Scotland in a Day

Scotland in a Day

So believe it or not, I’ve been in Scotland for almost a year and had never been to Loch Ness! Although Scotland is famous for its highland lochs (lakes), they can actually be quite difficult to get to without a car. Thankfully there are plenty of bus tours that take you from the main cities, like Glasgow or Edinburgh, to explore the Highlands! Two of my friends and I decided to splurge on Rabbie’s full-day tour of the Highlands which started in Glasgow and went all the way up to Loch Ness. It’s aptly called ‘Scotland in a Day’.

Now bus tours have their ups and down. There’s the convenience of not needing to worry about driving and directions, but you also have to abide by the driver’s timetable, which can be difficult. There were quite a few times when we wanted to stay longer in a certain place, but we were on a strict schedule! Overall, we enjoyed the tour and we really glad we were able to see some of the most famous Scottish locations.

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Loch Lomond on a grey morning 

Our day started out bright and early in Glasgow City Centre where we caught the tour bus at 7:45am. I will admit I was exactly awake at this point in the morning. Thankfully (for me anyway), our first stop was in a town called Tarbet on Loch Lomond where we got some coffee and snagged some early morning pictures of the Loch. Eve and I were able to see the hill where we did our first (and biggest) hillwalk in Luss way back in October!

It was still a bit gray and rainy when we reached our next  a brief photo stop at theRannoch Moor. Scotland is a really interesting place geographically because there is a fault line running through and the landscape changes quite suddenly as soon as you reach this point. Suddenly, there are rocky mounts and very few trees. The landscape becomes more rugged, but also more beautiful! The Rannoch Moor was an amazing place, with views of the mountain ranges and the glens and lochs.

We continued along our way to one of the most (in)famous and stunningly beautiful places in Scotland, Glencoe. Glencoe is nestled in a valley (glen) between huge mountains. Three of the mounts are known as the Three Sisters. Glencoe is one of the most beautiful places in Scotland, but it is also the site of a terrible tragedy in the late 1600’s. The story is long and complicated, as is much of Scotland’s past, but at Glencoe, clan turned upon clan, and over 80 members of the Clan MacDonald were killed by their guests from Clan Campbell. Despite happening over 300 years ago, the valley pass of Glencoe still holds a quieting sense of reverence for those that died.

We continued our trek north through Fort William and the Nevis range. Unfortunately, due to the rain and clouds, the peak of Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest mountaintop, was hidden in the shadows. But nevertheless, we continued to see some amazing views along the lochs heading towards Loch Ness. We stopped in a town called Fort Augustus on the southern tip of Loch Ness to have a quick lunch break. We really really fascinated by the systems of locks which allows the Caledonia Canal to connect Loch Ness with Loch Oich. We even got to see the main bridge swing open so a boat could pass by!

Finally after lunch, it was time to head to our boat tour on Loch Ness! I was really excited about this part after hearing tales of Loch Ness for years. My favorite part about this Loch is the water. It look completely black! The color comes from the peat in soil, which gives it extremely low visibility. No wonder legends of a monster have endured for centuries! luckily for us, the most incredible of our boat tour was that the sun suddenly managed to break through! Scotland is always beautiful, but it practically glows when the sun is out.

All too soon, it was time to head out from Loch Ness. We drove through the quaint town of Inverness, but didn’t stop. This was the most northerly point on our trip and from there we started back down again. We drove through the beautiful Cairngorns National Park, but alas the rain returned and I couldn’t snag any pictures! Our final stop of the day was in a quaint town called Pitlochry. It was a cute town with shops and restaurants and seemed to be a popular stopping place before heading into the Highlands. We treated ourselves to some ice cream before continuing our final descent to Glasgow. We got back into town around 7:30. After nearly 12 hours, we really had seen Scotland in a day!

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A Bute Excursion

A Bute Excursion

Our friend’s birthday was in June and we were struggling to think of somewhere fun, but affordable to go to. We decided that a day out to one of the Isles would be a great day trip! We left early in the morning to start our long trip to the Isle of Bute. First we took a train from Glasgow to Wemyss Bay

The morning seemed a bit dreary, but we persevered! We then took a ferry from Wemyss Bay to Rothesay on the Isle of Bute. Unfortunately it was so windy and rainy on the ferry that I didn’t manage to get any good pictures! Once we got into town, we took a walk around the castle and through the village. We walked all the way up a hill to get a good view of the island.

Our walk left us quite famished so we stopped in town to get the BEST FISH AND CHIPS EVER. But seriously it was so good. Amazing the difference when they use fresh fish! As we were sitting outside eating, the sun suddenly decided to come out! We grabbed an open top bus tour that took us all around the island. We saw some amazing sights!

After the tour, we settled in at a small brewery to have a pint before heading back home. All in all, it was a great way to celebrate a birthday!

April Travels, Pt. 1

April Travels, Pt. 1

April has gone by in a whirlwind! The time between the end of classes and Easter is our spring break here at Glasgow Uni (although don’t be fooled; it’s not as much of a break as a time to do hw). But I, of course, figured I could do my school work and get in traveling at the same time! To assist me in this noble goal, my parents came over to the UK to spend two weeks with me. The itinerary? Glasgow to Edinburgh to Cardiff to Dublin and back to Glasgow. As you can imagine, we managed to do quite a bit in that time. I can’t possibly mention everything but I’ll give some highlights!

1. Edinburgh (Scotland)

I’ve been to Edinburgh a few times now, so I was the official tour guide of this trip. We booked a small apartment through AirBnb that was close to the Castle and had a fantastic view overlooking Princes Street Gardens and the New Town (which apparently I did not take a single picture of). It was such a great location where we were only a couple minutes walk from views like this:

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Overlooking Old Town and Arthur’s seat from Edinburgh Castle

We also conveniently had a small pub (The Jolly Judge, I highly recommend) just outside our back door. Couldn’t ask for a more convenient location!

We had three days to spend in Edinburgh and I think we really made the best of them. Our first day, we went on a Sandeman’s New Europa walking tour. If you’re ever traveling to a new city, I would really suggest looking into these tours. They’re usually everyday and are technically free, you just tip the guide at the end what you feel is adequate. Our walk was a perfect way to get acclimated to the city and learn a lot about the city’s history. Our tour guide also gave us a great suggestion of where to get traditional pub fare and we treated ourselves to some haggis, neeps and tatties. (That’s turnips and potatoes, but I’m not gonna tell you what haggis is. Just trust me, it’s delicious!)

Our second day in Edinburgh, we went on a Rabbies’ bus tour through the Scottish Borders. We saw Rosslyn Chapel, Scott’s View, the William Wallace Statue, and Melrose Abbey. We were amazingly lucky to have a beautiful, sunny day which made the glorious sites look even more amazing. I think my favorite part of the tour was seeing Melrose Abbey. It was built in the 12th century and although mostly ruins now, you can walk around the grounds and even go up one of the towers! Here’s just a few of my favorite pictures from the day:

Our final endeavor before leaving Edinburgh was to climb the famous Arthur’s Seat. This is a large dormant volcano top that rise behind Holyrood Palace. It’s an easy hike and you get some pretty spectacular views of the city. It was pretty chilly and windy when we made our trek, but it was completely worth it for the views of the city and the distant port

All too soon, it was time to say bye to Edinburgh and hop on a plane to….

2. Cardiff (Wales)

Cardiff is the capital of Wales and is a pretty small, less-touristy city. We only stayed hereCardiff Arcade for the weekend, but found plenty to do. Our first day we did a lot of walking around, exploring the city and the large park just north of City Centre. One of the things I liked the most about this city were the Arcades! There were like indoor streets lined with shops. They had the craziest shops and restaurants. Every time we walked into one I felt like we had discovered a little secret of the city.

Our second day in Cardiff, we explored the bay area. The weather was perfect for a day by the water. We first stopped at Fabulous Welshcakes to buy a dozen of the tiny pancake-like pastries to munch on as we walked Welshcakesaround. They were delicious and disappeared way too quickly. The rest of the day was something Dad and I had been looking forward to: the Doctor Who Experience! We’re huge fans of the show and couldn’t wait to geek out. The experience was really fun and super cheesy, but in a good way. The museum of all of the props and costumes was my favorite! While we were being geeky, Mom took a boat tour of the bay and took lots of beautiful pictures! We had a really great day and ended the evening with a delicious dinner of traditional Welsh pub fare.

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TARDIS at the Experience

The next day we were flying out of Cardiff, but our flight wasn’t until the evening. We had to check out of our hotel, but thankfully it was another lovely day so we walked around the nearby park for a while. Then we settled in at Tiny Rebel, a local brewery, to have lunch before heading back to the airport. (Tiny Rebel is great, if you’re ever in Cardiff it’s definitely worth a visit!)

Cardiff Bay (Photo Cred: Mom)

3. Dublin (Ireland)

Dublin was the longest leg of our trip; we stayed almost a full week! But it was completely worth it! There’s so much to see and do around Dublin that I could have even spent a few more days there! It’s also a surprisingly walkable city. Everything is way closer together than it looks on a map. We stayed in the Camden street area which was a perfect location. It’s near a lot of restaurants and pubs but it was far enough away from the Temple Bar area that it was nice and quiet. Also shout out to AirBnb host, Lex, who was pretty much the most awesome host we could have ever had. His place was perfect and he gave us so many suggestions for things to do in the area!

So some of the highlights of the stuff we did in Dublin city. On our first day we did

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Dublin Castle

another Sandeman’s free walking tour to get acclimated to the area. Our guide was great and he taught us a lot about the city and the local flavor. He even went to a pub with all of us after the tour was over and got to know us a little more. Later on we went to see the #1 thing I wanted to see in Dublin: the Trinity College Library! My old English teacher in high school used to have a poster of the library on her wall and I couldn’t wait until I could see it for myself! Well it definitely lived up to my

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Trinity College Library

expectations. I’ve never been in a more beautiful library building. I could have spent the whole day there. Before our day was over, we managed a quick visit to the Charles Beatty museum which was the private library of a rich collector. It was a really well-done museum and I wish I hadn’t been so tired to enjoy it!

Our next day was a trip outside of Dublin. We took a bus tour of Wicklow county. The tour itself was a bit cheesy at time (plus our driver got sick at one point and an ambulance had to be called! Talk about an action-packed tour!). But the sites we went to were breathe-taking so it was definitely worth it!

Our next excursion was a trip to see the fishing town of Howth and the archaeological site of Newgrange. It was a shame that we went to the fishing village first thing in the morning because I wanted so bad to take some home for dinner, but I don’t think the other people on the bus would have appreciated that! It was a really cute town though and we spent quite a bit of time taking in the sights.

Then it was on to Newgranage. I’m a huge archaeology nerd, so getting to see this Neolithic ritual site was on the top of my Ireland bucket list. We spent most of the afternoon touring the museum and seeing the actual site. It was crazy to be inside of something made 5000 years ago. Definitely a highlight of the trip

All too soon our trip to Dublin was wrapping up and it was time to head back to Glasgow. We got back right in time for Easter Sunday and treated ourselves to a traditional Sunday Roast which was Ah-Mazing. We spend a little time around the city but soon it was time for my parents to head back home. It was a wonderful trip and we got to see so many cool places together!

What I wish I knew a Year Ago

I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic today. Yesterday I had my last postgrad class and today I finished up my internship. All that stands between me and a Master’s degree is a few essay and about five months. Oh yeah and a dissertation.

But with finishing a milestone in my graduate studies, I started thinking about how far I’ve come from this time last year. I still can’t believe I left everything to up and move to another country. And boy are there a lot of things I wish I knew this time last year when I was planning this move. Just recently I had a friend from home reach out to me to ask about Museum Studies at Glasgow. One of her questions was is there anything I wish I knew before going. At the time, I couldn’t come up with much so I said I’d think on it. Well here it is folks: the big list of Things I Wish I Knew a Year Ago (Mostly about Glasgow Uni and Graduate Life but also about Living in Another Country). TIWIKYAMAGUGLBALAC for short. Just a heads up, this geared directly at people who are looking at coming to Glasgow (or the UK in general) for postgrad study.

Academic Stuff 

The UK grading system

  1. At Glasgow Uni they used a 22-point grading scale and it is super hard to get used to. A 22 is a perfect score and corresponds to the grade A1 (the ever elusive A1). After that is A2 which is 21 points. Hmm maybe a chart is the best way to show this:
A 1 (22), 2 (21), 3 (20), 4 (19), 5 (18) Excellent
B 1 (17), 2 (16), 3 (15) Very Good
C 1 (14), 2 (13), 3 (12) Good
D 1 (11), 2 (10), 3 (9) Satisfactory
E 1 (8), 2 (7), 3 (6) Weak
F 1 (5), 2 (4), 3 (3) Poor
G 1 (2), 2 (2) Very Poor
H 0 (0) Zero
  1. I believe D3 is the last passing grade, but most core classes require at least a C3. So in some ways it’s similar: A is good, F is bad. But the addition of the points can be confusing. Don’t ever try to think of your grade as a percentage. You will cry.
  2. Speaking of crying: they grade INCREDIBLY harsh here! We were told in our orientation to that we will never get an A1 and to get any level of A is incredibly hard. I just assumed these were scare tactics, but DEAR LORD THEY WERE NOT JOKING. Do NOT come into grad school expecting to get the kind of grades you did in undergrad.
  3. Graduating with honors does exist. They call it distinction. You must be a superhuman to get it. I am not a superhuman

Class and semester structure

  1. UK semesters are weirdly short. They work on 10 week semesters with a reading week in the middle as a semi-spring break (but nowhere near the same cause people actually study during the break).
  2. Classes only meet once a week, for two hours. This took a lot of getting used to. As a postgrad student, you typically only have three classes a semester, so that’s only 6 hours of class a week. It always felt like I had too much free time because I was used to having classes that met three time a week.
  3. Instructors are very hands-off. They give you a required reading list, but they are not going to force you to read it nor are they going to quiz you in class about the reading. It’s entirely up to you how much (or how little) you want to read. But really, you’re only hurting yourself in the end if you decide not to do the reading. At the same time, it’s important to prioritize your reading because there is not physical way you can read everything. So read smartly, not endlessly.
  4. You will get very little hw and it will all be due at once. Most of my classes had three or less assignment and they were mostly essays. And everything was always due in the second half of the semester (which is only 5 weeks long if you recall). So essentially all of your assignments will be due the same month. So all that free time I mentioned earlier? Yeah, it wasn’t as free as I thought…
  5. There are specific referencing styles and paper formats to use and these vary across departments. Make sure you’ve get the right now so you don’t lose points for something silly (I’m not bitter or anything)


  1. University housing sucks. Its expensive, its low quality, and they are constantly checking up on you. We have room inspections ALL the time and there is a huge amount of things that are not allowed in your room. You can’t put anything on the walls (even with sticky tack). They have fire alarm tests at 7am on Saturday mornings, once a semester. On the bright side though it is a fate rate so no bills and stuff and it was all arranged before I got here. So planning-wise, smart move. Living-wise, not so much.
  2. The Click2Campus packs are not worth the money! Glasgow Uni promoted a company that would have all of the stuff you need for a dorm waiting for you when you arrive for a fee. It sounded great on the surface. I would have pillows, sheets, towels, pots and pans, silverware, you name it all waiting for me when I arrived. No need to go out and buy it! WRONG. That stuff was so bad! I had to buy a whole new bedset because the sheets they gave me felt like cardboard. They were also a really gross black and gray checkered pattern that made me feel like I was in a dungeon. The kitchen stuff was all horrible quality and I’ve had to buy some new stuff to replace things that have broken. SAY NO TO CLICK2CAMPUS.

If you’re feeling panicked, no fear! We’re gonna take a quick break so I can show all of the goodies I’ve been eating in Scotland. Donuts are featured heavily.


The Nitty-Gritty on Living in Glasgow 

  1. Some people really are hard to understand. I thought it wouldn’t be an issue but sometimes even now after being here for 7 months, I come across someone who I just cannot understand for the life of me. I smile and nod and back out before I can embarrass myself any further.
  2. There are so many things that they just don’t sell here that you wouldn’t expect, so be prepared to learn to live (and especially cook) a little differently. (Heads up ladies, they don’t have gel deodorant; it’s all spray on here!)
  3. You will spend more money than you think you will. Isn’t that how it always works? I thought I would live super frugally to offset tuition costs. But remember, having a life and doing things that make you happy are important too! But yeah, you will definitely spend more than you expect
  4. Setting up a bank account is hard! Not on the Scottish end; they’ve gotten it all worked out. But the American banks are a pain! I’ve had several friends who have all complained about the difficulties they’ve had with their home banks when they’ve come here. So make a game plan before you leave so you know what your home bank is going to need from you when you’re setting up a new account.
  5. Adjusting to living without a car is hard! I’ve never had to fully rely on public transport and my own two feet before. Grocery shopping is a nightmare because you have to lug everything back. Make sure to invest in a backpack, trolley, or even a suitcase to carry groceries in.
  6. Do some research on cell carriers before you buy. Some really are better than other. I started out with Lycamobile and it was horrible. But then I switched to EE and its so much better. Also phone plans are pretty cheap and are usually month by month
  7. You have to ask for the bill at a restaurant! They will not just bring it to you!
  8. People don’t drink water here. It’s weird. Bring a water bottle with you because there are very few fountains. I don’t understand how everyone isn’t dehydrated.
  9. Umbrellas are useless. Just don’t bother. Raincoats on the other hand are essential.
  10. If you cannot comfortably walk more than a mile in a pair of shoes, don’t bring them. I brought so many shoes and I’ve worn maybe three pairs consistently.
  11. The public libraries suck. Apparently, people don’t really check out books here that much. It’s a shame.
  12. Figuring out where to buy stuff is hard. When all the stores are different from what you’re used to it can be really hard to figure where to find (and get the best deal) for certain items. Unfortunately, there’s no simple solution to this. You’ve just got to experiment and ask around.
  13. If you’re a craft beer lover like I am, you’ll be disappointed to know that craft beer is just barely making a name for itself here. There are a few good places (ahem, Brewdog) but you’re not going to find the gastropubs with 50 (or even 20) beers on tap like we’re used to at home.
  14. International shipping is really expensive. Like really really expensive. Sometimes it might be better to just buy something new than ship it from home. Also be aware of customs. If you ship something that’s worth more than $35, the recipient will have to pay  a customs tax on it.

Well I’m going to stop there because I’m sure I could rant on and on about what not to pack or buy, but that seems like the topic for another blog post. I know I got into a lot of little details on the living part, but they are all little things that I found jarring, and honestly still do. And just one final thing that I wish I knew last year: you will get homesick and you will feel lonely. It doesn’t mean that you’re not cut out for this international grad school thing. It just means that you are in a new environment and you will miss your comfort zone. You will miss your family, friends, pets, house, car, food (I could seriously write a whole post on the food I miss). Make sure you make an effort to stay in touch with everyone. It can be hard with the time difference and people’s busy lives. But make the effort, for your sanity and for your friendships. And finally, make sure you find something you can do when you’re feeling sad. Mine is going to the plant shop down the road, grabbing a book from the library, and settling in with a coffee and scone at the coffee shop.

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