Please sign in to post.

Trip report-Scotland-The Search for Jamie Fraser

This report is far longer than I expected it be. I’ll apologize now if I bore you to death, but I didn’t want to pare it down any further. If nothing else, it’s a good memoir for me to refer back to. We arrived in Scotland on May 30th and flew home June 15th. For those that don’t read the books or watch the TV series, Jamie Fraser is the heart-throb lead character in Outlander; about a woman who finds herself sent back in time prior to the Jacobite rebellion and battle of Culloden in 1746. My wife Carla is a huge fan of the show, the books and the hunky Jamie played by Sam Heughan. I swear she has more photos of him on her phone than she has of me. She insists she’s always wanted to go to Scotland, but I don’t think I’d ever heard her mention it in the pre-Outlander days. However, it was the inspiration for the trip, and we built an itinerary around it that dove into a significant period in Scotland’s history.

Day 1

We flew into Glasgow and then took the train to Edinburgh. I love the Glasgow airport; it’s compact and from the time the plane’s doors opened to when we hopped on the airport shuttle to get us to the train station was less than 15 minutes and we arrived at our hotel in Edinburgh in a bit less than 2 hours-I should mention we were travelling with carry-on only. The airport shuttle https://www.firstbus.co.uk/greater-glasgow/routes-and-maps/glasgow-airport-express is efficient and easy to use and a return ticket was £14 per person.

In hindsight, we’re glad we did this trip while we’re young and able. I can’t imagine how people with mobility issues navigate through much of the sites we visited, and that includes the tourist zone of Edinburgh. As the old joke goes about your parents walking to school, uphill, both ways….that’s Edinburgh. As an added bonus, after leaving the train station and climbing about 100 steps to our hotel https://www.frasershospitality.com/en/united-kingdom/edinburgh/fraser-suites-edinburgh/, we were told the elevator was down for maintenance for our entire stay. Not a big deal for us but it meant 4 flights of steps at least twice a day. The location didn’t disappoint as we were half a block off the Royal Mile and about a 5-minute walk to the castle and it had a mini fridge which saved us a bundle on breakfast. It also had laundry facilities, in the subbasement, 6 flights from our room. I do question the hotel’s claim of being a 4-star hotel, we’re happy with our choice but I’d classify it as slightly above average in room quality and service.

...continued in the comments section

Posted by
2300 posts

Day 2

We’d booked our time slot for Edinburgh Castle in advance, along with about 400 other people who all showed up at the same time. We had bought an annual membership to Historic Scotland on the advice that we’d skip the ticket line and walk right in, but since everyone was booking timed entry tickets, nobody was lining up at the ticket office as everyone had already printed theirs. Overall, we didn’t save any money using the pass, but maybe when things are back to normal it may be a time saver again. https://www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/explorer-passes/
Honestly, all of the sites we visited this trip that were still booking time slots, we found that if we arrived early for our booking, we were waved right in, but on this day, we had booked the first time-slot of the day so we were two in a large mob waiting at the gates.

We thought the castle was good, but not great. Most of the castle was based on military history, where we would have preferred royal history. Our favourite part of the castle was simply wandering the streets below the castle and enjoying the scenic views above. It became a nightly routine around 9:30 to walk these streets below hoping the sun would peak through and cast a brilliant orange glow on the castle. It happened once.

There have been a few posts lately about a need for a phone on trips. The castle had no Wi-Fi, and we didn’t have our data turned on so we couldn’t take advantage of the QR codes to download the free audio guide, instead we had to pay for the physical audio guide. Several sites we visited had QR code audio guides only, but none had Wi-Fi that we could take advantage of to download the guide. As well, just like at home, we encountered a few restaurants that have eliminated paper menus and require you to download on your phone via a QR code. Most restaurants had Wi-Fi though and if they didn’t, they had paper menus.

The gem of the day was the small museum inside the National Library of Scotland which we found by accident. We were walking toward the National Museum of Scotland and saw the National Library and decided to pop in because, a: I love libraries, and b: libraries usually have Wi-Fi; and it did. Inside the main doors and to our right was a small museum with rare books and artifacts that we loved https://www.nls.uk/treasures/. One that really drew our attention was a display about the Battle of Culloden. The display included a hand drawn map by a French Officer was at the battle, and also a deck of playing cards that a Jacobite Officer used to write his diary on while he was on the run while protecting Prince Charlie. It only takes about half an hour to walk through the museum and is worthy of a mention in the RS guidebooks, hint hint.

Next stop was the National Museum of Scotland https://www.nms.ac.uk/national-museum-of-scotland/. It was our intention to take this museum in bite sized pieces for an hour or so a day, during bad weather or when we had nothing else to do. However, time wasn’t on our side, and this was our only trip to it. We focused on the Scottish history area with particular interest in the Jacobite uprising which was the inspiration for this trip to Scotland. The museum is large and worthy of a couple of days.

...continued below

Posted by
2300 posts

Day 3

There was a person that was in Scotland at the same time as us that was making daily posts of her trip to the RS Facebook site. She called the Royal Mile touristy and disappointing. We walked up and down the mile several times in our first couple of days and enjoyed the views and architecture, but her opinion wasn’t entirely inaccurate as it is full of souvenir shops. However, thanks to the Mercat Tour we took of the Royal Mile we were able to have a historical picture painted for us of the Mile that completely turned around the views of what we were seeing. https://www.mercattours.com/ It made the Mile relevant to us instead of a tacky tourist trap, and I can’t recommend Mercat enough.

Later on, we walked down to Dean Village which was a nice opportunity to get away from the crowds of the Royal Mile. It was pretty, but you’re not missing much if you don’t have the time. One other stop this day was to Grey Friars cemetery to see the grave of Bobby; the dog who hung by his human’s gravesite for 14 years. It’s amusing to see how many people leave gifts to Bobby at his gravesite; sticks, flowers and even a Ziploc bag full of milkbones.

Day 4

In search of Jamie Fraser. Carla had a map of all the filming locations for Outlander in Edinburgh and we hit them all during our wanderings. I like the show, but don’t love the show, but I am a TV and movie fan and love to see film locations, and so I enjoyed today’s Rabbies Tour of Outlander film sites outside of Endinburgh. https://www.rabbies.com/en/scotland-tours/from-edinburgh/day-tours/outlander-day-tour There were 16 people on the bus, which means there were 8 female Outlander fans also searching for Jamie Fraser, and 8 dutiful husbands tagging along with camera in hand ready to photograph their wives standing where Jamie Fraser has stood. I should mention that Scotland appears to be done with Covid restrictions. Mask weren’t required and only one person wore one on our bus. I’d be surprised if 1 in 100 people in Edinburgh were wearing masks during our stay. The pubs and restaurants were packed as was Edinburgh castle, with a mask rarely to be seen. We walked by some pubs on Victoria and Grassmarket Streets where the younger locals seem to congregate on a Saturday night and people were packed shoulder to shoulder with no masks in site.

The tour was everything Carla hoped for- except for a Jamie Fraser sighting. We did luck out though as a couple of the sites had been closed for filming the day before and day after our tour, but not the day of. It was a fun day to see historical places, but through the fantasy of a TV lens. Our guide was highly entertaining. He’s a retired high school history teacher and really knew his stuff, but I found him equally entertaining because he is a separatist and can’t wait for the next vote for Scottish Independence. I enjoyed listening to his political opinions even though he definitely leans in a different political direction than me. While it’s probably a good idea to leave politics out of tours like this, I do find it to be a valuable insight into the culture and people of the countries I’m visiting.

...continued below

Posted by
2300 posts

Day 5

Another Rabbies tour. This time to Rosslyn Chapel and Melrose Abbey. 20 years ago, Rosslyn Chapel would have meant something to me as I was a fan of Dan Brown’s book the Davinci Code. But time has faded my memories and descriptions of the chapel that Dan Brown painted in the book, and to us, it ended up being was just another church with a lot of carvings. We actually booked this tour because of Melrose Abbey which was the first Cistercian monastery in Scotland and founded in 1186. It could have been better, but sadly, sometime in the past year, some stones came tumbling down at one of the Historic Scotland sites which has resulted in access being restricted or sites being closed to many of the sites as engineers comb the old buildings to ensure they are structurally sound. Melrose was open; but we could only look at the through a fence instead of wandering within. I loved the comment by our guide during the drive back from the site, that Historic Scotland is reducing access to many of their sites for fears of someone getting conked on the head by a falling rock, but somehow their top three money-makers; Edinburgh, Stirling and Urquhart Castles remain open without structural restrictions.

Day 6

Our last day in Edinburgh and we did some targeted wandering starting with the Edinburgh Museum. We usually enjoy local history museums, but this one was a dud. Across the street was the People’s Story Museum https://www.edinburghmuseums.org.uk/venue/peoples-story-museum which I thought was going to be a dud, but now I think deserves an honorable mention up there with the National Library. I was a bit leery at first because it explained the history of Edinburgh from the blue-collar point of view, and I could see it turning into an infomercial for unionism. It did, but it did a good job describing the wretched conditions of the time and how unions were necessary to help people climb out of the gutter. The only downside is that the museum is horribly dated and needs a facelift. It’s worth an hour though.

Then off to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery https://www.nationalgalleries.org/visit/scottish-national-portrait-gallery. We spent about 2 hours there and could have spent more but my legs and hips were demanding a break, plus we had to get back to our hotel to do laundry. Of particular interest to us were the paintings from the 16th to 18th centuries which included Mary Queen of Scots and several of the James’s and also the Jacobite gallery. While I was able to look at the portraits and learn the stories of the people featured, I found that the actual art was quite dull as most were just impersonal portraits. I’m not sure if the paintings were technically brilliant that would make art lovers go ga-ga or just simple paintings done for posterity. Maybe this is a question for a new post sometime, but I started engaging with the docents and asking them if they were to have a portrait of themselves done, how would they want to portray themselves. These were art experts and so a lot of their answers went over my head as they started talking about brush strokes and painting styles. Personally, I’ve decided I want mine done in bright watercolours; maybe an action shot of me doing something I love that brings out my personality.

...continued below

Posted by
2300 posts

Day 7

The original plan for the day was to pick up our car and drive straight to Inverness, but earlier this year we had a large family gathering to celebrate my mom and aunt’s 90th birthdays,, another aunt’s 80th and an uncle’s 93rd. During the planning, one of my cousin’s put together a family tree using one of those ancestry sites. I’m 7th generation Canadian on my mom’s side, but we can trace roots back to 1620 to the Alloa region in Scotland where my people farmed and did odd labour jobs until they headed to Canada in the early 1800’s. Alloa is across the river and about 20 miles from Stirling, so we made a 1-hour detour off the motorway just to drive through the land of my people. Not much to report, except that it was a pretty drive and was worth the detour for personal curiosity. Score one for the independent traveller fans as this drive wouldn’t have been possible on a tour. We had considered the RS tour, but we had a defined list of places we wanted to see that weren’t included on his tour.

I drove in England in 2018 and had some basic experience with driving on the other side, but apparently not enough to feel completely comfortable. Once I got back to the motorway, the biggest oddity for me was the lack of speed limit signs, as in, virtually none. This, plus the tremendous number of speed limit cameras along the road and I’m sure I’ll be seeing 1 or 2 tickets in my mailbox in the coming months. Eventually, I discovered that below my speedometer, my car had an indicator that showed what the speed limit was. Until then, I was using the car’s GPS which also had a speed limit indicator, but I also eventually discovered that it was not as accurate as the one on my speedometer.

Our only stop along the way was the Highland Folk Museum. https://www.highlifehighland.com/highlandfolkmuseum/ It’s an outdoor museum that displays Highland life from the 1700’s until the 1950’s. Sadly, the 1700’s area was closed due to storm damage and as a result there wasn’t a lot to see that interested us. But I think it’s worth a 1 hour stop if you’re in need of a break between Edinburgh and Inverness.

...continued below

Posted by
2300 posts

Day 8

First stop today was the Culloden Battlefield Museum. https://www.nts.org.uk/visit/places/culloden Without watching Outlander on TV I would have had no idea about the significance of this site. Carla and I do get a lot of our trip ideas through TV, movies and books, and from there we take a deeper dive into the history and then plan a trip. As a result, we got a lot out of the museum, and it was everything we hoped it would be. The displays inside the museum are very well done, and then you can walk the battlefield or take one of the free guided tours. We are wondering though if people who just showed up with no sense of the significance of the site would really get much out of it. This was reinforced a week later when we did a walking tour of Glasgow and our guide made a comment of how important Outlander has been to not only Scottish tourism, but to remind the Scots of their own history. She says she’s continually surprised and frustrated over how little her own people know about their own history.

There isn’t a lot to see on the battlefield itself, and so you need an understanding before you go out there. It was obvious how many others there were like us and came because they’re Outlander fans. And it’s amusing/sad that the only clan gravesite marker that gets any attention is the Fraser stone which was covered with flowers and mementos while the others are lonely and bare.

Next stop was Clava Cairns https://www.visitscotland.com/info/see-do/clava-cairns-p245611 which is a bronze age cemetery of ring cairns and standing stones. It was in a beautiful setting, and really interesting, as long as you understand what you’re seeing before you get there…or if you’re an Outlander fan. There were probably 20 people at the site when we got there and 10 were women standing at a standing stone while their dutiful husbands took a photo. I was one of those dutiful husbands and Carla was the star struck wife trying to push her way through the rock to get back in time to search for Jamie Fraser. You’ll need to watch the first episode if you have no idea what I’m talking about.

Clava Cairns is very close to Culloden, but it was my first driving experience on single track roads. Luckily traffic was light and my stress level low until in the distance I could see a garbage truck heading toward me that was taking up the entire width of the road. This was going to be my first experience with having to find a place to pull over to let the truck pass, but it was so big I’m not sure if a roadside turnout was going to be big enough. Luckily, the truck turned off before it got to me.

Cawdor Castle was our final stop on the list. https://www.cawdorcastle.com/ It’s visually beautiful on the outside and the 8-year-old boy in me was jumping up and down in excitement because it had an actual drawbridge, and I could also see the outlines of a former moat. The inside was kind of blah as we wandered on a one-way route to check out the old rooms and old furniture. It was heavy on what early 1900’s life looked like in the castle, but light on the history of the place and stories of past residents. But the gardens outside were spectacular and worth the trip. One of the gardens had paths with Laburnum trees with spectacular yellow flowers arching over the pathways. I wish I could post photos on this forum.

...continued below

Posted by
2300 posts

Day 9

To the Land of Carla’s people today. We headed north from Inverness to Dornoch. Nobody has done much of an ancestry search for her side, but her grandmother’s family on her dad’s side came from this area. All we knew about Dornoch was that Madonna was married in the cathedral. Dornoch also has a beautiful white sand beach, that on a warmer day would be nice to spend the day on. I have to wonder how the Scots enjoy a day at the beach. I know my sample size is small for Scottish weather, but my experience so far in all the regions I’ve been is it’s cloudy and windy with short periods of rain and even shorter periods of sunshine. The only burn I was going to get from a day on the beach was a wind burn.

The highlight of our day though was talking to a woman on the beach who heard us talk and asked if we were Canadian. That came as a surprise because we usually get asked if we’re American. Not only did she say that the difference in accent is easy to tell but she knew where Calgary was and even asked if we knew that my hometown was named after the Calgary on the isle of Mull. I was shocked, because when I get to that part of the trip report that I’m in Calgary, some of the locals there had no idea there was a Calgary in Canada. This conversation came after another conversation two days ago when I was first surprised when someone recognized us as Canadian. She and her husband were farmers south of Inverness and when I told her I was from Calgary, she brightened up and knew where it was and asked us about the Calgary Stampede. I know the Stampeded is famous, but it was gratifying to know that it’s even known in rural, northern Scotland.

Final stop of the day before heading back to Inverness was Dunrobin Castle. Like Cawdor Castle, we loved the exterior view but could have skipped the interior. To my eyes, it was just more old furniture. Dunrobin also had a beautiful garden-more of a French style, but I don’t think it was nearly as spectacular as Cawdor. What we did learn is that we were going to skip Duart Castle on Mull and Inveraray Castle in the Argyll region.

...continued below

Posted by
2300 posts

Day 10

I don’t know if anyone follows Cameron Hewitt on Facebook who is one of the RS guidebook writers. He got himself into hot water recently by posting his emphatic distaste for the Loch Ness area. His headline and first couple of paragraphs were a bit over the top, but overall, I thought it was well written and he did a good job explaining why other areas in Scotland deserve more love. It created a media sensation in Scotland and he was vilified for it. Someone on this forum posted some of the reactions to his rant, but it was quickly removed, which is too bad. I probably wouldn’t have stated it as strongly as he did, but I do agree with him. Today we drove from Inverness toward Oban, and it was the dullest day of our trip.

After seeing it on one of the RS episodes, we stopped in at the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition which is a tourist trap disguised as a serious look at debunking the monster myth. Rick recommended it, but I don’t. We were looking forward to a stop at Urquhart Castle because the views looked so scenic. But it was cloudy, windy with short periods of rain and even shorter periods of sun and we were uninspired. I wasn’t that excited about the interpretive centre either. I did notice some people walking to Urquhart from town and in hindsight, I wish we would have done that to at least take in the beautiful views along the way.

The highlight of our day was our overnight stay at Barcaldine Castle. What more can a 57 year old man with a 10 year old boy’s imagination expect than an overnight stay at a haunted castle with a stone spiral staircase and secret passages. https://www.barcaldinecastle.co.uk/ It’s pricey, £285/night, but it was our entertainment for the day. The views were spectacular, the room was luxurious and we were the only ones staying there that night and so we had the run of the place. We hung out in the great hall which played the role of a dining and lounge area that we hung out in like we owned the place. Worth every pence.

...continued below

Posted by
2300 posts

Day 11

In 1876 James Macleod, originally from Skye and now a Colonel in the NorthWest Mounted Police in Canada took command of a small fort called Fort Brisebois at the banks of the Bow and Elbow Rivers and changed the name of it to Fort Calgary. He named it after a stunning beach he fondly remembers as a boy after visiting family on the Isle of Mull. When Carla decided she wanted to go to Scotland, my only item on the wish list was a pilgrimage to Calgary. It’s a village, a beach, and a bay and based on the aqua blue water and powdery white sand, it belongs in the Caribbean. Alas, the only problem with my pilgrimage was the weather. It was windy and it was cloudy, interrupted by brief periods of rain and rarer periods of sunshine, but it was worth the curvy, hilly, white knuckle, one track, 11-mile drive that took about an hour to get to. My only wish was that the weather would have been better so we could have made a longer day out of it. It’s beautiful, and worth seeing, but it’s not an easy drive to get to and so I suppose it will remain one of the most beautiful beaches in the world that nobody goes to. It’s worth a mention in the RS guidebook; other guidebooks do.

We stayed in Tobermory at the Harbour View B and B https://tobermorybandb.com/. It’s on a hill overlooking a beautiful bay. We loved our stay there, and one of the bonuses was easy parking which is something that is hard to get in the town-centre of Tobermory. Cost was £90/night. Look for the bright pink house on the hill.

Tourists seem to get to Mull and head straight to Iona and then go back to Oban. They should consider staying for a day or two. The Scottish tourists do, but we didn’t see a lot of out-of-country-tourists. Cameron Hewitt was posting daily on Facebook as he was in Scotland updating the guidebook while we were here. We never ran into him, but I was trying to convince him via Facebook to give Mull more than a trip to Iona.

If you go, check out Isle of Mull Cheese https://www.sgriobruadh.co.uk/. It’s a family-owned farm that produces it’s own cheeses. No tours but they have a small restaurant that is only open from about noon to 3 each day…sometimes. We were expecting some small hole in the wall place, but it was beautiful, and packed with locals. To keep it quaint, there are a couple of dogs that roam the restaurant hoping for handouts. One is huge-it may be a wolfhound and he’s big enough to look down on your plate on the table. If you’re not a dog lover you may not appreciate it, but we loved it.

...continued below

Posted by
2300 posts

Day 12

Driving on Mull is a new experience. Driving on the other side of the road was fairly easy to get used to. Driving from Inverness to Oban was somewhat challenging because the lanes on the highway are much narrower than I’m used to, and I tended to compensate and creep to the edge of the road which gave my lane departure warning sound a workout. But on most of Mull, it is single-track, meaning it’s one lane that you share with drivers coming the other way, locals behind me who are willing to go significantly faster than me, and farm animals who think the road is just another part of the pasture. I’d read that the average speed on Mull is about 25mph due to the curvy and hilly roads with blind corners. If I had to guess, I’d say my average speed ranged in the 35-40mph range and I learned to adapt quickly and look well into the horizon for what might be coming up next. We had one drive where we and one car coming the other direction were stopped for a few minutes because a cow decided to stand in the middle of the road to graze on the grass at the edge of the road. On another, we passed a mamma sheep with two babies lying on the edge of the road in a passing place. Just as I passed, I had to stop because a wide tractor was coming toward me, and since I was closest to a passing place it was my job to back up and let the car through. I had to carefully maneuver into place while not running over the baby sheep. I don’t know how the tour busses do it. I can’t stress this enough, watch some videos before you come, and learn how to navigate these single-track roads. I know I wasn’t perfect, but you could easily tell who had done no homework.

The most popular reason people come to Mull it appears, is to go to Iona. It’s only a 56-mile drive from Tobermory, but it took us 2 hours due all that I’ve explained. We got there at 10:30 and just missed the ferry so we sat in our car and waited for the next one at 11:45. The ticket office for CalMac Ferry, wasn’t open but there was a sign that said we could pay on the ferry. About 45 minutes later, I noticed the ticket office had opened and so I went in to confirm the next ferry and buy a ticket. I was told that the ferry service was suspended due to high winds. So, we drove back to Tobermory and decided to go for lunch at the Mull Cheese Farm again. But there was a handwritten sign at the entrance of the road saying they were not going to open today. That was how our day went. My only regret is I couldn’t take in the incredible scenery all around me. Driving took too much concentration and there are few places to pull over to enjoy it.

...continued below

Posted by
2300 posts

Day 13

Drove to Glasgow today. As much as I don’t regret Mull and Inverness, I’m a city boy and we were looking forward to being in a big city again. The highway from Oban to Glasgow was less stressful with wider highways. We had rented the car through Celtic Legend who books on behalf of Arnold Clark Motors. I can’t recommend them enough for the service provided from the first contact prior to booking until the day of drop-off. https://www.celticlegend.co.uk/car-rental/

A lot is said by Rick and on this Forum about how gritty Naples is. I’ve never been, but that’s how I’d classify Glasgow. It also reminded me of cities like New York and Chicago with the classic architecture in downtown and the grittiness. It’s a real city, unlike Edinburgh which has a nice compact tourist area where you don’t get the same vibe of being in a real city. Glasgow has 3 universities and a student population of over 50,000, plus each morning we’d look out of our hotel window and see businesspeople leaving the train station on their way to work. Apparently, in 2008, Glasgow was named the knife capital of Europe and city council took notice and the transformation began. We always felt safe and at home here.

Just down the street from us is Buchanan Street which is a long pedestrian walkway in downtown Glasgow. Unlike Edinburgh, it was packed with locals and local stores with only a couple of souvenir shops. The one strange thing is how Americanised the food selection was. At one intersection near our hotel was a McDonalds at one corner, across the street was Pizza Hut, then KFC, and the final corner for the benefit of us Canadians was a Tim Hortons. Up the street was a TGI Fridays and a Hard Rock Café. I suspect it was because of the large student population in the area. We stopped at a TI which directed us to the finer restaurants a few blocks away.

...continued below

Posted by
2300 posts

Day 14

It’s Sunday. And every Sunday morning for several years, Carla and I head to our neighbourhood Tim Horton’s for breakfast and our ‘travel meeting.’ We bring our guidebooks, maps and tablets to discuss current or future trips. We’ve now gone international with our travel meeting as we headed to the Timmies a block from our hotel. It’s a silly thing, but we were looking forward to this unique twist in our routine.

After our meeting it was a short walk to begin the Mural Trail. We first heard about it on an RS episode and decided if we had time, we’d look for some https://www.citycentremuraltrail.co.uk/ . Wow, so glad we did, they are spectacular, and it was our highlight of the city. There is one artist named Smug who has done a few of the more popular murals. Apparently, he can do an entire building face in 3 days with spray paint. When you click on the mural link above, the painting on the home page is his.

The Glasgow subway is like a miniature train set and I bumped my head getting on. I’m not sure how technologically advanced it is as the driver has to poke his head out the window to visually check if the platform is clear and he can go. But it’s cheap, a day pass cost us £4.20 each. We used it to go to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. https://www.glasgowlife.org.uk/museums/venues/kelvingrove-art-gallery-and-museum . This was our second art gallery in one trip which is about 2 more than our average for all of our other trips combined. But we enjoyed it and spent a few hours.

The museum is on the University of Glasgow campus and we had to search the campus for the cloisters used in an episode of Outlander as a substitute for a scene that took place at Harvard https://www.gettyimages.ca/photos/glasgow-university-cloisters. Once again, many women with dutiful husbands taking photos. The campus is beautiful and worth a wander after the museum.

The final stop for the day was the Riverside Museum https://www.glasgowlife.org.uk/museums/venues/riverside-museum. We spent an hour and had had enough. My ranking is that it’s good, but not great. There were a lot of kids. One display that caught my interest was a 23-person horse and carriage that had been used a hundred years ago to pick up tourists from the docks for daytrips. Apparently, the daytrip is not a modern phenomenon.

...continued below

Posted by
2300 posts

Day 15

It turns out we saved the best for last. Stirling Castle https://www.stirlingcastle.scot/ is awesome and, in my opinion, far superior to Edinburgh Castle. It really focused on the Royal history first over the military history that Edinburgh castle does, and we found that much more interesting. There is a free 50-minute tour at the top of the hour that is well done. There are scenic views in all directions of former battlefields and also the land of my People in Alloa, across the river and 20 miles away.

Stirling is a simple 30-minute train ride from Glasgow followed by a 20 minute uphill walk to get to the castle. There is plenty of signage to get you there, but if you’re walking uphill, you’ll eventually find it. We had booked our timed ticket in advance, but got there a half hour early and it was no problem getting in. The audio guide is by QR code only, but there is no Wi-Fi so you’ll need data. *The website says you can download the guide prior to arrival and that details will be sent via email, but I’m looking at my emails and in both confirmations under the “things to know before you arrive” heading, there is no mention of this. But, the tour was good enough and I don’t believe the audio guide could have enhanced the visit.

Just downhill from the castle is a cemetery that offers good views back up to the castle https://www.oldtowncemetery.co.uk/ . We wandered through just for the view back up and a volunteer came up to us to ask if we were looking for anything in particular. We weren’t, but when she learned we were Canadian she took us around to show us the Canadian significance of the cemetery which included loggers who were brought over during WW1 to train Scotland in logging techniques. As well as members of the Cree nation who fought for Scotland against the English. There is even a person buried here who would have been a witness to the time of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. I don’t know how I missed this in our planning sessions, but it was well worth the stop.

...continued below

Posted by
2300 posts

Day 16

Last day. We took a walking tour through the RS recommended Walking Tours of Glasgow https://www.walkingtoursin.com/Glasgow. My interpretation of the description is that it would be an historical tour, but it barely touched on the history part and touched more on pointing out the murals, and some old buildings including the cathedral. I hoped for much more. But it still included some trivia nuggets that I love such as at the same time Glasgow was named the knife capital of Europe, it was also known as the friendliest city in Europe, which I guess means that after being knifed, your attacker will smile and help you call an ambulance. Or, that the city of Glasgow was spending $10,000/year taking the cone off of the head of the Duke of Wellington’s statue. Council was getting so tired of spending the money that they were prepared to pass a law forbidding the cone, but there was such a public outcry that they had to admit defeat, and the cone stayed.

The best part of the tour is it took us near a craft brewery that I had my eye on. Drygate Brewery https://www.drygate.com/ is near the Cathedral and on the same street as the massive Tennant Brewery. I love to sample a good stout wherever I am and I discovered a Peanut Butter Stout https://www.drygate.com/item/246/Drygate/Peanut-Butter-Orinoco.html that was really good. It’s on my list to see if any Calgary stores are importing it. Great place for lunch with traditional pub food.

Overall, we loved our trip. The weather was a challenge in terms of figuring out what to wear, but we packed well and were ready for the elements. Since heading home, the top two topics of conversation with friends is the weather and my driving experience. Neither was perfect, but it makes for good stories. The Scottish people, by far were the consistently friendliest people I’ve met anywhere in my travels. They love to show off their country, and remind you that Scotland is far superior to England. We’re off to England in the Fall, so we’ll see.

Posted by
492 posts

Amazing report! Jealous that you got to visit so many castles!

Would definitely agree on the Royal Mile part... sometimes I wonder how all those shops can survive - one after the other, all selling the same things. It's a bit tacky, but as you said the place kind of comes alive once you scratch away the surface. I've taken some walking tours and ghost tours around it and they shine an entirely different light on it.

If you find yourself back there, maybe check out Doune Castle!

https://thirdeyetraveller.com/castle-leoch-doune-castle-outlander-location/

I visited some years back because 1) it's a castle and I can never get enough of those 2) it's where most of the Monty Python and the Holy Grail castle scenes were filmed.

I only just started watching Outlander a few months ago but immediately recognized "Castle Leoch" as the Doune castle I'd visited years ago. No word on whether Sam Heughan hangs around there :P

Posted by
28 posts

Great info and reporting - I loved your details. "I enjoyed today’s Rabbies Tour of Outlander film sites outside of Endinburgh. There were 16 people on the bus, which means there were 8 female Outlander fans also searching for Jamie Fraser, and 8 dutiful husbands tagging along with camera in hand ready to photograph their wives standing where Jamie Fraser has stood."

I could visualize this and laughed out loud! I went to Scotland in 2016 and saw a number of women kissing every standing stone that they encountered.

Posted by
8767 posts

Fantastic trip report! We will be in Scotland for 2 weeks the first half of September and I’m bookmarking this since we will be in many of the same places. I want to go to Sterling castle and had planned to do so from Edinburgh, since we will be there for 4 nights. It sounds like it might be easier from Glasgow, though we are only there for 2 nights. Decisions, decisions…

Posted by
1816 posts

Great report Allan, from the land where I partially grew up and went back to live in as a student.
When you go to England, you will indeed agree that Scotland is vastly superior..... ;))

My Scottish god-daughter got married in Stirling Castle, and it was a wonderful wedding reception in the Great Hall.

Posted by
927 posts

This was fun to read and really informative. Bookmarked for my Edinburgh trip next year. I've been undecided about including Glasgow (I do like cities), but I think you just pushed it back on the "leaning towards yes" list. At least for a daytrip anyway.

Any restaurant recommendation for Edinburgh? Or were they all touristy too?

Posted by
1295 posts

Hip Hip Hooray!!! Been waiting for this one!!! 😊 Gonna go eat and come back and read it.

Posted by
842 posts

Thanks for the extensive report. Welcome home.

Anyone considering planning their own trip to Scotland can benefit from a trip to the library to check out all of the other guidebooks. They each have a different point of view and have been assembled by folks with far different opinions than RS staff. And the yootoob is crammed full of well produced clips by natives who want you to understand where you are, what you're seeing, and to get more out of your visit.

There are many websites with OUTLANDER-centric itineraries including fully guided trips, which, I see now, are almost all booked solidly for the remainder of 2022.

Posted by
365 posts

You’ve done it again Allan, another great trip report. Many thanks!

Posted by
1295 posts

Great report Allan!! I’ve made a note of the Mercat Royal Mile tour. I’m getting ready to book the Fraser Suites for next May. I just need to ponder my dates for another week or so. Did you find the area around the hotel to be safe? I’ll be traveling solo, but am definitely not a night owl. So, I won’t be wandering the streets late at night.

Posted by
1216 posts

Funny-my parents have gotten into the show. My mom is in a senior bookclub and some of the women were talking about the show. So she and my dad are watching it. I gather my dad is watching more out of keeping mom company than actually loving it.

Sadly, I can't get into it for some reason. I love time travel and history but couldn't get into the books or show but the books really popularized the time travel romance genre so more power to the author.

Posted by
1797 posts

I really enjoyed the report - in particular Mull. I guess I will be breaking the mold since I will be there 4 nights. I added the cheese factory for lunch - I hadn’t come across that, so thanks! I also checked out the bus schedules and it may work to get to Calgary by bus instead of driving, as Mull is one place I won’t have a car. :)

It was a long wait for this trip, I know, so I hope you enjoyed it a lot!

Posted by
4687 posts

Thanks for sharing your amazing trip with us!

I’m definitely bookmarking this for future reference.

When my daughter studied abroad in Edinburgh I had a wonderful visit of her favorite city.
Interestingly enough she wasn’t impressed with the interior of the Edinburgh Castle either, but we did walk up all those stairs to get a great view of the city.
Another great place for a panoramic view of the city is Calton Hill

I enjoyed reading all the details, and thanks for including all those links to the many places you visited!
Wow, those murals in Glasgow are truly impressive!

Posted by
2300 posts

Any restaurant recommendation for Edinburgh? Or were they all touristy
too?

I found that the pubs were all serving pretty much the same menus so we avoided, but there was an Italian restaurant that stood out for us. https://www.gordonstrattoria.com/, it doesn't look like much from the outside, but the food made up for it. The other was in New Town and is a Gordon Ramsey restaurant https://www.gordonramsayrestaurants.com/bread-street-kitchen/edinburgh.

Posted by
2300 posts

Did you find the area around the hotel to be safe?

Carrie, totally safe. There are a few pubs nearby that kept the streets busy late at night, but nothing that should concern you.

Posted by
418 posts

You’re an excellent travel writer! I did the RS tour of Scotland a few years ago and visited many of the places you did. I agree that Stirling Castle is wonderful, one of my favorite things of the whole tour. Thanks for the trip down memory lane and for the detailed info!

Posted by
2300 posts

It only takes about half an hour to walk through the museum and is
worthy of a mention in the RS guidebooks, hint hint.

Well this is cool. I mentioned in my report that while following Cameron Hewitt on Facebook while he was in Scotland at the same time as us that I had made a couple of suggestions. Here's a comment from his Facebook blog this morning:

*Another outstanding Edinburgh tip, from Allan Hansen, was to check out the National Library of Scotland, just a block off the Royal Mile. Just a few months ago, they opened up a wonderful (and free) “Treasures” collection that’s concise and enjoyable.

Here’s the new listing:
National Library of Scotland
This huge facility recently opened a small but insightful “Treasures” room with thought-provoking exhibits about the Scottish literary tradition. Just a half-block off the Royal Mile, it’s worth the slight detour for book lovers.
Cost and Hours: Free, £3 suggested donation, Mon-Thu 9:30-19:00, Fri-Sat 9:30-17:00, closed Sun, on the way to the National Museum at 92 Cowgate, +44 131 623 3700, www.nls.uk.
Visiting the Library: Heading into the main entrance, look right to find the small Treasures collection — basically one room with several precious objects lovingly displayed and well-described. Notice that the descriptions are in three different languages: English, Gaelic, and Scots. While details may change, treasures on display may include the Iona Psalter (a precious ecclesiastical book, dating from 1880-1220, from the abbey on the Isle of Iona); Rabbie Burns’ handwritten lyrics to his treasured love song, “Ae Fond Kiss” (1791); a 15th-century Gaelic manuscript about folk remedies; maps and contemporary accounts of the Jacobite Rising and Culloden; tales and watercolors from Isobel Wylie Hutchison’s (1889-1982) journeys to Greenland, arctic Canada, and Alaska in the 1920s and 30s; a correspondence between Scottish composer George Thomson and Beethoven; elegantly bound books showing off the “wheel” and “herringbone” binding methods from 17th-century printers; and a Gutenberg bible. A nearby room hosts temporary exhibits, and there’s also a shop, café, and WCs.

He says my tip will make it into the next update of the Scotland guide.

Posted by
488 posts

That is very cool.... maybe your next career is guide book writer!

I enjoyed reading your trip report. Scotland has been on my destination list for a long time. I love the history, love the idea of walking in the Highlands, and, most importantly, I love scotch whisky. However, I haven't pulled the trigger because we travel with my mobility-challenged son, and my continuing impression is that it would be a tough trip for him. So, I'll have to wait for a different opportunity.

Thanks for taking the time to write up all the details, especially the Outlander references. I love me a good historical novel and have read most of the series. Although it slides too close to the romance genre for my taste, I enjoyed the background and storyline very much. I'm sure your wife had a great time on the trail of Jamie Fraser!

Posted by
2166 posts

Loud applause for your very through and well done trip report Allan. We loved Scotland when we visited back in 2018 with our 2 kids. I’ve never seen Outlander, but now a bit intrigued. Also, the best part of Dunrobin castle to us was the falconry demonstration. Amazing birds!

Posted by
84 posts

Thank you for this fantastic trip report! I, too, literally laughed out LOUD reading your descriptions of the dutiful husbands taking pictures of their wives on the tour to the outlander sites! Thank you for all of the great information. I am in the midst of planning an independent trip to Scotland and many of the sites you visited and described so eloquently are on my to-visit list, so I especially loved this trip report! Thank you, thank you!

Off topic- someone mentioned bookmarking this thread? Was that just a figure of speech or can you truly do that, because I would love to bookmark this thread.

Posted by
2096 posts

-Allan,
You wrote the dates for the Iona Psalter as 1880-1220, surely you meant 880-1220.

Posted by
2300 posts

Judy, that section was something I cut and pasted from Cameron's blog. Hopefully his editors catch it before it goes to print.

Posted by
84 posts

Answer to my own question about how to bookmark this informative thread: (in case anyone else was wondering)

Make sure you are signed in.
If you look directly below Allan's first post, you will see “Report” and “Bookmark this Topic” - both in blue.
Just Click on the "Bookmark', and the thread is saved for you!

Posted by
2300 posts

Also, the best part of Dunrobin castle to us was the falconry
demonstration. Amazing birds!

Tammy, we missed the falconry demo by a few minutes, but they had all the birds out when we got down to the gardens and so we saw them up close. I remember looking at your photo book of your trip.

Did you happen to notice the small museum to the west of the gardens? All kinds of taxidermy on display and then further on there were several picts stones on display that had been unearthed over the years.

Posted by
1797 posts

I just came across the FB pictures - they were wonderful! Also, you haven’t been kidding about the short and tall thing. 🤣🤣

Posted by
2166 posts

Allan, we did walk into the museum with all the dead animals and promptly walked out. Not a fan of looking at taxidermy, i.e. dead animals.

Posted by
2300 posts

I just came across the FB pictures - they were wonderful! Also, you
haven’t been kidding about the short and tall thing. 🤣🤣

Taking a selfie with her can take an olympic calibre gymnastics routine to get us both in the shot 😁.

Posted by
1732 posts

We will be in Scotland in August. I would love to see your photos. Where can I access them? Thanks.

Posted by
2256 posts

I enjoyed your trip report, Allan. I just love Scotland. I look forward to your trip report from England, a country I adore even more than Scotland. It’s probably #1 on my list. The scenery, the pubs, the history, the villages, the walking trails… I could go on and on.

Posted by
1732 posts

Thanks, Allan. Love the photos. Haggis flavored chips? Nope. Hairy coos, more please. And no crowds that I could see when you were there. We will be there in August during the Fringe so I know that at least Edinburgh will be mobbed.

Posted by
927 posts

I have never tasted Haggis (yet), but somehow I'm intrigued by the Haggis flavored chips. If any of you shop at Aldi they regularly have "creative" chip flavors.

Posted by
2300 posts

we did walk into the museum with all the dead animals and promptly
walked out. Not a fan of looking at taxidermy, i.e. dead animals.

It's not my thing either, but I'll admit to being fascinated. But it's the Pictish stone collection as you move in further that was interesting https://highlandpictishtrail.co.uk/project/dunrobin-castle-museum/. I'm actually surprised the museum is so well hidden and not better signed.