If you read Part 1 of this travel journal, you know I spent 10 days in the UK and Ireland with two coworkers. The first five days were spent in London and Dublin. The last five are spent in Scotland and London. Read on to see how we spent our time in Glasgow, Edinburgh, and the Highlands.
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Day Six: Glasgow
Our sixth day was the day I was most excited for: Glasgow. Ever since I was in Scotland last year, Glasgow has been calling my name. This time around, I wanted to see if it lived up to the image of it I had built up in my head.
The journey to the airport and the flight itself were uneventful. Customs was almost comical: clearly entering the UK in Glasgow from Dublin doesn’t require strict security as they really only questioned us after they realized our passports were from the United States. Feeling adventurous this time around, we took a bus into the city, an easy 20-minute ride. Our Airbnb was right off George Square in the city center. Despite this, it was still very quiet.
Glasgow reminds me of New York – if you took only the prettiest buildings, shrunk them, and added more green space. Walking to Glasgow Cathedral, our first stop, made that apparent. In addition to beautiful buildings, we passed by some of Glasgow’s famous street art, which did not disappoint.
The cathedral itself is easily one of my favorite cathedrals – and I’ve seen a lot of cathedrals! It’s not the most opulent but it looked like it had its original roof and seemed true to its roots. The chapel under the church was really fascinating as well. I also liked seeing the little flying buttresses coming off the back of the cathedral (reminded me of Notre Dame!).
Our next stop was the Necropolis. Perched on a giant hill at the east of the city, the Necropolis has great views of the city and surrounding countryside. You also get to see beautiful graves and ornate tombs from centuries past. Most of the graves I was able to read were for merchants and their families.
After, we headed back into the center of the city and stumbled upon some of the main shopping streets through which we wandered around for a while. Needing something for dinner, I found a whisky pub called the Pot Still. It was filled with local Glaswegians and had a very jovial atmosphere. I happily sat observing people with my cider and Scotch pie in front of me. I even sampled the Speyside whiskies Justicia had gotten to try.
We got to chatting with a local older gentleman who told us we made a good choice with this pub (vindication!) and we talked about Scotland, our travels, and Glasgow more specifically. He gave us his card should anything go wrong and we needed someone to contact, which was very sweet. Turns out, he gives tours of Scotland.
We were setting out early the next morning for the Highlands, so we headed back to our Airbnb. I was really excited to return to my happy place from the previous year!
Day Seven: The Highlands
I had been yearning to return to the Scottish Highlands since the day I left it almost a year before. There’s something about it that keeps me wanting to go back for more
Our coach was to depart at 8:30 and luckily the meeting point was only a couple blocks away. We sat in the second-to-last row of a sixteen-seat coach and I could feel my anxiety slowly rearing its head – would my motion-sick-prone body be able to handle not sitting up front? I prayed my Dramamine and motion sickness bands would do the trick!
Overall, the tour was surprisingly great! I had a row to myself and there were only a few iffy moments when the roads were especially winding and we were very fast-moving.
You can read more about our day in the Highlands in a forthcoming post, but needless to say, it was a great day. I normally stay away from group tours, but since we didn’t want to deal with renting a car and driving, this was a nice alternative. In ten hours, we visited Rest and Be Thankful, Inverary, Kilchurn Castle, Oban, Castle Stalker, Glencoe, the filming location of Hagrid’s Hut, Loch Lomond, and Luss. While I do wish we had more time in some of the places we visited, I’m glad I got to get back up into the Highlands again. Now I just want to go back!
I was absolutely exhausted from the day so I went to bed very soon after we got home – I had to get ready for my early morning wakeup to explore a new part of Glasgow.
Day Eight: Glasgow & Edinburgh
I left our Airbnb at 8 am while the others slept. The year before, when we drove through Glasgow, we drove by the University of Glasgow. Even from the quick glance, it was something out of Harry Potter and I knew I needed to get back there.
The university sits in Glasgow’s West End, an area surrounded by beautiful townhomes, a green park, and some of Glasgow’s most well-known museums. I could have taken the subway there, but decided that since it was my last few hours in Glasgow that I would walk the 40 minutes over there. For a New Yorker, the walk wasn’t actually that long – it only was a little painful because of the hills! My hands were numb from the cold but I worked up a sweat from the exertion.
My tour of the West End started at Kelvingrove Art Gallery before I found myself in Kelvingrove Park, walking on a bridge with other students, both university and elementary school aged, leading to the university. When I reached the front of the main building, I wasn’t exactly sure how to get where I wanted to go, but I took a chance and followed some students (a big risk for someone with social anxiety!), knowing that I could always just feign ignorance if I “got caught” or something. It worked, and I got where I wanted to go.
My ultimate goal at the University of Glasgow was to see the cloisters. If you’ve watched Outlander, this is where they filmed Harvard. I discovered the cloisters long before this and their beauty and symmetry were high on my list to see in person. They didn’t disappoint!
Not wanting to rush later on, I left the university and went to a street near campus that a friend from school recommended, Ashton Lane. Even though I was there in the empty early morning, I could see just how lively it could be at nights, filled with students going between the different bars and restaurants.
I then cut over in the direction of the Airbnb so I wouldn’t have to rush back later on. I walked along quiet streets filled with beautiful townhomes, and even passed a church that had been converted to flats, the entire building of which was for sale. If only I had that money!
I made it to Kelvinbridge, which sits high atop a hill in Kelvingrove Park. It reminded me a bit of the Royal Crescent in Bath. I can only imagine what it would be like to live in one of those opulent townhomes.
When I noticed my phone was at 29% battery, I began to actually head back to the Airbnb, not wanting to get lost in Glasgow when we had a firm check-out time to meet.
The ride to Edinburgh was quick and uneventful. We hiked from Edinburgh Waverly to the Old Town (which sits on a very steep hill) and made it to our Airbnb, a Harry Potter-inspired flat on the edge of Grassmarket. Although loud (especially at night), the location couldn’t be better for a short stay.
I scarfed down a pie for a late lunch and then we made our way to Greyfriars Kirkyard, which was looking especially beautiful with the flowers in the trees blooming and blowing in the breeze. Naturally, we had to pay a visit to Elephant House Café, which was surprisingly empty given the fact that it’s the birthplace of Harry Potter.
After a walk down Victoria Street and then a walk back up to Edinburgh Castle, I parted ways with Justicia and Sarah since I had already visited the castle. I walked along the Royal Mile in the rain, window shopping and trying to find a little something for myself to take back home with me. I actually settled on some cashmere fingerless gloves that were on sale, mostly because my hands were practically numb due to the cold front moving in.
After a brief few minutes of sitting outside in the sun, I sought shelter in St. Giles Cathedral waiting for the girls while it hailed outside (gotta love Scottish weather!). After the weather cleared up, the three of us continued down the Royal Mile and made it down to Holyrood Palace, which was a lot smaller than I had imagined.
After we got back to the Airbnb, I just about passed out. Waking up at 8 am and then walking 9 miles during the day, many of which were on hills, can wear a girl out!
Day Nine: Edinburgh & London
We had to be out of our Airbnb by 10 am and our train to London was around 4 pm, so we packed up and made the trek back down to Waverly Station to store our bags for the duration. Since we were already down the hill, we wanted to stay in New Town for the rest of our time in Edinburgh.
We ate breakfast at The Refinery, a very cute restaurant that also had a branch right by where I used to live in London. After that, we simply just walked around. We entered the Church of St. Cuthbert and its quiet graveyard before making our way into a few stores to look for last-minute souvenirs. I ended up buying a white wool sweater (I had been looking for one like this for what seemed like years!) and a little Scottie dog pin for my bulletin board.
The train ride to London was as beautiful as ever. We were sat in first class, a welcome upgrade for the end of our journey and the long ride into Kings Cross. It was the perfect time to catch up on podcasts and eat the delicious blueberries I had purchased from M&S before we left.
Our hotel, the Millennium Hotel Gloucester, was very nice and situated right next to Gloucester Road Tube Station, which would prove very convenient for our ride to the airport the next morning.
We settled on Nandos for our last dinner abroad, partially because it was nearing 10pm and no other restaurants in the area were serving food and partially because it’s just delicious. A perfect way to end a trip.
Day Ten: London & Home
It’s always sad to have the last day in a place, especially a place like London where I hold so many memories. Since we didn’t need to leave until noon, we went out for breakfast to Caffe Nero (another must-have before leaving Europe)and walked along Gloucester Road to Kensington Gardens and back again. It was good to get a little exercise in before sitting for nine hours.
Luckily, getting to the airport was seamless. Security was filled with people who seemed like they had never flown before, but we made it through alright and really only had a half hour before our gate was called and we had to begin the walk down. I’ll never get over just how large Heathrow is.
I was one of the passengers chosen for extra screening before I could board, but it didn’t take more than three minutes before I was on my way again.
Despite the many open seats in business class, we weren’t allowed to move up unless we paid the $600 upgrade fee, so we roughed it in coach during an uneventful but bittersweet journey back to the United States.