When my boyfriend asks if I want to take a day trip to North Berwick, I’m not sure where he means. The northern part of Berwick-upon-Tweed? Somewhere north of Berwick-upon-Tweed? So I look at a map and discover a seaside town on the Firth of Forth 25 miles from Edinburgh. And I feel like an idiot. But not for long, because I agree to go to North Berwick to see what I’m missing.
I’d never heard of Kirkcudbright before. The harbor town at the bottom of the Scottish coast isn’t exactly on the main tourist trail. But given my love of discovering new places, I agreed to go when my boyfriend suggested a weekend trip to the annual Kirkcudbright Art and Crafts Trail. And I’m so glad I did.
“It’s a beautiful day,” a man says as we pull up to the dock. “Feels like California!” I beam. “I’m from California!” I cry, throwing my hands in the air in celebration. And it really does feel like home. Which surprises me, since I’m in Scotland and I didn’t expect to spend a week sailing in the Scottish Hebrides without seeing a single cloud in the sky.
I’ve been visiting Glasgow my whole life. Having a Glaswegian grandmother meant my first trip outside the U.S. was to Scotland, and ensured that I’ve dipped in and out ever since. But for some reason I’m always doing just that: dipping in and out. One day here, one day there, and I never see enough. Which makes me all the more excited that I’ve finally booked 3 days in Glasgow to experience the city properly.
It’s a big week for birthdays. Tuesday I celebrated mine, and today the UK honors the Queen’s (I’ll leave it to you to decide which is more important). But there’s another birthday that deserves mentioning, too. Today is the 178th anniversary of John Muir’s birth. If you don’t know him, he’s the naturalist responsible for the founding of America’s national parks. And that brings me to another birthday: the National Park Service turns 100 this year. Which is why it’s worth taking a trip to John Muir’s birthplace in Dunbar, Scotland right now.
My favorite thing about spring is flowers. Since moving to London I’ve tracked the blooming of the bulbs each winter, my inner Californian desperate for the warmth of spring. What I’ve learned is that the first flowers to appear are delicate white snowdrops. Longing for the days of tulips and daffodils, I’ve scoured the country this month for the best places to see snowdrops in Britain. After traveling the island, today I bring you photos from England, Scotland, and Wales.
A few months ago my boyfriend invited me to a hunt ball in Scotland. I had no idea what that meant, but I said yes. After all, I’ve been an expat long enough to know how to smile and nod like a pro, then Google it later. Upon researching, I found out that hunt balls are festive evenings that take place throughout the UK to raise money for fox hunts. Controversial (I love foxes! They’re so cute!), but I love a good party (foxes do eat babies, after all). Squashing my conscience, I affirmed my positive response.
It’s February, and that means Valentine’s Day is rapidly approaching. Love it or loathe it, February 14th gives us an opportunity to express very un-British displays of emotion. Yay! (Sorry, was that too earnest? This American expat is still learning). If you need a little help demonstrating your affection this year, I’ve put together a list of the 8 most romantic places in the UK. These lovely travel destinations are sure to loosen your lips (and if they don’t, alcohol always helps. At least I’ve got that part of British culture sorted!).
It’s a beautiful day in Edinburgh. The sun is out, the city is full of energy, and the parks and gardens beckon with their bright green grass and pretty autumn leaves. But I’m not going to sit in the sun today. I’m headed indoors to visit three of the best museums in Edinburgh, and they’re good enough that I’m willing to give up the Scottish sun for them (which is saying a lot, because the Scottish sun is a fickle star).