HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 10 – The Kelpies and Goodbyes

As we got closer and closer to Edinburgh, we dreaded the end of this epic trip. But there was one last stop before this all ends!

Our last stop of this trip was the Kelpies! The Kelpies, two beautiful horse sculptures, are located in Falkirk at Helix Park.

What are kelpies, you ask?

Well, a kelpie in Scottish legends is a shapeshifting spirit that is said to dwell in bodies of water (though whether they dwell in streams, rivers or lochs, has been debated through the years!) Kelpies are said to take the shape of a horse, sometimes equipped with a bridle already. But beware, its magical hide means the rider will be stuck on its back. Then the kelpie will ride back to its watery lair and devour the human on its back. 😲

There is one bright spot… If you are able to grab hold of a kelpie’s bridle, you will have power over it and may capture it. It is said that a captured kelpie is highly prized, for it has the strength of 10 horses and stamina of many more.

The Kelpies at Helix Park are considered the world’s largest equine sculptures. Although these sculptures are named after the mythological kelpies, they are actually dedicated to working horses and horse power which helped to shape central Scotland’s early industries – particularly the canal horses who used to pull barges along Scotland’s many canals.

Each Kelpie weighs more than 300 tonnes and stands 30 metres tall. It was also built on site in 90 days. Check out this video for a really cool time lapse of the construction!

Each Kelpie was based on a Clydesdale horse – a breed of working horse. Duke and Baron, the two model horses were on hand at the opening ceremony of the Kelpies on November 27, 2013.

Since this was our last stop on this tour, it was fitting for our OG 10 day group to take a group photo. And it is one of our favourites from the whole trip ❤

Taken from good ol’ Facebook

After admiring the Kelpies and stretching our legs, we headed back to the tour bus. Once there, we were informed that we would be making a stop at Edinburgh Airport as some people from this tour guide’s group had flights to catch. We weren’t aware that airport drop off was included in this tour! (Perhaps we should have asked for personal drop off service to our hostels! 😞) This really didn’t seem like the best use of our paid tour time… but guess it was a nice service for those who needed to get to the airport right away. (Even though we were told not to book flights or onwards travel plans immediately after the tour ends, in case of any delays in getting back to Edinburgh!)

After a stop at the airport, we approached Edinburgh. We neared Edinburgh nearly 2hrs earlier than our expected arrival time. (Not sure whether people’s departure times and subsequently timing of the airport stop affected our earlier arrival?! 😯)

Our group thought that this time could have been better spent with a longer visit at one of our earlier stops, seeing something else on our way back to Edinburgh or perhaps going on a walk or exploring an area – even if it was just exploring an area near Edinburgh like Dean Village or Portobello beach. But unfortunately we were dropped off back on the Royal Mile early and feeling like we hadn’t gotten the most out of Day 10. 😔

Unfortunately, in speaking with our groupmates, we all felt like the last part of our Compass Buster tour could have been better, especially compared to the first two tour guides we had and the first 7 days of our trip. Our last tour guide did not make an effort to get to know the people in his group. Of course, it was a large tour bus full of people by this point and we definitely didn’t expect him to know everyone by name or know our life history, but he stuck with the passengers who came out with him and really did not make an effort to get to know the rest of us who joined his group for Day 8. He also didn’t try to engage us in any of the activities he planned for his group. (On the other hand, Sergio, the bus driver, was friendly to all of us!) Some of the stops that we had on the last 3 days also felt like they could have been arranged better. Some felt like “filler” stops – just making a stop to kill some time and just for the sake of it. Some stops were repeats for us and there were other stops that we would have loved to see instead. And Day 10… making 3 visits, a stop at the airport and arriving into Edinburgh almost 2 hours early… it unfortunately just felt like we had wasted half a day, if not a full day of paid travel time and experience 😔

But such is life and we did have an amazing time travelling all over Scotland. There were places that I know we would not have visited, had we travelled on our own – places like the Outer Hebrides and the Orkney islands. We also managed to visit a lot of well known attractions like Eilean Donan castle, Portree, the standing stones at Callanish and the UNESCO world heritage sites in Orkney. We were really glad we went with the 10 day tour instead of the shorter ones. Even though there were some repeat stops, we are really happy we got to see all the varied landscapes of Scotland – from the islands (where each had its own personality), to the rugged highlands to the scenic lowlands. We would recommend taking the 10 day tour if you have the time and are interested in seeing many parts of Scotland. We know that HAGGiS has changed up their 10 day tour itinerary, so hopefully stops are arranged in a better manner.

After some time reflecting on our trip with our group mates, we pulled into Edinburgh. As we grabbed our backpacks and prepared to head back to our hostels, we made plans for that night to meet up with our OG 10 day squad and our new friends we met from Andy’s group for one last hurrah.

We headed back to Castle Rock Hostel, freshened up and got ready to go for dinner. A couple of us decided to meet up for dinner and after wandering the Royal Mile looking for a restaurant, we ended up at The Advocate. As a last tribute, I ordered the vegetarian haggis. (I think the haggis I had in Portree was better!)

After a yummy dinner, we headed to the Belushi’s Bar to meet up with the gang. There was a birthday to celebrate, drinks to be had, our trip to reminisce, Facebook info to be exchanged and shenanigans with waterguns and sunglasses to be had. We decided to go for a walk and explore Edinburgh at night. Let’s just say navigating the many stairs of Edinburgh was an adventure that night! 🤣 We wandered through Grassmarket, where we were regaled with crazy stories and legends – that had us laughing our heads off. We eventually ended up at The Three Sisters, where we met up with more friends – including M, we became friends whilst visiting Orkney! We managed to snag a section of the long tables outside in the courtyard for our group. One of the moments that was the most memorable was impromptu karaoke – especially when we all sang 500 Miles (Andy’s version) together!

Because blurry photos are the best ❤

Alas, all good things must come to an end and there were hugs all around as we parted ways. There was also some waterworks… 😭 once one person started crying, more followed – we must have gotten strange stares from the other patrons of the Three Sisters! There were also promises of future trips together. With most of us being from Canada and Australia – 2 cross country road trips would allow us to easily meet up for more adventures!

As our little group wandered back up to the Royal Mile, it was time for more goodbyes. There was more tears on the Royal Mile 😢 as we said another round of goodbyes and headed off towards our respective hostels and M headed home. But with the wonders of Facebook, we still happily keep in touch with M and our OG 10 day squad + honorary members.

And there you have it – the end of our 10 day Compass Buster Tour. What an amazing trip! We are so glad we decided to go with this tour and are so grateful for the experience and all the people we met!

We had one last day in Edinburgh and we were going to make the most of it with a little daytrip out to Queensferry!

Check back soon for more!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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© Letters of Wanderlust, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

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Edinburgh Eats!

After learning all about Scotch Whisky, we headed off to search for a late lunch. Being the indecisive people that we are, we figured we would be best off just picking the first place we were both interested in. Or else, we would probably be wandering Edinburgh until dinner time!

As we walked down the Royal Mile, we passed by the Real Mary King’s Close – where we had taken the tour a couple days ago. By the time we had finished our early evening tour, the attached Royal Exchange Coffee House – which had an enticing menu, was already closed. It was open for lunch now, so this was our chance to sample their menu! Decision making made simple 😅

The Royal Exchange Coffee House shares its space with the Real Mary King’s Close gift shop. The space is bright and airy, with plenty of tables to enjoy a cuppa or a meal.

Reading the menu, I was happy to see that they were supporters of the local and Scottish food movement.

Of course, at the counter there was a display case with tempting treats and cakes! But we already had plans for dessert (more on that later!), so we stuck to their food menu. There was a good selection of food choices at this little café. There was even an option to have vegetarian haggis in the “Tower of Haggis, Neeps and Tatties.” I wasn’t feeling like a heavy lunch today so I decided to save my vegetarian haggis experience for another time!

Finally, I settled on their special of the day – a cheese quiche with a side salad and coleslaw. And Ioana had the soup and bread for her lunch.

The food took a little while to come but it was well worth the wait. The quiche was lovely and the drizzle of (what I think was) balsamic reduction was a nice touch. I might have to try that the next time I make a quiche! The salad and coleslaw were fresh and it was so nice to get some fresh veggies in! It was also a pretty generous portion and perfect for refueling after a morning and afternoon of rambling around!

After our late lunch, we headed back out onto the Royal Mile and took in the sights and sounds of this iconic street. There was always something to see along this street!

And… there is usually always something to listen to as well!

After walking off our lunch, next up was dessert! 🍦

Even before we booked our trip to Scotland, there was a little place in Edinburgh that I wanted to try. A place called Mary’s Milk Bar had been making its rounds on social media, after being featured on Buzzfeed (more than once!). Mary’s Milk Bar is famous for its indulgent hot chocolate ice cream floats and its made-fresh-daily gelato in ever-changing and unique flavours! How could we not try it while we were in Edinburgh?!

Mary’s Milk Bar is tucked away in the Grassmarket. Despite it being well-known internationally, there are no neon signs or billboards outside. This milk bar is delightfully humble, has a vintage feel and evokes a comfortable and cozy atmosphere of decades past.

We picked a good time to come, as there were only a couple of people in line ahead of us. We hear during the summer and Festival season, there are lineups down the street and they often sell out of gelato before the end of the day!

We wanted to try their famous hot chocolate ice cream floats but we also wanted the gelato and… we also wanted to walk around Edinburgh some more… So in the end, we ended up going for the gelato – purely for portability reasons… We’ll come back another time for the hot chocolate ice cream floats!

We had the pleasure of meeting Mary, as she interacted with customers and scooped out their chosen flavours!

Mary makes all of the gelato in the morning before opening up shop. We were lucky to have visited in the early afternoon – as there were still plenty of flavours to choose from. I imagine if you came near closing time, you might be quite limited on the flavours that remained!

Speaking of flavours, these aren’t your typical vanila, chocolate and strawberry flavours! Not even gourmet vanilla, chocolate and strawberry! These flavours are very unique and make use of a variety of ingredients. They also change daily and according to the seasons. Where else can you get flavours like Tea and Biscuits or Saffon and Honey or Rose and Ginger?! We follow Mary’s Milk Bar on Instagram and sometimes I feel like asking if they would ship some of their goodies over to Vancouver for us! (Would you, pretty please???!)

Here’s today’s gelato selection! 😍

Ioana went for a scoop of Drunk Prunes in Amaretto and a scoop of Fresh Fig Sorbet. I went with my favourite – Peanut Butter and a scoop of something different – White Chocolate and Thyme. I had always associated thyme with savoury dishes, but it paired really nicely with the sweetness of white chocolate in this gelato. I almost think I liked the White Chocolate and Thyme better than the PB… But they were both delicious and hit the spot!

It doesn’t get any better than this – delicious gelato and Edinburgh Castle on a beautiful autumn day! 😋

With our Edinburgh food goal achieved and our gelato in hand, we walked around the Grassmarket. Besides discovering more views of Edinburgh Castle, we also came upon a cat café – Maison de Moggy! Yup, that’s right! A cat café – where you can have something to eat or drink in the company of cats! We didn’t go in but had a good long look through the window at all the shenanigans that the cats (and humans…) were getting up to! 😼

After some more walking and a spot of dinner, it was time to head back to our hostel. We had lots of packing to do before leaving on our Haggis Adventures 10-day tour the next day! Castle Rock Hostel has a long term luggage storage room and since we would be returning in 10 days, they were kind enough to let us store some of our stuff there. That means we didn’t have to haul our Guinness Glasses and our Glencairn glass all over Scotland! (Although we would then have very well-traveled glassware!)

Before falling asleep, I managed to poke my head out the sky light above my bunk and was mesmerized by this night scene…

George Heriot’s School – inspiration for Hogwarts!

Good night Edinburgh and hello to our Scotland adventures! Stay tuned for more!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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When in Scotland – The Scotch Whisky Experience

After a lovely little getaway to Dalhousie Castle, we were back in Edinburgh. We dropped our bags off at our hostel, and were off on our next adventure. And this would be an “educational” one 😉!

We walked the short distance from our hostel to the Royal Mile and then turned up towards Edinburgh Castle.

Our destination? The Scotch Whisky Experience!

When in Scotland, right?

Plus, after trying Jameson Irish Whiskey in Ireland, how could we not try Scotch Whisky in Scotland for a comparison?

At the Scotch Whisky Experience, there are a variety of tour experiences that you can choose from. We booked our tickets for the Silver Tour ahead of time. The Silver Tour included: an introduction to whisky, a dram of Scotch whisky, a viewing of the World’s largest collection of Scotch whisky and a souvenir of crystal whisky tasting glass.

We checked in at the ticket office and waited for the tour to start. The first part of the tour was an interesting one… A barrel ride!

You sit in a faux whisky barrel and this “ride” takes you through a history of whisky making. It was a little cheesy but there was some good information about the history and process of making whisky by our guide… a holographic guide! After going through the centuries, you arrive back in present day and a knowledgeable (real human) guide takes over.

We headed into the tasting room, where we learned more about the different whisky regions of Scotland. It was interesting to hear about the unique characteristics of each region and what makes each of them special. We each got a sniff card of each region’s special scent. (Happy to report, the sniff card still works even a year later!) Our guide led us through each of the regions and we got to test our noses! We could catch some of the flavours (that peaty smell!) but some of the subtle ones… not so much!

Next came the fun part – the tasting!

From our smell test, we each got to pick the whisky region that we wanted to sample from. Our guide came around and poured us a wee dram of whisky from that region. Ioana went with the Lowland region and I went with the Highland region (Aberfeldy 12-year).

Then we got a lesson in how to properly do a tasting – what to look for, what to smell and what to taste. We won’t give away too much of the lesson 😉

After that, with our whisky in hand, we headed off to see “The Collection.” The Scotch Whisky Experience is also known for the incredible collection of whisky housed there – to be specific, the 3,384 bottles of whisky in the collection. And we were about to see it!

In a dim room filled with shelves and glass cases, bottle after bottle of whisky is on display here. The warm amber glow of the bottles reminds me of the liquid gold that we were sipping on.

This collection was previously the personal collection of Claive Vidiz – a whisky enthusiast and founding member of the Brazilian Association of Whisky Collectors. Over some 35 years, he collected the almost 3400 unopened bottles. In 2006, the collection was returned home to Scotland after the Scottish distiller Diageo purchased it in its entirety. Now it is known as the Diageo Claive Vidiz Collection.

It was really cool to see whiskies from various years and from various distilleries – some that we had heard of and some that we hadn’t. I also liked looking at the bottles! Some were your standard bottles but others were really unique!

Two of my favourites! 🐶

After finishing our whisky, we got to take our Glencairn whisky glasses home as a souvenir, which is great because now we have proper whisky glasses! (which have gotten a fair bit of use since!)

What did we think of this experience?

We enjoyed it – sure it is catered to tourists and the barrel ride was a little iffy, but the rest of it was interesting and we felt it was worthwhile. We knew going into it that they were not going to give us their high-end whiskies to sample – and frankly it would probably be a waste since we probably wouldn’t know how to appreciate it at that stage. Another reason we went with this tour was that we were not heading out to an actual distillery while we were in Scotland. So we thought this was a good way to learn more about whisky while we were here.

We would say… if you have never had whisky before, the Silver Tour might be a good introduction. If you are a whisky fan, perhaps one of the other Tour Experiences or touring your favourite distillery might be a better fit.

Or better yet, turn it into a road trip and visit Speyside’s Malt Whisky Trail. As we learned at the Scotch Whisky Experience, Speyside has a large concentration of whisky distilleries and I think it would be a really cool adventure to drive around and visit some (all!?) of the distilleries for a tour! (Just make sure you take turns driving – no drinking and driving!) And while you’re in Speyside, drop by Aberlour and check out the Walkers Shortbread shop! (The factory is also there but they don’t offer any tours. They do have a shop on site, I believe.) I haven’t been before but I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want to stop by for some buttery shortbread! Perfect roadtrip snack! 😍 It’s  definitely on my list to visit!

Who else has been to the Scotch Whisky Experience? How did you find it? Has anyone been to the Walkers Shortbread Factory or store?

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

Exploring Dalhousie Castle

After a wonderful dinner at the Dungeon Restaurant, Ioana and I couldn’t resist taking some fun pictures before calling it a night.

How many Ioana’s can fit on the bed?!

This was the view from our window the next morning 😍

Waking up in a castle does have its perks 😉

Eventually we managed to pull ourselves out of bed and headed down for breakfast.

Breakfast is served in the Orangery. For breakfast, I had the scrambled eggs with Scottish smoked salmon. Delicious way to wake up! In addition to a cooked breakfast selection, there was also a selection of tasty pastries, muffins, juices, fruits and yogurts to help you start your day off right!

After breakfast, we packed up and left our bags with reception so we could explore Dalhousie Castle and its grounds a little bit more before heading back to Edinburgh.

It was another gorgeous day – perfect for exploring the castle grounds! (and having some fun…)


There were some trails around the castle grounds and we went for a wee ramble – walking past the neighbouring fields, ducking under tree branches, stepping over roots… It’s always nice to be outside, enjoying nature and the scenery.


There is a falconry on site at the castle. And you can book one of several experiences to learn more about these birds of prey and to hold and fly one! If you’re getting married at Dalhousie Castle, you can even get an owl to fly in during your ceremony and deliver your rings!

We didn’t sign up for a falconry experience. We just happened to be out on the grounds when this bird had a practice session with its trainer. (We won’t go into the ethics, animal rights or morals of this here. We are just stating what we saw.)

Back inside, there was more to admire…

Eventually, it was inevitable – we had to say goodbye to Dalhousie Castle. (We contemplated hiding in the room, or even in the woods behind the castle… But figured we would be found and booted out pretty quickly!)

We had such a lovely stay here – from the wonderful welcome we received, our conversation with the Castle Steward, our Afternoon Tea, our relaxing and rejuvenating spa treatments, our three course dinner at the Dungeon Restaurant to the friendly and hospitable staff! We can’t wait to come back for another visit!

But for now, it was back to Edinburgh for us, where another adventure awaited us. This adventure would involve our noses, our palates and… perhaps a wee dram!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

Dinner in the Dungeon

After a lovely birthday tea celebration in the Orangery and some pampering at the Aqueous Spa, it was evening time at Dalhousie Castle and time for dinner!

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Included in our package was a 3 course dinner at Dalhousie Castle’s Dungeon Restaurant.

“Awarded 2 AA Rosettes, our menu is a modern interpretation of classic Scottish dishes cooked and prepared in a classic French cooking style, whilst using locally sourced produce.”

We had been hosteling and adventuring for the past 2 weeks, so it was nice to be pampered a little bit at the castle and we were excited to get dressed up for dinner!

We were instructed when we checked into Dalhousie Castle to head to the Library 30 minutes prior to our dinner reservation for drinks. Walking in, we immediately noticed how cozy it was. Ioana and I both LOVE reading and although we didn’t have a chance to actually sit down and read in this library, we could definitely see ourselves enjoying a good read and a warm drink here! (On our next stay, for sure!)

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We settled into a couch in the Library and were presented with some menus. We ordered our drinks (A nice rosé) and perused the dinner menu. Instead of ordering at the table, they took our orders for dinner here, even before we headed down to the actual Dungeon Restaurant. This meant the kitchen had adequate time to prepare our food, whilst we lounged in the Library with our drinks.

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We were also served a selection of hor d’oeuvres whilst we lounged in the Library. We enjoyed our time drinking our wine, chatting with other diners, hearing their travel stories and enjoying the warm and cozy ambiance of the Library.

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After about 30 – 35 minutes, we were led down to the Dungeon! (I guess hundreds of years ago, I wouldn’t be saying that with enthusiasm!)

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It was a really neat setting for a restaurant. The barrel vaulted ceilings, the exposed bricks, with suits of armour, swords and shields on the walls… So now we can say we have dined in a dungeon! How many of you can say that? 😉

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The restaurant was not packed to the rafters that night – it was a Monday night afterall. But there were several other parties dining already. The tables were spaced out nicely and you didn’t feel like you were intruding on others’ conversations or bumping elbows with others.

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The decor here was definitely more formal than when we had our Afternoon Tea in the Orangery earlier in the afternoon.

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Blurry picture 😦

Before we get to the food, here’s a disclaimer. We totally did not take notes while we were eating dinner that evening. And we also forgot to take a photograph of the menu… Hence one year later, we have a vague idea of what we ate, but we could also be completely wrong! We definitely have learned our lesson!! So here goes nothing…

For my starter, I went with the Roast Plum Tomato Terrine with a basil salad. Tomatoes and basil are the perfect combination in my books, so I really enjoyed this starter. The terrine had an nice, smooth texture and mouth feel. The balsamic and chutney pulled the dish together. All the different flavours and textures on the plate worked together to create a very enjoyable starter.

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Here’s Ioana’s starter… which we think was the Glazed Perthshire Lamb Sweetbreads with balsamic and parmesan!

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We picked the same main course this evening – the Pan Fried Wild Scottish Pollock with caper butter. (Ioana was saving her first taste of Haggis for later on in the trip!) The fish was cooked well – not overdone and fell apart easily. The sauce and the caper butter complimented the fish well – gave it more flavour but did not overpower the dish. There could have perhaps been more vegetables on the plate (there’s the dietitian side of me coming out!), but overall it was a quality dish!

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After our dinner, we were presented with a complimentary pre-dessert treat! I won’t even guess at what was on this plate – besides the mini madeleine, that we know for sure! (Although it could have been a crazy flavour, which we have since forgotten… 😦 )

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Then came our desserts – our favourite part of any meal! We were glad the portions of the starters and mains were not too large, or we wouldn’t have room for dessert!

Ioana had the Iced Apple Parfait with Toffee and Walnut Sponge. The apple flavour was very refreshing and balanced out the sweeter flavour of the toffee. The crunch of the walnuts also added another texture to this lovely dessert.

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I went with the Dark Chocolate Delice. The dark chocolate delice was delicious – smooth, rich and indulgent! There was also a bit of ice cream to add a different flavour and mouth feel, compared to the delice. Yum!

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After a lovely dinner in the Dungeon Restaurant, we went for a ramble around the castle. We peeked into various rooms, looked at the paintings and photographs on the walls and learned a bit more history about Dalhousie Castle and Clan Ramsay.

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Love the curtains, the ceiling, the windows the chandeliers, the carpet… basically loved everything!

We continued down a hallway and came upon this:

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Everything set up for the wedding that Andrew, the Castle Steward and Piper, was telling us about earlier this afternoon.

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As it was getting late, we headed back up to our room for some sleep. We also didn’t want to run into any… “special guests!”

It is said that Dalhousie Castle is one of the top 10 haunted castles in Europe. Among the sightings of animal ghosts, butler ghosts and some even say the ghost of Sir Alexander Ramsay, perhaps the most famous is that of the “Grey Lady.” The Grey Lady is also known as the ghost of lovelorn Lady Catherine of Dalhousie. She is said to haunt the castle, wandering through doors, hallways, guest rooms and the Dungeon. Guests and staff alike have reported seeing glimpses of her, feeling her ghostly antics and other strange, paranormal experiences.

To avoid meeting Lady Catherine, however nice she may be, we headed back up the stairs and into our room, hoping she would stick another part of the castle tonight.

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Since we only had one night’s stay at this beautiful hotel, we were definitely not leaving early in the morning! We were determined to enjoy as much of Dalhousie Castle and its beautiful grounds before we left. Stay tuned for more of our stay in our next post!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

Birthday Afternoon Tea at Dalhousie Castle 

Almost exactly a year and 2 weeks ago, we were in Edinburgh for Ioana’s birthday. What better way to celebrate than a stay at the historic, luxurious and beautiful Dalhousie Castle!

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First up in the birthday celebrations was Afternoon Tea!

Tea was held in the Orangery – which had a lovely view of the greenery surrounding the castle. In addition to serving Afternoon Tea, the Orangery also serves a contemporary menu for lunch and dinner in a ‘relaxed bistro’ setting.

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The Orangery was lovely – it had large windows all around, that let in the autumn sun. We got a table right by the window so we could bask in the sunshine.

The Orangery is more relaxed than the Dungeon Restaurant, which we would be visiting later that day. I might call it casual elegance? It was decorated in a simple, yet beautiful manner. I liked that it had a bit of a rustic feel, with the exposed bricks and the simple but pretty fresh flowers on each table. Yet, there were also chandeliers hanging from the ceiling for a touch of elegance.

Love the pretty pink carnations!

Here was the menu for Afternoon Tea in Fall 2015. I’m sure the menu has changed since then. Has anyone been to Dalhousie for Afternoon Tea recently? How was it?

We took a look at the tea menu and after much pondering, finally decided on our teas. (Good thing we got a standard tea set of sandwiches, scones and sweets! If we had to choose… oh boy! 😫)

Soon, our teas arrived. Ioana had the Sapphire Earl Grey and I chose the Darjeeling. The teas came with this – something we had never seen before. A tea timer hourglass. We were instructed to look at our respective tea timer to know how long to steep our tea for.

After a couple sips of tea, the Tomato Consommé with Basil arrived. It was a chilled soup, which was very refreshing and flavourful. I love basil – so I thought that was a lovely way to start off our Afternoon Tea. It was also nice to get a chilled soup as it was getting quite warm inside the Orangery – a bit of a greenhouse effect with all the glass windows!

Next, our sandwiches, scones and sweets arrived on a very contemporary stand – definitely different from what we were expecting… But we thought the wooden stand matched well with the setting of the Orangery.

Here’s the food. It’s funny because every time we go for Afternoon Tea, we look at it and always think it’s not THAT much food. Yet… we never end up finishing the entire tea service!

I did ask for some vegetarian substitutions, so some of the food we got was different from the menu above.

Here’s what we had:

Spiced Crabsticks on Milk Brioche Roll, Smoked Chicken Tartelette, Salmon Rillette – Filo

Cucumber on Farmhouse White, Home Roast Ham and Rocket on Farmhouse Brown, Hens’ Egg and Cress on Farmhouse White

Fruit and Plain Scone, with local preserve and clotted cream

Gateau Opera, Cream filled Meringue

Raspberry Cranachan

Dundee Cake, Citrus Meringue Tartelette

Nougat, Dark Chocolate and Praline Truffle, Macaron

We started with some of the sweets, because we noticed they were starting to melt in the warmth of the Orangery. I love nougat, so having this at tea time was a special treat – as I don’t think I’ve ever had Tea where nougat was served!

Next, we went with the sandwiches. This was one of my substitutions as I don’t eat meat. Taking out the meat and replacing it with cheese works for me any and all the time!

A nice refreshing cucumber sandwich…

Egg salad – one of my favourites! And also my staple during this trip, whenever we stopped at supermarkets or a café for lunch…

Onto the scones – a plain and a fruit scone. These were paired with “Local Preserves and Clotted Cream”! I went for the Strawberry, while Ioana went with the Black Currant. I will have to say that we liked the scone we got in the Orkneys (stay tuned for that!) better than the ones here. These ones were good but a bit more doughy.

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Last but definitely not least, the sweets!

The Gateau Opera was a really decadent cake. The cream layers were rich and the top layer was delicious, chocolatey goodness!

This is the Raspberry Cranachan – something we had never heard of before. As per Wikipedia (always a super reliable source…😝)

“Cranachan is a traditional Scottish dessert. In modern times, it is usually made from a mixture of whipped cream, whisky, honey and fresh raspberries, with toasted oatmeal soaked overnight in a little bit of whisky.”

Since we haven’t had this before, we didn’t have anything to compare it to. It was almost like a yogurt parfait but richer – with whipped cream instead. We might have to find a recipe and try making this ourselves! Anyone got one to share?

This is the Citrus Meringue Tartelette – it was a light, simple but tasty treat, with a nice crust.

The aftermath… we tried really hard to finish everything but we just couldn’t!

We had a lovely Afternoon Tea celebration for Ioana’s birthday! 🎉🎂☕

But the celebrations weren’t over just yet. We were off for our spa treatments, which were included in the package we booked. We each got a one-hour spa treatment and were free to use the rest of the spa facilities afterwards. It was a quiet day, so we had the spa all to ourselves. We took our time enjoying the foot baths (we definitely needed that to pamper our feet after all of our walking, exploring and adventures!), the Turkish style steam bath, a sweating room and lastly, spent some time lounging in the sunny Tepidarium.

After all of that relaxation and pampering, it was time to get dressed for dinner! We would be dining in the dungeon that evening! Pretty cool to be able to say we have dined in a dungeon.

Stay tuned for more on this beautiful castle and some tasty food in our next post!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

The Splurge!

While we were planning our Ireland and Scotland trip, we noticed that we would be in Edinburgh on Ioana’s birthday.

And that called for a celebration! So we searched for something special to do… something that would give us an excuse to get dressed up on a backpacking trip 😆 We thought of going to a nice place for Afternoon Tea, going for a nice dinner somewhere or a spa day, but those were all things that we could do at home. We wanted something a bit more special – since we were in Scotland after all.

When we came upon a package deal from Dalhousie Castle, we knew that would be our splurge for the trip!

The deal cost £300 for 2 people and included one night bed and breakfast stay, 2 spa treatments, use of the spa facilities, a 3 course dinner for 2 and drinks at the Dungeon Restaurant. We thought it was a good deal for a splurge, considering what was included in the package.

Plus! This was our chance to stay in a real CASTLE! Dalhousie Castle – a castle that reportedly dates back to the 13th century and holds the title of the “Oldest Inhabited Castle” in Scotland. If only those bricks could talk!

We excitedly booked our stay for Dalhousie Castle. We were looking forward to taking a break from staying in hostels and pampering ourselves for one night!

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After a busy Day 2 in Edinburgh, we were ready for a bit of relaxation and luxury on Day 3! But first, we had to get to Dalhousie…

Dalhousie is a little ways outside of Edinburgh, near the town of Bonnyrigg. But it is accessible via public transit – we took Bus 31 towards Bonnyrigg and got off at Brixwold Bank. The bus journey took about 30 minutes. From there, it was a 15 min walk down the B704 to Dalhousie Castle.

Or you could always take a cab there, especially if you have lots of luggage. We were able to leave most of our luggage behind at our hostel, since we were only staying at Dalhousie for one night.

So, with our small day bags in hand, we headed off to the bus stop on North Bridge.

It was another lovely fall morning in Edinburgh. While we waited for our bus, we got another chance to admire the views and architecture of the buildings around us.

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Calton Hill just looks beautiful from any direction!

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The Balmoral and its clock tower

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We boarded the bus and tried to confirm with the bus driver that our stop was on his route. He unfortunately wasn’t sure! Fortunately for us, another passenger informed us that we were on the right bus. He was even kind enough to let us know when our stop was coming up!

Once we got off the bus, we started the leisurely walk towards our castle – yup, I said ‘our’ 😉

There were helpful signs along the way. The walk wasn’t long, hilly or difficult but the sidewalk is very narrow on parts of the walk, so if you have large rolling suitcases, taking a cab might be a better idea!

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Here we are – turning into our Castle!

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Definitely felt like we were approaching a fine estate!

We even made a new friend on our way to the Castle. This friendly horse was just grazing leisurely in a pasture by the road.

Here’s the first glimpse of the Castle from the road…

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And once you rounded the bend towards the Castle, you are greeted with this…

It just gets better as we drew closer and closer to the red brick building.

Here is Dalhousie Castle. What a beautiful Castle – with the design, the ivy climbing up its walls and the flag of Scotland flying proudly atop the Castle.

Now… there was another reason we chose Dalhousie Castle. It has a wee Canadian connection!

Dalhousie Castle was the previous seat of the Earls of Dalhousie – chief of Clan Ramsay. In the early 1800’s, George Ramsay, the 9th Earl of Dalhousie, was the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia (a Canadian province) and later was also the Governor General of British North America. While he was in Nova Scotia, he founded Dalhousie University – which exists to this date. Once we found this little Canadian connection, we knew we had to stay at Dalhousie Castle!

The decision to stay here was also made easier by the romantically beautiful castle! The photographs on the website are great, but to see it in person was even better!

The beautiful drum tower, which is reportedly the oldest part of the current castle.

After checking in, we were scheduled to celebrate Ioana’s birthday with Afternoon Tea!

We were a little early though and they weren’t open yet, so we decided to take a stroll around the castle.

We had the pleasure of meeting the Castle Steward and piper – Andrew, who was so welcoming and friendly. He told us a little bit about the castle and its history, the wedding that was to be held here the next day and applauded me on the correct way I pronounced Edinburgh! (Who knew!)

Since it was a gorgeous day, we wandered outside for a glimpse of the castle grounds.

Here is the Orangery – where we would be having Afternoon Tea later on.

To continue the tradition started in Ireland, there was also to be some gazing at Dalhousie!

Just gazing…

And more gazing…

Since we decided Afternoon Tea would be our lunch, we had only eaten one meal that day so far. By this time, we were feeling a bit hungry! Good thing when we were walking down the Royal Mile to the bus stop this morning, we were tempted to purchase some shortbread cookies at a souvenir shop! Ever since I was a little girl, Walkers has always been my go-to for shortbread (I’m guessing some nostalgia and childhood memories factor into this decision!) And this pack wasn’t just ordinary shortbread – they were mini Scottie dogs! Cute – almost too cute to eat!

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But we were hungry… so to tide us over until Afternoon Tea, we broke open a pack of the Mini Scottie Dogs and enjoyed some shortbread in the sunshine, with a view of the castle grounds.

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We couldn’t resist taking more photographs of and with this beautiful castle.

After a couple more selfies with our Castle as the backdrop, the Orangery was open and it was time for the celebratory Birthday Tea!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!