I was so desperate to escape London this summer. The constantly cloudy suffocating weather, the rain and the giant house spiders that lurk out from under it, the commuters who don’t let you get off the train before they get on, the fact that socialising in the city costs the same as my rent – let me stop before this post goes left.
I’d spent some of my summer in Holland and Spain already, but Dian and I had wanted to return to Scotland since our trip last year – and so it was on a warm August Saturday morning that we embarked on our last trip of the summer, speeding off in her car.
Forgive my poor vocabulary leaving me lacking with a better way of expressing this, but f*cking HELL it’s a long journey. We went on a Bank Holiday, so I suppose eight hours sounds relatively reasonable in that situation.
Anyway, there’s something about a car ride with loved ones that can always be forgiven, especially when you’re with people you don’t get to see enough – it’s a bonding experience. Frankly as someone who lives alone, being in an intimate space with people you’re comfortable enough to spend hours with in silence is nothing I begrudge. But what is this post about, my loneliness or Scotland? Hopefully the latter for once.
We decided to go to Scotland at the very last minute and so every hotel that wasn’t sold out was now out of our price range, which led us to Stirling. Everything really does happen for a reason; I’d had no idea how beautiful Stirling was. The hotel we chose was the Highland Gate by Marston’s Inn – our room overlooked a sea of greenery; pretty little fields dusted with flowers and gravel alternating shades of charcoal and periwinkle.
I arrived with a big sigh of relief, throwing myself onto the bed that had me sleep like a log every night. Breakfast is free with your stay at the Marston’s Inn, with the option of continental or a cooked breakfast in their cosy pub across the road from our room.
Anyway, speaking of food – after a wee rest, we decided to head into Glasgow for some seafood. There were a few options on the menu for us – The Fish People Café, Two Fat Ladies At The Buttery, and Fanny Trollopes. We ended up at Fannys (har har, yes), a small bistro where we dined on melt-in-your-mouth marinated monkfish, crab koftas, crispy potatoes with beetroot ketchup and coconut sauce and prawns on a bed of carrot and coriander fritters… To start.
I chose the Fish Of The Day for my main – a herb crusted dover sole with a caper and prawn sauce, all surrounding a potato fondant centre piece. Dian had red mullet with a prawn and mussel fricassee. All was delish, and not badly priced may I add.
Of course we weren’t done, so we popped over to Waffle Monster on Sauchiehall Street for a fresh waffle doused in chocolate sauce, whipped cream, bananas and strawberries, topped with dollops of bubblegum and candy floss ice cream. So yeah, I was mildly concerned about my health by then.
On Sunday we headed straight to the Blair Drummond Safari Park – driving through a path of wild animals was something I’d never done before! Cooing over the majestic rhinos, a pride of lions chilling out together, zebras wagging their tails as they chewed on grass… it was very cool. But my highlight was seeing a young fella called Oscar who by the way, is a sea lion. We went to his show where he did some impressive tricks in and out of the water while looking absolutely adorable.
We were assured of how well they are treated, and it certainly looked like Oscar was very fond of his zoo keeper. We also went to an impressive Bird Of Prey display, where eagles and vultures swooped just inches over our heads. We wrapped up our visit with a boat ride to Chimp Island – happily, all of these activities were included in the ticket price.
We then took a flying visit to Stirling Castle. Built sometime in the early 12th century and a home to Mary, Queen of Scots, the castle is elevated over the entire city, perched on a volcanic rock that makes it a stunning sight at night when it’s lit up. Driving up to the castle the history is almost tangible; if only the castle walls could speak of the countless deaths, battles, births and mysteries that it has seen ( ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ). Oh, and not to mention that the place is a goldmine for fab photos.
Again, we headed back to Glasgow to eat – Glasgow, to me, was kinda love at first sight. There’s something about the energy that vibrates throughout the city that matches my own – the way people dress, how the architecture always changes from one building to the next, the diversity I see when walking down the street, the abundance of art galleries and cool hair salons and places to eat – almost like Shoreditch but seemingly without the twats, one could put it. Also, I’m an absolute sucker for the accent.
Before dinner, we headed to the iCafe so Dian could meet a friend. But iCafe is worth mentioning for the fact that it’s a Halal haven that does the most delicious 100% Halal fry ups and more – Pancakes and the best fake bacon of your life topped with syrup? You got it.
Anyhow, for dinner we decided to try Steak Cattle & Roll – mainly because the place got its own Buzzfeed post and looks out of this world. I tried a burger topped with mac n’ cheese and the most delicious beef brisket I had ever had in my life. We also got some sweet potato fries on the side because we’re insane, and washed it down with a pint of Irn Bru, because aye, it be Scotland! (Sorry, Scotland)
Trudging through the rain after our delicious meal in hopes of burning some of it off we took a stroll through the town centre as the sky darkened, walking to St George’s Square, named after King George III- it’s pretty, with lots of monuments to behold. We then popped to the Royal Exchange Square to see the equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington, which has been coined one of the “top 10 most bizarre monuments on Earth.” I’d say that’s mainly because since the 1980’s, the duke has been wearing a traffic cone on its head – a typically Glaswegian display of humour that has become a part of history.
As our trip came to a close we bought a ton of Tablet for our journey back, which was pretty painful – more so than on the way in – maybe that’s because it’s never fun leaving a place you’re not yet finished exploring.
PS. Thanks to Dian for driving over 16 hours and not batting an eyelid – my MVP.