Halloween Special: Creepy Haunts and Fabulous "Pub Grub" in Scotland
Spooky Scottish Graveyard
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Sheep's Heid Pub
Scottish Pub Grub
Fish & Chips
Inside Nicky Tams: The Lucky Corner
Inside Mary King's Close
The Real Mary King's Close (CREEPY)
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Today is the 31st of October...
My husband and I arrived in Florence yesterday after spending four wonderful days in Edinburgh, Scotland. Is there a better way to spend Halloween week than in one of the world's most haunted cities? So far, it tops my list! Edinburgh is a clean, safe, beautiful city full of quaint pubs, imposing churches and charming shops.
Underneath the city, however, lies a labyrinth of closes (narrow alleys) and the famous haunted vaults (home of the sinister ghost named Mr. Boots). Scotland also boasts graveyards creepier than anything Tim Burton can create! For example, the Greyfriars Graveyard is home to one of the world's most famous ghosts- the Mackenzie Poltergeist. Although they keep that section locked up, they do offer tours for those brave enough to visit its lair. No thanks!
In addition to wandering through historical tombstones, we ventured outside the city and found two of the loveliest, most charming pubs either of us have ever seen!
On our second day, we climbed Arthur's Seat to enjoy the views from atop the great hill and continued our scenic walk all the way to the 12th century village of Duddingston. What a little treasure! The church, or kirk, boasted a spooky graveyard that we really liked.
Just a few steps away was the Sheep's Heid (Sheep's Head). An official plaque stated that the Sheep's Heid is supposedly the oldest pub in all of Scotland and the window displayed all the food awards and great write-ups they had received for exceptional pub food. The historian in me had to go inside and the foodie in me had to taste something.
Since my husband and I are not familiar with Scottish food, we wanted to eat what the many locals around us were eating. My husband ordered theDuddingston Fidget Pie(can't get it anywhere else but here). Big chunks of smoked bacon, cooked in apple cider with apples and apricots, topped with puffed pastry and served with a side of mashed potatoes. It was really good! I ordered the traditionalSteak & Guest Ale Pie. Tender pieces of Scottish beef cooked in ale, smothered in a rich brown gravy and topped with a puff pastry. Mixed veggies and boiled potatoes served on the side. Fantastic! We were so impressed with the generous portions, too. Lots of food, reasonable prices.
On the third day, we hopped the train out of Edinburgh. After about an hour of riding through the picturesque countryside, we stopped in Stirling, home of the famous Stirling Castle and the National William Wallace Monument (we are Braveheart fans!). The architecture was incredibly charming, but the graveyard was totally creepy and full of big cackling crows (nice, ominous touch).
A friendly man (we later discovered his name is Allan) approached us and handed us a food flyer inviting us to have lunch in one of Stirling's oldest pubs. He emphasized that the food was not frozen like in many pubs, but rather, freshly made. We were sold and off we went to our second historical pub: Nicky Tams.
We were greeted and welcomed very warmly by the pub's proprietor, William. We were shown to our table in the Lucky Corner, which is rumored to be haunted. Apparently, there are two spirits that like to sit there and play cards (we sat down and wondered if these ghosts would show up and join us for lunch). I told William that Allan had approached us on the street and repeated what he had said to us. The proprietor confirmed that the food is indeed fresh, but more than that, he had hired a few professional chefs in order to offer the best food possible to his clients. On that particular day, Scott was on duty (a chef with 22 years of experience). My husband and I rubbed our hands together gleefully. THIS was the place where we would have our first taste of haggis!
We shared theHaggiswith mashed turnips and potatoes. Although this was the appetizer and not the full meal, it was more than enough for two. I won't get into the details of what is inside haggis because I want you to try it when you go to Scotland, but I will tell you this: it's REALLY tasty. Savory and quite spicy with a wonderful texture. It was served with a silky whiskey gravy that was divine (thanks, Scott, for making our first haggis experience such a good one!).
For our main course we each had theHaddock and Chips. A big fillet of fresh fish hand dipped in a homemade beer batter and friend to a crisp- no greasy oily texture- nice and light. Served with real potato wedges (not commercial frozen fries), peas and garnish salad. We were both stuffed and pleased- not only were we treated with exceptional hospitality, the food was fabulous. Oh, and the bill was surprisingly cheap, too!
So there you go- creepy haunts and fabulous pub grub in Scotland. Be sure to check out The Real Mary King's Close when you go...it's one of the underground tours that focuses on actual history rather than the supernatural. Be warned, however, even here there are some spirits wandering about. I swear that one whispered in my ear when we visited the room where an entire family perished from the plague!
A few tips: Since most of the Scottish meals tend to be rather heavy and in big portions, be sure to eat your main meal at midday and keep it very light for breakfast and dinner. We hiked and walked quite a bit on this trip, so being active helps to burn the calories. We also munched on apples and raw carrot sticks for snacks and drank lots of water to prevent feeling weighed down and bloated. By following these few tips, you can basically eat what you want and still fit into your clothes on departure day!
If you get the chance to visit this wonderful country, do so...we plan on returning to visit the Highlands. Beautiful landscapes, amazing architecture, hospitable people and yes- real good food to keep you hardy and hale!
Hope I gave you a nice big creepy dose of goosebumps! Happy Halloween and thank you for reading!
C. De Melo