A MAGICAL TRIP TO SCOTLAND
Scotland’s latest tourist attraction is the Harry Potter train, but that is not the only thing magical about the country By Juhi Chawla
We went to Scotland because of the kids; because the kids were looking for magic – specifically the Harry Potter train ride, given that Scotland is JK Rowling’s land.
This was our annual vacation abroad. Jay, my husband, is a member of the Young Presidents’ Organisation and also the International Forum group. Every summer, the members’ families travel together for a holiday.
Initially, when the group was new, we visited each other’s countries, but this year, it was Scotland – so, exciting for the kids!
QUEEN OF ALL CITIES
lovely restaurants. For vegetarians like us, the menus were limited, but the food was still wonderful.
In Edinburgh, we stayed at the Caledonian, a Waldorf Astoria property right in the heart of town. Apparently, in the old days, this used to be a railway hotel. The railway ended right there and passengers who wanted to stop overnight would just book themselves in. So the hotel has an interesting history, just like Edinburgh itself.
Edinburgh is sometimes known as the Athens of the North. One of the most beautiful cities in Europe, it has two distinct areas, the old town and the new town. But the two, somehow, are seamlessly connected. No wonder the city has been awarded UNESCO’s world heritage site status.
Edinburgh Castle sits on a big volcanic rock in the old town. On
The country’s history dates back to the Middle Ages... And Edinburgh is known as the Athens of the North!
Our trip to Scotland was for five days, of which one was spent in Edinburgh, where we visited all the tourist haunts: the castles, the museums and the
our first day, as we rushed to the castle, we went via a huge garden next to one of the main streets, which kind of cascades downwards, almost like a V-shaped space. There were lovely walkways and gardens for picnics and afternoon lazes, but in the old days, according to our guide, the space was a dark and eerie lake with all kinds of strange stories attached.
The castle itself is a fortress with a palace within. We went through the lovely rooms where the king and queen lived, the rooms where gatherings took place, the chapel, and the kitchens. Part of the castle has been turned into a museum, with lifelike models of the past: the kings, the queens, the working people, soldiers, children and scenarios from that era. It was beautifully done and I wish our museums in India were like that.
That evening, we went for a walk through the old town. Our guide was actually an actor and, dressed in a black cape and a black hat, he took us past interesting sights and enacted stories from those eras, complete with different voice tones and accents. This turned the whole evening into a gigantic tale – a fascinating way to learn some history.
TOSSING THE CABER
There was more history the next day, when we visited the Scone Palace, home of the family of the earl and countess of Mansfield for the past 400 years, and the place of Scottish coronations. The throne at Scone is really just a piece of stone, but a newly crowned king would al- ways walk down the aisle towards it in a ceremony attended by royals and nobles.
Later, we played highland games in the palace grounds: traditional games played by villagers, such as tossing the caber. The caber is a large 4-feet pole, which you have to pick up, spin around and toss, aiming to have it land on the ground in the 12 o’clock position. Then we played weight over the bar, swinging a block of wood and throwing it over a bar placed 15 feet behind us, and later we tossed gumboots into large tyres. Funny games, made funnier by the fact that we really couldn’t play them!
LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
1. The Hogwarts Express goes over the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which has 21 arches. However, the train itself is quite small and not half as glamorous as it seemed in the movie 2. Juhi’s husband and daughter, Jay and Jhanvi, had a field day in Edinburgh 3. Shakespeare didn’t just create the Glamis Castle out of thin air. The actual castle belongs to the Strathmore Family. Today, the general public can not only take a tour of the castle, but also enjoy a meal at the castle’s Victorian Kitchen Restaurant 4. Edinburgh is sometimes known as the Athens of the North. It has two distinct areas, the old town and the new town We also went for a safari – a drive in the mountains of Scotland. On our way up, we stopped at a military-looking camp for a lunch of soup and sandwiches, and then continued to the point we’d been aiming for – a lookout point reached by a short walk through some woods. There was the most amazing view of the lakes below – it was just beautiful! We were 2,000 feet above sea level, and down below was a little village surrounded by green trees. Gorgeous! But by the time we had our phones out to shoot pictures, it was all gone. Fog had rolled in and the scenery vanished. That’s the Scottish climate for you – the
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