We left Liverpool sans fishcakes and headed further north (insert scary music here), destination: Scotland! That’s, like, a whole other country man!
The Lake District And Environs
Before we reached Scotland I decided to give my wife a rest from my swearing at truck drivers who think overtaking manoeuvres can only be performed uphill at a fraction under one percent greater speed than the vehicle they’re trying to pass in order to maximise the amount of time they’re blocking motorway lanes and so we took a left and went for a leisurely bimble through England’s Lake District.
If you like hills and valleys and winding roads and rocks and lakes then you’ll like the Lake District. We do like those things so we did.
The Lake District offered up its chance to wander along the edge of Lake Windermere and its Grasmere gingerbread and we gratefully took them.
Maryport. Not in Scotland. But you can see Scotland from it. So that’s something.
Afterwards I drove straight on towards Maryport in order that we should continue on to Scotland via the scenic coastal route rather than the mothertrucking motorway route. We were only in Maryport briefly; just long enough to realise pebbledashing of houses was probably invented in the place and to be taken in by the desolate beauty of its windswept beach and view across the Solway Firth to Scotland. Not taken in enough to want to live there though.
The last city before Scotland is Carlisle, a city with history apparently. Hadrian’s Wall is there, apparently. And an isle of Carls, possibly. We had planned to stop there and check out the apparent history until we actually reached it and glanced out of the windows. Then we carried straight on and across the border.
Our base for the two days we were to spend in England’s subjugated northern neighbour was the smallest Royal Burgh in Scotland, New Galloway in Dumfries and Galloway (probably in the Galloway bit, although I’ve not checked). The decision wasn’t completely random – we’re not part of that crazy random location holidaying cult you’ve read about on toilet walls any more – as we currently live in a city that permits a grand total of seven stars to be seen with the naked eye on the darkest night (light pollution smothering anything beyond that) and wished to experience a little more of what the universe had to display. New Galloway sits at the eastern edge of the Galloway National Forest Park which was recently awarded Dark Sky status. This means its sky is dark. This is good for stargazing.
Scotland: Castles, Castles, Castles
It’s not always night in Scotland so that leaves what’s left – day – to do things other than drink and wander along country roads into the pitch black forestry land looking up, saying "ooh!" and "aah!" and "I just trod in something" and "there are no Scottish rapists in the woods, there are no Scottish rapists in the woods".
Scotland – the Dumfries and Galloway area, at least – is festooned with castles and abbeys. Five minutes in any direction is a castle or an abbey. Between the castles and abbeys are smaller castles and abbeys and ruins of former castles and abbeys. During one of each and every Scottish day’s 2.8 million rain showers (3 million if the forecast is for wet conditions) you can be sure of finding a castle or abbey in which you can seek shelter.
There are a lot of castles and abbeys in and around Galloway is what I’m trying to say.
When you’re "done drennin’" you should visit Dundrennan Abbey! Ha ha! That would be hilarious if there was a verb "to dren".
Scottish people are drunk, violent, hate their neighbours, and are tight with money (think: liquored-up Israelis and you’d not be a million miles away), or so the stereotype goes. Let me set the record straight: we didn’t see any drunk or violent Scots while we were there, and they kept their hatred of the English to themselves.
However… one trip to an abbey was notable for the rant it brought forward from the local custodian when we decided to pay the small amount that goes towards the historic ruin’s upkeep. He wasn’t ranting at us, of course, since we were in his shed paying him the entrance fee. It was precisely because we were paying the fee and everyone else there – all the Scottish tourists – were just wandering around taking photos and steadfastly ignoring the polite signs to part with a few pennies that allowed him to vent with company present and so not appear entirely mental. Now, this in no way should reinforce the view of Scottish people as tight. However, it does. And that’s how stereotypes are born and survive.
P.S. Sorry Israel. Please to not be sending Mossad. Thank you.
Scotland: Eating And Drinking
We restricted our eating and drinking to the hotel within which we were staying (the Cross Keys, since you asked) suspecting that a hearty breakfast would keep us full all day, and a hearty dinner coupled with hearty drinks would help us sleep at night. We were right on all counts. The food was incredibly good; the drinks slipped down rather nicely.
As part of my first Scottish experience it was a requirement that I try haggis. Some people are put off haggis by knowing that the offal is ripped from the still bleating baby lambikins in the hills and wrapped up in the dry, curly, ginger hair of drunk teens, deep fried in whisky, and force fed to foreigners who must chew and swallow while being shouted at. Still, you’ve got to try these things once. Haggis: it’s not awful. I had it twice.
Threave Castle exactly how it appeared in my mind. I may have been off my trolley on heather inhalation at this point.
The part of Scotland we saw and stayed in was lovely; great scenery, great dark skies, great food and drink, friendly people, and so much to see and do. It is on our list of places to visit again. We headed south into England once more looking forward to a stay in Blackpool. After the great stops in Liverpool and Scotland, we had high hopes that Blackpool would be a joy too.
I don’t want to spoil the final part of the northwest tour but it may include a rude awakening!