Sunday, February 24, 2008

Films: Local Hero

Local Hero: It is the 25th anniversary of a film that highlights the ecentricitries of Scotland. If you have not seen it you should. The phone booth in the film is a tourist attraction and many of the film locations are worth a visit. Here is a website to give you the location spots. CLICK HERE
And another site for even more location spots: CLICK HERE

Check out the BBC's news story on the anniversary. CLICK HERE

Click on the picture of the phone booth to learn more about the phone booth location.

If you are a fan of Burt Lancaster you'll love the film.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Hiking: Ben Nevis, Scotland's Tallest Mountain

The tallest mountain in Scotland is Ben Nevis. In fact, it is the tallest mountain in the British Isles. The mountain is over 4,000 ft tall. Click on the picture and see a recent webcam of the mountain.

The mountain is near Ft. William and many people hike it. It is possible but there are some safety concerns as the weather changes quickly and can strand hikers.

If you click on the wikipedia account of the mountain you can read about all the rescues needed in the past ten years.

Click and view the video below of a climb on Ben Nevis.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Hike: Dunkeld

Click on the picture and take a virtual hike in Dunkeld.

Dunkeld is a great little town. We stayed there in 2003 and really enjoyed ourselves. Check out the video below:

There is also a great pub where the legendary Dougie MacLean plays. If you are lucky you might be able to hear him or his mates give up a rendition of his tunes. See the video below to get a flavor of the good music you can hear in Dunkeld.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


With the discovery of the white stag, the interest to hike Scotland should increase. Anywhere you go in Scotland is a good hike. The best part of Scotland is that you can walk for miles, feel totally safe, and experience places you will never forget. Click on the picture and go to the link
A hike through a small hamlet can be as rewarding as a hike through the highlands. However, the highlands and lochs offer views to warm your heart.

A good place to start is Fort William. There should be plenty of B&Bs to make your hiking headquarters. Downtown Fort William has good pubs and shops. You can't go wrong. Loch Linhe is one of my favorite views. The hike along won't be for the escapist because roads line the loch, but it is a beautifully nestled place.

Just above Oban is a nature center with otters, sharks and stingrays.

At the center, there is a tank full of tiny sharks. You can feed the sharks with your own hands. It's very cool. There are also stingrays as well.
It's fun and the kids will love it. When we were there some American students were guides.
For the serious hiker, Scotland has many places almost too numerous to name but for me, I like traveling on the grounds where my bloodline started. It is hard to imagine the way of life in the 14th century.
I will come up with a few good hikes for you in the next few posts.
Get out your maps.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

BBC America: It's a bit like New Coke.

The BBC is great at many things. First, their attention to international news outweighs American counterparts. The reason of course is financial. American broadcasters did not see the benefit of the many foreign bureaus they use to have spread throughout the world. Americans just don't really care about news too far from home. At least in-depth news. When was the last time the networks did a story on Kenya or Darfur or Uganda? Been a while. Americans also love icons. And so it seems BBC America has to sell the hosts to the American people like the other American networks.

For me, it doesn't work. The real BBC you can watch overseas is hard hitting, thorough and not watered down. The hosts are generic reporters who do not get publicity for sitting in a chair.
That's just my view on it but I like the BBC News I get overseas to the America version. They seemed to have crammed the two hosts into a closet in Washington and the news comes to us Americanized. We already get that. Why they don't just give us the news from overseas befuddles me. I think it would be a real wake up call and would provide better news.
Instead the weaker version is just as good as a local affiliate. Again, just my opinion.
However, at least we get the BBC. In any form it is better than nothing.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: White Stag Spotted in Scotland

A rare white stag was sighted in Scotland. It is a rare sight and I thought I'd bring it to your attention. Legends says they bring messages from another world.

It is legend that you see. Like Narnia or Lord of the Rings, this is the real deal. Of course, the last one seen last year was shot and killed.

In 2007, the only white stag believed to be in Britain was shot and beheaded by poachers. The decapitated 300lb carcass of the animal was found strung up from a tree.

The White Stag is actually a variant of the male red deer. The one sighted in 2007 was kept secret for years. The people of the community where the deer was found considered the deer sacred.

The deer is sacred in many traditions and in Celtic and Egyptian mythologies.

Hopefully, the new white stag will remain alive. Unfortunately all the added press will bring out poachers who may repeat the acts of 2007.

Check out the video below and see the footage of the stag. It is not a hoax, white stags do exist.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Golf Scotland: On the Cheap

Okay, so you don't have the time or money to spend on a legitimate round of golf.
Well, here's a cheap alternative.
If you are traveling near Stirling. The Mrs. wants to see the Wallace Monument and Stirling Castle, which are both fine places, but you want to get out and enjoy the fresh air and hit a few golf balls.
Well, take a bus to the University or drive depending on what type of transport you have and check out their par-3 course. You'll only need three clubs to play. A seven iron, a pitching wedge and a putter.

It is a good place to practice your short game. I was lucky enough to play the course every day as a student. It only cost me $4 a round...and well, if you behave yourself and it is not crowded, you can go around again and no one will get upset.

Stirling University has a very good Sports Management program and the course is used by the golf team as a practice facility. You can get lessons from the pro, but you'll have to ask in advance.
The scenery is quite nice. The Wallace Monument is always in view, the loch provides a beautiful backdrop and the mountain of Dumyat gives it a special touch as well.
The Scottish Premiere League team from Falkirk practices just off the 2nd tee. There are football pitches and practices facilities for the team. The locker rooms for the team are part of the golf course pro shop.

If you want pristine greens and fairways, this is not your golf course. If you want to have a relaxing hour of golf crammed into your travels, this is the perfect spot.
You'll meet real Scots, play a few difficult pitch shots and face some mean bunkers. You won't be disappointed by the scenery either.
The staff at the pro shop are very nice and will probably chat with you for a good ten minutes before you head out the door.

I enjoyed golfing there because I saved money, worked my irons and practiced my short game.
There is one very challenging hole #7. It is a narrow fairway, into a valley with a hole on a steep hill. It's probably a 150 yard shot to the pin. With just a seven iron, it is a tough shot.
The course won't open until April and the wait can feel like forever when the sunny days of March come around.

The greens are very slow and hairy. Don't expect world class greens. However, it is good training for the public courses in Scotland.
Most greens are the same throughout Scotland.
After the round there are numerous places to get a pint on campus. The MacRoberts Center probably is the closest. You can pick up the bus there as well. So go have a pint, then get on a bus and meet back up with the Mrs.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Golf: A Hidden Gem of a Course

The Falkirk Golf Club is one course for the tourist who does not want to pay a fortune to get a good round of golf but wants to play on a good quality course.
It is conveniently located between Glasgow and Edinburgh. You can take the train and get off close to the course. It makes it easy for those who send their wives shopping and the boys want to go out for a day's round.

I have never golfed the course, but have passed by it frequently. In seeing the course, I inquired about it and the locals gave it good reviews.
The layout reminds me of many US courses but what sets it apart is the rough. You won't be able to slice the ball in many places without losing your ball for good.

The first thing you should learn about Scottish golf is the rough is tougher than anything you've ever experienced. Once a ball goes into the barbed wire like shrubbery, it's as good as gone. Or if it is high grass, good luck with your feet because you will never see it. You'll have to feel it with your foot.
But that's what makes the Scottish game so tough.

The greens are not spectacularly trimmed like many posh US courses. It can either benefit you or not, depending on your putting stroke.
And the sandtraps and bunkers are a bear. They are legendarily difficult at any Scottish course.
I give you Falkirk as a good place for a decent round. Click on any of the pictures and you can go to the course website.
A round is $60. Best of luck.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Golf: Scotland's Game

Scotland and golf is like saying America and baseball. Many Americans go to Scotland to golf as if they are on a religious pilgrimage. The scenery at most Scottish golf courses beats what you see in the United States. Like many things in the United States, we make things a bit more sterile, commercial and of course, we must drive instead of walk.

Before you go to Scotland to golf the first thing you need to do is get in shape. You will have to get rid of the motorized cart and walk. It's a sacrifice but golf was made for walking and is part of the game. You're going into the heart and soul of golf and not a trip to Walmart.

Another thing you might need to do is get a letter from your local course. Some of the better courses in Scotland want to make sure you are not a hacker. They want to know your handicap before you play.

I will give tips on if you want a serious golf trip or just want to say you played a round in Scotland.

Today, we will start with a difficult course and one worthy of good golfers. Carnoustie Golf Course.

With the ocean in view on every hole it is a stunner. It is also very easy to get to. Take a train from Glagow and there is a train stop near the course. You probably don't even need a cab, depending on if you have brought your own clubs. As a tourist, I don't think you need clubs as you can rent them.

There are three different courses at Carnoustie and depending on your ability and your check book, you may find one better than the other. You must contact the course before you get there. You won't be able to just walk on. A simple email can solve those problems from arrising. Also, the three courses have three various rates.

The Championship Course will cost you $250 for a round.

The Burnside Course will cost you $68 for a round.

And the Buddon Links Course will cost you $60 a round.

Club rental is $60.

Shoe rental is $20.

A caddie will cost you $80

President George H. W. Bush at Carnoustie with Caddie Master Martin Roy.

As you can tell a golf trip to Scotland can be very expensive. If you are planning on going to many courses, bring your clubs as your expenses for rentals will climb.

Don't get depressed. If you just want the experience of hitting a golf ball in Scotland, I'll give you some cheaper alternatives. One of my best experiences in Scotland was the first time I hit a golf ball and realized I had finally made it to the golf mecca. And the day I went to St. Andrews, I didn't even golf and I was moved to tears.

If you love golf, you will fall in love with Scotland. You may play on better courses but you will never experience the game the way it was meant to be, in any other place.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Shinty: A Unique Scottish Sport

Shinty is a game similar to hockey and lacrosse. However, it is different from hockey and lacrosse in that the feet can be used to stop the ball but not the hands (unless you are the goal-keeper). You can carry the ball on your caman (stick) which can be swung above sholder height. It is a fast moving game where being physically fit counts.

The game is played with 2 teams of 12 players. Each player has a curved stick called a Caman (pronounced ca-man). Each game lasts 90 minutes. it is a community gamed played in some of the most remote parts of ScotlandStudents at Stirling University played the sport on a regular basis. They would carry their caman's with them throughout the day and then play in leagues at night.

The one thing noticeable between field hockey and shinty is the rough nature of the sport. You can use the stick above your head. Some players were able to toss the ball upward, using their stick, and then whack it like a baseball to forward the ball.

Very impressive when seen in person.

Here's some video with Gaelic commentators...

Music for your soul

Scottish-American video


Photos from scottish4ever1