Saturday, 6 September 2014

Scotland in a Fiat 500: Glamis Castle

Angus and the Highlands

Glamis is pronounced "Glah-ms". Once you get past the fact that all the interior decor circles around a family name pun (Lyon, lion, get it?), the indoor tour doesn't quite match up to the ivy-coated Scottish-chateau-cum-mini-Hogwarts exterior, but it does unearth some interesting trivia, such as Glamis' presence in Shakespeare's Macbeth. Shax may have even visited Glamis in person - he certainly knew about its existence, and we know he was up in Edinburgh a couple of times. But do take the tour. There are ghost stories, stuffed animals aplenty, including a mauled family bear, but not to be missed under any circumstances are the googly-eyed china dog and cat in the "grouse room". When you are free to roam, the pinetum woodland walk and Italian gardens will secure Glamis as a firm favourite in your books (or iPhone location history).

It only takes 1 hour 30 to get to Glamis from Edinburgh by car. Plus, it is super close to Dunnottar Castle in Stonehaven, so make time to see both in one day for the most brilliant sensory and visual juxtaposition. You can pretty much guess now what dough my last Scotland post will be made of.

Tweed blazer, Edinburgh Woollen Mill (similar)
Floral top, Jack Wills (similar)
Skirt, Cacharel

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Scotland in a Fiat 500: Glencoe



In which I sound like I'm having a go at outdoor clothing but I'm really not

It's a truism, but no good writing comes from sentimentality. I frequently refuse to give an explanation of why I love a certain film, track or book, because words destroy it. But good articulators move past that stage. This is why "wish you were here" postcards are purposeless. Stunning as the photo of the place on the postcard may be - and it almost never is, photoshopped in lurid HDR or squiggled over with blown-up Comic Sans text, at worst - the author of the postcard does not explain why you should visit. 

Why should you visit Glencoe in the Scottish highlands? Why drive out of Edinburgh for three hours, to see some waterfalls and green hills? Why risk blisters? These highly reasonable questions were fired at me, if not explicitly, then in the arched eyebrows of my flummoxed 17-year-old sister, wearily sinking deeper into the bed with her book after a long day of hiking. The sadist in me smiled, and said nothing at all. 

The next day, we got into the Fiat 500.

I guess one reason to visit Glencoe is that you will not find one image on the internet or in books that does it full visual justice. The photo will not include the drive up, or the two hour climb to the Lost Valley or the Devil's Staircase, or the sound of bagpipes as you step out of the car, or the weather which changes approximately every five minutes - and so does the light. A castle, church, ruin, city hall, monument or other architectural landmark is compact; it can easily be contained in a photograph and slapped on a travel guide. Glencoe, on the other hand, will only slap you for trying.

Hang on, aren't those photographs tryhardism defined, Dina? Oh, sorry while I scramble for my Trespass fleece and North Face gloves. I do not scorn the above clothing at all, but how could one possibly visit a place like this and position themselves as this fluoro purple or turquoise fleecy waterproof blob as the centrepiece in the photos and proudly declare: 'this is me at Glencoe, loving life!'?


And while you still shake your head and dig out your hiking boots, I will tell you with a smirk that there is a waterfall crossing involved, and that hiking up hills in wellies is not only doable, but also not sweaty or uncomfortable in the slightest. The only thing I am lying about here is my coat, which I swapped because yes, the day for feeding my failed modelling career bitterness had finally arrived. 

On a serious note, though: comfortable, waterproof footwear is a must as the ascent is steep, with a fair bit of scrambling up rocks, as passers-by on the way up will breezily inform you. You may get slightly lost, depending on whether nice people leave markers out of rocks for you to follow, but in general, the path to the Lost Valley is fairly straightforward. The postcode for the car park is conveniently nowhere to be found, so just keep driving until you see several large buses and plastic tourist maps on the left side of the road, and a bagpipe player or two.

And, having thus extracted all romance for you, I disappear into my own bed with sweet memories and giggles while the Braveheart soundtrack plays on loop. Ok, more tips: 

- Take time to read about the Massacre before you go. Really imagine it. Tell your companion/s the story when you get to the top, and you'll all sit there in silence taking it all in for a while feeling slightly goosebumpy.

- Take plenty of songs - it is at Glencoe that I had the epiphany that soldiers in the war sang songs because, as well as fill the soul with fortitude, they help with breath when you walk for long periods of time.

- Take an original lunch, for the hilarity. I chose cashews and courgettes. How quirky and funny.

Tweed swing coat, H&M (similar)
Shirt, v. old Jack Wills (similar)
Jumper, thrifted
Cords, TU, thrifted
Hunter wellies c/o Cloggs
Beret, Cath Kidston

P.S. Because I think it's really unfair that my sister gets zero credit for taking such good photos, I would be extremely grateful if you could listen to her band's music here.