The Emerald Isle and Scottish Manor

With mainland Europe in the rearview, it was time for some cooler climates, and a taste of the United Kingdom.  The first stop on the tour was Dublin, Ireland.  With a very Irish grandfather, Spencer was especially excited to connect with his Irish roots and see the land of green.

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Landing in Dublin after a long day of travel, it was off to the local pub for our first Guinness on Irish soil.  Everything they say is true, the Guinness tastes way better here, maybe it’s the water.

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Dublin is a great city if you’re looking for a good time.  There’s a river that runs through the middle, and each side is filled with bars, buskers, restaurants, and lots of live music and people.  The famous temple bar area was rocking and the weather was great the 3 days we were there.

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As we wandered through the streets, we were easily lured into pubs with live music and girls practicing their Irish dancing as they drank their beers. We were welcomed in with a big Irish hello by two locals who bought us drinks, and even dedicated one of their live songs to us. What a friendly people!

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To get a true sense of Irish culture, we happened across a live comedy show and knew we had to get a taste of their perspective.

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The Irish have a terrific sense of humor, and the comedy mixed with the accents had us in stitches.

They have a mild hatred for the British,  a curious fascination with the USA, and an even more self- deprecating sense of pride for their own country.

To experience the true flair of food, it was time to forget about the “healthy mediterranean diet” and fully embrace the rich, flavorful, filling delicacies that are Irish food. The traditional Cornish pasty with potatoes and stew meat was an instant favorite.

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And the famous Irish breakfast, complete with deep fried pork blood patties which they call “black pudding”. Yumm…

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What a city. Dublin’s streets feel right out of a Harry Potter novel, with quaint brick homes, big majestic castles, and colorful doors sprinkled along cobblestone streets. It truly has a special jovial charm to it, despite the weather being fairly gloomy most of the year. We were so lucky to have experienced it with great weather while we were there.

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The famous “Ha-penny” Bridge – nicknamed from the early 1900’s when foot traffic was charged half a penny to cross over the river to sell their goods in town.

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The Irish know how to have a great time, and love to share it with you.  With great jokes, happy music and delicious beer, we never felt like strangers while we were here.  Definitely one of our favorite cities of the trip, and we will be back!

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On our last day in Dublin, we headed out to Howth, a small village on the coast.  The view of the ocean and surrounding hills were simply breathtaking.  It’s also home to some of the best fish and chips of all time!

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We then continued up north on a train ride through the sheep pastures and quaint cottages up to Belfast to catch a ferry to Scotland.

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A fellow traveler in Spain had told us about the workaway program and we thought we’d give it a try during our time in Scotland.  Workaway.info is a homestay service that matches hosts with travelers, who receive room and board in exchange for 30 hours of work per week on the property.  After applying to dozens of homestays, we were so honored to be welcomed into the home of Lord and Lady Ross of Netherhall in Castle Douglas, Scotland.

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Netherhall is one of the most beautiful residences of Scotland. Lord and Lady Ross take special care to tending to this beautiful property, passed down through their family generations. With 300 acres of rolling pastures, rivers, blackberry fields, and apple orchards, living there felt like we had stepped into an entirely new world compared with the city life we’d grown so used to back in San Francisco.

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We agreed to stay for three weeks in exchange for working on their farm to help prepare for their annual family gathering.  We didn’t quite know what to expect, but it ended up  being a highlight of our trip.

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Our days were spent doing various physical labor jobs around the property, such as painting horse stables, weed – whacking (strimming) miles of trails for hiking and riding, raking, picking apples and blackberries, collecting wood for the winter supply, burning massive bonfires of brush, and lots and lots of dishes! 🙂

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And in exchange, Lord and Lady Ross were incredibly generous – they hosted us in their beautiful home, gave us access to use their car for weekend trips, fed us wonderful meals shared with the family, took Teal horseback riding through the property, and provided many laughs and fun memories. During our stay, they also were incredibly kind to give us a few days off to go to Edinburgh and stay for free in their sister’s 3 bedroom home in the center of the city. We were incredibly appreciative of this opportunity and had an amazing time exploring the heart of Scotland’s capital.

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During our stay in Edinburgh, Teal was so happy to get to reconnect with another old friend from college, Isaly Nicklin, who has been living in Edinburgh to pursue her Master’s Degree at the University.

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Islay was a fantastic tour guide, showing them all the best spots of Edinburgh: the Royal Mile, great restaurants and pubs, and of course… the birthplace of Harry Potter – the cafe where J.K. Rollins wrote her first ideas on a napkin!

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We happened to visit Edinburgh at the heart of the Fringe Festival (just our luck!) in which travelers come from all over the world to visit during the month of August. This meant the entire city became one huge festival, full of street performers, buskers and free shows to experience all the theatrics of this incredibly creative city.

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After exploring the crazy streets of Edinburgh, and soaking up the feel of the unique city,  we finished our time with a whisky tasting at one of the oldest scotch distilleries in Scotland.

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Tasting some of the oldest whiskies of Scotland while standing in the cellars. During our tasting tour, we learned about the skilled craftsmanship that goes into making defined scotch whisky and were taught how to decipher the tastes from the various regions around the country. Such a great learning experience for being the whisky lovers that we are!

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We wrapped up our wonderful week in Edinburgh and headed back out to the countryside to finish our stay with Lord and Lady Ross, and supported them care for their 18 family members that were coming to visit for the next week and stay at Netherhall.

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The entire Ross family was an amazingly kind, fun, vivacious family and we felt so welcomed in as part of the group. We had so much fun getting to learn more about their family and what it was like growing up in Scotland and England. It was during this time that we learned that not only did Lady and Lord Ross own this beautiful manor home in western Scotland, but earlier in life, Lord Ross worked directly beside the Queen of England! They shared with us many experiences and memories of what it was like growing up across the street from Buckingham Palace, and being in close connection with the Queen.

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Our time at Netherhall was truly an unforgettable experience. We cherished the time we had with this family and truly appreciated the experiences that we shared with this kind, generous family. We will be sure to visit again soon, and they are always welcome in our home if they ever want to come visit the USA!

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After a glorious 3 weeks in Scotland, we headed on to London to prepare to fly to our next country… and the next chapter of this insanely crazy adventure… JAPAN!

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