Kat’s Scotland Guide: Longer Journeys




2 hours + from Edinburgh:

Glencoe (top, above) (2.5 hours) – featured in the Bond film Skyfall, stunning mountain ranges and just an incredibly-beautiful drive overall! I love this drive so much.  Take the route that is M9-A84-A85-A82 – enter the Glencoe Visitor Centre as your destination (GPS postcode PH49 4HX).
Glenfinnan monument & viaduct (bottom, above) (3 hours-ish north-west) – featured in Harry Potter etc, and a very pretty drive up there indeed, it’s about 3 hours from Edinburgh. Generally the west coast is just beautiful.
Oban (2 hours 45 north-west) – a very pretty seaside village with a coastal garden called Inverewe (below, top) which is an adventure to get to (single track roads!)
Inverness/Loch Ness (3 hours north) –  Inverness is the best vantage point for getting to Loch Ness.  You can get a cruise from Inverness or drive to the loch yourself. If you get the cruise they often drop you off at the ruins of Castle Urquhart which is a good visit. Inverness also has the famous Culloden battlefield.
Culzean Castle (below, bottom)


(2 ¾ – 3 hours south west) – Culzean Castle (pronounced Cul-ain) is a beautiful castle on the west coast looking out towards Arran. It is surrounded by stunning gardens and is just well worth visiting if you’re heading south, or if you just fancy it for a day.



I hope you enjoyed this wee series. Any questions, hit me up and I’d be happy to update the guides or put up a Q&A.




On faith


I have a lot of complicated feelings about faith lately.



There have been a few changes. It all started, I think, at the end of 2013, when Brigadoon started to consume my life. I went to shul infrequently, pushed aside everything apart from the show. Rehearsing 3x a week was exhausting but fulfilling, exhilarating but stressful. And when the show was over in early 2014, I just needed a break. From most things in life, other than my (almost) husband and my bed.



I’d been feeling a bit detached already. After months of no activity, I realised that my feelings associated with shul were not 100% positive. I was a little turned off by some of the attendees, and by the fact that after attending for 6 years, I still felt a bit like an outsider. The people I enjoyed seeing were my age (with a few exceptions), and I continued to be involved and engaged because of them (and services with the wonderful Rabbi), rather than anything.  My studies/group participation was minimal, and it was so easy just to drift away.



I started to feel resentful, and tired, and excluded, even if it was of my own making. This year, I didn’t go to High Holyday services – the first time since 2009.  I reflected and acknowledged these important days at home, but I couldn’t shake the feelings of guilt. I still have these feelings now. But do I want to go out of guilt? It shouldn’t be guilt and obligation that drive you to do anything (unless it’s from your mother on her birthday, amirite?), and us Jews? We’re amazing at guilt.

I realised that my only reason for attending this year would be to be seen to be attending. And the spiritual/religious elements of it would not be the sole purpose. And for me, they are the purpose.



The tough thing for me about Judaism, and particularly Liberal Judaism, is also one of its strongest selling points: belief doesn’t matter.  Belief in a God that has any involvement in our lives is not a requirement to be a good Jew, a good person, a good member of the community. Many do not believe in anything other than the elements of the Torah that tell us to be the best person we can be: be involved in your community, be good to others, help those in need, and give to charity.

But for me, it’s lonely.  I don’t necessarily feel that God is moving us around like pawns – in fact, I don’t believe that at all. But I sought out a community because I was tired of being Jewish on my own. And I get that connection with other Jews when I go, but I don’t get that connection of belief. And I sometimes struggle with that.  Sometimes Christianity seems easier and more fulfilling – a community of people who all so strongly believe in something and feel that joy in their hearts when they worship together.  This is most likely a carry-over from my days as a Christian, but I miss that joy. I miss that communal excitement and love and happiness. And sometimes I can’t help but listen to my old Christian music, just to feel that love for God swell through me (ignoring the Jesus ones, still!). Celebrating that joy of belief isn’t really the Jewish way.



I still think Judaism is the right fit for me, religiously. But it has been a struggle for a long time and I don’t know where to go next.  I feel like I wish to step up my home observance, but I’m not sure where it puts me in the community (I don’t think this is the end of my time with them just yet), and I’m not sure how it will affect my family and children in future.  One thing that is always weighing on my mind is our limited time left in Scotland, which I’ll explain at a later date..



Another big change as that I slowly but surely decided not to keep kosher anymore.  It wasn’t sudden, and it was a bit weird – my brain was telling me I had no good reasons to continue, but my habit/sentimentality was telling me that to hold on to my decision from years ago.  I started keeping kosher at 19 as a way to bring more Judaism into my life, as an element of it that I could control, but. That doesn’t matter anymore. What matters is my intention and my heart.



I can’t bring myself to eat bacon in a fry-up, that seems like a step too far, and I probably won’t be mowing down on any pork chops anytime soon. But I’ve been having things like carbonara with a bit of pancetta, chorizo in basically everything (that’s the best so far), sausages without checking for pork contents, etc. Small changes.



One thing that hasn’t changed is my strong belief that beliefs are personal. You do what’s best for you, what feels right to you, and what honours your gut instinct.  Even if that sometimes means stepping away for a while.



Have you been in this struggle? I’d love to hear your thoughts.




Kat’s Scotland Guide: Further Afield


So you’re here, you’ve got wheels, and you want to see more of Scotland..




Rosslyn Chapel

Falkirk Wheel


Close to Edinburgh (30-60 minutes):

Rosslyn Chapel (20-30 mins east) – lovely chapel, featured in The Da Vinci code.
Falkirk Wheel (20-30 mins west) – very cool giant loch wheel (Google it or check out the website to understand!)
Glasgow (45-60 mins west) – for a wander

Glasgow is a larger city and less old/pretty but still worth a look, if you fancy a day trip.



Loch Lomond from Luss


45-90 minutes from Edinburgh:

Culross (30-40 mins north-east) – old historical village, very pretty.
North Berwick (45 mins north-east) – lovely beach-side town.
Stirling (45 mins north-west) – Stirling Castle is really worth visiting!
Anstruther (1hr 10 mins north-east) – best fish and chips in UK.
St. Andrews (1hr 10 mins north-east) – oldest golf course in Scotland.
Loch Lomond (1hr 30 mins west) – beautiful loch you can cruise on or just visit Luss or Balmaha.


We’ll go even further next time…!





Italy Part 1: Rome


Here are some photos from our Italian Honeymoon – first city? Rome.  It was staggeringly hot, and as it was the first stop, it took a bit of adjustment learning that we needed to pace ourselves, hydrate all the damn time, and go back to the room for a rest if needed. We had 33-36C days during our time there. My favourite spots were the Vatican Museum (especially all the ceilings – this applies to all of Italy, really), the Colosseo/Forum, and it was just lovely seeing my friend Francesca again and her wee family (we’re both from the same town but they are living in Denmark – we just both happened to be in Rome!)

Here we go…


With Francesca and baby Adeline.

Sadly the Trevi is under maintenance but I still got to make my wish.

Yes, the hat is the dorkiest. All wardrobe decisions each day were based on “will this make me want to die”.


Next up, Florence!  The rest of our Rome shots are on Flickr here.





Kat’s Scotland Guide: Edinburgh Pt 2




See Part 1 here.  And also, a version of this was published early without the links. My apologies.



Extra fun stuff

Take the ‘closes’ Edinburgh is full of small windy staircases and pathways we call ‘closes’ to get between areas. Take a few off the Royal Mile and get lost.  They also do free ghost tours and there is a special one, “Mary King’s Close”, set up as an attraction (walking tour under Edinburgh).
Ceilidh! A Scottish traditional dance/folk dancing, they’re quite regularly held if you do some Googling.  NB: Pronounced ‘kay-lee’
Deep Fried Mars Bar We’re kinda famous for this ridiculous treat.  My favourite place to try it is the Clam Shell fish and chip shop on the Royal Mile. Worth trying once.
Edinburgh Zoo We have pandas!  To get to the Zoo take the no. 26 or no. 31 buses from Princes St.




Panda and Sons A ‘hidden’ bar on Queen Street.
Eteaket Excellent teas and cakes, etc, off George Street.
Illegal Jack’s One of my favourite restaurants ever in Edinburgh – cheap, no frills Tex-Mex. Good food made by good people. This is up the road a bit further from central town but definitely walkable from Greyfriar’s Bobby, etc.
Chaophraya Excellent Thai restaurant on the top of a building on Castle St, you can get good views of the Castle at night if you ask for a good viewing table! Bookable online.
Spoon Good wee eatery by the Festival Theatre.
Blackbird In Tollcross (ask a local, not too far a walk up Lothian Road until it splits, take the right fork) – good food and cocktails.
Tuk Tuk Indian ‘tapas’ just up from Blackbird in Tollcross.
The Banshee Labyrinth A bar with a series of small “caves” you can sit and drink in.
Jekyll & Hyde* Hanover St – has good cheap cocktails.
Bar Soba* Great wee cheap Asian eatery.
The Dogs* Bit more upmarket and super tasty.
Montpeliers Bruntsfield – excellent brunch.
Loudons Fountainbridge – excellent brunch.
Arcade Bar, Haggis & Whisky House On Cockburn (Co-burn) street off the Royal Mile. Whiskies and haggis, which is worth trying. Vege haggis is delicious too.
The Last Drop Pub on the Grassmarket, at the site of Edinburgh’s last hanging. Scottish dishes.

*All next door to each other


Up next:  a bit further afield!  And later in the year, I’ll post about Edinburgh at Christmas.





Kat’s Scotland Guide: Edinburgh Pt 1


I get asked fairly regularly to recommend itineraries or places to see when visiting Scotland, so I thought I’d put up a few posts with my recommendations, starting with Edinburgh itself. So! Without further ado..

A wee disclaimer: This is not a massive list because I usually write these for people who are here for a really short time! An itinerary for longer trips will come later.




Edinburgh is a compact city.  Most of it is very walkable, but there is also an excellent bus and tram system.  I’d recommend purchasing a day ticket if you are going to get lots of buses, but it’s actually not necessary if you’re not venturing too far out and have a car for the rest of your visit to Scotland.



Transport from the airport:

I recommend the tram, especially if you are staying centrally.  They run every 8-12 minutes and it takes about 35 minutes to get into the city.  It’s £5 one way, £8 return and there are machines so you can use a card, etc.  Alternatively, if you are staying in Corstorphine, Murrayfield, etc, then take the Airport Bus (#100, bright blue and available right outside arrivals).



Places to stay:

Central hotels, with varying prices-

Apex Hotel (Chain, ****) – http://www.apexhotels.co.uk/en/hotels/edinburgh/

The Rutland (Boutique) – http://www.therutlandhotel.com/

Ibis South Bridge (Chain, ***) – http://www.accorhotels.com/gb/hotel-8484-ibis-edinburgh-centre-south-bridge/index.shtml

The Sheraton (Chain, ****, rooftop pool!) – http://www.sheratonedinburgh.co.uk/


And there are also budget spots-

Hostelworld is your best bet – http://www.hostelworld.com/hostels/Edinburgh

Also there are quite a few places in the Lochside area – Ibis Budget, Premier Inn.. which seems a bit far out on a map but is on the tram route so super easy (and quiet, cause it’s near business parks!)

There’s also an Easyhotel on Princes St.


It’s super quick to get into Edinburgh on a bus, if central prices put you off and you can find a good deal a bit further out.  We have great B&Bs!  Look in the Roseburn, Murrayfield, Corstorphine areas.



To Do/Itinerary ideas:

New Town

Princes St/George St The majority of our shopping is on or near Princes St and is known as Edinburgh’s ‘high street’ (in the UK this is what you’d call the main street for shopping etc – don’t confused with the actual High Street, that’s the Royal Mile.. sorry!). George St is one block up and a bit more upmarket.
Calton Hill At the far end of Princes St you’ll reach St. James Shopping Centre on your left, cross over to the next corner, pass a Howie’s restaurant and an Apex hotel. Keep going towards the monuments you can see up ahead.  Take the staircase, then turn right and walk up the hill.  This is a free view out over Edinburgh/the craigs. Worth the short hike!
Scott Monument/Princes St Gardens The Scott Monument is the dark gothic rocket-ship-looking thing on Princes St. You can go up for a view of Edinburgh for about £4. Small spiral staircases (just a warning in case you’re claustrophobic).  The gardens are also nice for a wander/a good view from below the Castle.
Rose Street In between Princes St and George St there is a pedestrianised street with small restaurants and bars.



Royal Mile/Old Town

Walk along Princes St past the train station until you reach the Balmoral Hotel. Turn right and walk up South Bridge to the “Royal Mile”.

Edinburgh Castle A must. A bit steep at £16 a person, but also has excellent views out over Edinburgh.
Tartan Weaving Mill Free and basic, a good way to see tartan being made, research tartans, try on tartans and get a “ye olde” style photo, buy tourist ‘tat’.
The Scotch Whisky Experience A fun museum about whisky. And you get tasters, etc.
Grassmarket/nearby Take George IV bridge and turn right onto Victoria St (my favourite street in Edinburgh), then at the bottom you’ll be on the Grassmarket. Pubs galore.  There is also a great vintage/thrift shop called Armstrong’s that is worth visiting.
Holyrood Palace/Holyrood Park/Arthur’s Seat At the bottom of the Royal Mile is Holyrood Palace, where the Queen stays when she is in Edinburgh. You can book a tour.  It is also at the entrance to the Holyrood Park (very pretty) and Arthur’s Seat (the large hill in the park, which is actually an extinct volcano! So is the Castle hill!).  Not too tough a climb and a great view.


That’s covering some of the more touristy stuff.  My next post will cover a few other interesting spots and venture out of Edinburgh!