Kaleen is completely bonkers as you can see from this pic. However she and Shannon (two of our resident Canadians) really got into Canada night. The pub night has been going from strength to strength so if you haven't been joining us then you really need to come along and have some fun. Every week in Trader Joes pub on Hope Street in Glasgow. See you there.
It's not going to be long before Stirling stops being the youngest city and Perth takes over but for now we'll be using that monkier. With a second sell out group in tow we took off to the Falkirk Wheel and Rough Castle once again. It's amazing how so little can really capture the imagination.
Stirling Castle once again was invaded by us and finding somewhere to chill in the city centre over lunch is never difficult. It was however Bannockburn again that led to the best results for the trip. Everyone likes to debate the independance of Scotland and where better to do so than under the statue of King Robert Bruce?
On the search of the Legendary Muffin (A.K.A. Ailsa Craig)
There is an island out at sea on Scotland's South West Coast called Ailsa Craig. We call it Paddy's Mile Stone as it's roughly half way between Glasgow and Belfast but this day it was all about the muffin. When I was a boy my family told me if you can see the top of the muffin then it means good weather ahead. If you can't and it's cloudy then it must be an iced muffin and therefore bad weather.
Thankfully today we could see the top which meant good weather. Dunure is a village which is not known for massive tour buses. We broke the mould of course and literally invaded the place. Off season I don't see this as being an issue though as no one else is around. The castle is stunning. The views are amazing. I couldn't keep everyone together as there was so much to keep them amused.
Ayr is one of those places that everyone has to go to at some point. The town is a popular Glaswegian tour spot and our crew found out just why that is. A particular highlight of course was Patrick and Michal reading some Robert Burns as went around the town.
We finished the tour in Irvine at the Beach Park in the town. At the summit of the hill there is a large stone dragon statue which keeps watchful eye over the west coast to ensure Scotland is never invaded by the Vikings ever again. Rob from the USA wasn't too impressed with the statue but he did enjoy the stories I had to tell so I guess that was something.
Student Tours Scotland works in partnership with ESN Glasgow from the University of Strathclyde. Every Sunday they run a pub night at Boteco do Brasil. This week saw a Carnivale theme. As usual I can't say no to a party.
Playing on a fake blow up saxophone and drinking some amazing cocktails is clearly what ESN Glasgow is all about. I won't be missing another pub night. I suggest you do the same.
Trip Review: Return to Loch Lomond (February 2012)
Sunshine on the Bonny Banks
The last time we decended upon Loch Lomond we got pretty much soaked through. This time was quite the opposite. The sun was shining and Loch Lomond was looking great. Another walk up Conic Hill was met with the usual skeptical glances but the summit was more than reachable this time. Many a great photo was taken at the top.
It's always amazing how much everyone falls in love with Loch Lomond. Balloch and Luss brought a smile to the face of nearly 60 students on this tour. I get a little warm and fuzzy when I see how everyone loves Loch Lomond. It's so easy to get to and yet still so unexplored by students studying in Glasgow. Student Tours Scotland aims to change that.
Trip Review: Dunoon and Argyll Forest (February 2012)
The Land of Myths and Faeries
Every good adventure needs a story. Puck's Glen north of Dunoon in the Cowal Peninsula is a magical place for telling a good tale. You can just imagine yourself surrounded by mythical beasts. A good Scottish tale about faeries is always a good one for students. You have to realise though that a Scottish faerie is a far cry from Tinkerbell and the like. A Scottish one is evil, pure evil.
Walking through Puck's Glen we waited until we were in the depths of the Argyll Forest before telling the most awful stories of what the Scottish faeries have done over the years. Needless to say it was less than pleasant. The forest itself is just wonderful. You really can't appreciate it until you've been yourself. It's a stones throw from Glasgow (plus a ferry journey) so no excuses!
Dunoon as a town is great for killing an afternoon. So much to see and do like the Bishop's Glen and the ruins of the castle. We even squeezed in one more ruin before we left at Toward south of Dunoon. Having a ruin to yourself is pretty much the ideal Student Tours Scotland tour. It's not every day you get the chance to run free around a castle.
We'll be repeating this trip again but not for some time. For now it's our little secret.
Trip Review: Edinburgh - The Return (February 2012)
Epic Battles on Calton Hill
Our initial Edinburgh trip was so popular we had to run a second date!
Edinburgh is the rival of Glasgow, my home city. So naturally I feel out of place in Edinburgh. However the city is awesome. The beautiful buildings and views always give tourists a fantastic experience. Thankfully my disdain for the city is all played for laughs and I can give a great tour of the city.
After another hike up to St. Anthony's Chapel ruins in Holyrood Park and a brilliant tour of Edinburgh Castle again we took off through the Grassmarket. The students really enjoyed the feel of the place. Edinburgh's Grassmarket is like a mini-version of the south side of Glasgow with it's cool little boutiques and quirky bars and cafes.
The finale of the day occurs at Calton Hill at the monuments in the park there. There really is no better place in Edinburgh to whip out some plastic swords and have a wee mock fight. With my pride at stake my friend Scott and I took each other on. Student Tours Scotland isn't just about sightseeing!
In the past I've always done the Stirling tour in a roundabout way. This is the latest incarnation of our Stirling tour and one that I think works really well. With a full bus we headed to Falkirk and to it's wheel. Despite desperately hunting for a toilet break we had to venture up behind the wheel itself to kill some time for the opening of the centre.
The Antonine Wall passes through this part of Scotland at a place called Rough Castle. Little remains of the castle itself and the wall is all but gone however the area around the site is simply stunning. Even Christian from Norway had to admit it was beautiful and he is notoriously hard to appeal to. The ditches nearby got a lot of attention from our students as they were used for defence in the past.
Back at the wheel everyone managed to get a pee break and coffee fill up. Upon entering Stirling we took the obligatory trip to Stirling Castle. The newly opened and refurbished palace is amazing. This castle really is much better than Edinburgh now!
After lunch (which in Stirling is tough due to the sheer number of places you can go) we took a whirlwind tour of the old town with our students pretending to be jailed and captured at the Old Town Jail. Mar's Wark Cemetery is a wonderful wee charming hidden gem which everyone really took to.
We finished the day up at Bannockburn Battlefield where the battle of the same name took place. After a brief history of the Wars of Independence and the future Referendum set for 2014 we took some pictures with King Robert himself before having some wee sword fights at the site.
One of the highlights of visiting Scotland is the chance to get your picture taken with one of those loveable Highland Cows. Being ginger myself I can understand the attraction. However most students don't realise that travelling up north is not the only way to see these wonderful creatures.
Our walk this week saw forty students from across the universities in Glasgow head to the South West of Glasgow to Pollok Country Park. As Glasgow's largest park and the largest urban park in Europe there is a lot to see here. However it's the herd of around 100 Highland Cows that draw the crowds.
We were in luck. Not only were the cows particularly friendly but their wee babies were out in force too.
So not every theme is a hit at a pub night. Student Tours Scotland tries to get the timing of our themes to meet national holidays or large events. We thought the love theme would have been a good one but our students thought otherwise. Generally the fact everyone was single didn't help. Love theme only works when people are in love. Oh well.
Thanks anyway to Ramon who came with a cupid arrow through his head. Love certainly was in the air. It just almost took his head off!
Loch Lomond is one of those places that gets under your skin. You visit once and that is you hooked for life. This tour was rather wet, to say the least. In fact it's possibly the wettest tour we have ever run. That didn't stop everyone having a blast though. With a bus load of eager Glasgow international students we headed off to the bonny, bonny banks.
Balmaha is one of those places everyone heads to at some point,. As a passing point of the West Highland Way it is well travelled. After a few nice faerie and myth stories we did our best to get up Conic Hill. It's not easy hiking up with 57 people in tow but at Student Tours Scotland we always try and give it a go.
The views from the top are simply awesome. We didn't quite reach the summit but we got high enough above the tree line for some great views of the lower Lomond islands. Our happy students were beaming with sheer joy of achievement and success at least. Should be a good few photo competition entries from this part of the tour at least.
I always knacker (Glasgow word for tire) everyone out at the start of my tours to help them shake off the hangover and lack of sleep. This tour was no different. So when we finally reached Balloch town everyone rushed off for some food. I took a group who had their lunch with them to Lomond Shores shopping centre. What always amazes me is how addicted they can get to Irn Bru. Having only been recently introduced to the stuff, Quentin from France was already lapping it up at a rate of around 2 cans a day! I like to think I had something to do with that.
So the afternoon began with a complete wash out in Balloch Castle Country Park - a part of the tour we can just gloss over as everyone would rather forget the drenching! Howwever as always the wee village of Luss was a saving grace for us. The weather finally let up and we ventured to the parts few tourists go to. The Quarry Path behind the village on the other side of the A82 is more than worth a walk through. The stunning falls and rapids that flow into the loch often have a unique green/blue hue to them perhaps due to the quarry of slates that were mined here.
So ends another fantastic tour with Student Tours Scotland. A bunch of happy International Students slept most of the way home which I take to be a good thing as it means they were all knackered (again Glasgow word for tired). Until next time folks!
So Irn Bru is the life blood of every Scot. I personally need at least one can each day to survive. This is from our recent trip to Edinburgh where we got mary from the USA to try the stuff for the first time. The results are ... well you can see for yourself.
One of the best things about this job is getting to meet the fresh-faced international students who are new to the city. The terror in their eyes when they realise they cannot understand a soul in Glasgow is just brilliant. You know they will get over it eventually but those first moments are memorable.
The Welcome to Glasgow walk is designed to take the group around the main streets of the city and showcase some of the very best of what is on offer. We had a pretty awesome wee squad on this walk. Mostly Glasgow Caledonian University students but there was a good mix from the Glasgow School of Art as well.
After a brief chat we found out what the biggest concerns and greatest needs were and of course Primark topped the bill as always. Cheap clothes are somethign every student aspires to find and Glasgow thankfully has plenty to offer. After putting their minds at ease with the big P we trekked down through Buchanan Street and into Argyle Street.
It's not an overly stressful trip - the main theme is to get to know everyone. The weather did the usual Glasgow rain thing where the water comes at you from all angles. So we took refuge in the nearest Starbucks for some warm-up coffee. The best bit came at the end when everyone said they had pretty much forgotten everything we discussed already on the tour. Ahh the stresses and strains of welcoming people to the city. You have to love it!
After being suspiciously absent for too long our Weekly Pub Night is back with a vengeance. We've teamed up with Trader Joes bar at 325 Hope Street in Glasgow to bring you a fun and relaxing night. Escape from the madness of University and join us each week for some drinks and fun.
We'll try and bring a weekly theme to the pub and offer some great prizes along the way as well. Watch this space for regular updates and themes.