C. De Melo is a Renaissance Art Historian & Author specializing in historical novels set in Italy. Please visit cdemelo (dot) com
Spooky Scottish Graveyard
Today is the 31st of October...
My husband and I arrived in Florence yesterday after spending four wonderful days in Edinburgh, Scotland. Is there a better way to spend Halloween week than in one of the world's most haunted cities? So far, it tops my list! Edinburgh is a clean, safe, beautiful city full of quaint pubs, imposing churches and charming shops.
Underneath the city, however, lies a labyrinth of closes (narrow alleys) and the famous haunted vaults (home of the sinister ghost named Mr. Boots). Scotland also boasts graveyards creepier than anything Tim Burton can create! For example, the Greyfriars Graveyard is home to one of the world's most famous ghosts- the Mackenzie Poltergeist. Although they keep that section locked up, they do offer tours for those brave enough to visit its lair. No thanks!
In addition to wandering through historical tombstones, we ventured outside the city and found two of the loveliest, most charming pubs either of us have ever seen!
On our second day, we climbed Arthur's Seat to enjoy the views from atop the great hill and continued our scenic walk all the way to the 12th century village of Duddingston. What a little treasure! The church, or kirk, boasted a spooky graveyard that we really liked.
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Sheep's Heid Pub
Just a few steps away was the Sheep's Heid (Sheep's Head). An official plaque stated that the Sheep's Heid is supposedly the oldest pub in all of Scotland and the window displayed all the food awards and great write-ups they had received for exceptional pub food. The historian in me had to go inside and the foodie in me had to taste something.
Since my husband and I are not familiar with Scottish food, we wanted to eat what the many locals around us were eating. My husband ordered the Duddingston Fidget Pie (can't get it anywhere else but here). Big chunks of smoked bacon, cooked in apple cider with apples and apricots, topped with puffed pastry and served with a side of mashed potatoes. It was really good! I ordered the traditional Steak & Guest Ale Pie. Tender pieces of Scottish beef cooked in ale, smothered in a rich brown gravy and topped with a puff pastry. Mixed veggies and boiled potatoes served on the side. Fantastic! We were so impressed with the generous portions, too. Lots of food, reasonable prices.
Scottish Pub Grub
On the third day, we hopped the train out of Edinburgh. After about an hour of riding through the picturesque countryside, we stopped in Stirling, home of the famous Stirling Castle and the National William Wallace Monument (we are Braveheart fans!). The architecture was incredibly charming, but the graveyard was totally creepy and full of big cackling crows (nice, ominous touch).
A friendly man (we later discovered his name is Allan) approached us and handed us a food flyer inviting us to have lunch in one of Stirling's oldest pubs. He emphasized that the food was not frozen like in many pubs, but rather, freshly made. We were sold and off we went to our second historical pub: Nicky Tams.
We were greeted and welcomed very warmly by the pub's proprietor, William. We were shown to our table in the Lucky Corner, which is rumored to be haunted. Apparently, there are two spirits that like to sit there and play cards (we sat down and wondered if these ghosts would show up and join us for lunch). I told William that Allan had approached us on the street and repeated what he had said to us. The proprietor confirmed that the food is indeed fresh, but more than that, he had hired a few professional chefs in order to offer the best food possible to his clients. On that particular day, Scott was on duty (a chef with 22 years of experience). My husband and I rubbed our hands together gleefully. THIS was the place where we would have our first taste of haggis!
We shared the Haggis with mashed turnips and potatoes. Although this was the appetizer and not the full meal, it was more than enough for two. I won't get into the details of what is inside haggis because I want you to try it when you go to Scotland, but I will tell you this: it's REALLY tasty. Savory and quite spicy with a wonderful texture. It was served with a silky whiskey gravy that was divine (thanks, Scott, for making our first haggis experience such a good one!).
For our main course we each had theHaddock and Chips. A big fillet of fresh fish hand dipped in a homemade beer batter and friend to a crisp- no greasy oily texture- nice and light. Served with real potato wedges (not commercial frozen fries), peas and garnish salad. We were both stuffed and pleased- not only were we treated with exceptional hospitality, the food was fabulous. Oh, and the bill was surprisingly cheap, too!
Inside Nicky Tams: The Lucky Corner
Fish & Chips
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Inside Mary King's Close
The Real Mary King's Close (CREEPY)
Be sure to check out The Real Mary King's Close when you go...it's one of the underground tours that focuses on actual history rather than the supernatural. Be warned, however, even here there are some spirits wandering about. I swear that one whispered in my ear when we visited the room where an entire family perished from the plague!
Since most of the Scottish meals tend to be rather heavy and in big portions, be sure to eat your main meal at midday and keep it very light for breakfast and dinner. We hiked and walked quite a bit on this trip, so being active helps to burn the calories. We also munched on apples and raw carrot sticks for snacks and drank lots of water to prevent feeling weighed down and bloated. By following these few tips, you can basically eat what you want and still fit into your clothes on departure day!
If you get the chance to visit this wonderful country, do so...we plan on returning to visit the Highlands. Beautiful landscapes, amazing architecture, hospitable people and yes- real good food to keep you hardy and hale!
Hope I gave you a nice big creepy dose of goosebumps! Happy Halloween and thank you for reading!
C. De Melo
C De Melo (author) on October 31, 2010:
wow...all these wonderful comments!!! Thank you so much!
@ Jill and Tammy- thank you my dear friends. I will be sending you each an email.
@travel man1971- thanks! I've never been to Liverpool or Wales, but my husband really wants to visit the latter. Glad you enjoyed the hub!
Ireno Alcala from Bicol, Philippines on October 31, 2010:
It's just like dining with you two. What a travelogue! I just visited two places in UK, Liverpool and Wales (courtesy of my job as a sailor)
Tammy Lemaire on October 30, 2010:
I really enjoy reading your blogs! I feel like I have been to Scotland and Italy without ever leaving my home. I look forward to reading all about your journey to Brazil. Your photos are also great and always make me hungry... The fish and chips look better than the fish here in Massachusetts. Yum! Hope all is well and keep on writing!
Jill Gamache on October 30, 2010:
Wow Christine that was so awesome.You are such a fabulous writer.What a trip.I truly hope to visit Scotland,Ireland,Italy,Germany,France,Prague & I guess all of Europe&Greece,& Austraila,&Brazil.I am so happy for you but I miss you a lot.You always were that breath of fresh air everyday that people need.The smile you have makes us all smile.People don't smile as much anymore or as much as they should.I miss your make up applications& all the good times here in New England we shared.Remember going to Lupo's in PVD,R.I.?Do they have a foilage out there?Ours is almost at its peak.When are you leaving Italy & are you going to Brazil for a long time?What are guys foing to do down there?
Well Sean & I really appreciated the post,as he lived in Amersterdam for 2 years.He knew what Haggis was.He also went to culinary school & was accepted & toured the ACI in NYC.However he decided to go into biology &has been a professor @MIT in Cambridge ,MA for 13 yrs.He does DNA research on the brain for learning&memory.So he offered an opportunity to go to Amsterdam for 2 yrs&work with a collegue from MIT who was opening up his own lab out there.
You are so well spoken&the writing of this trip was so fascinating.Thank you so much& I'm so happy you had a wonderful trip.
What did that person whisper in your ear?lol