I actually pulled the photos together last week, but I thought it was gonna be awhile before I can actually write this series due to you-know-what, but then you-know-what got put on hold and I got my free time back. So…
I am going to tell you about another of my old trips when I was studying in the UK back in 2007. I am going to tell you about my road trip to Scotland! I’m not sure if I still remember all the details as it’s been so long. I’ll rely on pictures, my old blog, and my fuzzy memory and we’ll take it from there.
First, let’s talk about some logistics:
- There are several rental car companies all around the United Kingdom. During our time there were Europcar, Hertz, Arnold Clark, etc. There is no such thing as a cheaper rental company over the other. All of the companies will have some sort of promotional prices on and off, so at different days, it might be different companies that have the best deals, so please check and compare. For my case, there were 15 of us, so we got 3 Intermediate sized cars from Europcar. I think it was like £120 per car, per 4 days. Of course you won’t get this type of prices today.
- We spent 3 nights in Scotland. Two of them in hostels (Isle of Skye and Glasgow), and one night in between in our cars. Yes, we spent one night sleeping in our cars. We were peasant students and did those budget traveler things.
- We also packed lots of bread and tinned tuna and snacks and whatnot. We were peasant students and did those budget traveler things.
- We got ourselves the Explorer Pass for £19 each (again, it is probably pricier today). If you are castle hopping, the Explorer Pass is a MUST, for it will grant you free access into ALL the castles in Scotland!
- Each of us pooled £120 for this road trip. The money pool covered everything: car, gas, hostel, food and the Explorer Pass. There were some coins left at the end of the trip, so I can say we stayed within budget. It was a 4 days trip, so this translates to £30/day per person.
Okay, now let’s get the story started!
JULY 6th, 2007 [Friday]
We departed from our accommodation in Liverpool at 1.00 AM sharp. According to Google Maps, our first destination was 222 miles (357 kilometers) and 4 hours of nonstop drive away, and we wanted to arrive by sunrise to maximize our day.
One big advantage with renting a car and driving over joining a tour in a bus is that, we get to stop wherever we like, to take photos. According to the seniors, this is a very very very very very important advantage as far as Scotland is concerned.
And used that advantage to the max we did. In fact I think we overused it. Shortly after we crossed the England-Scotland border, we started to stop at the roadside randomly for photo sessions. Some of them, when I look back at the photos now, I have no idea why we stopped there. We basically took photos in the middle of nowhere, a lot.
Early mornings in Scotland is bloody cold, let me tell you. No, in fact I think I’ll show you… 10°C at 6.39 AM.
I told you we were peasant students, didn’t I? This was how breakfast typically was during our road trips.
Oh yes, in 2007 the GPS was not yet as common as today. We had to pay an arm and a leg if we wanted to rent it, and it wasn’t very reliable too. So we got maps, and I was sort of the human GPS for this trip. I was better with maps than most because of my hobby of tracing the World Atlas as a kid, and my experiences playing games like Sid Meier’s Civilization.
Anyway, by sunrise, we did make it to our first destination of this Scotland road trip: Edinburgh.
The plan was to hit two places in Edinburgh: The Palace of Holyroodhouse and Edinburgh Castle. The former is the formal residence of the British royalty in Scotland (sort of like the Buckingham Palace of Scotland), the latter is, well… the most famous landmark in Edinburgh.
That was the plan anyway. But we did not get off to a good start. You see, it was raining and freaking cold that morning, and we were like walking zombies for most parts. Then we arrived at the Palace, only to be informed by the guards posted at the entrance that they have some sort of official function going on that day and the palace was closed for public visitors. Perfect!
By then it was still too early to hit Edinburgh Castle, two hours too early to be exact. So what did we do? We looked at the map and found a hill with a star on it. So we drove around the city until we reached that hill. And then we drove up that hill to arrive at this structure. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the Calton Hill.
At that time we didn’t know what this monument was, we just wanted to maximize our photos opportunities. I learnt much later that this is in fact the National Monument of Scotland, built to commemorate fallen Scottish soldiers from the Napoleonic Wars. This place is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Edinburgh.
We also didn’t know that the boring looking building that we drove past on the way up was the headquarters of the Scottish government! Wow! We were really under-prepared and ill-informed for this road trip!
Anyway, the view from the top of Calton Hill was quite okay. It was rather foggy due to the rain, but I was still captivated. I think it would be more amazing on a nice day.
And then… it was still too early to hit Edinburgh Castle. So we decided to park our cars at train station and walk to the Castle.
To get to Edinburgh Castle from the train station, we had to walk up a series of staircase,
And arrive at Edinburgh’s High Street, also known as The Royal Mile. This street is called as such because it is flanked by buildings related to royalty: the Palace of Holyroodhouse at one end of it, and Edinburgh Castle at the other end.
We took some time strolling along this street. It was very lovely, and very different compared to the streets in Liverpool.
This was how we killed the time while waiting for Edinburgh Castle’s opening hours. We made it to the castle just in time to be one of the first visitors of the day.
To be honest, I don’t remember much of what happened here. I guess I was very tired from all those map reading and navigating and whatnot, coupled with the earlier disappointment, I did not really enjoy our first castle experience in Scotland.
I remember the castle was very impressive to look at. I remember the view of Edinburgh city from the castle was very impressive…
I remember there was a museum inside the castle showing the history of Scotland with all those wars…
Does this remind you of Jedediah and Octavius in Night at the Museum?
I remember… I don’t remember anything else from the castle. I now think that it is kind of regrettable, but the first castle that I visited in Scotland, which was also the one with the most expensive entrance fee, left the least impression in me.
And we left Edinburgh after this castle visit to hit our next destination in Scotland…
[to be continued]