Sunday, June 07, 2009

General Notes from the Scotland Trip

Tips for travelling in Scotland

* Allow plenty of time for driving, especially in rural areas! Like, maybe an extra day or two more than you expect! You may be itching to just step out of the car now and again not just to explore, but to have a break from the bumpy, twisty roads. Passing is often difficult, too. People warned us the same thing about Ireland, but we turned out to have extra time there. So, we didn't heed the warnings for Scotland. In our experience, the roads in Scotland were much slower to get around than Ireland.

* Ticks! Don't be like me and forget, now doomed to obsessively monitor that spot for funny rashes. Sheep and deer make the Highlands tick city. Use repellent, tuck pants into socks/shirts into pants, check yourself for ticks at the end of the day, and bring tweezers or a tick removal tool with you just in case.

* See a gas station and mayyyyybe need gas soon? Get gas now! Gas stations are few and far between (apparently this is a general UK problem). You'll be sorry you didn't spend the extra couple of pounds on more expensive gas when your car is running on fumes with no town in sight!

* If using the train, try to book at least 24 hours in advance for a better shot at cheaper fares.

* Small towns no one has ever heard of = cheap and friendly. They may be half shuttered up and not be that generally interesting, but they will probably treat you more nicely than the average person trying to get down the sidewalk quickly in the city and it won't cost much!

Funny things we noticed

* More than once, we actually saw signs hanging in places reminding customers not to abuse employees. The first time it was just kind of funny, but seeing it more than that, we really started to wonder. It imparts this image of the UK as a country full of bullies just waiting to abuse some hapless person whose job it is to be nice to them. That's not cool. Really, is it a big problem there?

* CCTV EVERYWHERE! There's no public place you can go without being watched by cameras. Even the trains all have them. While we were there we caught a news report about how they were catching and punishing litterers using CCTV. And, it was pretty clear while we were there why there would be a litter problem - garbage cans are really few and far between!

* Diesel trains! What's up with that? There's a huge gap between the train and the platform a lot of the time too - no wonder the "mind the gap" thing.

* After Edinburgh, if I never see plaid again it might be too soon. Although we liked it, the sheer touristiness did take a little bit of the sense of adventure and excitement out of it.

Actually, Scotland may well be fictional

Scotland boasts what may be the world's highest concentration of Places and Things That Sound Fictional. First, the fort we visited in Kilmartin Glen, Dunadd? That was the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Dalriada. This existed?? It sounds straight from fantasy. The Isle of Skye - are there unicorns there? Later, after we'd already discussed this topic, we were walking around Edinburgh when we saw a sign that said Midlothian on it. Damon: "Wait...there's really a place called Midlothian?" It started to get a little hard to distinguish Scotland from Middle Earth at this point. As for the Stone of Destiny, yeah. That sounds like something you'd have to sink 80 hours of RPG playing into to finally earn.

Scotland doesn't have a monopoly on these places though. We thought of some more. Add to the list, will you? :)

The Isle of Man - sounds like a philosophical concept rather than a physical place.
Moldova - easy to confuse with that fictional water-logged country in Dilbert.
Transdniester - and it doesn't sound any less fictional when you actually read what it is.


  1. Wow.. Hard to believe Scotland to be even more rural and bumpier than Ireland! Great report... :)

  2. Are there still signs all over the bus shelters/ lamp posts/ random other public structures saying "this structure protected by anti-climb paint"?

    I never did figure out what anti-climb paint was, or how it worked, but I loved the signs anyway...

  3. Expat Traveler: I didn't expect that either! ;)

    Dru: I didn't see any like that but I wish I had!!

  4. Love the notes. I hope we can put this information to good use in the next couple of years!

    Oh and the CCTV thing sounds freaky. A little too 1984 if you ask me...

  5. Anticlimb paint is basically paint that never dries properly; it stays kind of oily and greasy. If you try and climb it, generally you slide off and get yourself covered in thick black/brown gloop.

    As for diesel trains; its mostly cost. For a lot of railways in the UK, its just not worth paying to install overhead wires along their entire length. (Especially in rural areas with few passengers)


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