Friday, December 12, 2014

Our Scotland Vacation, September 2012




My husband and I chose to travel to Scotland in late September, wishing to avoid the large crowds of tourists and go at a time when the weather would be mild.  We took a non-stop flight from Dallas to London Heathrow, and a connecting flight to Edinburgh.  My advice would be that if you can avoid Heathrow, do so.  It did not seem well organized.  After showing your passport and going through security, you would walk 15 or 20 feet and have to show it again at another checkpoint, and then show it again at a 3rd. It seemed very redundant in that there was no opportunity for anyone to enter or exit between the checkpoints and no reason for being checked three times.  However, we had a great dinner meal on the long flight, which was American Airlines, and a wonderful breakfast on the connecting flight, which was British Airways. We were served coffee or tea in an actual cup and saucer rather than a disposable styrofoam or paper cup.  Buy your tickets on Priceline.com, we have found them to give the best prices on airfare and hotel combos. 

We got our rental car and my husband proceeded to learn to drive on the wrong side of the road, whch i must say he did well at for his first time. Before starting out on this trip, he had spent hours looking at Scotland on Google Earth, and was already familiar with the main roads and highways.  We had calculated the cost and decided it would be cheaper to stay in a hotel outide Edinburg and rent a car to drive back and forth rather than stay in an hotel in downtown Edinburgh.  So we booked a room at this Holiday Inn Express in Glenrothes, Fife, in the lovely Scottish countryside.  I had some health challenges while on the trip and the staff was very helpful and always concerned about how I was doing.  However, be prepared that hotels in the UK do not offer free internet like the hotels in the U.S. do.  We paid £3 for an hour, £7 for a day and £24 for 3 days.  Also, make sure you log out, not just turn off your computer because if you turn it off and don't log out,  you are still using up your internet hours. You'll try to log in the next day and be out of hours even though the computer was not in use. 


I had plotted the journey from the airport to the hotel on my iPhone maps app, but just after we left the airport, my phone, which had been on for many hours without being charged, ran out of power.  Thankfully, my husband recognized the correct highways and we were able to find our way from Edinburg to Glenrothes without any trouble.

To get to Glenrothes,  you must cross the Firth Road Bridge which spans the Firth of Forth.  To the Left you will see the Forth Bridge which is a cantilevered railway bridge.  Later in our trip we will ride the train from Markinch to Edinburg Waverly Station and pass over the Forth Bridge. 




Scotland didn't seem to have many intersections with stop lights. Instead, they have these roundabouts which eliminate the need for stop lights.  It takes some getting used to.  You don't have to stop if there is no mtraffic around the circle. You just yield, look both ways and go. 

Many of the roundabouts have statues or beautiful flower gardens in the middle.

The Holiday Inn Express in Glenrothes is just after you pass what is called "Leslie Roundabout" which is the last one before you leave Glenrothes and enter Leslie.  The Holiday Inn is on the left just after passing the roundabout.  We had to stop at the Shell station in Glenrothes and ask directions.  It was interesting to go into what amounts to a 7-11 or Circle K convenience store back home.  I didn't notice any brands that I recognized until I got to the cooler and finally saw Diet Coke.  I bought Diet Coke and a Snickers bar because they were the only things I recognized!  

We checked into the Holiday Inn Express and found that our room was upstairs and there was no elevator!  Apparently there is no requirement in Scotland for public buildings to be handicapped-accessible.  Since I have some issues with degenerative disc disease and sciatica, and my leg muscles are not strong, I didn't enjoy the climb up the stairs.  But they moved us to a downstairs room the next day. 

Next door to the Holiday Inn was a pub, the Fettykill Fox.  We ate there three times during our stay and the food was delicious, the atmosphere even more wonderful.  We had:

The Chargrilled Gammon Steak served with a fried egg, fresh pineapple, chips and garden peas for £7.45.

The Cod and Chips, a thick cut cod loin in today’s beer batter with steak cut chips, mushy peas and tartar sauce for
£10.95.

We also had some kind of chicken pie which doesn't seem to be on the menu when I checked today, and a panko bread crumb chicken tender which also does not appear to be on the menu today, but is probably seasonal.

I'd also recommend the "Toad in a Hole" and the "Spotted Dick." 

One thing you should know is that when paying for your meal, American credit cards don't have a "chip" like UK credit cards, which means they have to slide your card and have you sign for it, which is what we are used to here but over there you just stick the card into the card reader and that's it in the UK, no signature required.  Everyone would try to do it the UK way with our card and finally when they learned it was an American card they would slide it and say, "Never had to do that before." However, one good thng is that they are not allowed to take your card out of your sight. They bring the card reader to the table and slide it in your presence and hand it right back to you.  Cuts down on credit card fraud. 

  To see the menus for the Fettykill Fox, click below:

The Fixed Price Menu
The Main Food Menu
The Children's Menu
The Sandwich Menu

It's a family-friendly pub, if you can conceive of a bar as being family-friendly, so bring the kids along.

And by the way I found it interesting that almost everything in Scotalnd is servied with green peas, either whole or mashed.  And the continental breakfast in the hotel always served beans with breakfast. And there's no Mexican food.  The closest we found was a bowl of chili served at a pub in Glenrothes called The Golden Acorn. 



If you need painkillers while in the UK, you won't be able to find Tylenol.  It's called paracetamol over there.  Tylenol and Ibuprofen are only available by prescription, and Naproxen (Aleve) is only available in preparations for "monthly pain" for women. So if you need painkillers while you are there, bring your own. 





A bit about Glenrothes....it is a competely modern town, unlike much of Scotland which is full of castles and old stone buildings and medievil things.  Glenrothes has a population of about 38,000 people.  When you include the areas of Leslie, Balgonie, Markinch and Thornton, which are part of the Glenrothes community, it rises to 47,000 or so.  The closest castle appears to be in Balgonie, which we shall see now.

Click Here for BalgonieCastle

Click Here for FalklandPalace and Garden

Click Here for St.Andrews

Click Here for RosslynChapel

Click Here for Edinburgh

Click here for RiversidePark, Glenrothes



This is what housing looks like in the area.  This picture is of housing across from the Markinch train station.  Here where I live, we would call these duplexes, a building with two living spaces that share an interior wall.  While a duplex is kind of a lower class housing here where I live, it certainly isn't in Scotland.  These might be considered to be more like a townhouse.  They are certainly beautiful. 




This is the Markinch Station, across the street from the housing above. A round trip ticket from Markinch/Glenrothes to Edinburg and back was £11.00 for one person.  It was quite a pleasant ride and we met and talked with many interesting people.  It was a beautiful way to see the coastline.  This train passes over the Forth Rail Bridge. 






Forth Rail Bridge. Take my advice, don't try to drive in downtown Edinburgh.  The streets are very narrow, there's a lot of traffic, limited parking, and my the map app on my iPhone kept taking us the wrong direction. 





  



Waverly Station in Edinburgh.  It is the second largest train station in Britain.  It is 25 acres in the city centre at Princes Street between the Waverly and North Bridges.   If you need to use the bathroom in Waverly Station, be prepared to pay to enter a bathroom stall.  Have coins available.

 



Waverly Station inside.  The little bench on the far right bottom is where we sat while waiting for our train. 




Scotland is called the "Land of Cakes" due to Robert Burns describing it this way in one of his poems.  He called it that because the Scottrish love their oatcakes.  They are eaten for breakfast with butter and jam, or syrup, or in the afternoon with tea, accompanied by cold meat, cheese or fruit.  They are not light and fluffy like our pancakes, and I would describe them more as a large cookie.  Scottish Oat Cake recipe






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