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Tag: Edinburgh

Flying Scotsman Trip – Epilogue

Now some time has passed, the bags are completely unpacked and back on the attic, and I’ve reverted to a slightly healthier lifestyle again, I’m taking some time to look back on my epic Flying Scotsman Trip. In general, it went remarkably well!

Trains & Buses

All the trains I booked well in advance—notably Eurostar, the Caledonian Sleeper to Inverness, and the LNER back to London—were on time, and fully functional. Only the catering side was still a bit sub-par, due to COVID measures, or other reasons: no full menu on the sleeper—which I only know about because of a text message sent to my Belgian phone number, since I only had charcuterie and whisky—and they ran out of bacon rolls on the LNER way too soon!

Most of my ScotRail train tickets were flexible, although most of the time, I took the train I planned on taking anyway. I used the offer to upgrade to first class for £3 a couple of times, mainly because I really prefer solo seats, especially when travelling in a kilt. On one train, the train conductor refused to sell me the upgrade, but let me sit in first class for free, because I was ‘not getting anything in return anyway’… It was nice being able to buy and save all my tickets in-app, an option that wasn’t available yet when I first started planning this trip.

To get to Culloden Battlefield, to Peterhead and Ellon, and to St Andrews, I used Stagecoach buses, usually with digital DayRider tickets. They were never scanned, by the way, I just had to show them to the driver. It’s really convenient to have USB charging ports available on those buses.

In Glasgow and Edinburgh I only used digital tickets as well for the local buses, and for the Glasgow Subway the smartcard I still had from years before. I didn’t buy a single paper transport ticket the whole trip!

Hotels

In northeastern Scotland (Aberdeen, Dundee, and Perth) I stayed in Travelodge hotels. It’s remarkable how different they can be! The first one had two extra single beds in the room, the second one just one, and the third one —just when you’re getting used to having an extra bed to put your stuff on—only had the double bed I actually booked. The last one, in Perth, still used actual keys, instead of keycards!

In Glasgow I stayed at easyHotel, as I had oft before. No surprised there, but I do think I’ve started to outgrow them, or at least their smallest rooms: when travelling for over a week—with a rather large bag and a kilt to air out every night—a bit of extra space is not just a luxury anymore.

In Edinburg and London I stayed at a hub by Premier Inn hotel, in virtually indistinguishable rooms. Even though they discontinued the room control app they used to have, the ease with which you can still control everything—light, temperature, DND sign…—and plethora of USB and power outlets, both UK and EU, to keep everything charged, make these my favourite rooms of the trip. A really nice bathroom helped too… To my surprise the London hub even had a breakfast buffet, which was really convenient on my last day.

Beers & Bars

This was a very beer-centric trip, to say the least… Apart from the BrewDog bars—discussed separately below—I also visited quite a few other bars and taprooms in the towns and cities I visited. Scotland sure has a lot to offer in that department! Unfortunately I missed out on a few, due to their often (still) limited opening hours, especially on Sundays and the first couple of days of the week. I’ll just have to go back another time!

I actually had about a third of my beers in London, and almost half of the bars I visited were there! Considering the only noteworthy hangovers I had this trip were after a day or evening in London, next time I might avoid cramming so many London bars in my schedule…

BrewDog Bars, Stamps & Badges

So the BrewDog bars I visited in Scotland were BrewDog Inverurie, BrewDog Castlegate, BrewDog Aberdeen, BrewDog Peterhead, Dogtap Ellon, BrewDog Union Square, BrewDog St Andrews, BrewDog Dundee, BrewDog Perth, BrewDog Stirling, BrewDog Merchant City, BrewDog Kelvingrove, BrewDog Cowgate, and BrewDog Lothian Road.

When people hear I visited all of them, they tend to ask “Which was your favourite?” Now that’s a very hard question to answer! Some of them will always remain special to me: Cowgate was my first BrewDog bar ever, and where I drank my first BrewDog beers. In Kelvingrove I spent many hours—and had over a hundred beers, according to Untappd—and it still feels like home there… To fully appreciate the other bars, I should really revisit them a couple of times. A hungover afternoon visit, or being the first customer in for lunch, or the last customer on a Monday night, it just doesn’t compare to a visit on a buzzing Saturday night, or when meeting a friend during quiz night…

That being said, I had a great time in all of them. I didn’t catch anyone on a ‘bad day’, and felt very welcome in every single BrewDog bar. And even though I already tried most of the BrewDog beers on tap—and it didn’t take long to try the remaining ones—the guest beers were sufficiently different and interesting to keep me occupied for quite a while, and without having to drink the same beer twice.

To keep myself from forgetting to get my Beer Visa stamp, I usually put the booklet in front of me on the table. More than once, a crew member would come to my table with the stamp when they noticed it. It was really nice to see how much pride some took in making sure the stamp was the nicely centred and the right way up, and rather funny to get warnings about other bars, because ‘they always put the stamp upside down’…

I tried to get a pin badge in all bars as well, but some didn’t have any: I seem to be missing the ones for Inverurie, Ellon, St Andrews, and Merchant City. Another reason to go back soon?

Even though they swiped my EFP card in about half the bars, none of the digital stamps appeared automatically. After reporting them online however, they soon showed up, and even the Homedog and coveted Flying Scotsman challenge now appear as completed!

Kilts & Compliments

From the moment I alighted the Caledonian Sleeper, until the day I went back to London, I was wearing my eight yard MacLaren kilt, and I loved every minute of it. Some of the time I wore it with brogues—not ghillies!—and with proper garter ties, especially in more formal settings, like museums and memorials. Most of the time though, I wore it more informally, with a T-shirt, hiking boots, and the hose scrunched down, showing off my calf tattoos… Since I hardly ever wear shorts, I don’t get to do that very often!

As I’ve experienced before, even when a kilt isn’t an everyday occurrence, even in Scotland, no-one blinks an eye. If there is any reaction at all, it usually is a smile. On a couple of occasions, I even got a “Nice kilt”, or “Love your kilt” shoutout—thank you Glaswegian girls! When in one museum I suddenly noticed being followed by a guard, it turned out he had recognised my tartan, because he used to be in the Clan MacLaren Society council.

Only once this time, I was asked “Is Scotland playing tonight?” Apparently for some, that, and getting married, are the only reasons to kilt up! I don’t really need a reason though, and next time when I’m going to Scotland, I will definitely do it kilted again!

Flying Scotsman Trip – Day 9

LNER back to London

After putting on my trousers again—and that feels weird and uncomfortable after a week in a kilt—I boarded the LNER Azuma to London. Unfortunately, because of railroad works, it would take a different route, and take around six hours to get there, instead of the usual four. At least I would be well fed and hydrated, or so I thought… They already ran out of bacon rolls by the time the trolly arrived at my seat! A cheddar and pickle pickle roll for breakfast is was, then. A bit after noon I was lucky enough—yes, lucky, since they skipped the early boarders to feed all the newcomers first to see if anything would be left—to get a chicken and salad sandwich as well. Plenty of tea and cold drinks, though, and even their own ale!

The longer ride, also meant less time in London, so a lot of places to visit in a short time. A quick checkin in my hub Hotel—with a view on King’s Cross train station, highly recommended for trainspotters—and off I went!

I managed to get to the Bermondsey Beer Mile in time and have a drink—sometimes even more than one—in the Hawkes Taproom (yes, for a stamp), 73 Enid Street | Cloudwater London, new kid on the block Craft Beer Junction, and finally The Kernel Taproom Arch 7.

Then I went to that other set of arches in Hackney, where I visited Brew Club, Hackney Church Brew Co., and The Experiment.

To finish the night, I went to the OG London BrewDog bar: BrewDog Camden. Never seen it that calm, but it was a Sunday night, and already getting late. Still enjoyed my time there, some bars always feel a bit like coming home…

Flying Scotsman Trip – Day 8

Edinburgh & Leith

My last full day in Scotland started with breakfast at Papii, and coffee at Lowdown Coffee. Then I was off to Camera Obscura and World of Illusions. I knew there wouldn’t be any demonstrations of the actual camera obscura, but I didn’t expect it to be completely closed off for the public! So that left me with the World of Illusions—nice, but it wasn’t what I came for—and the observation deck, which at least gave me an interesting perspective onto Edinburgh.

The visit was over a bit quicker than I anticipated, but that at least meant I had time to revisit Oink for some pulled pork and crackling, and find a good spot to hear the One o’Clock Gun, and see the time ball drop on the Nelson Monument. I’ve been in Edinburgh a few times already, but somehow I’ve always missed it… I found a great position, one o’clock came, the gun blasted loudly, and the ball… did nothing!

Oh well, to Gladstone’s Land then, which is other than you might expect, a house. Each floor is redecorated and refurnished as it would have been in a certain period of its long life. Hats off to the NTS volunteers, enthusiastically telling the story of their floor, and pointing out all kinds of interesting tidbits.

Another coffee or two, at The Milkman this time, and it was time to discover Edinburgh’s bus network, and head over to Leith. Apparently, that’s where all the cool, new breweries open up (a taproom) or move to nowadays.

I actually went to two locations of Campervan Brewery: their Lost in Leith taproom, and their taproom—beer garden?—at the brewery itself. In between I tried to visit Pilot for a cheeky canny, but I didn’t think to check until what time their shop would be open…

Back in the centre of Edinburgh, I then headed to The Hanging Bat for a chicken club sandwich for dinner, and a beer, of course.

Then it was time for a special moment: my visit to the final Scottish BrewDog bar, BrewDog Lothian Road! Exactly one week after I entered the first Scottish BrewDog bar on my trip, I stepped into my last. It might sound silly, but I was actually even a bit emotional about it! Before I left, I collected the final stamp in my Beer Visa needed to complete the Flying Scotsman challenge.

As promised to the Fierce crew, I then finished the night at Fierce Bar Edinburgh, for my last beers on Scottish soil…

Flying Scotsman Trip – Day 7

Glasgow West End & Edinburgh

After another breakfast at the Bucket List Café, I decided to spend my last day in Glasgow in the West End. It gave me a great excuse to travel on The Clockwork Orange again, the third-oldest subway system in the world.

I started my western adventure with coffee and a cruffin at Papercup, where, in despite of their name, they actually did serve coffee in proper cups.

Since part of one of my tattoos is inspired by Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s designs, I simply had to include a bit of his work in this trip. I didn’t visit the Willow Tea Rooms this time, but the Kelvingrove Museum had another of Mackintosh’s tea rooms set up. Unfortunately the traditional one o’clock organ concerts had not yet been reinstated…

By the way: if anyone is looking for some Ingram chairs: just £500 in the museum shop!

The Grunting Growler is an addition to the area I had been looking forward to to visit. A bottle shop is so much more fun if you can sit down for a drink as well!

A last visit to BrewDog Glasgow, before shoogling back to the centre, picking up my bag at the hotel, and I was off to the train station again. Destination: Edinburgh!

Edinburgh Waverley is just a couple of hundreds of meters from my hub hotel, so a checkin and bag drop off was the first thing I did.

I’m all for discovering new places, but some are too good not to go back to. Wings is one of those places, and I’ve really been looking forward to get stuck in some of their chicken wings, five years after the last time I had been there! My pick of the evening: the Charlic dry rub, and the Baz’s Buffalo, Imperial Tiger, and Barbaraki sauces. Nothing too spicy—only up to level two out of five—but very tasty. I’ll level up next time!

The last stop of the evening, was my first ever BrewDog bar, where I drunk my first ever BrewDog beer: BrewDog Edinburgh! Or is it BrewDog Cowgate now? I was lucky enough to immediately get a table, and spent a wonderful couple of hours there. Love that they still have a chalkboard with staff portraits!

Edinburgh, second & third day

Edinburgh, second and third day.

(photography by h–na)

London & Edinburgh Trip

No day to day report of my trip this time, a couple of photos after our return will have to do. Later I will post a follow-up with some photos from the cameras and iPhone of my travel companion and girlfriend h–na as well.

The journey by bus was more troublesome than ever before: the trip to London has taken us six hours longer than intended, mainly due to problems in the Eurotunnel. We made it to London eventually, but headed straight to the hotel to get at least some sleep before our first full day in the city.

Our first stop after breakfast was the British Museum. I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to see the heavily contested Elgin Marbles

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After some time in the museum, we needed a drink, so we enjoyed some tea and scones at the Tea and Tattle. And I must say: it was the best cream tea I’ve had so far!

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After a short visit to the Science Museum, it was time to start drinking… 😉 As an avid BrewDog fan, I wanted to visit as many BrewDog bars as possible, so we started at the latest London addition: BrewDog Shepherds Bush. After a couple of beers, we moved on to Camden. First fish and chips at Hook, where the dishes served looked and tasted remarkably like those at Bia Mara in Brussels… That means excellent, in case you were wondering! 🙂

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Then a beer in the nearby BrewDog Camden, and after a short stop at the Dean Swift, our third BrewDog bar: BrewDog Shoreditch. Since they were about to close, we were ushered into UnderDog, the beery cocktail bar of BrewDog.

Since we didn’t feel like switching to cocktails, and preferred to sleep a little before another day of playing tourist, we decided to go back to our hotel. The previous night we were quite happy with the service provided by our Uber taxi, and the very reasonable ride price of £7.92, so even when the app warned us it the cost would be 2.4 times the normal rate, we went ahead and ordered another one. Oh boy, was that a mistake… Apparently we were quite a bit further from the hotel this time, since the total added up to £34.58!


Our second day in London we visited Kensington PalaceWestminster AbbeyThe London Bridge Experience and were just too late for the Tower of London. The London Transport Museum was still open, so we went there, and had a stroll through Covent Garden. Unfortunately looking for dinner did take a bit longer than expected, so we didn’t have any time to spare for the fourth BrewDog bar in London this time, since we had to pick up our luggage and catch our Megabus to Edinburgh…


After arriving in Edinburgh, we checked into our hotel ( easyHotel ) for a little nap — I’m never fully rested after a night on a sleeper bus — and shower.

Since it was h–na’s first time in Edinburgh, we decided to get on one of those tour buses to get an overall view of the city. We had a small, standing lunch at Oink, and then went for an Introduction to BrewDog Tasting and Talk with Five Craft Beers to Taste Each with Cheese and Meats at BrewDog Edinburgh. Mostly beers from their core range, but I’m happy to say I was able to identify each and every one of them, before the staff told us which ones they were! 🙂

It was the 25th of January that day: Burns’ Night! So we went to a ceilidh with a haggis, neeps & tatties buffet. Not the best of combinations for me, since I wasn’t really up for more dancing after having a go at the buffet…


All was digested by the next morning, however, so plenty of room for a proper Scottish breakfast! 🙂

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This day we went on another bus to see Leith as well, and in the afternoon we had a private tour of Edinburgh Castle. Unfortunately, after the tour most museums in the castle were closed already. Winter isn’t the best time of year to be a tourist, so it seems…

But there’s always BrewDog Edinburgh, the place where I first discovered decent craft beer outside of Belgium and became a BrewDog fan. And as an Equity Punk, it is especially interesting to get there and order before five o’ clock to enjoy a very attractive Daytime Discount! 🙂

The culinary discovery of this trip must have been Wings: only chicken wings on the menu—well, and a few side dishes—but dozens of different sauces or dry rubs, and delightfully geeky!

In the evening, we visited the vaults under the South Bridge with a guide. Once again, there was nobody but my girlfriend and I. It must really be a hard time for the tourist industry in Edinburgh…

To finish the day, a visit to the Bow Bar — they even had beer from De Natte Gijt! — and one last drink at the Ghillie Dhu before turning in.


Our last day in Edinburgh we went to the National Museum of Scotland, where we rushed to the roof to hear the one o’ clock gun and see the ball drop on the Nelson Monument, only to miss it by seconds… It was the third time in Edinburgh for me, and I still haven’t actually seen or heard it!

Lunch at another newcomer in Old Reekie: Reekie’s Smokehouse. Here it was the first time I had brisket — tasty — but I’ll have to come back to try the ‘burnt ends’. Or maybe I’ll just get the whole Meatfest next time! 🙂

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We couldn’t say goodbye to Edinburgh without a last visit to BrewDog Edinburgh, and to finish it off, we shared a beer flight at The Hanging Bat.

Oh, I almost forgot about my mission to get some Irn-Bru bottles in my tartan, but I did manage to find some eventually! 🙂

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Going home, once again, terrible delays plagued us, but I have to say: the Megabus customer support on Twitter is second to none, and they helped us get home to the best of their abilities!