Stag Weekend in Scotland
In August my brothers mate's and I got to head out to the Highlands to enjoy some good old fashioned male bonding to celebrate my brothers upcoming nuptials.
To say it was one of the best times I've ever had with a group of guys is an understatement. It was a weekend fueled by scotch, beer, guns, and beautiful scenery.
As I live in Vancouver, Canada and everyone else on the trip lives in the UK, my vacation started a day earlier. The almost 10 hour flight direct from Vancouver to London's Heathrow airport did not bother me at all, it's a flight I've done on many occasions due to the fact my brother lives there. I always take the red-eye so I arrive fresh in the morning, and never pack more than a carry-on. My first course of action upon landing in London was the same as it is every time, get a pint in me. So I hoped on the tube and headed straight for my brothers office on Carnaby Street in London's Soho district to meet him for lunch.
Around the corner from his office the streets were lined with food stalls as far as the eye could see. It was a foodie paradise. After deciding on having pulled duck confit we grabbed a seat at a communal picnic table right outside a pub and ordered some pints to go with it.
Since it was just his lunch break, my brother had to go back to his office so I decided to kick around Soho for a bit to wait for him to be done. I took up a seat at the White Horse pub and decided to keep my vacation mode going with another couple* pints (*maybe it was 6). When it was time to head out, I met up with by brother and took the tube back to his place to get some rest as we had a 9:30 am train booked to Edinburgh.
Now, there's an interesting seat booking system on UK trains that I was not accustomed to being from Canada. You can book a ticket without an assigned seat in the general passenger cabin, but here's the kicker, they sell more tickets than there are seats and if you get stuck without a seat then you stand in the aisle for the entire ride (or until someone gets off and you take their seat)! So everyone lines up at the start of the platform and when they open the barrier it's a mad dash to the general cabin in a feverish attempt to snag a precious seat. Luckily we all got a seat, well one of us didn't but we squeezed three asses into a two seat spot so that we could all give our feet a little rest and relaxation on the four hour train ride.
The train was packed with people all heading up for the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, so naturally it was a party train. Drinks were flowing as smooth as the conversation among passengers.
When we arrived in Edinburgh it was straight to the hotel to drop off our things, get ready and then head out. It being my brothers stag weekend, naturally we had to embarrass him. Our go to outfit selected for him was a character from Adam Sandler's 1999 comedy "Big Daddy". For the entire day and night at Fringe Festival he had to be head-to-toe dressed as Scuba Steve!
Now, Fringe Festival in Edinburgh has to be one of the coolest festivals out there. Essentially the entire city core was shut down to make room for beer gardens that were playing live music. At the same time, cultural events from all over the globe were taking place in different spots around the city. We spent the majority of the afternoon in different beer gardens before catching a Fringe show "Manifesto - Titania McGrath" and then heading out to a bar.
The next morning was a bit rough (but not the roughest morning we would face that weekend), and after filling our bellies at a little cafe and picking up the rental car we were headed up to a cabin on Loch Earn in the Southern Highlands of Scotland. Along the way we stopped to try our hands at skeet shooting (shooting flying clay disks). Now, I have to admit that I didn't know how I would feel about sport shooting but after pulling that trigger once, I was hooked! The adrenaline rush you feel when you see one of the clay disks explode is an amazing sensation. Of course being a group of guys we had to turn it into a competition with some money on the line. Everyone did a great job (some better than we expected) but there could only be one victor, ME.
When we finally arrived at the cabin on Loch Earn I was awestruck by the natural beauty of the Scottish Highlands. The rolling hills, green pastures and beautiful lakes are enough to make you forget about your "real world" and just live in the moment. The rainy weather can put some people in a bad mood but if you're surrounded by friends, nothing can stop you from having a good time. However, we did make a couple of crucial mistakes, like forgetting to purchase firewood. When we went back to the store they were all sold out and told us that if we couldn't find any then we should just steal some from someone else because "stealing firewood in Scotland is so common it's almost a tradition". Being decent human beings we couldn't bring ourselves to steal someone else's firewood, for the first day..... We cut down branches and logs and even ended up burning extra deck wood. When we ran out on the second day, it was time to find some. We drove around nervously before pulling up to a house that had a bunch of wood out front. We approached the house and rang the doorbell with the intention of buying some of this persons extra wood but when we realized no one was home we filled up the trunk and sped away.
Being red blooded males, getting in touch with our lumberjack selves, we required plenty of sustenance. Every morning started off with a big hangover breakfast of eggs, pancakes, biscuits, sausages and bacon. The diet during the day consisted mostly of beer and red meat. While in the evening it was time for late night snacks. On the first night we were too inebriated to figure out how to turn on the oven so the logical choice at that time was to try cooking some frozen pizzas on the fireplace (great idea in theory, not in practice). We ended up with pizza that was burnt on the bottom and doughy on top, but, being a few cases of beer in and a couple bottles of scotch, we decided it was still edible.
The best part about the trip was the guys though. There was no shortage of hilarious jokes, shit talking, adventures, and pranks. Some people can go to the most beautiful places in the world and still have a bad time. But when you're with the right group of people it's hard not to have a good time.