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Postcards from Scotland

September 23, 2010

There’s something about a brooding, throaty Scottish accent. It’s absolutely my favorite. And it doesn’t hurt that I’m actually Scottish, at least the Hazels side of me is. According to a really old photo album put together by my late Grandma Mary, the Hazels clan has roots in what was Forfarshire, Scotland, today better known as Angus (which sounds about right what with the stockiness of those Hazels’ genes). Also, is it just me or does Forfarshire sound like a made-up place in Shrek?

I’m not alone in my Scottish penchant–fellow twins and bloggers extraordinaire, Catherine and Lauren (or Cath and Lar) the lovelies behind the über-popular (and just featured on’s Smitten Guide) Asian Cajuns adore the UK isle as well.

Lar was just in Scotland, and next month, you’ll get to read all about Cath’s Los Angeles adventures. So, here’s a twin and Scottish love collaboration in recap form.

I’m absolutely a city girl, but the rugged rural parts of Scotland could totally convince me to forgo the frenzied, smoggy city-life. The air is so clean, and everything has this gorgeous fresh scent. You know those romanticized postcards of rolling green hills, wispy clouds and full rainbows? The real thing puts them to shame.

We started out our trip in the rugged gorgeousness of the Highlands. During August and early September the heather (small purple flowers) bloom and the country is covered in greens and purples. We also (not exaggerating) saw frequent fully arched rainbows as we stepped out for a hike.

After a morning of hiking, we stop by a pub for a pint or a cup of tea and crumbly, buttery shortbread. A cup of tea and a nibble (or gobbling) of shortbread is a perfect antidote to any cloudy or rainy weather you might experience in Scotland. I swear I almost wanted more rain and lower temperatures just to get to wrap my hands around a warm mug of tea.

There are more sheep than people in Scotland. Up in the highlands you will actually feel like it is only you and sheep and maybe a few highland coos (cows). Sheep are rather… sheepish, so I could only get a few snaps of them as they scampered away from my camera.

Not the most attractive name for a delicious dish, but I swear cullen skink is something you should try, especially if you love smoked fish. Cullen is a town in Scotland and “skink” essentially means “shank.” So think, shank-of-smoked-fish-soup-from-the-town-of-Cullen. Better? Well, any way you say it, I swear it’s divine. We stumbled across a beautiful pub in the heart of the highlands just as a chilly mist was clearing. The minute we walked in, the smell of fresh baked bread and smoked fish had our mouths watering. They served it with a bit of sour cream and scallions on top.

Ptarmingan (prounced “Tar-mi-gan”) is just outside of the large-ish town of Pitlochry. We stayed at this beautiful B&B (Ptarmingan House), on our way down from Edinburgh. The rooms were gorgeous, the breakfast fry-up delicious, and place was run by a family of Olympic Curlers. Really. Those curling stones in the photo are not just for show.

Ahhh… Edinburgh. I spent six months living in Edinburgh when I was in college and loved every minute of my stay. The best way to describe it is a small-scale London (obviously, with a Scottish accent). There is a great deal of history and beauty everywhere. It’s not as big as it’s neighbor to the west (Glasgow), but it’s infinitely more charming.

We took a tiny break from our tea drinking one afternoon and stopped in at Chocolate Soup. As the name suggests, they do indeed serve melted chocolate in a bowl. I went for their classic hot chocolate topped with marshmallows and more… chocolate.

Edinburgh shopping is really good. There’s the classic British high street shops like Top Shop, H&M, Zara, Monsoon, etc., but really the best shopping is in the Old Town. Heading down to Grass Market I stumbled across an artists’ co-op, a graphic design bookstore (swoon!), and this boutique (photographed) called Swish. And don’t miss all the great thrifting you can do at the second-hand shops that line Nicolson St. (Oxfam, Cancer Research, etc.).

After a day of sight-seeing and shopping (and eating) in Edinburgh, we headed back to our carriage house in Tranent (just a few miles east of the city). The carriage house we rented is on the grounds of Fa’ Side Castle, and we had amazing views of the city from there. On our last evening in Edinburgh the world-famous Edinburgh Festival was coming to a close. We watched a stunning display of fireworks give us a beautiful send-off.