Saturday, August 17, 2019

Impressions of Scotland

Wildflowers brighten the Scottish landscape.
Two weeks immersed in the land, culture, cuisine, and literary legends of Scotland, and I returned home exhausted. It took a couple of days to adjust to the time change and recover – mostly from a seven-hour flight confined to an American Airlines middle seat. Years ago a younger, more flexible me would have bounced back the next day. Oh well...


I spent most of my time in the town of Dundee. Before boarding a bus in Edinburgh for the city, about 1½ hours north of the capital, local folks inquired Why Dundee? It is not a popular tourist destination. The city is attempting an economic rebound centered on education and tourism. A branch of the Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum opened in January, 2019, and new hotels have opened.

I spent nine days in the city attending a writer’s conference sponsored by Murphy Writing of Stockton University (New Jersey) in cooperation with the University of Dundee. I attended workshops, wrote a great deal, walked miles, ate too much, and toured city and countryside.
Conference attendees stayed in University of Dundee dorm rooms.
This is the view from my room, the river Tay in the background.
The Cuisine...

A fun part of travel is sampling local fare. Fish and chips is a Scottish staple, available for a reasonable price at almost every pub in the country. Lightly breaded and fried, the fish usually haddock, with thick steak fries, also not immersed in grease, are delicious. Calories undetermined...

Baked beans are another local favorite, part of a typical breakfast and often found with dinner entrees as well. Peas, sometimes whole and other times mushy, are also a common meal accompaniment. 

The quintessential Scottish food and the national dish, however, is haggis

pudding (a boiled or steamed dish) composed of the liver, 
heart, and lungs of a sheep(or other animal), minced and 
mixed with beef or mutton suet and oatmeal and seasoned with onion, 
cayenne pepper and other spices
The mixture is packed into a sheep’s stomach and boiled.

The Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote a poem, An Address to the Haggis, immortalizing the dish. Here is the first stanza (there are 8 stanzas) of the poem in the original Scottish English, followed by a modern translation:

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, 
Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye worthy o' a grace
As lang's my arm.

Great chieftain of the sausage race!
Above them all you take your place,
Stomach, tripe, or intestines:
Well are you worthy of a grace
As long as my arm.

I don’t want to give the wrong idea about the country’s culinary diversity. A wide range of eateries exist in Edinburgh and Dundee. We sampled French, Greek, Mediterranean, Italian, American (burgers of course), and Indian restaurants, along with local favorites. Cafes are everywhere and the coffee is wonderful.

A rainbow bagel discovered, and sampled, at a cafe in Dundee.
Local culture

Some cities dot the landscape with animals – like this one spotted in Edinburgh –

Dundee has its penquins, a nod to the city’s shipbuilding and navigaton history -

Dundee also is proud of its eight-foot statue of Desperate Dan – the strongest man in the world - a British comic character born in Dundee in 1937. 

Desperate Dan, the strongest man in the world!

The city also sports other comic characters – one example here:
A comic character, in front of the sailing vessel Discovery. The ship is anchored in
Dundee harbor and is open for tours.

Guidbye and see ye efter!


  1. That haggis sounds horrible, but the cartoon statues are delightful. :-)

  2. I would love to go to Scotland someday but will probably skip the Haggis. Although I love to indulge myself in an area's cuisine when I'm there. Sounds like you had so much fun.

  3. When in Scotland...did I miss something? Did you try the haggis? I'm usually game for trying something once. If I spit it out you know I'll never eat it again!