Through our Lens:

A Curious Excursion Through Scotland

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We hope you’ve recently visited your personal haberdasher, as you are about to join us on an epicurean expedition across Scotland. Over a century ago, Phileas Fogg ventured around the globe in 80 trips around the sun, and taking a page out of his whimsical legacy, we now find ourselves on a similarly audacious adventure—in Scotland. Home to sweeping highlands, a curious affection for Haggis, and a fabled sea monster, our daring team has set out on a once unthinkable journey to traverse the Scottish landscape in only 7 days (and without any wagers involved). We understand it’s an incredible undertaking, but with your help, we uncovered a multitude of curios and factoids for inquisitive minds. Hold tight, our daring Scottish journey is afoot!

Inspired by the memory of a summer tea party, Charles Gordon tasked the young chemist Lesley Gracie with crafting a unique take on the old mainstay utilizing two peculiar ingredients: cucumber & rose – certainly an odd request for gin notes of the time. An even greater challenge? He set her up with two separate types of stills he had purchased at auction a few decades prior — a Carter-Head from 1948 and a Bennett old enough to know Queen Victoria. This would have seemed like a Herculean task to any standard gin distiller, but perhaps through a touch of magic – or maybe just a good guess – Gracie cracked the code.

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Girvan Distillery, Grangestone Industrial Estate, Girvan KA26 9PT, United Kingdom

Girvan Beach

This tiny fishing village on the coast has more to offer than fish & chips.  If lush green hills and a delightful beach aren’t enough to sell you, maybe a visit to Ailsa Craig will do the trick.  The volcanic island can’t be missed from Girvan’s sandy shores. Despite its remote location out at sea, it is one of only 2 places in the world where “blue hone” microgranite has long been quarried to make official curling stones.

6 Louisa Dr, Girvan KA26 9AH, UK

Blairquhan Castle

History of this riverside castle dates back to the 1300s, and yet only a total of four families have called it home. Though the original castle no longer exists, portions of old stonework were saved and reincorporated into the current facade. The acres of forest and gardens that surround the estate can be attributed to the third owner, Sir David Hunter-Blair, who ordered nearly one million trees to be planted during the construction of the new ediface.Today the castle operates as a private venue space, and if you do spend a night be sure to take a trip to the basement where you will find a hidden billiard room, a miniature museum of the estate’s history, and remnants of the castle’s past.

Straiton, Maybole KA19 7LY, United Kingdom

Culzean Castle

On the rocky edge of Ayrshire overlooking the tepid Fifth of Clyde sits a castle that Eisenhower referred to as his “Scottish Whitehouse”. Historically the castle was home to the powerful Kennedy Clan, and being a large family with wealth, they called upon the most renowned architect of their time to create their estate. In 1775 Robert Adams began his 15 year journey to completely transform Culzean into the fanciful form it holds today. From sweeping ovular staircases to Corinthian columns and magnificent plastered ceilings – no expense was spared.

Maybole KA19 8LE, United Kingdom

Reaching the shores of the River Kelvin, we have encountered an unexpected creature. Constructed of curved glass and wrought iron, this frosted palace hosts a forest of flora and fauna within its inner recesses. A Victorian marvel, this light-filled conservatory owes its birth to a 19th Century eccentric.

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Botanic Gardens, Glasgow G12 0UE, United Kingdom

The Barras Market

Built by Maggie McIver, the “Barras Queen”, the market celebrated its 100 year anniversary this year.  The term “barra” is Glaswegian dialect for “barrow”, relating to the market’s early years, where traders sold their wares from handcarts.  Wares range from kilts, jewelry, antiques and everything in between – making it the perfect place to pick up those last minute souvenirs. 

242 Gallowgate, Glasgow G1 5DX, United Kingdom

Barrowland Ballroom

Originally designed as a ballroom, Barrowlands has evolved into an epic music venue complete with an iconic sprung dance floor.  The enormous neon sign outside is nearly impossible to miss.  It is thought to be the biggest of its kind in the UK and one of the biggest in the world.

244 Gallowgate, Glasgow G4 0TT, United Kingdom

The Gate

Bar owner Andy Gemmell likes a good challenge.  The abandoned 200 year old pub had been on the market for over 5 years with no takers, until Andy stepped in.  He rolled up his sleeves and started peeling back the building’s layers, literally.  Six different ceilings were found stacked on top of each other, one of which ended up collapsing, almost bringing the entire bar with it.  That oak beam now stands with pride as a beer table in what has become a staple neighborhood pub. 

251 Gallowgate, Glasgow G4 0TP, United Kingdom

Ibrox Stadium is a football stadium on the south side of the River Clyde in the Ibrox district of Glasgow, Scotland. The home of “Rangers F.C.”, Ibrox is the third largest football stadium in Scotland, with an all-seated capacity of 50,817 fans.

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150 Edmiston Dr, Glasgow G51 2XD, United Kingdom

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

With more than 8,000 objects on display and 22 themed galleries, it’s not hard to see why Kelvingrove is one of the top attractions in the country.  The museum is also a world record holder but not for its artwork.  Just as the Edinburgh One O’clock Gun erupts everyday at 1PM, Kelvingrove holds a daily organ recital every day to mimic the Edinburgh tradition – but maybe a little more pleasurable for your eardrums.

Argyle St, Glasgow G3 8AG, United Kingdom

Kelvingrove Café

When Luigi Coia immigrated to Glasgow in 1989, he opened an ice cream parlour and named it Kelvingrove Cafe.  This line of business was common for Italian Scots at the time and were known as “hokey pokey men” for their chant of “O che poco!” meaning oh how little or cheap.  Luigi eventually sold the cafe and over the years, the storefront changed hands several times, becoming everything from a furniture store to a Chinese restaurant before a fire destroyed the major part of the facade and interior.  When Barry Oattes and his team took over the derelict space for a new bar, he uncovered the original hand painted sign from Luigi’s ice cream parlor under the ash.  After struggling with what to call their new cafe, they decided to keep the name Kelvingrove Cafe to honor Luigi and pay heritage to Glasgow’s Italian culture. 

1161 Argyle St, Finnieston, Glasgow G3 8TB, United Kingdom

People's Palace

“Open to the people for ever and ever” was declared by Lord Rosebery at the building’s opening ceremony in 1898 and remains true to this day.  In the 1980’s this was also true for a cat named Smudge.  Hired by the Palace to take on the ever growing rodent problem, she gained local fame. After NALGO refused to acknowledge her as a blue collar worker she was inducted as a member of the General, Municipal, Boilermakers and Allied Trade Union,.  Today, a plaque dedicated to Smudge can be seen just outside the Palace kitty-corner of the The Doulton Fountain, the largest terracotta fountain in the world.

Green, Templeton St, Glasgow G40 1AT, United Kingdom

This magnificent light-filled atrium is the grand entrance to a museum dedicated to all things Scotland, but don’t be fooled – or fowled for that matter – as the museum has been known to play tricks on their visitors. With gold topped columns and a white cast iron frame, the inviting space shares the storied history of the Scottish people and their country, and at times, a caper or two courtesy of the museum staff.

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Chambers St, Edinburgh EH1 1JF, United Kingdom

Riddle's Court

Considered one of the most important, but least understood historic buildings in Edinburgh, the ways in which the fabric of the building has changed over the centuries has remained a mystery. It had played host to a royal banquet in 1598 attended by King James VI and been the home of David Hume who was regarded as one of the most important philosophers to write in English.

322 Lawnmarket, Edinburgh EH1 2PG, United Kingdom

The Voodoo Rooms

This place is sure to cast a spell over all who enter.  From cocktails to concerts to a pet Tiger named Couscous, the Voodoo Rooms brings a modern touch to the nearly 200 year old building it calls home.  In 2007 a team of  music purveyors and restaunteers took over the dilapidated Cafe Royal Crown Bar and rejuvenated its Victorian opulence with a flare of gold and black magic.

19a W Register St, Edinburgh EH2 2AA, United Kingdom

While this may look like a pristine original theatre in the hull of the Scotsman hotel, this intimate concoction was once one of the many rooms serving The Scotsman and Evening Edinburgh News papers up until the late 20th Century.

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20 North Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1TR, United Kingdom

The Anatomical Museum

Let’s address the elephant in the room…or in this case, two of them.  This museum is not for the week of the heart.  The museum’s collection includes everything from anatomical teaching models, to human skeletal remains, preserved specimens and several cabinets of curiosities.

Doorway 3 Medical School, Teviot Pl, Edinburgh EH8 9AG, United Kingdom

Panda & Sons

Hidden within a classic barber shop facade behind a bookshelf lives a magical place filled with quirky cocktails and hundreds of panda bears.  The prohibition style speakeasy is far from secret landing itself on World’s Best 100 Bars not one but two years in a row.  It’s safe to say, this curious cocktail lounge will continue their panda-monium for years to come.

79 Queen St, Edinburgh EH2 4NF, United Kingdom

Any arduous adventure and expedition requires a good clothier. Tucked away on 63 Queen Street, this quiet storefront humbly holds a unique title: the oldest bespoke tailor in Scotland. For over 200 years, Stewart Christie & Co. has served up new fashion for generations, and not just for any old codger. With a long storied history, the tailors of Stewart Christie have found new life in the 21st Century–along with a pet telephone booth.

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63 Queen St, Edinburgh EH2 4NA, United Kingdom

Nauticus

A “cocktail pub” for those who want to enjoy a drink without the need for flashy costumes. Patrons are encouraged to come as they are, and you’ll be sure to spot a friend or two at this Community staple. Among the decorations you will find easter eggs of history including the story of the path paving whiskey merchant Mrs. William Pennycuick who didn’t let her gender stop her from selling Whiskey in the Victorian era. So next time you find yourself at the bar, be sure to pour one out for Mrs. William Pennycuick.

142 Duke St, Edinburgh EH6 8HR, United Kingdom

Leith Victoria Swim Centre

Grab your swim cap, the water’s just fine.  Opened in 1899, the iconic Victorian pool is affectionately known to locals as ‘Leith Viccies’.  In its early days the building housed individual baths, a recreational swimming pool and public laundry facilities, known as a ‘steamie’.

Junction Pl, Edinburgh EH6 5JA, United Kingdom

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) is a scientific center for the study of plants, their diversity and conservation, as well as a popular tourist attraction. Founded in 1670 as a “physic garden” to grow medicinal plants, today it occupies four sites across Edinburgh, Dawyck, Logan and Benmore each with its own specialized collection.

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Arboretum Pl, Edinburgh EH3 5NZ, United Kingdom

Ellie Ness Lighthouse

Possibly the cutest lighthouse in Scotland, Elie Ness was first lit in 1908 and proved to be a great assistance to vessels coming up the Firth of Forth.  Thanks to the Elie Ness Historical Society, the tower and the stout keepers’ cottage were fully restored in 2010, and the lighthouse continues to keep sailors safe with one flash every six seconds.

Elie KY9 1BS, United Kingdom

Fisher and Donaldson

St. Andrews’ best kept secret might just be a fudge donut.  Now in its fifth generation, the Milne family has been serving up sweet treats along with their top secret recipe fudge donuts for over 100 years.  To make sure no sweet-toothed thieves try to steal their secret formula, the recipe has been broken up and hidden across five locations. The owners claim that the secret is only revealed to their “pure-bread Viking bakers” who are equipped with their delectable “weapons of dynasty”: a shield of custard and a sword of fudge.

13 Church St, St Andrews KY16 9NW, United Kingdom

Old Course

Fore! Considered by many to be the “home of golf”, it is indeed, the oldest golf course in the world.  The first round was played back in the early 15th century and became so popular that James II of Scotland banned the sport.  He felt that young men were playing too much golf instead of practicing their archery.  Par for the course, you could say.  Luckily, James IV was not only a fan of the sport but became a golfer himself and lifted the ban in 1502.  The original course was played with 22 holes until 1764 when it was decided the last four were too short and they should be combined.  Alas, the standard of how the game is played today was born.

W Sands Rd, St Andrews KY16 9XL, United Kingdom

Gondoliers take a 15-minute ride up to the Snowgoose Terminal at 650 m (2133 ft), sneaking peeks at the peaks of Great Glen and Ben Nevis along the way. How you get down is entirely up to you. Some take the gondola back down, an easy choice if there ever was one, others choose a hang glider off the cliff or a mountain bike down the mountain’s famous track – whatever tickles your fancy. Us? We’ll take the middle road and walk down the mountain – or what some might call Half-Munro.

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Nevis Range Development Co P, Fort William PH33 6SY, United Kingdom

Would you believe the longest concrete railway bridge in Scotland was built by a man named “Concrete Bob”? Well to perhaps no one’s surprise, the one & only Robert “Concrete Bob” McAlpine was the man behind the engineering marvel’s construction in 1898. And though its 21 symmetrical arches spanning 280 meters over River Finnan are a sight to see, there’s a lot more to this bridge than its length alone.

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A830 Rd, Glenfinnan PH37 4LT, United Kingdom

Lismore Lighthouse

This stunning lighthouse begs for your attention and for good reason.  The tower is painted white to stand out from its background, so that by day and night it guides ships safely in the Sound of Mull and the Firth of Lorne.  In 1830, the small island of Eilean Musdile, where Lismore Light calls home, was purchased for a cool £500 by the Commissioners of the Northern Lighthouse Board.  What a steal.

F94V+63 Gorten, Isle of Mull, UK

Tobermory

Known as one of the prettiest ports in Scotland, the harbour welcomes you with a splatter of brightly colored facades. The trend began 50 years ago when one hotel owner wanted a pop of color and painted his building bright yellow. The neighbors quickly followed suit – choosing their own collection of vivid colors to brighten their village.  The bay is supposedly rich with more than just this myriad of delightful buildings and an abundance of great seafood.  Legend has it a Spanish Armada ship sank in the bay overloaded with gold which has never been found. 

Tobermory PA75 6NR, United Kingdom

Robin's Boat

Serving up homemade ice cream to beachgoers, Robin’s Boat is exactly that – a boat.  Built from the keeper’s grandfather’s upturned hull, this wee ice cream hut sits on the edge of Calgary Bay complete with a Wildlife Sighting Board highlighting any otters or whales who decided to pop by the beach to say hello.

HPH9+CV Calgary, Isle of Mull, UK

Bus Stop Bakes

With a max capacity of one customer at a time, the manless bake shop may possibly be the smallest in the world.  Standing at approximately 5 ft tall, be sure to duck your head before stepping inside to find a variety of goodies to satisfy any sweet tooth.  Running off the honor system, the shop is complete with a small “cash register” to pay for your sweets and don’t forget to sign the guest book before you leave!

Learn more about the Isle of Mull here

HPPH+5X Calgary, Isle of Mull, UK

We’ve all been there. You’ve had a few drinks with your friends long into the night, and the conversation devolves into ribaldry and boasting. Before you know it, you’ve lost your clan’s castle in a drunken bet, and unfortunately there’s nothing you can do about it because, well, you wagered with King James IV of Scotland, and he’s not feeling very forgiving. It might seem like a tall-tale, but that’s exactly how the Stewarts passed Castle Stalker to Clan Campbell after two centuries of ownership.

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Appin PA38 4BL, United Kingdom

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