To all our English friends who have languished in queues and been bounced around Gatwick, East Midlands or Manchester airports by Cryin’-Air or Easy-Jilt in thwarted attempts at your first real holiday in three years, have you considered you might have been heading the wrong direction?
Despite rumblings from the independistas, neither passports not luggage checks are required to cross the border to Scotland. We speak the same language (almost), have a lot more to do and see than among the endless tower-blocks of Benidorm. Since we have only 5 million people in one third of all Britain, while you cram 56 million into the rest, we are far from full-up.
Fine though such trails are to follow, while here you are not limited to just golf, castles or whisky. As well as culture to beat the band in our cities, there are outdoor activities a-plenty, from mountain bike trails in Glen Tress, white-water rafting on the Tay, hill-walking (but not necessarily Munro-bagging), sea-kayaking the Summer Isles or hard-core surfing Atlantic rollers on Tiree.
And, while I have your attention, during your visit may I recommend investigating North Berwick, delightful seaside town just 40 miles over the Border and a half-hour from the splendours of Edinburgh? (please avoid foul calumny and scurrilous innuendo that I might be plugging this because it’s my home). The town is rare in wrapping itself along two glorious beaches, split by a rocky harbour area, with several islands to make your snaps more scenic. Only 50m from the beach, the High Street offers a half-dozen cafes and pubs, a dozen restaurants and interesting shops and galleries to nose around in between.
Speaking of seafood, we land lobsters here so the juicy one on your plate was crawling about the local seabed a day or so before making your acquaintance. Which brings us to the harbour, the heart of the town in summer.
The Scottish Seabird Centre (SSC) will introduce you to the marine wildlife that shares this part of the coast with us. From the biggest gannet colony in the world on Bass Rock, through the flocks of puffins on Craigleith, the grey seals that keep them company and the occasional visit by dolphins, you come to realise how close we live to another world. Inside the SSC, you can control remote cameras to get panoramic views of that world. For those who’d like to see it for themselves, there are boat trips out to get up close and personal.
The locals keep themselves busy in a myriad of ways. Aside from the fishermen and SSC crews, the local yacht club has more boats than the harbour can hold and organises regattas for “yachtties” from all over the country to compete on the fresh winds and open waters of the Firth of Forth.
If sailing is not your thing, there are plenty of other opportunities to get out on the water. Sea angling is good; local cod and mackerel can be caught by hiring Braveheart, which comes with rods, bait and a fisherman skipper Dougie.
Those up for some exercise can try local sea kayaking with Duneidean under George’s watchful instruction or join the crew of one of the Rowing Club’s four-oar skiffs for a social row out to see the wildlife and the town from a new angle. The really adventurous can get themselves caught up in the annual local raft race.
And, if none of this appeals to your landlubber heart, there are many other events, such as the week-long Fringe by the Sea, the North Berwick Highland Games (dozens of bands from all over the world because it is used as a warm-up venue for the Worlds in Glasgow), a Lifeboat Day, the Air Show at the Museum of Flight.
It all sounds exhausting, but it is more relaxing and much more fun than 12 hours at an airport so that you can share the beach at Alicante with umpteen thousand others.
Forget airports—go green. That’s your sun and sand by the seaside sorted!
#1024 (known to us nerds as “two-to-the-tenth”)—685 words