when getting a group or family membership.
      • Many come with discounts for other things, like:
        • The Scottish Heritage gives you 20% off at all of their gift shops and cafes.
        • English Heritage gives you free parking at many of their sights.
      • As a bonus, it helps you when planning what to do and see in the country.
  • If you are going to stay in hostels, join Hosteling International, or any of its subsidiaries.
    • YHA – England & Wales
    • SYHA – Scotland
      • Membership at any of these will get you the discounted rate at any of the other hosteling organizations.
      • These hostels tend to be better than most hostels.

Pentland Ferries

Basic Information:

Website:

Notes:

  • There is a cafe at the dock at Gill’s Bay and on the boat.
  • I didn’t see a cafe at the dock at St. Margret’s Hope.

Don’t Miss:

Map:

Posted in Caithness, Scotland, Ulbster, United Kingdom, The, Wick | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Stuff That Make Scotland

Posted by Heliocentrism on February 25, 2018

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

Looking at Loch Ness

The time we spent in Scotland Mark and I ran in to a few things over and over again. They were like little themes throughout the country. They made our stay interesting and sparked our curiosity. None of which involved a serpent-like water monster.

1. There are Outlander Fans swarming all over Scotland.

Apparently, half of all the castles in Scotland are featured in the show Outlander. The show is such a hit with the ladies that bus-loads of them have journeyed all the way to the Highlands to swoon at various castles. The tourist industry in Scotland have taken note. They offer Outlander tours, Outlander themed plaques at some castles, and of course they sell the books in each and every gift shop.

The band of ladies who nearly stoned me in my last post were all Americans who traveled to Scotland solely on Outlander related purposes. As one lady put it, “There’s a charity that an actor from the show is very interested in, so we’ve all come here to help.” While they were in town, they did some Outlander sightseeing before the charity event started.

When Mark and I found a crowd at a castle, we just knew that the castle was used on the show. I would over hear women say things like, “This is the room that was used as in inspiration for the room in the scene where that thing happened.” I’m sure I would have been more thrilled had I ever watched the series.

2. One should really learn about the Jacobite Rebellions before coming to Scotland. 

There are more castles involved with the Jacobite Rebellions than ones featured in Outlander. Don’t worry, there are no Jacobite fan tours. But many castles housed Jacobites or were invaded by Jacobites. One was even blown up so those damn Jacobites couldn’t retake it.

There were many battles that broke out because of Jacobites and there were something like, two generations of Jacobites. They centered around a prince named James who the British did not want to be king. They hated the idea of James becoming king so much they begged some Dutchman, who had married one of their princesses, to be the king instead.

They weren’t so happy about James not being king up in Scotland, so that’s where James went for support. Back in the day many Scots were itching for an excuse to fight the British and this one was never wasted. But, not all Scots were keen on seeing James get his crown. There weren’t as many Scots killing Brits as some of them would have liked. They mostly just killed each other.

3. Mary Queen of Scots slept here.

Mary Queen of Scots must have also been a member of the Scottish Heritage because she saw more castles than Mark and I did. Everywhere, from Edinburgh Castle to Inchmahome Priory, boasted that she slept there. She could not have possibly spent the night in so many places. Didn’t she die in her early 40’s after spending years locked up somewhere in England?

4. The place is filled with cairns, brochs, and very old settlements.

If you like neolithic artifacts and sites, then Scotland is the place for you. You can’t throw a stone in the Highlands without hitting some old settlement or realizing that the stone you just threw was part of a cairn. The crazy thing about many of the old buildings is that they tend to be on top of even older buildings.

We’re still not completely sure who all of them were.

5. Scotland makes a lot of whiskey.

Before Outlander tours were so popular, the main theme of Scottish tours was whiskey. There are many distilleries that have shifted there focus from making whiskey to just doing tours. Many distilleries that are still running also do tours. I wonder if there is an Outlander whiskey tour?


The United Kingdom

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land via an underwater tunnel, air, or sea.

Check with your local UK embassy for visa information.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • If you’re going to do a lot of travel by train or bus, looking for a Rail card or bus pass before you buy your first ticket.
    • Railway Cards
    • Oyster Card
    • Even getting a day pass on a bus could be cheaper than getting 3 single passes, or a return ticket and a single pass.
  • If you’re going to travel around the United Kingdom, you might want to get membership at one of the following:
    •  English Heritage – £54 / year for 1 person
    • National Trust England – £64.80 / year for 1 person
    • Scottish Heritage –  £49 / year for 1 person
      • All of these are a little cheaper when getting a group or family membership.
      • Many come with discounts for other things, like:
        • The Scottish Heritage gives you 20% off at all of their gift shops and cafes.
        • English Heritage gives you free parking at many of their sights.
      • As a bonus, it helps you when planning what to do and see in the country.
  • If you are going to stay in hostels, join Hosteling International, or any of its subsidiaries.
    • YHA – England & Wales
    • SYHA – Scotland
      • Membership at any of these will get you the discounted rate at any of the other hosteling organizations.
      • These hostels tend to be better than most hostels.

Urquhart Castle

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £9
  • Free for Scottish Heritage Members

Hours:

  • 1 April to 30 September: Monday to Sunday, 9.30am to 6pm
  • 1 October to 31 October: Monday to Sunday, 9.30am to 5pm
  • 1 November to 31 March: Monday to Sunday, 9.30am to 4.30pm

Videos:

Notes:

  • The castles date from the 13th to the 16th centuries.
  • If you show your membership card when you get tickets for the Jacobite Cruise tickets the cost of the Urquhart Castle entrance will be subtracted.

Fort George

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £9
  • Free for Scottish Heritage Members

Hours:

  • 1 April to 30 September: Monday to Sunday, 9.30am to 5.30pm
  • 1 October to 31 March: Monday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm

Video

Notes:

  • Lookout for a bag-pipe playing angel in the chapel.

Dallas Dhu

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £6
  • Free for Scottish Heritage Members
    • Admission includes:
      • a shot of whiskey
      • an audio guide

Hours:

  • 1 April to 30 September: Monday to Sunday, 9.30am to 5.30pm (last entry 5.00pm)
  • 1 to 31 October: Monday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm
  • 1 November to 31 March: Daily except Thursday and Friday, 10am to 4pm

Don’t Miss:

Map:

Posted in United Kingdom, The, Scotland, Inverness | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

You’ve NEVER heard of it!?

Posted by Heliocentrism on February 20, 2018

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

This day Mark drove from Glasgow to Inverness. The drive itself was only 3 hours long, but we stopped several times along the way to look at castles and abbeys. We had only two deadlines. One was check-out time at our SYHA in Glasgow, which was at 10:00. That made sure we started off our day in a timely manner. The next was at 17:00, which was when most Historic Scotland sites closed.

Fans

Our first stop was Doune Castle, near the town of Stirling. Mark put a star next to this one in our booklet because one of the Monty Python movies was filmed here. As we stood in line to show our pass and be let in, I asked Mark, “Which movie was filmed here?” Before he could answer me, a lady behind me answered.

“It’s not a movie. It’s a TV series.”

“A very good series based on some very wonderful books,” another lady added. There was a humming of agreement throughout the crowd.

“Wait,” I turned around to ask, “Monty Python started out as a book series and later was made into a TV show?”

“Not Monty Python,” some other lady responded. “Outlander.”

“Highlander was filmed here?” I replied, still not fully understanding the topic. “I thought that was set in New York City…”

“Not Highlander,” the first woman rolled her eyes. I had clearly pissed her off with my ignorance. “Outlander!”

“I’ve never heard of it,” I told her. A loud gasp rippled through the line followed by scornful chattering. “That foolish woman has never seen Outlander,” someone in the back must have said. “Is it good,” I asked the lady behind me who initially butt into my conversation with Mark.

She nearly fainted in the most Victorian way possible. As her friend fumbled through her purse to find some smelling salts, the lady, with what few breaths she could muster told me of the series Outlander. “Do you like romantic stories?” She was clearly expecting an affirmative answer.

Since I was already scandalizing the crowd and had brought on the ire of all these women, I thought I would just go ahead and stab everyone in their hearts so they could really feel some pain. “No, I actually don’t like romantic stories. I hate them.” The crowd hissed at me. Someone may have tried to sprinkle holy water on my head.

But there was one woman in the crowd that would not give up on me. “Do you like time travel,” she asked stepping out from the line and walking towards me. That had my attention. I do love time travel. I couldn’t even hide it, my face gave me away. She continued, “A woman, on a honeymoon with her husband in Scotland is transported back in time and she has all sorts of adventures…” The crowd cooed with delight.

“You should check it out. You can watch the series on Amazon Prime.” The brave woman stepped back to her place in line.

“Amazon Prime,” I said with disgust. “If it’s not on Netflix, I’m not watching it.” After that I narrowly missed a stoning from everyone in the crowd.

On the way to Inchmahome Priory

It turns out Outlander is on Netflix. I have watched the first episode. It’s okay. I’ll have to watch a few more to see if it’s really my thing. But, do you know what else is on Netflix? Highlander!


The United Kingdom

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land via an underwater tunnel, air, or sea.

Check with your local UK embassy for visa information.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • If you’re going to do a lot of travel by train or bus, looking for a Rail card or bus pass before you buy your first ticket.
    • Railway Cards
    • Oyster Card
    • Even getting a day pass on a bus could be cheaper than getting 3 single passes, or a return ticket and a single pass.
  • If you’re going to travel around the United Kingdom, you might want to get membership at one of the following:
    •  English Heritage – £54 / year for 1 person
    • National Trust England – £64.80 / year for 1 person
    • Scottish Heritage –  £49 / year for 1 person
      • Scottish Heritage Membership Handbook 2017 pdf
      • All of these are a little cheaper when getting a group or family membership.
      • Many come with discounts for other things, like:
        • The Scottish Heritage gives you 20% off at all of their gift shops and cafes.
        • English Heritage gives you free parking at many of their sights.
      • As a bonus, it helps you when planning what to do and see in the country.
  • If you are going to stay in hostels, join Hosteling International, or any of its subsidiaries.
    • YHA – England & Wales
    • SYHA – Scotland
      • Membership at any of these will get you the discounted rate at any of the other hosteling organizations.
      • These hostels tend to be better than most hostels.

Doune Castle

Basic Information

Website

Downloads:

Cost:

  • £6
  • Free for Scottish Heritage Members
    • Entrance come with a complimantary audio guide narrated by Monty Python’s Terry Jones.

Hours:

  • 1 April to 30 September: Monday to Sunday, 9.30am to 5.30pm
  • 1 October to 31 March: Monday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm

Videos:

Books:

Notes:


Inchmahome Priory

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £7.50
  • Free for Scottish Heritage Members
    • The boat ride over is included in admission

Hours:

  • 1 April to 30 September: Monday to Sunday, 10am (first outward sailing) to 4.15pm (last outward sailing)
  • 1 October to 31 October: Monday to Sunday, 10am (first outward sailing) to 3.15pm (last outward sailing)
  • 1 November to 31 March: Closed

 

Notes:

  • Mary Queen of Scots, stayed here once, but where has she not stayed?
    • This lady seemed to have wondered around Scotland like a homeless monarch.

Huntingtower Castle

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £5
  • Free for Scottish Heritage Members

Hours:

  • 1 April to 30 September: Monday to Sunday, 9.30am to 5.30pm
  • 1 to 31 October: Monday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm
  • 1 November to 31 March: Daily except Thursday and Friday, 10am to 4pm

Notes:

  • Enjoy some dressing up in period clothes in the gift shop.
  • There is a legend of a girl who leaped from one of the castle’s tower to the other so her mother wouldn’t find her with her lover.
    • If you she her ghost, misfortune will come to you.
  • St Conval’s Well, which is beside the road below the castle, has water with healing power, according to legend.
    • You must collect the water in complete silence and leave a little token or charm behind.
  • The parking lot is for small cars only.

Stanley Mills

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • Adult £6
  • Free for Scottish Heritage Members

Hours:

  • 1 April to 30 September: Monday to Sunday, 9.30am to 5.30pm
  • 1 to 31 October: Monday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm
  • 1 November to 31 March: Closed

Video

Map:

Posted in Perth, Scotland, Stirling, United Kingdom, The | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

An Electric… What?

Posted by Heliocentrism on February 15, 2018

Monday, September 18th, 2017

We flew from Reykjavik back to Edinburgh, where we picked up another rental car. Mark drove from Edinburgh to Glasgow. Mark hates driving a stick-shift in cities. He cursed all through Liverpool. He loathed the streets of Edinburgh. Even some parts of Reykjavik, the ones with roundabouts, would have caused him to roll down the window and shake his fist at Iceland, but he needed both hands to drive.

This day we were supposed to drive around Glasgow but the roads put Mark into a mood. He asked that we leave the city and did our sightseeing where there was significantly less traffic. It didn’t really matter to me, so I pulled out my trusty Scottish Heritage Membership Handbook and found some places for us to visit.

I just have to mention how the Historic Environment Scotland society helped us so much. As I’ve stated many times in the past, the hardest part about traveling the world is all the constant planning that needs to be done. A good portion of our evenings are taken up with figuring out what our next steps will be.

But once we got Scottish Heritage membership we were given a handbook. With the handbook we spent almost no time planning. We had our cities picked out already. We just opened the handbook and drove from sight to sight. I wish more countries had something similar.

We spent the day looking at castles and one church. At the church, Crossragual Abbey, we learned that an abbot who worked there had been roasted by a nobleman. I thought that the notion of a nobleman roasting an abbot was amazing. I imagined there was a feast of duck and pork with lots of wine. All the towns people sat around listening to insulting jokes at the abbot’s expense, which he took in stride. It was all in good fun, as roasts usually are.

Then I read somewhere that the abbot was kidnapped for a few days before the event. The nobleman wanted some land that the abbot had control of. The story went on to tell that the nobleman got his butcher to help him. It ended, telling the reader that the abbot was never able to walk again. “Damn, it was the other type of roasting.”

I asked the caretaker of the abbey about the kidnapping and the aftermath. “Oh, that didn’t happen here. This is just were the man worked. He was tortured at Dunure Castle, just up the road.” The trip had turned macabre and we were going to just let it happen.

We got general directions from the caretaker and he added another thing we should see. “You must look for the Electric Brae,” he advised. I can spell it now because I’ve looked it up online, but at the time I had no idea what he was talking about.

“An electric… what?”

“The Electric Brae,” he repeated. “You know, an electric brae… Oh, what do the kids call it these days?”

I stood there not knowing what to say. In Britain I had been confronted with compound words where I knew the meanings of the individual words just fine. It was when the two were placed next to each other that I got confused. But in Scotland, I was fairly sure that people just made up words to mess with me.

“An electric bray…” I said, rolling the words around and looking up to seem like I was trying to think of the more modern version of the phrase. In my head I was thinking, “An ice box was a refrigerator, but didn’t use electricity…” I didn’t have to pretend for too long because the man explained what an electric brae was.

“You stop your car on the hill. Then you put the car in neutral. The car rolls up hill. Some say it’s magic or ghosts. But, it’s just an optical illusion.”

“Oh, a ‘mysterious road’. I’ve seen a few of those,” I said. They always sound more exciting in their descriptions than in real life. Of the one’s I’ve seen, they have all been huge let downs.

We did not find the electric brae though we did look for it.

We found this labyrinth instead.


The United Kingdom

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land via an underwater tunnel, air, or sea.

Check with your local UK embassy for visa information.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • If you’re going to do a lot of travel by train or bus, looking for a Rail card or bus pass before you buy your first ticket.
    • Railway Cards
    • Oyster Card
    • Even getting a day pass on a bus could be cheaper than getting 3 single passes, or a return ticket and a single pass.
  • If you’re going to travel around the United Kingdom, you might want to get membership at one of the following:
    •  English Heritage – £54 / year for 1 person
    • National Trust England – £64.80 / year for 1 person
    • Scottish Heritage –  £49 / year for 1 person
      • All of these are a little cheaper when getting a group or family membership.
      • Many come with discounts for other things, like:
        • The Scottish Heritage gives you 20% off at all of their gift shops and cafes.
        • English Heritage gives you free parking at many of their sights.
      • As a bonus, it helps you when planning what to do and see in the country.
  • If you are going to stay in hostels, join Hosteling International, or any of its subsidiaries.
    • YHA – England & Wales
    • SYHA – Scotland
      • Membership at any of these will get you the discounted rate at any of the other hosteling organizations.
      • These hostels tend to be better than most hostels.

Bothwell Castle

Basic Information

Website

Downloads:

Cost:

  • £4.50
  • Free for Scottish Heritage Members

Hours:

  • 1 April to 30 September:  Monday to Sunday, 9.30am to 5.30pm
  • 1 October to 31 March: Daily except Thursday and Friday, 10am to 4pm

Crossraguel Abbey

Basic Information

Website

Downloads:

Cost:

  • £4.50
  • Free for Scottish Heritage Members

Hours:

  • 1 April to 30 September: Monday to Saturday, 9.30am to 5.30pm
  • 1 to 31 October: Monday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm
  • 1 November to 31 March: Closed

Notes:

  • A gruesome thing happened to an abbot who worked here.

Dunure Castle

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • daylight hours

Notes:

  • On one side of the castles is a conical stone doocot.
  • On the other is a labyrinth.
  • Don’t Miss:

Dundonald Castle

Basic Information

Website

Downloads:

Cost:

  • £4.50
  • Free for Scottish Heritage Members

Hours:

  • 1 April to 30 September: Monday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm
  • 1 October to 31 March: Closed

Video

Books:

Map:

Posted in Ayr, Bothwell, Maybole, Scotland, United Kingdom, The | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Travel Tips for The United Kingdom

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 15, 2018

2017

You have to bring:

  • Just your prescription medication and a doctor’s note.
  • Everything else can be bought here.

Things you can buy here or bring with you:

  1. Luggage:
    • You can use a suitcase or a backpack. A Backpack gives you a little more mobility, but it’s not a must-have here.
    • But, some hostels do not have elevators.
  2. Clothes:
    • You can buy anything here.
    • Try to shop at duty free stores and ask the clerk for the duty free paper work.
      • Fill out the forms.
      • Mail it at the airport you use to leave the European Union.
  3. Towel:
    • Bring your towel if you are staying in a hostel.
  4. Shampoo, conditioner, and body wash:
    • All hotels provided guests with shampoo and body wash.
    • You are never given conditioner.
    • You should bring your own toiletries if you are staying at a hostel.
      • You can buy shampoo, conditioner, and body wash at any convenience store or grocery store.
      • Personally, I prefer to shop at bigger grocery stores like Tesco Extra rather than a Tesco Express.
  5. Deodorant/ Antiperspirant:
    • You can find this here.
  6. Sunscreen:
    • No problem; you can find it here.
  7. Over the counter medicine:
    • There are lots of pharmacies where you can buy cold medicine and pain killers like aspirin.
    • It’s best if you know the generic or chemical name of the drugs you need.
      • Instead of asking for Bufferine, ask for ibuprofen.
    • I would still bring some medications for basic illnesses like diarrhea, fever, and constipation.
      • Don’t run out of these.
      • It’s always tough to look for medication when you’re already sick.
      • It’s easy to find what you want if you have a label of the drug you are looking for.
  8. Other things you should bring:
    • Hat
    • Sunglasses
    • Flip-flips
    • Smartphone
    • hiking shoes
    • Rain jacket
    • Rain pants
    • Rain boots
  9. If you need to buy outdoor equipment, I recommend:
    • Mountain Warehouse 
      • They are always having a sale
      • Their prices for non-sale items are still generally lower than at other outdoor stores.
    • Cotswold
      • They are a bit pricier, but you can get up to a 20% discount (at the shops in Wales and England) if you have a YHA membership.

Cliffs of Dover

General Tips:

Weather:

  • Always check the weather report before going out.
    • Just because it was warm yesterday, doesn’t mean it won’t be cold today.

Food:

  • Shop at Tesco, Sainsbury’s, or other grocery stores for ready to eat lunches.
    • Many of them have a £3 lunch deal where you choose a main, a drink, and a snack.
  • For cooking your own meals, shop at the bigger grocery stores rather than the Tesco Express or Sainsbury’s Local.
    • The bigger stores have more products and cheaper generic versions of products.
    • Morrisons is my favorite, but I also like Tesco Extra.
    • You can save a lot of money by cooking your own meals.
  • Try Scotch eggs!
    • They are actually from London, not Scotland.
  • Try Haggis when you’re in Scotland.
    • Get the type without the sheep stomach casing.
  • Try Cornish Pasties.

Transportation:

  • Get a railway card, if you’re going to ride the train a lot.
  • Get a bus pass if you are going to take many buses.
    • National Express Coach Card
    • You can get a 7-day pass to travel about in certain areas.
  • In smaller towns it’s best to rent a car.
    • It’s a lot cheaper to rent a standard car than it is to rent an automatic.
    • So, learn to drive stick before you go, to save about £50 a day.
    • If you want an automatic, make sure to reserve one ahead of time.
      • They don’t have too many of them.
  • Don’t use the black taxis in London.
    • They are more expensive.
    • If you don’t mind paying more for a cab once for a photo or something go for it.
      • They are really nice.

I’m a Scottish Heritage member!

Get Membership:

  • You should get membership at one of the following depending on where you will travel:
    • English Heritage – £54 / year for 1 person
    • National Trust England – £64.80 / year for 1 person
    • Scottish Heritage –  £49 / year for 1 person
      • All of these are a little cheaper when getting a group or family membership.
      • Many come with discounts for other things, like:
        • The Scottish Heritage gives you 20% off at all of their gift shops and cafes.
        • English Heritage gives you free parking at many of their sights.
      • As a bonus, it helps you when planning what to do and see in the country.
    • The memberships really do pay for themselves.
  • If you are going to stay in hostels, join Hosteling International, or any of its subsidiaries.
    • YHA – England & Wales
    • SYHA – Scotland
      • Membership at any of these will get you the discounted rate at any of the other hosteling organizations.
      • These hostels tend to be better than most other hostels.

Money:

  • Change money at the Post Office.
  • Or, get cash from ATMs.
    • Most ATMs have no ATM fees, but you might not get a good exchange rate…
  • Don’t tip.

Scams:

  • Not many scams to look out for, just use common sense.

The United Kingdom

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land via an underwater tunnel, air, or sea.

Check with your local UK embassy for visa information.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • If you’re going to do a lot of travel by train or bus, looking for a Rail card or bus pass before you buy your first ticket.
    • Railway Cards
    • Oyster Card
    • Even getting a day pass on a bus could be cheaper than getting 3 single passes, or a return ticket and a single pass.
  • If you’re going to travel around the United Kingdom, you might want to get membership at one of the following:
    •  English Heritage – £54 / year for 1 person
    • National Trust England – £64.80 / year for 1 person
    • Scottish Heritage –  £49 / year for 1 person
      • All of these are a little cheaper when getting a group or family membership.
      • Many come with discounts for other things, like:
        • The Scottish Heritage gives you 20% off at all of their gift shops and cafes.
        • English Heritage gives you free parking at many of their sights.
      • As a bonus, it helps you when planning what to do and see in the country.
  • If you are going to stay in hostels, join Hosteling International, or any of its subsidiaries.
    • YHA – England & Wales
    • SYHA – Scotland
      • Membership at any of these will get you the discounted rate at any of the other hosteling organizations.
      • These hostels tend to be better than most other hostels.

Posted in United Kingdom, The | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Edinburgh

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 10, 2018

Friday, September 1st – 3rd, 2017

“This is what I thought the whole of England would look like.” – Mark

Paris vs The Whole of Britain

When Mark got to Paris, it dazzled him. All the museums and palaces where shiny and fancy. In fact, most of the buildings in Paris were sparkly. It set the standard of opulence high in Mark’s mind. He expected every city in Europe to go all out with gold plated this and diamond encrusted that.

London failed him spectacularly. In London everything is functional, user friendly, and efficient. Very few things are unnecessarily lavish. Personally, I prefer that, but not Mark.

“I want to be wowed,” he whined. “There is no wow in London. It’s just nice. When can we go back to Paris?”

He’s a ‘Racine”. The French are just harder to please.

Our first day walking up the Royal Mile and down Princes street I heard him say, “This looks like Hogwarts!” He let out a little squeal and took photos for a good 20 minutes. After Edinburgh, I never heard Mark speak of Paris again.

Edinburgh is not fancy. But, it has a fairy-tale like feel to it. It looks like it could be inhabited by ghosts yet, be the setting for A Christmas Carol. (Come to think of it, A Christmas Carol was a story about 3 ghosts…) It’s hauntingly beautiful and the bag-pipers everywhere really set the mood of the city.

What do you think of Scotland?

The interesting part of all this, is that Mark didn’t even want to go to Scotland in the first place. I had to beg, bribe, and threaten to get him there. He wanted to go to Ireland or back to France. “I know nothing about Scotland,” he complained. “I’ve heard of Irish cities and towns. Irish dancing, Irish pubs. Irish coffee. French stuff sounds nice too. But can you name one thing you know about Scotland!”

“Well,” I told him. “My grandmother is from Scotland…”

I wanted to see the land of my ancestors. I have ancestors from all over the world. But, being the descendant of slaves and orphans, it’s hard to tell where most of them came from. But I do know for sure that my mother’s mother came from Scotland. According to my mom, the family came from a town just south of Edinburgh. So, I wanted to do a tour of Scotland.

The Scottish tour would not begin here, but after we returned from Iceland. We would rent a car and see as much of Scotland we could fit in 2 weeks. We would do it properly. And, at the end Mark fell in love with Scotland. Now, I don’t think he can even pronounce the name “Ireland”.

Don’t disturb him, he’s learning about Scotland.


The United Kingdom

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land via an underwater tunnel, air, or sea.

Check with your local UK embassy for visa information.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • If you’re going to do a lot of travel by train or bus, looking for a Rail card or bus pass before you buy your first ticket.
    • Railway Cards
    • Oyster Card
    • Even getting a day pass on a bus could be cheaper than getting 3 single passes, or a return ticket and a single pass.
  • If you’re going to travel around the United Kingdom, you might want to get membership at one of the following:
    •  English Heritage – £54 / year for 1 person
    • National Trust England – £64.80 / year for 1 person
    • Scottish Heritage –  £49 / year for 1 person
      • All of these are a little cheaper when getting a group or family membership.
      • Many come with discounts for other things, like:
        • The Scottish Heritage gives you 20% off at all of their gift shops and cafes.
        • English Heritage gives you free parking at many of their sights.
      • As a bonus, it helps you when planning what to do and see in the country.
  • If you are going to stay in hostels, join Hosteling International, or any of its subsidiaries.
    • YHA – England & Wales
    • SYHA – Scotland
      • Membership at any of these will get you the discounted rate at any of the other hosteling organizations.
      • These hostels tend to be better than most hostels.

Edinburgh Castle

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £17.00
    • Free with Historic Scotland membership
  • Adult £3.50
    • 20% discount for Historic Scotland Members

Hours:

  • 9:30 – 17:00

Video

Notes:


Things to look out for:

Map:

Posted in Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom, The | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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