All right, let’s go right there, shall we? What’s under a genuine Scot’s kilt? The way it was explained to me, “Only a Puff (Feminine, girly-man) would wear anything under his kilt. My first time out in a kilt was memorable/ fun! I had a number of very high-end clients in Scotland for some golf and a bit of Scottish culture one spring. It was thought appropriate that I attend the final evenings Gala in the whole “Bonnie Prince Charlie” (black tie) getup. When I chose the “tartan” (plaid) for my kilt, only McDonald’s came to mind as I have no Scottish blood at all. Always wanting to be “genuine’, I donned my traditional Scottish duds, left my knickers off and went swinging around Edinburgh. I figured if some drunk decided to pull up my kilt I might as well show them the goods. Alas, no one did. Generally, when someone asks a Scott “What is under your kilt”? The response is “How warm are your hands”?
Here’s a bit of “Gay Cocktail Chatter”: Did you know that every tartan (plaid) in Scotland used for kilts, clothing and trim tells a story? Every “clan” has his own tartan to identify his family and identify where they are from. For example, if there is a lot of green, The Highlands was probably where the original Scottish clan was from. Blue, the sea and black probably near Glasgow. (Coal) It’s a whole wonderful part of the unique Scottish culture. Wearing the actual kilt and all that goes with it is very interesting really! More than simply covering your behind. You get to wear a dagger in your garter and a little purse that bounces against the newly freed “boys”! Guess that’s why male Scots smile a lot. I know I did.
As with Portugal, Scotland is a “sleeper destination”. To be honest, my first visit was to put together “The Ultimate Golf Trip” in St. Andrews where “Golf was born”. I went for the golf and I ended falling in love with this little gem of a country where outdoor activity, fresh air and an appreciation of nature abounds. Scotland is part of the United Kingdom and is actually the northern third of the island of Great Britain. Approximately the size of Colorado, Glasgow (Scotland’s largest city is on the west coast and Edinburgh (the capital and second largest city) the east.
LGBT rights have advanced greatly during the 20th Century and to date. Same-sex marriage is still on the docket but most other necessary decriminalization and legalities have been cleared so it’s simply a matter of time. Currently there is great controversy over Gay clergy in the Church of Scotland (As usual outrageous and disgraceful!) and like most of you, I am most impatient for us to be accepted, respected and simply regarded as a different kind of normal. We are getting there but there are a few more hurdles to clear. For the most part, Scotland is extremely Gay friendly, welcoming and feeling like a bit of a “black-sheep” itself, Scotland understands of feeling of being out of the main-stream. I was in Scotland just after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. OMG! Such a fuss! ERII and the royals were up at Balmoral (her country estate/castle in Scotland) and the papers SCREAMED: “Come Home to London”! The Scots were aghast! She WAS home and Scotland is every bit a part of GB as London. Scottish the residences are all as good as “Buck-House”. (Buckingham Palace) The magnificent Glamis Castle (Glams) was the setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth and the birth place of Elizabeth the Queen Mother and HRH Princess Margaret. It is also famous for ghosts and secret chambers! I just love legends like that! It’s just my opinion but Scotland suffers from a bit of an inferiority complex and for absolutely no good reason. I think it would be great to be a Scot great to be special.
EDINBURGH: Relatively compact and easy to explore on foot, the center of Edinburgh is where you would want to be and is divided into two distinctive areas. The “old town”, a preserved medieval cobblestoned district and the “new town” the neat arrangement of 18th Century buildings now transformed into trendy shops, hotels and restaurants. For its size, Edinburgh has a colorful, vibrant Gay scene with the “Gayborhood” near city center at the north end of Leith Street, Broughton Street/Picardy Place in an area known locally as “The Pink Triangle” (why pink?) The famous “Royal Mile” runs from Edinburgh Castle (overlooking the city) to Holrood House which is still the official residence of the Queen when she is in town. Mary Queen of Scotts had some historical adventures there, as did I but that is for another time. A guy/gal can cruise and have an excellent history lesson at the same time! Bonus!
There are many fine “Gay friendly” hotels and restaurants in Edinburgh and when I chose where to house my last group of guests “The Balmoral Hotel” was sheer perfection. Prestigious and imposing, this classic hotel is located in the center of the city with stunning views of Edinburgh Castle and within walking distance to anything of interest. While possibly a bit pricey, there are other fine properties right next to the Gay Bars and Clubs still close to anything of importance. The Balmoral stands alone. It is one of a kind.
GLASGOW: “So Gay, even the sun is out”! Glasgow for much of the 20th Century was bogged down in industrial mire and now going through an exciting revitalization of its historical beauty and its dynamic art and music scene. Now recognized for its dramatic architecture and warm, witty people, Glasgow’s club scene and shopping districts are recognized as among the UK’s most vibrant outside London. Whereas Edinburgh is the capital and a bit more refined, Glasgow is relaxed and ready for fun.
Glasgow’s “Gayborhood” is the chic Merchant City in the eastern part of the central part of the city and the Gay scene revolves around the hip bars and cafes in this cosmopolitan area. Totally unpretentious, Gay Glaswegians are very friendly and with a reputation for being daring and given to dark humor. If you have seen the film “Mrs. Brown” with Dame Judi Dench I could recommend it purely from the scenic magnificence and definition of the Scot personality. I.e. Mr. Brown. It is also just a wonderful movie, very well acted and very interesting with a wonderful glimpse of the Victorian Era. Dame Judi is superb!
My last visit to Glasgow found me staying at a five-star boutique property “Malmaison” which was just wonderful both in location and amenities. It was designed from an old Episcopalian Church with many interesting touches. If you thought that this was a city full of “Fat Bastards” and coal dust, you thought wrong. Glasgow is sophisticated, historical and very up-to-date. Twenty-first Century Gay lives are integrated into Scott fashion, art, music and cuisine.
Some years ago I found myself in Glasgow with the desire for a Gin Martini before dinner. I was dining alone at a very nice, quaint restaurant without a clue as to what an American Martini was all about. I found myself behind the bar in short order giving a lesson on putting together the perfect dry martini. The chefs, wait staff and even a couple customers gathered around in fascination. Shaken, not stirred! Actually good gin on ice is fine with moi.
GLENEAGLES: I would be remiss not to mention this world famous 5 star luxury hotel, spa and golf resort in the Perthshire countryside. Gleneagles stands alone in many ways and most Gay women and men will be overwhelmed as I was with the sheer elegance of the place and attention to detail, offering more unique activity than is imaginable. One day I did some Falconry, some off-road driving (wonderfully muddy) and skeet shooting. I don’t golf but Gleneagles has three award winning courses to choose from. The restaurants and food are sublime. (Kippered Herring for breakfast? Yum!) One Saturday I was staying in the exquisite main hotel and watched a wedding party having some pictures taken. Absolutely one of the most beautiful wedding parties I have ever seen. The men’s kilts had a lot of blue indicating that the Klan was from the shore. The bride and attendants wore matching tartan sashes. Fabulous! A couple of hours later I saw the drunkest wedding party ever! People falling over each other and many kilts over the heads. Wonderful! Apparently Scots like their “hooch”.
By the way … The most popular Scotch in Scotland is Famous Grouse. I prefer a single malt but in a pinch, the Grouse will do quite nicely thank you. They say that Princess Margaret was a Famous Grouse kind of gal.
THE OLD COURSE, ST. ANDREWS: The world’s first, best and most prestigious golf course on Earth with a tiny town and university wrapped around it. If you and/or your partner are into golf at all, this would be any golfers dream. Having done several golf programs in Scotland I can tell you that the golf is like nowhere else. I could fill another entire column. All I can say is I have taken some of the most discerning golfers you can imagine to a couple of Scotland’s courses and these usually grumpy golf-snobs were totally overwhelmed. The Old Course Hotel is pretty dandy as well but beware as you will be bumping into celebrities and the best golfers in the world constantly! BTW: The Old Course used to be almost impossible to reserve a tee time on. Things are now much more relaxed. It just takes some planning.
THE ROYAL YACHT BRITANNIA: Home to Her Majesty the Queen and her family for over 40 years and sailing over one million miles around the world, the floating palace is now berthed in Edinburgh and is a total “Gay must-see”. I had tea on board one day and it was unforgettable. Earl Grey never tasted as well. The spaces/furnishings, surprisingly comfy and understated. Very “old money” country-chic. As a side note: When Charles and Diana sailed off on their honeymoon, they boarded The Britannia and sailed from Gibraltar the “British Rock” off Spain which I referred to in a previous (Marbella & The South of Spain column.) As you know, it turned out not to be the “Love Boat”. Another Fairy-Tale dashed!
THE BOTTOM LINE: As a Gay man, I admire originality, honesty and being genuine. For better or for worse, Scotland is all of that and more. Scotch is simply called whisky there as the Scotch is a given. Also there is no “E” in Whiskey in reference to Scotch and when you think about it, Scotch is simply a mixture of water and grain with natural chemical reactions. Magical! It’s a small country with a big ego and it is rightfully so. Scotts have thick accents and huge hearts. Now that you know the secret of the kilt, go look for the “Loch Ness Monster”! You never know where he’s hiding but he is surely “hanging around” somewhere in Scotland, Laddie! Oh yeah, one last thing … Haggis (generally served for breakfast) which is either loved or loathed all over the world is native to Scotland. It is not unlike our Philadelphia Scrapple. I personally like both. But, that’s just me.