This morning we woke up and got on our way fairly early in the morning so that we could see some of Hadrian’s Wall before we started on toward Scotland. We got to see the longest of the wide parts of the wall that’s still in existence and we took some pictures before we started the drive to Alnwick Castle where bits of Harry Potter were filmed and the Percy family (the nobility of Northumberland) still live. The castle was absolutely beautiful and built in the 11th century and then added on to quite a bit over the years. We got to see the dungeon where they left the prisoners to die as well as tour the rooms that are to be lived in and the courtyards which were very green. In “The Other Boleyn Girl”, Anne Boleyn marries Henry Percy before he becomes Duke of Nothumberland before she has to say that they never were married and the marriage was never consummated. After visiting I’m pretty sure this event was a fabrication of Phillipa Gregory’s, but it was still a very cool thing to see nonetheless.
We got back into the car and drove for another two hours or so to our hotel in Edinbourgh. On the way we stopped along the border of Scotland to take pictures. Immediately after we had crossed the border the countryside opened up and you could see sweeping hills and farms for miles. From that moment we knew Scotland was going to be beautiful. When we got to the hotel we dropped off our things and headed out in the pouring rain to eat linner at a gluten-free restaurant where my mom and I got a rice and vegetable dish with a tomato-ish sauce. It was very good and I also had a chocolate pot for dessert. We hurried from the restaurant to do the Whiskey tour that they have in Scotland.
We got to sit in a slow moving vehicle (just like an alcoholic Disney ride) while a 19th century ghost told us about how Scotch Whiskey was made. We learned about the processes of fermentation and distilling as well as the fact that each distillery has a unique flavor of whiskey because of the types of barrels that hold the whiskey. We also saw the difference in color between aged whiskey and newer whiskey. Then we went into a room where we got to smell the difference between the four regions that produce Scotch whiskey in Scotland. The lowlands whiskey smelled like vanilla, the highlands whiskey smelt like something that I don’t remember, the islay whiskey smelt like firewood and the speyside whiskey smelt like fruits. We learned about how to tell if the whiskey was quality based on the color, the texture, the taste and the smell and finally we got to do a tasting of one of the single malt whiskeys. We were then brought into a room with an enormous whiskey collection that had never been opened and mirrors all around where my mom and I tried Speyside Whiskey which was quite good and my Dad had the Islay Whiskey. Natalie had a soda.
After the Whiskey Tour we walked along the royal mile where there was a surprise festival going on! There were shops lining the streets and street performers everywhere. We watched a man all the way from Canada juggle axes and fire on top of a moving platform and we saw two young boys playing the bagpipes in the streets. We watched as four men moved in slow motion down the street with mime-like expressions handing out small pamphlets to people and we saw a group of three college age boys in spandex playing instruments and singing old pop songs. There were tarot card readers and portrait drawers all the way down the street, it was amazing. Not to mention that the shops were open past 5 o’clock! When we were in London everything closed at 4 or 5…I kid you not. Apparently Edinborough is the place to be when it gets late because they’re all still out partying. They’re also very friendly here, even more so than in London. (They have a designated side on the street to walk on also, the left, just like us, whereas in London everyone walks all over the place). As we continued down the street we saw a man with a very long ponytail who pestered the passersby who walked through a specific area. At one point he took a little girl who seemed to want to be in the act and taped her up to a post along the street. He also tricked a woman into kissing him in order to get her purse back which he stole from her. We finally ran by while he was taping the girl to the pole.
We walked quite a distance after that and picked up our tickets for the Edinburgh Royal Military Tattoo which we will see tomorrow night and continued on to eat a second dinner at an Italian Restaurant with gluten-free pasta. After the meal there seemed to be a hint of rain so we took a taxi back to the hotel, which was nearly the entire way across Scotland, I swear, we’d walked quite a distance.
ALSO, fun fact, today I saw a pamphlet for “Scotland’s Best Kept Secret.” Apparently during the Cold War the government and the military built a small shelter underneath a farm in Scotland the size of one football field, two levels high where they would be able to survive in the event of a nuclear holocaust. What would happen to the actual citizens who they would supposedly govern was uncertain however. That was definitely something that I hadn’t heard of before.
We’re now getting ready for bed in the room as we’ll visit Edinburgh Castle early tomorrow morning and be up late for the Tattoo tomorrow night. Goodnight!