The Dome, Edinburgh is an ideal venue for luxury dining in the heart of Scotland’s capital city.
Two countries. The same body governing its road systems. The same(ish) laws. Two completely different styles of driving.
I knew the English were…odd. Our cultures, although linked, are so completely and utterly different from each other it’s hard to believe that there is no border between the two.
I knew all this, and yet I was in no way prepared for the difference in how people drive down south. It really is extraordinary.
Primarily with regards to those on the motorways. In both countries the legal speed limit on motorways is 70mph. In Scotland, there is a very lax take on this limit, with people frequently driving in excess of 90mph at times. Variable speed limits are a joke; people rarely obey them, and in fact, tend to get annoyed by those who do. There’s also no rush to slow yourself at roadworks. You’ll come down to 50mph at some point (probably when you get stuck behind a lorry or the like).
This somewhat indifferent attitude to the speed limit is very much not the case south of the border. My little car struggles to achieve anything over 70mph, and I was still frequently one of the fastest people on the road. The English love their speed limits. Variable speed limits are obeyed to the letter, and at roadworks, traffic is generally at 49 by the time you’ve hit the 50 sign.
To be fair, there are far more speed cameras in use south of the border, so I do understand the reasons for the good behaviour down south. I just wasn’t aware that it was so dramatically different.
Seriously, what is it with the 9-foot hedges along every country road? They are terrifying!
In Scotland, the highest the natural barrier you’ll find is (most of the time) a five post rail with maybe some bushes around it. That’s it. You can see plenty of the road ahead, and as a result, plenty of the traffic ahead as well.
Not in England. Granted, I’ve only done a lot of driving in the South of the country, but I’m gathering that this isn’t too different further North. The hedges are ridiculous. They turn a simple, relatively straight road into an absolute death trap. You can’t see the end, you can’t see what’s coming, and there really isn’t enough room to get out of the way when you meet oncoming traffic. Who told you guys this was a good idea? It’s crazy. I’m a pretty confident driver, as is my Dad, and I can confirm that we were both terrified of putting our feet on the accelerator for fear of oncoming traffic.
Guys, sort out the hedges!
Speaking of no room, where the passing places guys? Do you know that such a thing exists, or have you decided you just don’t need them? Passing places, for those who don’t drive/ don’t know, are locations where the road has been widened slightly to allow two cars to pass each other as they travel in opposite directions. On (most) touristy single track roads in Scotland there are passing places every few hundred yards. With the lack of 9-foot hedges (see above), you can see the road ahead, and wait in one such passing place if you spot oncoming traffic. This makes country driving just a touch less terrifying than in England.
When we were in Cornwall, we were staying in what was actually quite a big, fairly busy wee village. In Scotland, the access road to this village would be two lanes, or, at the very least, it would have passing places every few hundred yards. Instead, the access road to this village was an unmarked, unsigned country road that gave the impression of leading nowhere important, until suddenly you arrived in the village and the road became somewhat normal and drivable. Can someone please explain to the Wildling over here why this is the case? Is it a thing, a thing I’m missing in my Celtic ignorance?
I realise this post has turned into a wee bit of a bash on England’s roads, which is a shame, because I did really enjoy my holiday down south, despite your strange motoring ways. So, in the interest of fairness (and also because I’m curious), people of England-land, what is it about Scotland’s roads that confuse you? What shocked you most about driving “north of The Wall”? N.B: if you don’t get that reference, I’m not sure we can be friends.
As many of you know, I love me a good road trip. I just find jumping into the car and heading off on an adventure the perfect mix of exciting and relaxing. Exploring the world around me really is one of life’s great pleasures.
Having been on as many road trips as I have, I’ve learnt a thing or two about the essentials you need to have in your car before setting off on an adventure.
I love my snacks. All of the snacks. Having snacks in the car allows you to be a little more flexible with the time you spend at destinations, particularly those that are more rural and out of the way, without having your life being ruled by your stomach. Snacks let you settle the little rumbles long enough to get you to some proper grub.
Now an essential point to bringing snacks; buy them before you set off. You never know when you’re going to get peckish, and picking up a packet of crisps or a granola bar in Tesco is always going to be cheaper than grabbing something from the cafe or gift shop of whichever tourist attraction you’ve stopped at.
My favourite road trip snacks are a packet of mint imperials to freshen up stale breath and a box of granola or snack bars, such as these by Deliciously Ella.
More than one pair. Always. I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten back into the car after being out wandering, got five minutes down the road, the sun’s come out and my sunglasses are in the boot in my backpack. It’s a pain in the backside. I always have at least one pair of shades, probably a £1 set from Primark, in my glovebox for emergencies, and then my trusty aviators ready and waiting in my centre console.
Hand Sanitiser/ Baby Wipes
Sticky hands are the worse, whether you’re passenger or driver. Having a pack of Baby Wipes tucked away helps to just make it all better, and are a lifesaver if something inevitably gets spilt or the sun cream nozzle was pointed the wrong way.
Hand Sanitiser speaks for itself; hands get grubby and dirty, and we never know how many other people have been touching the things you’ve been touching, and what they’ve been touching before. Hand Sanitiser just offers you peace of mind, especially when eating on the go. I have a tiny travel size bottle I picked up for £0.99 within easy reach in my centre console at all times.
Need I say more?
These are just my essentials for a road trip. I have some other bits and bobs that are interchangeable depending on where I’m going and how far I’m going. There are also other essentials I have in my car, but they are my full-time essentials and are always in my car. I may do a post on them later if you guys are interested.
Last week my gal Rosie celebrated her 21st birthday, and with me being such a great friend (otherwise known as I forgot to physically buy her a present) I treated her to a wee spot of Afternoon Tea at the Salon in Blythswood Square Hotel.
Guys, this hotel is soooo posh! It was absolutely amazing. The décor inside is so luxe; it’s so elegant and chic. The chairs are all made of Harris Tweed, and the bathrooms are so swanky. I’m very much a person who judges a place by its bathroom, and the Blythswood did not disappoint.
The food was all so lovely, and the cakes were all delicate and very unusual in flavour; my favourite was the Lemon and Elderflower Sponge. Funny story; Rosie and I had asked them to box some of the leftover cakes as we were stuffed full. Well, did we not get up and forget our goodie box when we left. We rushed back as soon as we realised, but they’d unfortunately already cleared the table. However, because we’d gone back, they made us a whole new set of fresh cakes!
It was this kind of first class service that really made our afternoon. From the word go the staff were so lovely, and just the right level of attentive. We had everything we needed, but we didn’t feel rushed or harassed. We were allowed to sit there for 3 hours, chatting away, with not a care in the world.
When I placed the booking I had requested a window seat as we were celebrating Rosie’s birthday. When we arrived and were escorted to the table, I was overjoyed to find that they had also left a small slate on the table with a Happy Birthday message and some adorable little chocolates.
I would wholeheartedly recommend Afternoon Tea at the Blythswood to anyone, especially for a special occasion. It’s just such a spectacular location, and the staff are second to none.
As a bonus, the Hotel are currently running an offer – Afternoon Tea for Two for £35. This is not an offer to be missed!
There are no words to describe it. The awe-inspiring, breath taking sensation of standing amidst the colossal, ominous mountains of Glencoe.
One of Scotland’s most famous must-see landmarks, Glencoe is truly a unique place on Planet Earth. Its atmosphere is both magnificent and foreboding. The tiny, weaving A9, as seen in James Bond and M’s trip up north in Skyfall, snakes its way first across Rannoch Moor (a must see on its own, although better seen together with Glencoe) before, suddenly, looming out of the dark, grumbling rain clouds, is perhaps Glencoe’s most famous peak, Buchaille Etive Mor.
This terrifying mountain is simply jaw-dropping, a sight so unique to Scotland. The mountains and falls of Glencoe inspire a sense of awe, and oh boy do they demand your respect. Buchaille Etive Mor is an example why – this mountain claims lives, frequently. She and her sisters are no pushovers. They are much like Scottish women – nice to look at, you know they’re a challenge, but if you let your guard down, God help you.
The road wraps around the base of the mountain, entering the Glen and leaving the flat, barren landscape of Rannoch Moor behind.
For a driver, this road is heaven. Great sweeping curves, well-maintained surfaces. But you have to know what you’re doing, as it’s not an easy road to drive. The best things in the world never are. There was a fatal accident when we were up there, and it caused chaos and commotion for hours.
Driving through Glencoe is one thing, but actually pulling up and getting out of the car to look around, is another thing entirely. The feeling I had when I stepped out of the car…I have never felt so small.
I’ve been a bit naughty and haven’t posted in almost a month! Oops! In my defence, life got a little boring in the run-up to my end of year exam. But that’s done and life’s getting interesting again.
Like the fact that it’s less than two weeks until I fly off to Chicago! (sorry say again?) I am so excited! First time in America, first time out of Europe in truth, and I cannot wait! *exited squeak*
But before that, I’m getting back to business here in Scotland.
Like the other weekend, for example.
About a fortnight ago Katie messaged me and asks if I want to go to the Hidden Door festival with her in Edinburgh. Having absolutely no idea what the heck it was, I did the completely normal thing of accepting the offer without asking what in the name I was agreeing to, because when has that ever gone wrong?
I did eventually research the festival, just in case Katie had lost her mind and had asked me to attend a festival similar to T in the Park or something like that, lots of people, little space, my worst nightmare, that kind of thing.
Turns out, Hidden Door is a pretty cool arts festival held in Edinburgh and is volunteer run. According to their website:
Hidden Door is an arts organisation which aims to open up urban spaces as a platform for new and emerging artists, musicians, theatre makers, film makers and poets. Through organising temporary events Hidden Door works to showcase new work and create engaging environments for the public to experience, explore and discover. The project is volunteer run and not for profit.
And it’s actually pretty cool!
All in all it was a pretty fab evening. The music was great, the atmosphere was one where you felt surrounded by like minded people, and I definitely intend on returning next year, and strongly advise you guys to have a look and get going too!
What about you guys? What have you been up to whilst I was away? Any of you been to Hidden Door before?
When you look at all the different travel blogs out there people have so many different ways of travelling. There’s the Nomads, people who have no home base. They travel all over the world with everything they own on their back, having complete freedom to travel to wherever the hell they like whenever the hell they like. There are also the people like Amanda over at A Dangerous Business, who has a set home base, works at home, and then travels throughout the year around work and other commitments.
And then there’s the people like me, who dream of travelling the world and seeing the sights, but lack the courage, funds and time to actually go out there and see the world. Trips abroad are family holidays or concert tours (can you believe the NYCoS America tour is less than TWO months away? Because I can’t!) where sightseeing is usually done in groups to the big touristy destinations, and you don’t really get the chance to get involved and truly get the feel for a destination and its culture.
Hopefully though this will change soon, and I’ll have the funds to be able to explore and see all that’s out there.
But even if I do, I know that the nomadic life probably isn’t for me, because no matter where in the world I go I will always have a home, and that home will always be…
Scotland is and always will be home for me. There’s just something about it, it’s a country filled with magic and wonder and fairy tales, and I just feel like I belong here. Yes, I know I go on and on about wanting to travel and get out of here, but that’s because I know Scotland will always be here, calling me back. Back to what I know, back to settled normality. When I get off the train at Glasgow Queen Street and I haven’t been into the city in a while I still get this tingle that just tells me “I’m back, this feels right”, and I love that feeling! It’s an amazing sensation, and one that I hope never goes away.
There’s something just so distinct about Scotland and its people. The culture is so unique, as are the locals who live here. We’re a very patriotic nation, but in a uniquely Scottish way. Unlike other patriotic countries, we don’t think Scotland is the best country in the world. In fact, we know it can be a bit of a shithole, but you know what , it’s our shithole, so don’t you say anything bad about it, because the only people who can are born and bred in this ridiculous country and we won’t take any flack from anyone! So I dare you to give it a try. Bring it, and see how far you get.
There’s no denying though, no matter how much of a shithole it may be, Scotland is a brilliantly stunning country. The weather’s shit, but it’s because of the dank, dark, murky skies and constant bombardment of rain, sleet and snow that our country is so green and lush and spectacular. Few places on the planet rival Scotland in her beauty and her unique landscapes and scenery. I love it, and I love that I can call this beautiful country home.
Now to head out in search of her rivals.
Where’s home for you? Have you been lucky enough to find that place you belong, or are you still out there searching? Or not searching, perhaps? Let me know!
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