From Venkat With Love: Happy Birthday, Shobha! And the gift given to me by my husband Venkat Sudhakar was a two-week vacation during which we took in the architectural and natural delights of Scotland – islands, highlands, cities, towns, villages, valleys …
Glasgow it was that got it going. We took in a day and a half visiting, among other places, the 500-year-old university with its awesome ensemble of Gothic, Victorian, and Gothic-revival buildings. In the evening we boarded the Black Watch for a three-night cruise to Dublin, Ireland, where we broadened our architectural canvas by having a look at Georgian and Edwardian edifices. And how can one not mention the visit to the famed Guinness Brewery? We sampled some of the best single malts and saw the brewing process. Some of the liquor bottles looked beautiful; we couldn’t help but buy a few.
On returning to Glasgow, we took off in a pre-booked SUV. Our first stop, marking my birthday on November 11, was Edinburgh, where my husband had booked a table in one of the restaurants near the famous Edinburgh Castle. In the mellow glow of the candlelight I recollected scenes from the Harry Potter films that had been shot in and around the city’s palaces and castles.
The next day we headed for the Isle of Skye, the largest of the Inner Hebrides chain and known for its breathtaking rockscapes dipping down to the sea. But darkness had set in by four in the evening, and we made a halt at the beautiful old town of Oban by the sea.
Throughout, it was a journey on sinuous roads in the valleys, and a great many tiny to big waterfalls, lakes and rivers. At every twist and turn of the road we were treated to landscapes as picturesque as those we had just passed. Instead of a hotel, we stayed in a cottage by the lakeside. The pubs and restaurants were homely, seating not more than 10 to 12 couples. Every one of them had a fireplace – my favourite spot to sit and enjoy brandy in hot water or a glass of wine. My husband and I also relished the single malt whisky everywhere we stopped for lunch or dinner. The Scots are very warm and loving. Their spoken English was difficult for us to follow at times, but on realising this they would make it a point to talk more slowly. Every home we visited in Scotland had endearingly cosy interiors.
The food was amazing, especially the creamy broccoli, mushrooms and vegetables soups. Freshwater grilled fish and mussels were mouth-watering too. The Scots are passionate about their arts and crafts, and bagpipe music, and this
is evident everywhere. Traditional men proudly wear the knee-length, skirt-like, checked worsted wool garments called kilts, generally with plain white shirts, tweed jackets or waistcoats, and leather shoes.
With its overwhelming natural beauty, Scotland is one place where women will have no trouble banishing all thoughts of shopping. They can instead lose themselves in admiration of the wonders of the Highlands – especially the red deer stags with their stately antlers, and also the grazing sheep.
We also visited the harbour town of Portree on the Isle of Skye, and the city of Stirling in central Scotland. It’s also called the “Gateway to the Highlands” because it links the Lowlands to them. We then went up to the Highlands and went around the city of Inverness, the towns of Fort William and Ullapool, and the village of Gairloch on the lake of the same name.
The two weeks just flew by, and we realised that this was not quite enough because we could not do the eastern side with its farms and fruit gardens. For those looking for a great holiday we heartily recommend Scotland, with the caveat to factor in more time than we did!
..... Shobha Sudhakar