An Account of Scottish Life, By Me, A London-Based Journalist

By James O Malley on at

Today is St Andrew's Day - a day of celebrating Scotland's patron saint, who like Sean Connery didn't actually live in the country. So how to celebrate here at Giz UK?

Now, if I know anything about Scottish people, it is that they absolutely love it when London-based journalists pontificate on Scottish life, while writing from North London. So in that spirit, I thought channel my inner George Orwell, and I'd share with you, dear readers, a memoir of a Scottish road-trip I went on in 2011.

My partner and I travelled all the way from Gretna Green to John O'Groats and back, via Edinburgh, Inverness, Thurso, Loch Ness, Fort William and Glasgow. Needless to say, having spent maybe two weeks of my life so far in Scotland, I'm pretty much an expert on the place. Hell, I've at least spent more time in the country than Saint Andrew ever did.

All of these photos were taken by me on a rather crappy HTC Desire HD - so though it looks like a hip, new Instagram filter has been applied, no, that's actually just my natural photography talent.

Rosslyn Chapel

One of our first stops was the 15th Century Rosslyn Chapel, which is today best known for featuring in the Da Vinci code, and being a hotbed of conspiracy theories about freemasons and the like. While, sadly, we didn't see any human sacrifices, or Tom Hanks running about, we did spot this ancient symbol embedded into the stonework.

That's right, it's Goatse. And if you don't know what that is, don't whatever you do Google it. Does this suggest that Mr Goatse is secretly a freemason? He doesn't seem at first, awkward glance, like a man with much to hide... but clearly this thing, umm, goes much deeper than we thought.

Doune Castle

Next up was a trip to Doune Castle. This is the place where Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed - and it has a rather good audio tour narrated by Terry Jones.

But the thing I thought was most memorable was this fridge, just inside the reception area - which reveals that pretty much every stereotype about Scotland is true. You've got a choice of Irn Bru, or water... which is actually just Diet Irn Bru.

Also in the castle was this chap - a wandering minstrel, who had an Assassin's Creed Non-Player-Character type vibe. Sadly I can't remember what he sang, and I didn't speak to him so for all I know is that I might have missed out on an important side-quest.

Where East Meets West

The Scottish town of Thurso is home to the most northerly station on Britain's national rail network. That fact is approximately the most memorable thing from Thurso. But I did see this poster advertising what was then a forthcoming attraction. "Where East Meets West" boasts the circus poster. Representing the East we have... a bad-ass Shaolin Warrior, ready to show off some kung-fu moves. And what do we have as the best the West has to offer? Umm, some rubbish looking clowns. No wonder everyone expects China to be running the world soon.

Rob Roy's Grave

No trip to Scotland is complete with a trip to the last resting place of Rob Roy, the national folk hero and the man who is often called Scotland's Robin Hood.

Unfortunately, when preparing to take this photo I dropped my phone. Picking it up, I licked my finger in order to clean the lens - but in the process, my similarly muddy finger caused me to react negatively - meaning that I ended up spitting on his grave. Sorry, Scotland.

John O'Groats

We finally made it to John O'Groats and found ourselves taking a trip to what is surely the most northerly shop in the UK.

This was literally the headline on the local newspaper the week we were there. I'm not making this up - they went there.

Note also the haggis paperweight holding it down.

There were also many souvenirs that tourists could buy, to remind them of their trip. For example, here's a DVD compilation of accordion music.

And yes, it really is a bargain: Just £18.50. And that was in 2011 prices - today it would cost around £20.50. Yikes.

Oh, and there were these for sale...

Perhaps less said about that the better.

Perhaps the most endearing thing from our trip though was in the B&B we stayed in at John O'Groats. In our room, there was this notice pinned to the wall.

I just like how they've translated it to four other languages - as though Sandy & Ron are the fourth emergency service.

And that really is all you need to know about Scotland. Over all, I would give Scotland 9/10.

Happy St Andrew's Day.

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