While our parents were visiting us in Scotland, we were using Glasgow as our base, travelling back in forth to Edinburgh for the first few days and spending the rest of our time in and around Glasgow. Glasgow is an interesting city as it is very difficult to pinpoint its identity. It has a very similar feeling to Manchester, sharing an industrial past that gives the city a blue-collar vibe, while also being on the receiving end of a cultural revolution in the past few decades. The city is by no means at touristy as Edinburgh, but it does have a lot of things to make any traveller to the city enjoy their time there.
While in Glasgow, we spent a lot of time seeing some of the surrounding towns, starting with Stirling. Often called the “Gateway to the Highlands,” Stirling has held a significant part in the history of Scotland since it used to be the only entry point into the Highlands. For that reason, one could not control both the Highlands and Lowlands (i.e. the whole of Scotland) without first holding Stirling and its castle.
We took the long way up from Stirling’s train station to the castle which sits on a crag high above the surrounding area. Along the way, we enjoyed the beautiful architecture of the quaint little city before meandering past the Church of the Holy Rude and through its picturesque graveyard.
Throughout its 800 year history, Stirling Castle has been home to many major battles for Scottish Independence, its location making it the most important castle in all of Scotland. Before the unification of England and Scotland, the castle was the residences of many Scottish kings and queens, including two of the most important, Mary Queen of Scots and James VI. The castle has also been occupied by many of Scotland’s most famous warriors including Robert the Bruce and William Wallace (from Braveheart). We took a free guided tour on our visit and were shown each of the buildings inside the castle and told the important points of its history. One building in particular sticks out like a sore thumb, the Great Hall. The castle’s Great Hall is painted an interesting light orange hue which would have once covered the entire castle and served both as a symbol of wealth as well as a means to protect the castle’s soft sandstone walls.
We certainly made sure to spend some time in Glasgow itself. Early in the week, we stumbled on a free comedy show where comedians go to test new material for upcoming gigs. There were a few truly awful comedians there but we befriended the best of the lot and later in the week decided to see him and several others at a different (paid) show. Though some of the Scottish humour went over our heads and a lot of the city’s unique slang was incomprehensible to us, both shows were really fun to see and we all had a great time.
Besides the comedy shows, we also made sure to visit all the big sights in Glasgow, starting with the 12th-century Glasgow Cathedral with a beautiful cemetery to match Holy Rude’s in Stirling. We also took a quick stroll through the oldest house in Glasgow and its gardens, after which we directed our attention to the many examples of remarkable architecture and the vast amount of street art present throughout the city.
As is our custom, we also spent a good deal of time in drinking establishments, taking a trip over to Drygate Brewery to sample several of their really good beers and one fantastic milk stout. We also spent several hours at a German-style beer hall which has some fantastic German food to go with all of Germany’s best beers.
We took two more little excursions out of Glasgow, one to Paisley and the other to a town called Linlithgow. We didn’t do much in Paisley besides having lunch in town and walking around for a little bit, but we were much more adventurous in Linlithgow.
Linlithgow is a small town halfway between Glasgow and Edinburgh and its main attraction is its palace. Linlithgow Palace was once used as a royal residence for the kings and queens of Scotland and was the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots. Later, the palace was left abanded and a fire raged through the residence, gutting it. Luckily, we were able to go inside the palace and walk through its hallways, making our way on top of its tallest tower for a beautiful view of Linlithgow Loch below. Adjacent to the palace is St. Michael’s Church which is home to one of the weirdest and ugliest looking church spires I have ever seen.
Sadly, we eventually had to say goodbye to our families after our wonderful week in Scotland, but not before we took a random trip back to Edinburgh for a day with Lauren’s mom. We spent the day doing a little shopping, bar hobbing (i.e. drinking a lot), and listening to some wonderful authentic Scottish music. We had a fabulous time just shooting the shit together and I am glad we decided to take the long train the Edinburgh rather than staying in Glasgow and not doing anything.
With that, I am happy to say that we finally left the U.K. for good! We really did have some special moments on the British Isles and met some wonderful people, but we are really excited to get back out of our comfort zones. Though our time in Europe is starting to wind down, there are still 10+ more amazing countries we have booked for the next 2 months that we are so excited to be able to experience.
Stay tuned for my next post from sunny Malta!