The Great IQBar Road Trip - Scotland
As we come to the final leg of the Great IQBar Road trip, UK edition, we reach the most northern country in the UK – Scotland. We will be visiting Gerry and Ronnie, our Mock Session and Classroom and Wechat training Coordinators in their current home, the beautiful and often overlooked Coldstream, and their hometown of Edinburgh.
For those of you who get a little confused in what the UK actually is, “One country? Four countries? Is Ireland part of the UK or Great Britain? What’s the difference between the two?” (me as a native British person included), here is a little reminder of how the UK works, with a little help from the Ordinance Survey website (the people who make UK maps).
The United Kingdom
The United Kingdom is the political sovereignty that includes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Although all united in aspects of law and passport, each of these areas is a country in themselves. They each have their own languages, cultures and histories which, unfortunately haven’t been touched upon in this road trip as most of our management team are fairly England based! However, there has been a call in recent years from certain groups in both Cornwall and Yorkshire to gain independence from England, so both Sarah and Daniel could one day be in a country of their own!
Now many people think that the United Kingdom and Great Britain are interchangeable, however this is not the case. Great Britain is only in reference to the island of Britain, not of Ireland too. That means that the countries that make up Great Britain are England, Scotland and Wales not Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland. The more you know! This is both a geographical and political distinction.
The British Isles
The British Isles however, is purely geographical and includes all of Ireland and all of the UK, including the little islands that surround the two main. Ireland is very much its own country and is rightly proud of this. With Brexit in the midst however, tensions are beginning to grow about what happens on the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland which at present has a very fluid border. Buddies, if any of you hail from Wales, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, or any other part of the UK in fact, let us know! The Road Trip is expanding, and we want to visit as many of you as possible.
So now we’ve got the geopolitical breakdown of the British Isles out of the way, lets focus again on Scotland -the beautiful country at the tip of Great Britain! We will cover some of the more stereotypical facts about Scotland towards the end of article which may be of interest to some of our younger Breadies, but first of all, here are Ronnie and Gerry’s accounts of why Edinburgh is such a culturally significant and beautiful place to come from, and why Coldstream should not be dismissed:
I am originally from Edinburgh, but now live in Coldstream in the Scottish Borders. I have only been there for just over a year, so there is not much to tell about it. It is very quiet (Which is certainly different from Edinburgh) and is most famous for the Coldstream Guards, who’s origin lies in the English Civil War. Edinburgh is my hometown though and I trained as an actor there. A fitting place to be an actor as it hosts the largest Arts Festival in the world. I have performed many times in the Edinburgh Fringe and International Festival. Edinburgh is truly an international capital city. It has a mixture of the old and the new. The old consists of Edinburgh Castle, which sits slap bang in the centre of the city. There has been a castle there from as far back as the 12th century. It sits on Castle Rock, a 700 million year old piece of volcanic rock. The people of Edinburgh are very proud of the castle and get very annoyed when they hear tourists say, “Isn’t it amazing. They’ve built a castle in the centre of the city”. Edinburgh also has Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano, described by Robert Louis Stevenson as "a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design". The old also has The Royal Mile, a cobbled street leading from the castle at the top to Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament at the bottom.
The new town, as we call it, isn’t that new. It dates back to 1767. It is a masterpiece of city planning. It is built on a grid system that has been copied the world over, including New York. The new town is where the rich merchants built their homes, with the poorer people living in the old town. Edinburgh still has that divide but it makes it a diverse, exciting place to live. The last thing I shall I mention, is that Edinburgh’s nickname is Auld Reekie (Which basically means, it’s old and smelly) but it’s just another thing that Edinburgers are proud of. It says a lot about the people of Edinburgh!
I hail from Edinburgh originally, lived most of my life in Glasgow, and currently living in the small Border town of Coldstream – where the Coldstream Guards come from. They’re the ones you’ll see outside Buckingham Palace. It’s a long story but the long and the short of it is they went to protect the King long ago and haven’t come back!!
Coldstream is quiet and beautiful (in the summer). The best thing about it is that’s it’s only an hour away from Edinburgh, the arts capital of the world. Edinburgh hosts the biggest arts festival in the world and millions flock each year to see street theatre, theatre, comedy, opera, ballet etc. You name it and you’ll see it in Edinburgh during the festival!!
Sitting by the Firth of Forth (a waterway) Edinburgh isn’t warm for most of the year. In fact, it’s known as the windy city. ‘There’s a fair breeze blawin’ the day’, as many an Edinburger can be heard to say. But, it gave me an incredible start to life; surrounded by a wealth of arts and history, both of which are my passion; as well as teaching, of course. In fact, it had such an influence on my life, I have spent the last thirty years working as a theatre director, before moving to Coldstream for a quieter life – until I found IQBar.
Edinburgh is home to the Scottish Parliament. re-established in 1999. Again, a long story, maybe a never ending one, Scotland has long dreamed of independence from the UK. Edinburgh is a combination of old town and new town. The old town is a ‘must see’ for visitors. Long, dark passageways (closes) that lead up to the vision that is Edinburgh Castle. Everyone knows Edinburgh Castle. Don’t they? The old town suffered enormously in the sixteenth/seventeenth century. So much so that much of it was built over to try to rid the city of the plague. By contrast, the new town full of Georgian crescents and tree-lined parks reflected the wealth of the incomers, wealthy bankers and merchants. A beautiful, but slightly uncomfortable contrast in a city full of character and history. Come see it. - But bring your ‘wellies’ though. It has its fair share of rain too.
So as you can see, Edinburgh has a lot to offer, and is quickly becoming one of the most popular cities to visit in the UK. It’s a place which is filled with a rich, expansive, and sometimes smelly history and culture that all locals are proud of. With Gerry and Ronnie offering such insightful and detailed accounts of their own region of Scotland, I thought I would take us on a whistle stop tour of other cultural and historical landmarks of Scotland, the stereotypes and myths that many of our Breadies may have heard about, or could take an interest in.
So, what comes first?
Of course, there is the Loch Ness Monster which continues to fascinate and elude the visitors of Loch Ness. Situated close to Inverness in the north of Scotland around three hours from Edinburgh, the monster, first believed to be sighted in 1933 has drawn many people to the lake in search of answers. Largely (in fact completely) dismissed by the scientific community, the monster is thought to have a long neck and humps that can be seen emerging from the water. The first sighting reported in the newspaper The Courier started a wave of letters and photographs exclaiming to have seen the monster, and this has continued to this day. Photographs appear every few years suggesting a new sighting, the last big sighting being from Apple Maps in 2014 which appear to show a dark, ominous shape moving under the surface of the water. Does it really exist? That’s for you to decide.
Another interesting tradition within Scotland that many know about and is somewhat of a cultural export from region is tartan, the crossed pattern often in an assortment of colours that can be seen on kilts and rugs not only in Scotland but now across the UK. Although not part of the everyday wear of Scottish people, and something that is often trivialized today, such as appearing on biscuit tins and scottie dogs, the tartan actually has a strong historic and political background. Tartan began life as everyday wear of the highlanders and the different colours and patterns were down to the taste and dyes of the weavers. The Dress Act of 1746 brought in a ban on tartan to stop different Highland clans from warring, and this law continued for a whole 36 years until it was repealed. After that tartan became a proud symbol of Scottish identity and was synonymous with anything proud to be Scottish such as families, institutions and products.
So there you have it folks! Next time you see tartan out and about, remember that for over thirty years it was seen as something confrontational and dangerous. We hope you’ve enjoyed this trip around the UK.
Now it’s down to you. Where in the world should we visit next? What is special about your home town? Where in the world should both Buddies and Breadies know about? Send us a message to let us know by sending us a message to firstname.lastname@example.org or @iqbaruk on twitter! Until then, thank you for joining us on our adventures, we hope you’ve found it both enjoyable and educational.