In case I haven’t mentioned it before, a lot of you may not know I grew up in Scotland. My ‘hometown’ is a small village called Strathkinness, in the Kingdom of Fife, very close to the famous home of golf, St Andrews. I grew up surrounded by picturesque fishing harbours, lush fields and farms, rich American tourists and fiercely patriotic Scotsmen and women. It is truly is a beautiful part of the east coast of Scotland, hugged by the North Sea and still featuring traditional trades and architecture. I can’t wait to introduce my future spouse/children to the area, when the time comes!
I did spend most of my teenage years dreaming of bigger and better things, and always felt more comfortable and alive in a city environment. Much to my mother’s dismay, I knew that village life wasn’t for me, and focused on less rural areas when I began applying for University. In 2007/08, there were very few options for music and theatre degrees in Scotland, so much so that I was forced to look further afield. I settled in Preston, north-west England, and attended the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan). I achieved my BA (Hons) in Music Theatre with a 2:1 in 2011. As I was with my (now ex) fiancé at the time, I stayed in Preston to seek full-time work, focusing on building a loving and cosy home.
I think my mother always thought at some point I would move back to Scotland, but I’m very happy with where I live. I have easy and quick links to all the major cities in England, and Preston itself is extremely affordable to live in. I have friends that are like family here, and opportunities galore, so I don’t plan on leaving any time soon. As my birthday is at the end of this month, and I couldn’t make it home for Christmas due to work’s rotas and the cost of public transport, this mid-January period was a perfect time to make the trip to see my family.
I was hoping to see some snow, as I adore winter and feel I’ve been cheated with the weather so far this season! There were snow-capped mountains in the distance when I arrived, but nothing on the ground yet. When I woke up on the second morning however, I was greeted with this gorgeous little fluffy blanket!
Yes, I wasn’t prepared with my choice of footwear, but it didn’t stop me stomping around in my parent’s lovely big garden!
Don’t get me wrong, I love my family home, but the village has limited transport links and I don’t drive (yet), so I’m pretty stuck when I go home for more than a few days. My mum wasn’t very well with a bad cold, so she wasn’t up for exerting herself this time (she usually spends her time doing various forms of outdoor activities, including hill-walking, rowing, and sailing!). Luckily, mum has a new distraction in the form of her Audi TT Roadster. When she offered to go for a drive, I knew is wasn’t exactly going to look like this:
However, with the way she was discussing what the car was capable of, I was expecting something a little more exciting and different from her old Corsa. Before I arrived, she promised me we could drive with the top down, but as she was unwell and it was quite cold outside, my dreams were shattered. Still, you can tell how much she loves her new baby. I documented the journey with Facebook Live, and this gave me some hilarious footage of my mum and her understanding of modern technology! Check out my instagram for her commentary! We had a nice lunch under the winter sun, in the fishing town of Anstruther.
My second day in Fife was spent taking a lovely walk along the east beach and harbour in St Andrews while it was still daylight. The cathedral creates quite a famous skyline, and the harbour itself was engulfed in a high tide. Still, the ice and snow made it a very slow walk round a short distance, and I got to make friends with lots of lovely puppers and doggos on their daily stroll!
I was really looking forward to the late afternoon though, as mum had booked me and dad on to the Gin Tasting Tour at the Eden Mill Brewery and Distillery. A bit of time with my dad was exactly what I needed, and a sophisticated tipple. Plus, I love gin, it’s been my chosen spirit since I was 18. I also love a good gin cocktail, especially if there is another botanical flavour involved like rose or violet! Eden Mill specialise in beers and gin, as well as working on a whisky line which I’m sure will be very popular. Before the tour began, we were ushered out of the cold and served the Eden Mill Original Gin with Fentimans pink grapefruit tonic and a slice of fresh grapefruit. Wow! It was gorgeous, and truly got my taste buds going.
Yes, I look a lot like my dad!
After a brief history lesson and a walk around the mechanics of the warehouse, we were settled in a rustic bar area towards the end of the tour. Our guide had prepped us nicely for the tasting, and we had a good background knowledge of the samples we were about to swill.
From the back, we had the Eden Mill Hops Gin with Fentimans Ginger Ale and a sliver of green chilli pepper. This was quite a strong, spicy taste, and my dad’s favourite. Next was the Eden Mill Oak Gin with Fentimans Botanical Tonic and a smidge of orange. This was my favourite, with a super fresh, almost grassy taste. Finally, the extremely popular Eden Mill Love Gin with Fentimans Rose Lemonade and a frozen Raspberry. This was like dessert, a heavenly alcoholic Turkish Delight to finish the trio.
We were truly spoilt, with several more tasters of Eden Mill’s brewery offerings. I ended up purchasing several bottles of the Seggie Porter, which is a dark and rich beer with flavours of coffee, liquorice and hints of chocolate. I’ve already had one bottle, so I don’t see it lasting long in my cupboard! Another product Eden Mill have been selling is their Mixology Gin Cocktails. These pre-mixed concoctions make the most of the complex gin ingredients, and are now for sale in a lot of popular supermarkets. I opted for the Basil Smash Hop Gin Cocktail, with watermelon, basil and lime, and the Roasted Martini Oak Gin Cocktail, made with coffee beans and vanilla pods. I’m saving these for a special evening, but I just know they will be divine, and probably create a long-term obsession!
My only sibling, Amy, is 18 months younger than I am. She stayed in Scotland for her studies, and lived in Perth for a while after graduating with a BA (Hons) in Popular Music. She has now settled in Edinburgh, which is one of the most beautiful cities in Scotland. I’ve always had an affinity with Edinburgh’s architecture and rich history, and we used to take day trips as a family to attend an attraction or see a show at the beautiful Edinburgh Playhouse. After night three at my parents, we drove to Edinburgh to drop me off and have a nice family lunch. I had a lovely traditional veggie pizza, and opted to have vegetarian haggis sprinkled on top. It’s a great mix, honest!
Mum and dad left us after lunch, and I finally got to spend time with the newest member of the family: Amy’s kitten, Buffy. She was typically hyper, then sleepy, then hyper, then sleepy, and made me grateful that Delilah has grown out of that phase a little!
She’s bloody adorable though, and warmed to me in no time. Amy and I had planned to go out into Edinburgh that evening, as we’ve never had a proper drink in the city together before. After a lazy afternoon, we got ready to get the bus to the city centre, winter coats over our nice outfits! Amy and I are different in many ways. Physically, we are the opposite of each other. Not many people realise we are even related, our only similarity is how pale we are!
We began in a gorgeous bar called Hoot the Redeemer, just off Princes Street. Amy had talked about their infamous alcoholic slushies and ice creams, as well as the beautiful decor. We each had a Corpse Reviver Number Blue (Tanqueray Gin, Lillet Blanc, Blue Curacao and Lemon juice) which was absolutely gorgeous. As I have sensitive teeth, the frozen slushie mix took a while to drink, which was just as well, as it was bloody strong.
Warmed up, we trudged out through the rain to the other side of town, and headed to The Banshee Labyrinth. Famed as ‘Scotland’s most haunted pub’, it is actually set into the original underground vaults of Edinburgh’s old town. These eerie caves host many a ghost tour, and the layout of the bar/club meant I probably wouldn’t want to be left there alone after closing! With various sized rooms and plenty of metal and rock music, it’s certainly a place I wouldn’t mind heading back to. We had another cocktail, taking in the rest of the building which features a creepy underground free cinema that regularly shows horror and sci-fi films! Definitely another must when I’m back in Scotland.
I wanted to end the night in The Jazz Bar. Having experienced it last time I was in Edinburgh, I was utterly enchanted with whole concept. Every Saturday, a different hand-picked selection of five jazz musicians meets on stage for the first time and plays with no rehearsal, and not even a set list! Amy had said she started to feel unwell, and didn’t want to pay to get in when she wouldn’t last an hour. I was a bit gutted, as this was going to be the highlight of my night, but I didn’t want to push her. We decided to just have one more drink in a bar on the way back to the bus stops, and passed a converted church and live music venue called Stramash.
I was happy to just have a soft drink then go, but as we walked past the bouncer and through the doors, I was welcomed with the sweet sound of ska music! The band that night were none other than a soul, ska, swing and pop cover band called Porkpie, and the room was full of smiling faces and skanking feet. I was in heaven! We had walked in just as they finished their first set, so we headed to the bar for a drink while they had a break. Finding ourselves a seat, I got to appreciate how lovely the venue is, and how great it would be to hire for a function. The stage is pride of place, with a large dance floor and a lovely balcony surrounding the venue. It wasn’t long before the band set up once more, and I begged Amy to come to the dancefloor with me. I could tell she was flagging now, but I was so ready to dance after a night of sitting down. She let me skank my feet off (while holding onto my flailing boobs) for a few numbers, before basically dragging me out of there! I would love to go Stramash again, especially with that kind of band playing.
For Sunday, our only plan was to go to the beautiful Dominion Cinema later in the day to see La La Land, something I had been really looking forward to. I had already offered to take Amy shopping for her Christmas presents, so we decided to take the drive up to the Fort Kinnaird retail park in the afternoon. I had promised to get Amy some better makeup, as her small collection was lacking, and not great quality. After whizzing round Boots, Superdrug and The Body Shop, I noticed with glee that there was an actual Simply Be shop on the retail park, complete with huge sale section! I informed Amy that they often stocked down to size 10’s and 12’s, and she joked it would be the only shop where we could potentially buy matching outfits. We headed in for a rummage, before I recognised a beautifully familiar face which I spend many a day at work internet stalking – the lovely Amanda Apparel! I knew she worked for Simply Be, but it was a lovely surprise to see her. Cue picture taking, of course:
Next time I head back to Scotland, you can be sure you’ll see some more pictures of me and this absolute babely babe!
We then only just had time to get to the cinema and buy a drink. Luckily, Amy had reserved us some rather special seats, so we didn’t have to fight for a good spot. We were directly in the middle of the front row, in deluxe leather recliners! Amy shared a two seater sofa with her boyfriend, and I had a big individual squishy recliner to myself! It was absolute bliss after an afternoon of walking round the shops, and I got super comfy by taking my boots off and snuggling into my cardi. I thought the angle of the screen on the front row would be an issue, but once I was basically horizontal in the chair it didn’t matter!
La La Land was breathtaking. I appreciate it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it was for me. Romantic, heartbreaking, musical, whimsical, and full of jazz music. I could talk about it all day, but I’m aware of how long this post is! Put it this way, I’ve not stopped listening to the soundtrack. I’m in love with La La Land.
So my little darlings, that’s a roundup of my time in Scotland! I’m glad I got to see a little more of Edinburgh, and witness my mum getting Fast and Furious (ish). And I got a little snow! All in all, a good trip. I was really happy to get back to my own bed though, and snuggle with Darwin and Delilah. See you soon, Scotland!
Also, super special thanks to my friend Siobhan for feeding my little kitty-pigs while I was away!