You know that thing, that global thing, that stopped everyone travelling? No, not the virtually unpronounceable volcano in Iceland… which, incidentally, caused the largest air-traffic shutdown since WW2. At the time, obviously. In 2010.
But this is 2020 (yes, still) and we all know what I’m talking about. So let’s move on.
Well, although there were brief windows of international travel possibilities, we chose to stay close to home to be a little safer. And I have to say, we discovered some gorgeous areas, often within a very short walk of our own front door, allowing us to be back in time for tea!
The Yorkshire seaside town of Whitby may have been firmly put on the tourist map, thanks to Bram Stoker and his vampiric anti-hero, subsequently becoming a North of England Mecca for all things Gothic or Steam Punk, but take a 5 minute drive south from the prominent abbey and you’ll discover a place with a darker, and more factual, history.
…the delightful country of our recent trip, DENMARK, specifically the wonderful city of COPENHAGEN!
Having a love of all things Scandi, scrumptious food and beautiful photo opportunities, the capital seemed like a great location for a short school holiday getaway. I’d heard nothing but good things about Copenhagen and was excited to experience some of the healthy, Hygge lifestyle.
And we were certainly not disappointed. Firstly, the Danish are just soooo polite and friendly. Copenhagen never had the feel of a capital city, being very relaxed, super clean and orderly – the road might be empty but don’t go thinking you can just saunter across unless the green man says yes!
Even nearer the central station, around the red light district, I would have happily walked around alone and although we did see large numbers of police vans heading out towards the waterfront on a couple of days*, I don’t believe they actually have crime. More likely the police were bored (as everyone is so considerate of each other) and simply needed to give the vans a run out. Even the sirens came on in small blasts, as if to apologise to the masses for the disruption they were causing!
Every interaction we had was friendly and happy – except, perhaps, for the bus driver, who wasn’t exactly grumpy, he just didn’t lay on a special taxi service to the connecting bus (that we weren’t aware we needed) when his route ended, instead telling us that we had to get off. How disgraceful… 😉
The whole atmosphere and mindset of getting outside, spending time with friends and family and striving for positive mental health certainly oozed through every area we visited. There’s no wonder they are the happiest nation on the planet.
So, here’s my run-down on all the highlights and why you definitely should try to spend a few days in Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen!
I feel it should be a band. Maybe a folk ensemble, one with some jaunty chap on a fiddle and another, beardy bloke banging on a bodhran.
Then again, I’m possibly being swayed by some Celtic vibe, as it’s actually an area of Scotland!
Not quite the true Highlands, it is still wild, craggy, and undeniably stunning. Winding roads lead through quaint stone villages, overshadowed by atmospheric mountains, unspoiled forests and surrounded by a multitude of lochs.
Although Loch Ness (plusa few others) may be longer and/or deeper (and have resident monsters!), Loch Lomond is the largest expanse of fresh water in Britain and part of the Trossachs National Park.
Being only an hour away from both Edinburgh and Glasgow, it’s a perfect base for exploring and revisiting history (Rob Roy’s grave was up the road and Stirling, with the Wallace Monument, is 20 minutes away). But you could easily spend longer and never leave the area.
We stayed in a cabin* on the shores of neighbouring Lake of Menteith – the only area of water labelled ‘lake’ in Scotland.
We’re quite lucky to live in a part of the UK that is also not far from rural retreats and green spaces, but the silence when you are truly deep in the countryside is something else.
Had it not been for the (apparently wild) mallards that literally tapped on the window each day to let us know they had arrived, we could have easily just spent the week sleeping blissfully undisturbed!
But then we would have missed out on seeing our first ever red squirrel, spectacular scenery and bracing walks. Oh and bracing they were… and extremely wet. But hey, at least we didn’t get bitten by midges!
Ever since visiting for the day, more than 20 years ago, I’ve held a romantic view of the City of Edinburgh. From stepping off the train at Waverley Station, the cobbled streets winding among centuries old architecture, from Medieval to Georgian, captivated me.
And yet I’ve never had, or made, the chance to go back until last week.
Knowing we were heading to Scotland for a week of walking lochs and glens, I suggested we break up the journey by stopping in the country’s capital for a wander, lunch and to revisit some landmarks I’d stopped by first time around. And maybe take in a bit of the Fringe.
The Fringe Festival, if you are unfamiliar with it, is the world’s largest arts festival, held annually in Edinburgh for almost the entirety of August and showcases anything from comedy, street performances, theatre and caberet to busking, dance and spoken word. Anyone can participate and there are loads of free performances for the public to watch.
This was Sam’s first time in the City, so I was hopeful that he would also fall instantly in love with the place, if I dragged him to various landmarks and throw in some comedy. What I hadn’t realised however, was that August is not only the month of the Fringe but also the month for the famous Military Tattoo.
So it was busy. Which we admittedly anticipated but not to the level we witnessed. We were like Scottish salmon trying to reach our spawning grounds as we made for the castle, inch by inch, against the torrent of tourists flowing down the Royal Mile.
I made it clear that should I ever suggest spending New Year’s here again (it happens once every couple of years) that someone should slap me with a kipper and bring me to my senses!
And unfortunately, once we reached our destination, it was pretty obvious I was not going to get any of the city views that I had remembered, unless we paid the high price to enter the castle, due to the stadium seating erected to watch bagpipe and kilt parade!
Oh well, let’s go and look for Greyfriar’s Bobby, I said. He’s nearby…
Sam was not versed in who, or what, Bobby was until I brought him up to speed. Which I will kindly do for you now, too! Here’s your crash course: Greyfriar’s Bobby is the story of a Skye terrier, who guarded his master’s grave (purportedly a police nightwatchman) for 14 years until he died himself. Locals looked after him and then had a fountain made to commemorate him, which is now a tourist attraction.
On my first visit, it took me over an hour to find the statue once I’d located the correct street in the city…only to realise I’d been stood next to it for a very long time. I blame my height and the fact that I don’t generally look up.
So you’d think this time would be easier, wouldn’t you? Yeah…me too!
I’ve not grown much and as such, when something is surrounded by a throng of people, it’s difficult for me to see what is at the centre. I mean, the large group should have been a clue, but then pretty much every corner in Edinburgh has a large group snapping away with an array of devices.
But once I’d spotted him I was able to take a pic of the wee little doggie and rub his nose for luck. Which Sam found hilarious as he says I was the only non-foreign tourist to do so. Plus, he didn’t really get what all the fuss was about.
We moved on.
Passing, apparently, where JK Rowling penned her first Harry Potter. I felt a little guilty at not knowing this fact but then reminded myself that I was a fan of HP and not JKR…
So after a Mexican midday snack, we ventured into the Fringe to be entertained. As we knew we only had a few hours in Edinburgh, we opted for the free street shows situated around the Royal Mile.
Okay, I get that art is subjective and what one person doesn’t understand, another will rave over. But I was expecting some kind of quality. Or humour. Hopefully a smidge of both.
Instead, we got weird. And I doubt very much we got the weirdest!
Boys walking around in their pants anyone? Cast of Magic Mike, you ask? No. But we do have some pasty, gangly teens who might be about to start a monologue lamenting their lack of chest hair.
Dance: Two performances, one with lots of moody looks and red silk. The other…quite possibly just a bloke from the crowd who thought he’d try to embarrass his kids with some full-on ‘dad dancing’ and a few impromptu lunges and waggles of his tongue.
Then we have the woman singing to Kylie. Everyone loves a singalong and a bit of cheesy pop, right? Wrong. Because what I can’t get out of my head is Kylie’s track of a similar name, sung by a woman on top of a bucket, in a shower cap, pretending to be a seal. (Perhaps there was some ironic twist / reference to another singer she was going for…)
Oh yes, and nobody could hear the track, as it was being played on her headphones. But the beat was unmistakable. La, la, la…
We were saved by a group of A cappella chaps, who weren’t supposed to be performing to the crowd but saw the opportunity of an empty stage and grabbed it. Which I guess is part of what the Fringe is about: spontaneity.
But I have to say I was expecting more – a melting pot of eclectic performers to wow the masses. What we got was more like a bad episode of Britain’s Got Talent in the rain (yes, after months of glorious heatwave, we chose a week of damp and drizzle!) So I doubt we’ll be rushing back, unless we have more time and can plan in some paid shows that we’ve researched.
Edinburgh on the other hand, is still up there for me in a top list of cities I like to mooch around in. So I will return and perhaps stay longer than a few hours. Sometime in the next twenty years, I reckon!
Have you been to Edinburgh or experienced the Fringe? I’d love to hear what you think of the place if you have. Am I just old? Did I get it wrong?