Scotland Part 1, Edinburgh, Stirling, Glasgow

We flew to Scotland on the continuous airborne infomercial that is Ryanair (does anyone ever buy the raffle tickets?) and landed in beautiful Edinburgh.  This place has a substantial reputation, and lives up to it fully.  We only had a week, so left after only one day, thinking “I wouldn’t mind seeing more of this place.”

Edinburgh Castle is nutty-dramatic on its hill overlooking the city, and spring is rolling in.

Next stop was Stirling, which has a mostly pedestrian downtown area, a castle, history up the wazoo, an indie/artsy music venue, a decent hostel, and a cemetery, all of it covered in bright new daffodils, and therefore was peachy-keen in my book.

Daffodils and a street in Stirling

Being back in hostels was a familiar old friend.  The one in Edinburgh was a classic example of a European hostel, a dimly lit reception with assorted funky, saggy couches, a brightly lit kitchen with ten blackened pots with no lids, a hundred spoons and three knives, and a bathroom of coffin-like showers and well-used sinks under a speckled mirror covered in signage about cleaning up after oneself.  The dorm room was also standard issue, with bunkbeds down either side of the room, thin lockers between, and a heavy layer of fart in the air, which grew to inhumane levels by the time the sun rose.

The hostel in Stirling was the countryside cousin, with more open air and less stank, although this particular one was being renovated, so the hallways were tenanted by rolls of insulation, cans of paint, and slabs of drywall.  It also meant there was only one functioning bathroom, so when someone lost their dinner on the floor of one of the two stalls, the rest of us had the chance to get to know each other better while waiting in line for the single toilet.  Luckily the charm of traveling and the fantastic weather kept us all in high spirits, and no one was murdered, so far as I am aware, although the detective work to find out who ralphed was enthusiastically underway in the common room.

Some street I found beautiful:

The next day we decided to head to a hostel on Loch Lomond run out of an authentic old manor-house mansion complex.  We took the bus to Glasgow, which seemed like a cool place too, although we only explored the downtown close to the bus station.  We grabbed lunch at the “Campus” sports bar, which was decorated with all the essential college dorm room posters (Scarface, The Doors, Animal House etc), American license plates, and bathrooms wallpapered with scantily clad members of the opposite sex.  I optimistically had some sort of meat pie thing, and am proud to say I survived it.

The two intercity buses we had taken had both been driven by alarmingly grumpy little men who created opportunities to berate us for not being there on time, even though neither time did we delay the bus.  Apparently bus drivers are to Scotland what post office employees are in America: grumpy malcontents who can barely stomach the regrettable fact of your existence.  While we were waiting at one stop I got to watch another driver on the opposite side of the road throw a remarkable tantrum, flinging his clipboard and everything.  Well goodness.

So when I bought a ticket for the Glasgow-Oban route, put our bag underneath the bus, and then found they had actually sold us a ticket on the Glasgow-Fort William bus (which also went through Loch Lomond) I prepared myself for some grumbling from the driver.  To my pleasant surprise the fellow was very amiable, sorting us out and greeting us onboard with a pleasant “ye jus’ goin’ at’the hostel, then?  Tha’s w’me, ya?  Tha’s fine.”

Just north of Loch Lomond

We left Glasgow and passed by gorgeous scenery as we approached the Loch.  It stayed gorgeous as we entered town…then left it…continued on…  Crap, I don’t like to be the worrywart American, but I was pretty sure he had forgotten our stop.  I gave it a few more minutes until my suspicion overbalanced my trust and then went up and asked him.  Yup, the hostel was well and truly behind us.  We could wait by the side of the narrow road for the next bus back which came at….10:15 PM.  No thanks.

I asked him to drop us off in the next place with a hostel or budget lodging, and he replied that we were coming up on the Drover’s Inn, which was a very popular spot, frequently full of backpackers.  Sounded good to us…