Well, I've been back from Bonnie Scotland for a week now, actually, but I've been a bit busy since then.
As my mother discovered when she visited a while back, Scotland is not as wild or backward as one might think ("they have a Marks and Spencer's in Inverness!") and Sam and I had a wonderful few days.
We spent the first two days in Edinburgh staying with our great aunt, which was fantastic. I think I've paid tribute to her before in this corner of the blogosphere, and her legendary status was confirmed when it transpired that the random Edinburgh couple who sat next to us on the journey North actually knew her (I kid you not). On arrival she took one look at my Grade 2 'style' and exclaimed "what's with the hair?!", and it was nice to see that all was well.
Edinburgh, I have decided, has JP's seal of approval and I did enjoy seeing the sights. We packed quite a lot in, including an exhibition on tartan which turned out to be really interesting, and a trip to the Dynamic Earth, which is well worth a visit. Unfortunately we also had to endure passing by the Parliament Building, which was an assualt on the eyes. I still cannot understand how the expense could be in any way justified, but I'll save my rant for another time.
We also had the pleasure of meeting two second cousins - one from either side of the family - in the same city, which was great.
We then continued North to Inverness. For the first night we stayed with my mum's cousin, which was fantastic. As in Edinburgh we were completely spoiled, and very well looked after. Dinner ("an easy meal") turned out to be smoked salmon, followed by venison and washed down with plenty of wine. The conversation flowed ( though my mum would probably have killed me for pronouncing 'garage' as "garidge" at one point) and we had a lot of fun.
The next day took us to Loch Ness, and Urquhart Castle, which was very interesting. We had a very pleasant cruise on the loch, and although my implication that I saw the monster might have been a bit misleading, we did see the mobile library which is home to a full time 'monster hunter'. Weirdo. We also saw the staging being erected for 'Rock Ness' which sounds as though it would have been worth going for the name alone.
'The Kitchen' was an excellent place to stop for dinner, set back from the river in this rather attractive small city, and we then enjoyed (or endured, depending on your perspective) a historical tour. Finally we hit Hootenanny's for the best in live music, and very much enjoyed the entertainment provided by Houghmagandie.
All good things must come to an end, and so we returned home. I am now working on my dissertation, which I am finding very interesting. Unfortunately a commute of 1 1/2 hours takes its toll, so I must crash now. Plus, having just seen Hazel Blears claim to be an honest politician and Alan Johnson smugly champion a good record of "investment in public services" (*cough*) I think it's time I shut up before I enter 'grumpy old man' mode again.