Not relishing the prospect of wearing a nappy-style face covering as we soaked up the rays in Spanish climes prior to the Government changing its mind on a whim, this year’s family vacation had some novelty value and was arranged last minute.

I had been to Scotland once, many moons ago. Working for a market research company I was seconded for a week to Glasgow where I plotted down in a nondescript part of the city and spent the days interviewing people whose accents I could barely understand. It came to a head in an office block when I asked the caretaker five times to repeat what he had said as I genuinely didn’t catch a word of it. It ended with my running away as I managed to fathom the words ‘Glasgow kiss’. I was aware of the term from watching films about football violence, and for those of you not in the know, it’s not a romantic term of endearment.

Anyhow, Scotland it was. My wife was a virgin visitor to the tartan land and, thanks to Covid, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to soak up the culture in the summer of a country that, although on our doorstep, had remained a mystery to me bar the odd television appearance of the Proclaimers, men in kilts and Nicola Sturgeon/Wee Jimmie Krankie.

Lazy stereotypes aside, thankfully for the wallet, the Edinburgh festival was cancelled, so we managed to secure a room in the Premier Inn.

The drive was long and arduous, but thankfully requiring little thought as the A1 pretty much runs door to door, and we spent a good hour questioning whether we were in Scotland or not before finally seeing the flag, as I did the dad thing of ‘we're in England…now we're in Scotland Y’ken!’ as we crossed the soft border and the kids momentarily lifted their eyes from the iPads.

Edinburgh itself is ‘nice’ and, as with all cities, has lots of architectural wonders to feast your eyes on, along with glorious countryside. We decided to tackle Arthur's Seat on day one which, although ‘only’ 251 metres high, is quite a trek. At the bottom we were hot in T-shirts, yet we then encountered rain, hail, bitter cold, and blazing sunshine in the trek to the top and back to Holyrood below, as we played clothing yoyo. What struck me is the similarities between England and Scotland. Besides the accent, you would struggle to know which country you were in if you were to take a snapshot of the outlets, people or buildings. The gift shops, like ours, sell legions of unabashed tat, there are the garish high street chains that we are accustomed to, and an eclectic collection of people. In one day, I saw a man dressed as a wizard, two junkies collapsed in the middle of the street, a transgender couple holding hands and a large Chinese community.

Many locals were super lovely and chatty: genuinely interested in us and what brought us north of the border as we spoke about Hibs V Hearts, tatties, and places to take the kids when the inevitable rain arrives. Others were, much as in England, openly dismissive of us as they heard the mockney drawl I am afflicted with, as they rolled their eyes and acted in a genuinely obstinate manner.

I am aware I am no Alan Whicker: That said, I am looking forward to traipsing around the Royal Yacht Britannia, whilst avoiding the numerous bagpipe players in the city centre, and maybe even catching sight of the ‘Proclaimers’ on the high street in Leith as it’s the rarities that make trips up north appealing and attractive, despite the novelty and infrequency of such a trip, y’ken?

  • Brett Ellis is a teacher