House Sit in Southern Scotland by Rob Shackleford
Read more of our House-Sit Travel Experiences
|Why is House Sitting for Travel a good idea?
|Our Stay in Inverness
Other of our Travelling with Traveller Inceptio Blogs
|India by Royal Enfields 1
|Britain by House Sits
|Faces of Scotland
|House Sit Bath
|Faces of England
|House Sitting UK
|Faces of Wales
|Visit to London
It’s not the famous Scottish Highlands, but the south of Scotland is still a rich heartland for Scottish culture and nationalism. So as we headed to Edinburgh and our next house sit in Dundee, the Scottish countryside was often windswept and bare, but as the late-morning sunrise shone off the frosty crust of snow on the hills and dales, it was a country that is always undeniably beautiful. From the numerous sheep in all of their variety, to the lochs and villages in the dells, it is a land we have grown to love. For us as Australian visitors, the differences between the Scottish Highlands and the south in Dundee and Edinburgh aren’t jarring. Granted, there are more people and the cities are larger and more numerous, but the same Scottish humor and hospitality applies.
On the way to Dundee we took a diversion across the iconic bridges of the Firth of Forth and headed to Edinburgh. We weren’t going to house sit there, but as far as great cities go, Edinburgh is a place one does not want to miss.
We found Edinburgh to be surprisingly pretty. You know how it can be when you head for a capital city. Most feel like they have lost their soul in the stew of commercialism or bureaucracy, but not Edinburgh. The majority of buildings near the city heart are the charming, beautifully medieval style that many parts of the UK do so well. In the very heart of the city Edinburgh Castle looms, while the city heart is beautifully to make a popular attraction for any visitor. Twee churches with lead windows framed with stone and ornately carved timber exhibit a level of historical preservation that is truly beautiful. Yes, the penchant for stunning buildings and pretty shops spreads far out of the centre to the pretty Bruntsfield, guest house where we stayed.
What is important is how Edinburgh has a great vibe and there is a lot to see. It’s safe, at least when we walked the streets anyway, where tiny specialty shops, restaurants, bakeries and cafes abound, tempting the wallet and pallet at every turn. We were especially fortunate as we visited prior to Christmas, so the twinkle of festive lighting was everywhere. What was most disconcerting for us was the settling of night which took place at the ridiculously early 4.30 in the afternoon, so our eat-when-it-gets-dark response had us looking for a place to eat before most pubs or restaurants were even thinking about opening for dining. Food was fabulous and the mulled wine superbly warming in this festive season. We wish we had stayed longer. Edinburgh is definitely a place to return to.
As part of our stay in the UK, we find it more economical to engage in House Sits. House Sits make staying in the UK possible, for it removes the onerous expense for accommodation while helping us to enjoy specific areas and to make friends. We kicked off our UK experience when with a stay in beautiful Inverness. Our next responsibility was to care for a lively little dachshund / beagle cross by the name of Mabel.
Mabel was one of those little dogs who need much more exercise than they get. She was extremely energetic and we took it upon ourselves to channel her lively intelligence with as much outdoor activity as possible. As we love to walk, we took her to the beaches near the Broughty Castle and then a hike around the Seaton Cliffs Nature Reserve. The wind was terrific as it churned the ocean and blew froth into the air like fist-sized chunks of confetti. Mabel ran and ran, her otter-like body coursing through the long grass as she sniffed out mole-hills and badger burrows in delight. She took special joy with the wind in her face as it blew her floppy ears around.
On the drive home she collapsed into the back of the car, exhausted. Over our brief time with her she became much loved and her keen intelligence obvious. Getting to know the animals in our care is as important as getting to know our hosts and the surrounding area. It makes our form of travel a special delight.
Dundee is quite a pretty city, with a waterfront that is well developed and charming. The icon for the precinct is the V &A Museum, an architectural complex well worth the look, though we were somewhat flummoxed by the content, which was of little interest as it was only about artistic design. Alas, we thought it was a museum and left us disinterested.
The town centre of Dundee is vibrant and the people friendly. Like many places when we travel, we were not able to make the best for such a pretty place. We wish we had spent more time there.
As Deb is a keen golfer, our stay in Dundee could not go without a visit to St Andrews, the epicenter of international golf. Despite its international standing as the home of golf, the course is surprisingly accessible, with locals able to take their dogs for walks on the historic links every Sunday. Visitors can easily enjoy a coffee overlooking the place where the world’s very best golfers often play.
The town of St Andrews is also a surprise, as it is remarkably attractive and historic, with ruins of the old castle and abbey open for inspection by lovers of history, while the ancient university, the oldest in Scotland and third in the English speaking world only after Oxford and Cambridge, fills the town with students.
Because of my books that target historical content, I take particular interest in the history that soaks the beautiful British Isles. In Australia, we become excited by buildings that approach 200 years in age, while Scottish and English buildings are rarely less than that in age. Yes, the obvious history of places like St Andrew excites us.
One of the most obvious attributes of the Scots is their accent. It can often be called Scottish English, or Gaelic, pronounced ‘Garlic’. Okay, as Australians we have also been accused of having an accent, but the Scottish accent is quite broad and enjoyable, though we can often experience the ‘lost in translation’ sort of thing.
We had an experience that can be described as typical – where we were chatting with a friendly Scot while walking the dog and, like this You Tube by comedian Robin Williams, could only understand him half of the time. It made for some pretty odd replies and, I’m sure, he walked away scratching his head at our answers.
After our time in Scotland, we decided that we love it. What a place to visit!
Rob and Deb live at Burleigh Heads, on Australia’s Gold Coast.
Deb is a yoga teacher and administrator par excellence.
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