When I was looking through all of the different study abroad programs that my school allowed me to go through I looked really closely at what the different programs offered in terms of excursions. This is one of the reasons that I picked Arcadia because I thought that their excursion options seemed to be the best. I have been on two Arcadia excursions so far and they have been a blast.
There are many different trips that you can take in Scotland to the highlands, but few that go many places in the lowlands. The highlands are a big attraction for a reason, they are extremely beautiful but the lowlands are also a gorgeous sight to see. This trip with Arcadia brought us to a few different places on the Scottish borders with England. The first stop was the Traquair House, Scotland’s oldest inhabited house. It is more than 900 years old! We got a special tour of the house. It was cool to see something that had foundations so old and was still being lived in. We also got to explore the grounds where there is a corn maze and many different animals. We saw chickens, goats, and peacocks! The peacocks were beautiful, it was my first time seeing them in person so this was definitely a highlight.
We then went down to a small town called Melrose. Here we had lunch and ice cream. The attraction to see here was Melrose Abbey. One of the perks of being in a study abroad student through Arcadia is that Arcadia gives you a Historic Scotland card. This card gets you into a huge amount of places in Scotland for free! Melrose Abbey, of course, is one of them! The Abbey was really cool. There seemed to be a lot of it left, the ruins showed us how huge it must have been when it was still standing. This is said to be the place where Robert the Bruce’s heart is buried!
The last stop was Rosslyn Chapel. This is a beautiful 15th century chapel that was made more famous by being featured in Dan Brown’s the De Vinci Code. We had a good amount of time here to explore and have a tour. The detail on the inside and outside of the chapel is truly amazing.
Highland Outdoors Weekend
This I can say is the funniest weekend I have had yet in Scotland. I wasn't sure when signing up for my Arcadia trips in December if I should sign up for this one and I am so happy I did. This is a weekend in the Highlands at Firbush Outdoors Center on Loch Tay. There were about 30 Arcadia students from all over Scotland on the trip. It is a bit like when I went to camp for a few days in Middle School. Everyone gets roomed with three other people in little dorms in the Firbush Center, a place like a log cabin but nicer. We all have breakfast and dinner together. We get a lot of free time to hangout. We also have a nice list of activities we can choose to do each day.
The first day I did the kayaking and hillwalking. I have kayaked before but this time it was a bit more intense. The center had everyone gear up in wetsuits and lifejackets. They taught most people the basics of how to kayak. They led us in various games and around the lake a bit till lunch time. After lunch a huge group of us went on a “casual hill walk.” What the leaders didn’t tell us that we actually would be climbing up a “hill” twice the size of the Edinburgh mini mountain Arthur’s Seat! Everyone was exhausted by the end but it was a lot of fun. We had a Burns Supper that night which consists of Haggis, Neeps, and Tatties. After dinner the guys had to do a toast to the lassies and we did a toast to the lads. These toasts are meant to be like a playful roast of the opposite gender. The final activity of the night was a Ceilidh. Ceilidhs are held around Scotland all of the time. They are gatherings where people learn traditional Scottish partner dances. This was a blast this weekend, we listened to Scottish music, poems, drank, and danced until reasonably late. Everyone was involved even the leaders of the center and I think everyone laughed the entire night.
The last day everyone was pretty tired and the weather was bad. We went on a mini historical tour of the area and I saw my first standing stones! They were a mini circle on a farm near Firbush, but they were standing stones nonetheless. There we say many other things like an old castle and museum. The man leading us in the tour who worked at the center know so much information and he was very interesting to talk with. Many of us spent the rest of the afternoon in the center resting or playing games before we headed back. There were many other activities but these were just the ones that I choose. It was really cool to be able to meet people studying all over Scotland with Arcadia and spend a substantial amount of time in the Highlands. So far Arcadia has done a great job with their trips and I hope I enjoy the rest of them that I go on!