Scotland is quite possibly my new favorite place. At least the lowlands of Scotland. Or, more specifically, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Here are the 5 reasons why:
1) The Weather
While I was in Scotland, the weather reminded me of Seattle, because it’d rain for a little bit (but just a drizzle, so it was still pleasant to walk around) and then suddenly the sky would clear up and it would be absolutely gorgeous.
I swear every other building in Edinburgh looked like a castle. This picture is a shot of the city from the National Gallery.
View of the Edinburgh Castle from our hostel. The castle houses the crown jewels of Scotland, multiple museums, a war memorial, and other buildings that were once used by Scotland’s royal family.
View from the Edinburgh Castle.
The castle is also home to the oldest building in Edinburgh, St. Margaret’s Chapel, which dates from the 12th century. This is a picture of the inside. Each color and pattern on the altar symbolizes something from St. Margaret’s life.
2) The Elephant House
This is the café where J. K. Rowling began writing Harry Potter!!! I ate their multiple times. But honestly, only my initial visit was because it was associated with Harry Potter. After that I went back because I liked the atmosphere in the café: they played good music, their food was reasonably priced and of great quality, and they had big wooden tables and comfy leather couches to sit in. And their were all sorts of elephants decorating the place (hence the name). Apparently the owner of the café grew up near an elephant sanctuary, so he donates a portion of all his tea and coffee sales to the protection of elephants.
This elephant greets you right when you walk into The Elephant House.
3) The Music
While we were at The Elephant House, we found a “Gig Guide” that listed all the music that can be heard each night of the week in Edinburgh. Literally every night there was rock, pop, blues, jazz, folk and world music! One night we started at a bar called The Malt Shovel to see a jazz band, then we went to a different bar called Sandy Bell’s to hear folk music (this was my favorite, because every night a different collection of folk musicians will come here to play and improvise; there’s never a set list or a specific band), and then we went to another bar, which has bands playing until 3 in the morning EVERY night of the week, to hear rock music.
The jazz band at The Malt Shovel. The jukebox you can see to the left looked really out of place in this bar, because it had a very calm and tranquille atmosphere. This wasn’t a typical bar for people our age to go to: there was a sign that said if it looked like you were having too much fun, you’d have to leave. Still, the old man with the white hair peeking out at the bottom of the photo got up to dance at one point. I would be perfectly content to spend every night in that place listening to jazz…
There was also a Gig Guide for Glasgow, but we didn’t have as much time there so the only live music we heard there was a rock ‘n’ roll band.
4) The Art
Both Edinburgh and Scotland are home to numerous festivals, museums and theaters. Edinburgh’s National Gallery had enormous canvases that were absolutely stunning. There was also an art installation on display in St. Andrew’s Square that we went to see our first night in Edinburgh.
Bruce Munro’s Field of Light. It’s made of 9,000 lit spheres that gradually change color.
The Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow had a wide collection of artworks, but I was most excited to learn about the Scottish painters. At the National Gallery I’d seen mention of “Scottish Colorists” and “the Glasgow Boys,” but I couldn’t remember learning anything about them in the Art History class I took in high school. I was happy to see that the Kelvingrove Art Gallery dedicated multiple rooms to these groups of artists, so I was able to learn a lot (the Glasgow Boys wanted to paint real life, so many of their works depict farmers and the countryside, though over time the painters’ subjects and styles changed. Initially they were known for using large square brushes. The Scottish Colorists were inspired by painters like Cezanne and Matisse. They sought to use more free-flowing brushstrokes, having had a similar goal as Impressionists, but they tended to use thicker and longer brushstrokes compared to Impressionists.).
View of Glasgow with the Kelvingrove Art Gallery in the distance on the left.
The inside of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery.
A portrait of the dancer Anna Pavlova by John Lavery, one of the Glasgow Boys (at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery).
This is a glass bowl created using a technique called “sandblasting” (at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery).
Salvador Dalì’s Christ of St. John the Cross. This picture really doesn’t do it justice. The exhibit was very well put together – I had no idea Dalì was so interested in math and science and “nuclear mysticism” (at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery).
A painting by a Scottish Colorist named J. D. Fergusson that was inspired by the colors of the Cap d’Antibes, right by me (at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery)!
In Glasgow we went to “A Play, a Pie and a Pint” for just 10 pounds: I had a lamb pie and cider while watching a play about a Scottish woman who’s convinced that the burlesque club in her town is a brothel and must be closed (as you might imagine it was very amusing, and it was based off a true story). The Glasgow Film Festival was going on while we were there so we also saw a film called The Voice of the Voiceless. It was incredibly moving but also incredibly horrifying. I left feeling sick to my stomach. The way the story was filmed was really interesting, though, because a low frequency recorder was used. This gave you a better sense of what the main character heard, because she was deaf (and mute, actually).
5) Home of the Tartans
Going to Carnegie Mellon, and being part Scottish, it was fun to be in Scotland and see kilts and tartan and scotty dogs everywhere. When we did the Scotch Whiskey tour, amongst the collection of 3,400 bottles the distillery houses (it’s the largest whiskey collection in the world), there were two scotty dog whiskey bottles!
The scotty dog whiskey bottles in Claive Vidiz’s whiskey collection that the Scotch Whiskey Experience houses.
I tried whiskey from the Lowlands of Scotland called Auchentoshan. It had a slight pineapple-y flavor.
I’ve got to go back to Scotland soon! I’m curious to see how the different regions of Scotland compare to Edinburgh and Glasgow, but I also need to go the Edinburgh’s book festival one day.