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November 14th 2008
Published: November 20th 2008
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Edinburgh CastleEdinburgh CastleEdinburgh Castle

The view from outside the front door of my hostel. Pretty cool huh?
Following the vast quantities of beer consumed at Oktoberfest, it was time to let my liver recover, and actually spend 5 days of a week at work. Thankfully I couldn’t stick to it for too long, and 5 weeks after Oktoberfest, I was off for 9 days in Scotland for a sport weekend followed by a 6 day tour through the Isle of Skye and the Highlands.

But first, in the 5 weeks before Scotland, I made sure I got plenty done around London as well. I made it up to Leeds for another couple of games (3-1 and 3-0 wins), before going to my first ever Leeds away match at Southend-on-sea, which turned out to be a disappointing 1-0 loss. I came back into London late on the Tuesday night and it had been snowing! The first time I had seen snow in London since I got here! It was also the first time there has been snow in London in October for 74 years. We could be in for a cold winter…. Over the few weeks, I also managed to get down to Richmond Park and had a lesson in kite boarding, which was awesome fun. It’s a
View over EdinburghView over EdinburghView over Edinburgh

From the castle. That is Arthur's Seat to the right - the big hill.
little like kitesurfing, but instead it’s done on the ground with a snowboard-shaped board with wheels. Ben and I managed to completely freak out Hannah on a Jack the Ripper walking tour just before Halloween, which was great fun. Though Hannah may not necessarily agree. Then following a couple of Halloween parties, it was time for me to catch the train up north to Edinburgh.

I arrived up there and got out of the train and Edinburgh was actually warmer than London! That’s not to say it was anywhere near warm, just slightly less freezing. For my first full day there, I braved the conditions and went and explored Edinburgh Castle, and got some great views over the city. After that, I retreated indoors and went with some guys I met at the hostel to the pub to watch the football. It was a great game as Arsenal beat Moan U 2-1. Next up on the sporting weekend was the short walk along to Murrayfield to watch the mighty All Blacks hammer the Scots 32-6. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that good a game. Mainly down to the ref (and I use ref in the loosest possible sense). It was the
View over Edinburgh #2View over Edinburgh #2View over Edinburgh #2

Towards the Firth of Forth, and the gardens below where they used to 'test witches' by drowning them. If they lived they were a witch and burned alive. If they drowned, they were free to go.......
same joker who knocked the All Blacks out of last years World Cup and he certainly hasn’t gotten any better, despite a more favourable scoreline.

The following day, I escaped out of Edinburgh and made the mission of a trip to the West Coast to Kilmarnock to watch the local team play Glasgow Rangers. I had an awesome day for a couple of main reasons. Firstly, the Killie pie. Finally somewhere that does a good meat pie! They were fantastic and the best I’ve had since I left NZ. Secondly, the trains were down from Glasgow to Kilmarnock leg of my trip. So it meant I was on the bus packed with Rangers fans singing and chanting on the way there. For those of you who don’t know much of the history, there are 2 main teams in Glasgow, Celtic and Rangers, and each is followed predominantly by Catholics and Protestants respectively. So on the bus, there were some controversial chants to say the least! One I can actually write was “Go home, go home, the famine’s over, why don’t you go home?!”

The next day dawned clear and I made my way up to Arthur’s Seat, the
All Blacks at MurrayfieldAll Blacks at MurrayfieldAll Blacks at Murrayfield

Warming up before the game.
highest point in Edinburgh, despite the wind trying to blow me back down. I got some great photos and chilled out for the rest of the day before heading out on a City of the Dead Graveyard tour. This was the famous one where over 80 people have been knocked unconscious and there have been 400 reported injuries from supernatural activity! Personally I think it is just peoples minds inflicting the injuries upon themselves. It was a very interesting tour, but I didn’t see or feel any ghosts.

Next up was an early start and the start of my tour. I joined four others (2 more joined later. Thankfully.) as we headed out of Edinburgh and across the Firth of Forth to Fife. Try saying that 5 times fast! The idea behind the tours of Wild In Scotland is to spend as much time off the bus as possible, rather than long drives for certain attractions. On these long drives, were also told stories and over the course of the trip, we covered pretty much every period of Scottish history. Despite some of the tour guides being pretty new to their jobs, and therefore their own history (because how
Rugby ParkRugby ParkRugby Park

Watching football. Kilmarnock in the blue and white and Rangers in the red. Rangers won 4-0.
much of your countries history do you really know without studying?), they all were fantastic and very passionate about it.

Our first stop deserves a special mention (mainly because of the sporting link) and it was St Andrews. After a cursory look around the town, I headed out to the golf course and had a wander around there and pictured myself as Sir Bob Charles, winning the British Open for NZ. Anyone who does win there really deserves it because the wind is just phenomenal. How they even get their balls to go forward into that wind is a mystery! Following a little side visit to an ancient pagan grove at Dunino, our first night was spent in a place called Comrie - literally in the middle of nowhere. The highlights of the next day included a trip to the Famous Grouse distillery, where we got to sample some of the wares, and a couple of walks in the wilderness with great views of the countryside and hidden waterfalls.

On the morning of the 3rd day of our tour, we headed to Bannockburn, the site of one of the more famous Scottish battles, where Robert the Bruce united
Arthur's Seat viewsArthur's Seat viewsArthur's Seat views

Over the city
the clans and led them to victory over the English, despite having only 5,000 men to the English 20,000. It was very near Sterling Castle, and although we didn’t go to the William Wallace monument, we were told the true history (rather than the Hollywood version) and this site’s battle was a result of that initial rebellion. It was here that we were joined by a couple of Aussie girls, and personally I am thankful, as before that I was definitely feeling a bit like a 5th wheel! We also had a change of tour guide, and he was a bit younger and brought a bit more entertainment to the group.

After Sterling, we headed north to walk in the Hermitage Forest in Perthshire before exploring the Pass of Killiekrankie near Pitlochtry. We went past Loch Ness (we would be back.....) and made our way to Stromeferry, our base for the Isle of Skye, for the night. The caretaker of the place was classic. He was this short Scotsman with a huge beard and hair and he had a fascination with the Vikings and the Medieval era, and he spent hours telling us about the swords, armour and other
Arthur's Seat views #2Arthur's Seat views #2Arthur's Seat views #2

Towards the outskirts
medieval paraphernalia that he had. He is also one of the best medieval fighters around!

For Day 4, the weather Gods were certainly not smiling on us, even the tour guide said that it was the worst weather he had ever seen! But that just made it more fun as today was our outdoor walking day! So we spent a lot of the day, getting soaked and splashing and slipping about in the mud in our gumboots (with my mountain goat-like balance, I didn’t fall once!). It is certainly up there with any of the beautiful regions I have seen around Europe, and even New Zealand, and I can only imagine how nice it would have been on a fine day.

The following day, we said goodbye to Gordon the Viking and Stromeferry and heading back down South via Loch Ness. It was here that a few of us took complete leave of our senses and went for a swim. Actually, to tell the truth, I was the only one keen, but I managed to convince the 2 Aussie girls to come in as well. As you can imagine, the weather wasn't exactly beach worthy to begin with,
Bridge over the Forth riverBridge over the Forth riverBridge over the Forth river

Photo from Fife over the Forth of Firth.
but it was certainly an experience. As we were told afterwards, the water sits at a constant 4 degrees! Needless to say, we were only in for a maximum of about 30 seconds!

We ended up in Oban for the night, our last as a group, so we decided to make it a big(ger) one. We went out on the town and tried the local brews and I must say I approve. Very nice beer (almost up there with Germany), and the live music was pretty good too.

And on our last day, we made our way back to Edinburgh via many more beautiful places. We started off at Carnasserie castle, where we played hide and seek in amongst the ruins, then did a tour through Kilmartin Glen, one of the best collections of neolithic monuments and standing stones in Europe. After several more beautiful places like Loch Lommond, Inverary and the former capital of the Scotties, Dunadd Fort, we made our way back to Edinburgh where I eventually caught my train back to London for some sleep, and to earn some money!

Don’t worry though, my adventures won't stop for long. Next weekend, I head to
Fertile hillsFertile hillsFertile hills

This area was revered in neolithic times because it looks like a woman. The face to the left leading to the two tits on the left.
Cardiff to see the All Blacks play Wales (and hopefully a chance for me to exorcise the demons from a certain match there against France last year!)



Additional photos below
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St Andrews CathedralSt Andrews Cathedral
St Andrews Cathedral

Or at least, what is left of it.
St Andrews Golf CourseSt Andrews Golf Course
St Andrews Golf Course

Looking down the fairway of the 1st hole of the Old Course
View over the WildernessView over the Wilderness
View over the Wilderness

In the Perthshire Countryside
Famous Grouse ExperienceFamous Grouse Experience
Famous Grouse Experience

Me with the grouse.
Hairy CoosHairy Coos
Hairy Coos

Basically just hairy cows, but it sounds cooler if you say it with a Scottish accent. Try it. See?
Monument at BannockburnMonument at Bannockburn
Monument at Bannockburn

To the victory of the Scots led by Robert the Bruce over the English
Entering the HighlandsEntering the Highlands
Entering the Highlands

As you can see, me and Cher are dressed for the cold.
Isle of SkyeIsle of Skye
Isle of Skye

On one of our walks. As I said, it's a shame about the weather. But not unexpected, as Isle of Skye translates as the Island of Mist.
Eilean Doonan CastleEilean Doonan Castle
Eilean Doonan Castle

It's actually not the original as the British decided to fire on it when it was packed to the rafters with gunpowder and blew themselves up as well.
Eilean Doonan Castle #2Eilean Doonan Castle #2
Eilean Doonan Castle #2

One of the more famous castles in Scotland, as it has been used in several movies, including The Highlander and a couple of the James Bond films.
Castle ruins on the bank of Loch NessCastle ruins on the bank of Loch Ness
Castle ruins on the bank of Loch Ness

While we were out on the boat searching for Nessie.....
Nessie!Nessie!
Nessie!

Or it could just be a stick poking out of the water......


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