Yesterday was my first day tour in Scotland. I headed off with Rabbies Trail Burners to see Stirling Castle and the Trossachs. It was...fantastic. Gorgeous scenery, beautiful castle, great tour guide. We got tidbits of history along the trip, even finding out where "armed to the teeth" comes from. (Way back, the highlanders raised cattle and drove them south to the lowlands to market. On the way back, they'd stop at the river teeth overnight. At this point they'd drink, get rowdy and fight. Of course, having weapons handy, they often killed each other. Soon, laws were made forcing the men to leave all of their weapons with the...well...local police until they left in the morning)
Our tour guide even sang some lovely songs for us. We spent about an hour and a half at Stirling castle, then headed into the Trossachs for the afternoon. Beautiful country and I got several pictures. We had lunch at Aberfoyle and stopped in the afternoon at Loch Lomond. The ch in Loch is a sound like clearing your throat. I don't do it well. We walked along the shoreline of the loch and then up a small hill. The weather was fantastic with the sun shining. Many boats were out on the loch. I picked up some rhubarb and custard rock candy at Aberfoyle at lunchtime and it tastes fantastic. I've been trying to find more of it, but I haven't been able to.
On the way back, we stopped at the Forth bridges - one being over 100 years old. And couldn't see much of them due to fog. Very disappointing. I did get a very foggy picture of about a third of the rail bridge since it may be my only visit to them. The bridge for cars is apparently falling apart because it wasn't built for the kind of traffic it now sees.
The Royal Mile in Edinburgh is essentially Whyte Ave, only the buildings are stone instead of...well the varied material used on Whyte ave. There are buskers and many, many people. During parts of the day, the street is shut down and only pedestrian traffic is allowed. It's a mile from The castle to the palace at the other end. I've walked it twice today. I wandered down to the Palace which is closed due to someone currently living/staying there. Then back up to the castle and now I'm almost back to my hotel. The time at the gym is definitely paying off since the royal mile is all a hill. And there are stairs EVERYWHERE.
I did get to Gladstone's Land today - the oldest tenement in the city (quite interesting for such a small little place) and then the castle where I spent about 3 hours and had tea. The Scottish Crown Jewels are housed here, along with the stone of destiny. No pictures allowed of these though. The prisons were depressing and they have a soundtrack which just make them creepy - people talking of why they're there, how they got captured, etc. Very disconcerting having someone cough from the cot beside your head!
The military and war museums are very interesting as well.
I'm now staying in the hostel. It also houses University students while in session so there are many students around. I'm a tad out of place. The fire alarm went of shortly after I arrived which made me a little concerned that would be a recurring event, but aside from some getting rowdy in the courtyard in the middle of the night, it was all fine. The bunk beds are definitely not made for adults and I feel for the students who live there. My back aches a bit today but only 4 more nights. The back ache could be attributed to wandering around carrying a large satchel as well :)
I've booked a couple more tours - St. Andrews and the villages of fife one day and Rosslyn Chapel and Melrose Abbey the next. Tomorrow I'm just wondering around a bit more. Heading over to "new town" for some shopping and sightseeing as well as train reservations. Hopefully the weather improves. It's rained every day I've been in Edinburgh except for the afternoon of sunshine yesterday on my trip.
Oh...oddly enough, the girl who checked me into the hostel is from Edmonton. She's been in the UK for three months and will likely stay til the end of the summer. What're the chances?