Scotland Tour – Day 3

29-April-2013

Pitlochary-Edinburgh

The third day started with out trip from Inverness to Edinburgh with stop at Pitlochary, that means we are leaving the Highlands. The first stop was to a Whiskey Distillery located in Pitlochary. Now that all everyone’s attention (just guys I mean). On the way, the guide was explaining how the Single Malt Whiskey is famous thing of Scotland (If you talk to people who drink, you will get to know that Irish and Scottish Whiskeys are the best, just like French Champagne). Single malt means that they do not mix any other variety (the opposite of that is the blended one) and they make it from one set of barley (yes the innocent barley.. I was under the assumption that only Beer had barley in it). We saw quite a few of the distilleries on the way. The weather was varying between sunny and cloudy. And since we are coming down from the Highlands the view was amazing and beautiful. By the time we landed in Pitlochary, it was quite sunny (still not enough to take off your jacket, but enough to wear your sunglasses) and the unit we visited was the Blair Athol Distillery which produces Bell’s Scottish Whiskey (I remember the name Athol from the movie Made of Honor where the other guy was from Scotland and they spoke Gaelic…you will remember that word if you have seen that movie twice or thrice). Children below 8 aren’t allowed and our group had two of them, and we had split into two groups so that the parents can take turns. The Distillery wasn’t that big at all. It was infact much smaller than I had expected. They explained how they take the barley and the river water or streams that flow through the town along with sugar and yeast and convert it to Single Malt whiskey. They had had a huge warehouse where they had stored the whiskey in the wooden cans (or whatever they are called) and you can really smell it when you enter it. I never thought I could smell whiskey. Then they took us for tasting. I was interested in doing that but was wondering if I should let go. But then I thought ‘what the heck’, I ain’t driving and nothin’s gonna happen with a sip (hopefully). So they all gave us a very small quantity of 12 year old whiskey that they had. And taught us how to savor the taste. I could really smell it and after holding it in the palm and closing it with the other palm, leaving it like that for a minute and smelling it again, it gave another kind of smell..something fruity. According to Scots, its a sin to mix it with water or Cola. The guy who was doing the tour begged us not to dishonor them 😀 like that. I had one sip (a little larger one at that.. I just can’t a small sip at all). Whoa!! it burned my throat.. thank god I let it in slowly otherwise my lungs would have been burnt. It was woody and fruity together. I was so tempted to complete the small quantity they gave and see its effect. But since I am not alone I didn’t want to risk it. But given a chance if I am alone will I have whiskey…nah!!! Too strong for my taste. I prefer Champagne 😉

After that tour, we came to the central place in Pitlochary for a sort of brunch thing, because its gonna be a long drive to Edinburgh. But all I did manage was a cup of coffee. I had good breakfast and didn’t feel like eating anything at 11.30 or so just because we can. Walked around the place. It was quite and calm and there were quite a few buses (tour) that were coming that way. They have a place for parking which was good. The parking area was near the railway station. Walked around, took snaps and was ready after sometime to start our way back.

In the bus the guide was explaining us the same story about the history of Scotland (how Queen Elizabeth I of England imprisoned her own cousin of sorts Queen Mary of Scotland during a political drama and overtook Scotland under her reign and later when she died without heir how James, heir of Mary but was schooled in London, ascended to the throne of Scotland…so an English of sorts first became the King of Scotland… I thought our history of Rajah’s and Rani’s was complicated..but theirs is a maze..same goes to the European especially the Roman dynasty) also about some mythological tales belonging to that region (including Witches and brooms 😉 …no no not the Harry potter kind…but hearing those tales makes you sort of realize how witches and wizards were part of their folklore or even their history) and also the story of a plant (whose name I forgot) and how it got its smell and strength (it can withstand the strong winds of Scotland) through a folklore (believing it is up to you.. I believe in those tales..)

He kept us awake with those small small stories and it was nice to hear them. Finally the sort of things I want to hear but late in the game. There were a few people in the back who would rather gossip among themselves rather than listen to these… irritating me in the process.. But thankfully the guide was on the mic so I could tune the irritants off (why not.. since I get to hear it in his Scottish accent ;)…).

We arrived in Edinburgh by around 3.30 pm or so and boy was I hungry.. While going through the city he kept explaining the various landmarks like the coffee shop where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter, the University, the landmarks in Royal Mile (like the Queen’s palace, the Edwards Seat) etc etc.. Finally we ended up in the Edinburgh Castle which is almost on the top of a small hill. I was already very hungry and climbing it from the stairs which is so steep literally took my breath away. But when you go up and see the big space before the entrance and the view of the city on all sides from there.. its like my breath left me for a beat or two (this time figuratively). The place from the castle starting from the wide area to the Queen’s palace, which is in one straight line, is called the Royal Mile (exactly a mile distant) and has lot of landmarks there and is a busy shopping area too. They have the parade (I forgot for which event) through the Royal Mile, with all the Scottish Attire (their Kilts and stuff…) Since this is where our guide will part us we wanted to take the group photo. That particular event was a mess. No one knew how to get it done (even though I tried to tell them that standing with their backs to the Sun shining high and bright will do no good for the photo and no one is a professional there) and finally I decided to be out of it and I tried to take one decent one after they settled one. All of them gave their cameras to the tour director who tried to take one shot each with each camera with the guide in it. After that I was trying to take a few shots here and there when someone from the group pulled me and asked me to take their photo with the guide and tour director. I was like ‘don’t you have to ask my permission for courtesy sake’ but since this couple were old and didn’t bother with any courtesy through the trip I just went with it and took their photo in their camera. Once they were done, then every one came up with their camera and within a few seconds I became the photographer there, with the guide and tour director standing and each group posing with them (reminded me of the wax statues…jeez that is seriously sad). But then as soon as they were done, they started going of to the castle entrance to wait there. I was asking them just in jest if anyone will even bother to ask me if I wanted one. But it went to dead ears and when the last couple took the photo, I almost had tears in my eyes because no one bothered and it felt hurt to be taken for granted like this. I didn’t need that picture, I didn’t even think of it until they all started, but there is something called courtesy, a very common one, that you can follow. I didn’t gel will with even single one of them, because they had their own partners or families and didn’t bother with me and I was OK with it, because I am perfectly fine with myself. But this incident really made me feel very bad for a few minutes. Then the last couple who did not even know how to handle their own digicam let alone my SLR, tried to take one of mine with the guide and the tour manager. When it was done, I was really left with a sour feeling at the back of my tongue.

After that incident, we went to regroup near the entrance. He explained us how this castle was built for the royal family earlier to stay but later since it was too windy and not fit for staying, they relocated. Now it is sort of a museum. We started with the Half Moon Battery with the canons firing machines (none of them fired for any war) and then went to the Scottish War Memorial. This memorial is a place where photos are not allowed and is sort of sacred. We can see the memorabilia to the people who laid their lives for different wars. There is a lot of mention about India , especially Lucknow, Mysore regiments etc. After that he pointed us to the different other highlights available like the One O’clock gun (fired at 1 pm except Sunday) as a indication to the Sailors, the Margaret Chapel, where even now weddings are conducted, the Royal Palace, which has the history of the Scotland in pictures and other art forms, Crown Jewels, which has the Queen’s crown and the sword stored in a high secure and alarmed place, the Prisoners of war place, which is sort of a jail earlier etc. He explained us the buildings and then said a word of good bye to all of us, because the rest of the time till 6.30 pm is our time to explore the castle and the city (may be the Royal Mile). After biding adieu to the guide, the first thing I did was to go to the inside restaurant near the Royal Hall and have myself a hearty late-lunch. I was so tired because of hunger that I couldn’t take one more step. After that hearty too-costly meal (which cost me around 20 pounds) I started my way to the different buildings for my exploration and photo sessions. Its difficult to cover it in a hour or two. And requires a lot of walking. I explored for almost 2 hours and then once I thought that I had covered the essentials (did not go to the jail or the regimental museum) I started my way to the Royal Mile.

I wasn’t sure how long it will take to go through the Royal Mile. But once I started walking, I felt that it was never ending. However since I was exploring the various churches, witches place, schools, and other such things there along with lot of shops for purchasing mementos, it took me a while to go to the Queens Palace. Thankfully due to a over persistent girl who had come there to take a picture of the building, the guard opened the gate for a car which was coming out and kept it open for us to take a few pics and after that I started to walk back, coz it was about to take me around 30 mins of walk up the hill and by 1/4th of the distance I was panting like a dog. My god, I was seriously not in shape and with my camera and lenses and laptop stuff in the backpack, it was bending me forward. It was a strenuous walk to the back of the castle where we have the bus. But then I took a detour near a chapel to walk down to see the other part of the streets which is sort of 2 storeys down. There was a person who was making a performance with knifes and fire in the middle of the pedestrian only section of the Royal Mile road. Stood for some time to watch it. Seems like the castle is standing on a volcano which is dormant. By the time I finished my exploration of the Edinburgh castle and the Royal Mile, I had already burned my calories that I had accumulated from my lunch. By 6.45 pm I was happy to see the bus because I was now ready to lie down for a while. We started our way to our Dinner first because it is on the way to the hotel and was near the Royal Mile. After the dinner, back to our hotel which was quite far away from the city near the express way because that way it will be easy to get back tomorrow to London.

By the time I hit the bed, I was exhausted and thanking my body for supporting me so far went to sleep only to be awake by 6 am for our return journey.

Edinburgh is a beautiful place as is any part of Scotland, and this is the other biggest city apart from Glasgow.

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