Hoots mon! A guide to Scotland.

scotland

I just spent the last weekend experiencing a lot of firsts. Now at the age of 32, this doesn’t happen very often, but I’ve managed to squeeze in a few into a short space of time. Yay me. I also spent the weekend technically reducing the amount of years I could potentially live until. You think I might be exaggerating, but let me explain. I spent the weekend in Scotland with my other half’s family. An awesome bunch of people who live in an awesome country. But I also consumed an awful lot of calorific food and drink and as you may know, the Scots are not famous for their salads.

Firstly, I have never driven over 900 miles in under 72 hours before. The drive from Southampton to Glasgow takes about 8hrs, it is an incredibly beautiful drive and well worth the effort. Driving through the Lake District is breathtaking, as is the area of Loch Lomond in Scotland where we stayed. Rolling hills, the greenest lushest countryside, stunning views and picturesque valleys. Both the Lake District and Scotland have this, but there is something else about Scotland that makes it different, better almost. The air is cleaner, the valleys are deeper, the lakes bigger, the scenery is that little bit more beautiful. It’s also pretty cool to have glorious blue skies and sunshine and to be able to look over at a mountain with snow on it at the same time. I can’t explain it, maybe it’s a personal thing, but when you see a group of black stallions galloping over an idyllic hill as the sun is setting right in front of you, you’d be pretty impressed too.

One of the reasons for our trip up to Scotland, was The First Holy Communion of one of the cousin’s daughters’. My attendance at this was another first. I don’t practice any sort of religion, I was baptised Catholic as a child, but as a family we never really went to church. I read the Ladybird Bible growing up, which is more pictures than words if I’m honest, so my knowledge of the whole religion thing is limited to say the least. I’ve been to the occasional midnight mass, which I often went to pretty inebriated, well it was Christmas Eve after all, but hey, it’s the thought that counts right?!

Well, if you didn’t already know, First Holy Communion is a huge thing. I had no idea. Following their baptism as a baby, this ceremony is the first time they get to eat the holy bread and wine blessed by the priest. The little girls are dressed like miniature brides, the boys are all smartly dressed in mini kilts and literally everyone connected to them turns up! The church was so full there were people standing outside. Everyone is pretty serious about it and when the priest starts talking about eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Christ, it made me feel pretty serious too. The celebrations afterwards were comparable to a wedding. The children’s entertainer, was the star of the show. It’s the sort of thing you’d see at Butlins. I’m not talking about a funny clown or cheap magician, this guy was called Willie the Wizard and he performed his ‘hot magic’. I know what you’re thinking, it wouldn’t be out of place at a hen do right?! But he literally set fire to money in front of kids. I don’t know about you, but that was pretty cool in my eyes! The same entertainer also dressed up as Roxy the Fox, Pirate Paws (a pirate dog, obviously) and there was even an appearance from Sponge Bob Square pants. I was impressed, I couldn’t keep up, watching the entertainer trying to tire out the children, tired me out!

Anyway, after all that excitement, the other thing I spent a lot of time doing this weekend was eating and drinking way too much. I thought I was going to pop. I had a lot of heartburn and indigestion. I now know what those little Gaviscon firefighters in the advert are all about. Good job guys, good job. But it was totally worth it for all the yumminess I experienced. The Scottish know how to do food. It was the first time I had haggis. Ordinarily I would’ve politely declined, sheeps innards encased in it’s stomach lining is really not my idea of a tasty meal. But it was presented to me as haggis pakora. If you’ve never tried pakora before, do it. It’s an indian dish which involves lightly battered chicken, vegetables or other tasty morsels served with a mildly spicy dipping sauce. Oh it’s good. Anyway haggis pakora were mini balls of lightly fried goodness, cooked and presented by an actual chef. I couldn’t say no and I’m glad I didn’t, it was awesome. There were two more equally delicious courses that night. The next evening, we went to the local chip shop. Instead of getting standard fish and chips, on the menu was something far more intriguing. A whole cheese pizza, deep fried. I know what you’re all thinking, that is the grossest thing you’ve ever heard of, and if I thought about it too much, I’d be inclined to agree. But you don’t get this sort of food in England. Pakora is hard to get hold of and deep frying everything is not really a thing down south. I couldn’t decide whether I liked the deep fried pizza or or not. Don’t get me wrong, it tasted good, but so, so bad at the same time. But as they say, when in Rome! And hey, I survived to tell the tale, for now anyways.

The Scots also have a very sweet tooth. There is a thing called Tablet. It looks similar to fudge, and is made from copious amounts of sugar, condensed milk, and butter, boiled and then allowed to crystallize. It is made in slabs and in all honesty a bit too sweet for me. Then there are Scottish macaroons. The first time I ate macaroons in Scotland, I was told they were made from potato. I honestly thought that they were pulling this Southern fairy’s leg, but it turns out that it’s true! Although that is not it’s main ingredient. One potato to 4 and a half boxes of icing sugar is enough to give you such a sugar high, you’ll be bouncing off the ceiling like a five year old who has overdosed on blue smarties.

I also drank a lot of alcohol. Red wine, Madeira wine, Scottish whiskey (obviously), vodka, toffee vodka, cosmo cocktails, guinness, prosecco and something called red cola? No artificial ingredients? I doubt that very much. It was excessive. When you start drinking alcohol at 11:45am and don’t stop until 1am, you’d think you’d be pretty hungover the next day. Nope, not even a smidge. Maybe it was the fresh highland air, the excessive amount of artery-hardening food or a combination of both. But not only did I wake up fresh as a daisy, but even the do-it-yourself-at-home breathalyser I blew into, said I was under the legal alcohol limit both mornings! Oh and just so you know toffee vodka in prosecco is a thing. I was introduced to this revolutionary new cocktail and it’s pretty damn tasty. Lets call it the Winch-maker for copyright’s sake. It’s gonna be the next big thing I swear. Mojitos and Cosmos will be a thing of the past and Winch-makers will take over!

If you do drive up, then make sure you visit Tebay Services. Now I know service stations are not usually the most exciting thing to talk about, but this one is certainly worth the visit. It has a proper huge farm shop and restaurant inside with locally sourced meat, cheese and other yummy treats. It’s not cheap, but then the quality makes up for it. Even in the quick takeaway section they do takeaway tubs of mini sausages marinated in honey & mustard, chunky handmade chips and perfectly made sausage rolls.

So all in all, a great weekend. Mainly orientated around food, but I was in my element. I even met a dog called Hamish. He was pretty cool. I was a bit disappointed I didn’t see more people walking about in their pajamas, but we did walk past a group of young lads who told me my boyfriend was hot. Swings and roundabouts I guess! So go and visit Scotland. Just be prepared that the kilt you buy at the beginning of your holiday, might not fit by the time you leave.

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