Dancing the Ceilidh

When in Scotland you have to try dancing the Ceilidh. It’s a traditional Scottish folk dance where you swing your partners around and dance up and down the hall. There’s hardly a moment you’re still.

Many of the guys dress in Scottish kilts with a baggy t-shirt or go all out with a fancy thick long sleeve. People will find all sorts of people at these dance halls. There’s always a band at the front. They are lively and play some of the more popular tunes of the early 2000’s and earlier with a twist.

Ceilidh Definition from dictionary.com: “a party, gathering, or the like, at which dancing, singing, and storytelling are the usual forms of entertainment.”

History

The Ceilidh has been around since at least 1917 when Donald Mackenzie wrote about the dance as a social gathering for people. There was music, dancing, story telling, and poetry. It was a great way for people in small villages to get together and socialize on a cold night or warm summer’s evening. Most of the time, this was where people met new people, friendships grew, and sometimes even relationships lead to marriages.

The dancing itself is performed either with partners or as a group. They are fast paced and take you all around the dance floor. Most of the music is traditional Scottish tunes, but today they take modern music and put a Scottish twist on it.

Each dance is full of excitement and energy vibrates through the room. New comers often need frequent breaks from the dances to cool down and get a good drink. This is the perfect time to spark up a conversation with new people who will most likely surprise you with the stories they have to tell.

Dance Halls

There are two great places in Edinburgh to check out some Ceilidh dancing: Summer Hall and Assembly Roxy. These places understand there are a lot of new comers and take the time to teach each new dance before swinging fully into the next tune.

I haven’t been to Assembly Roxy, but Summer Hall was great. The dance hall is like entering into a grand-Medieval dance hall. The band is situated on one side and the bar on the other. All the tables are pushed back behind the columns to allow for seating and open up the dance floor. Something to note is that since the building is so old there is no air conditioning, so make sure you wear something breathable and light.

Experience

Stepping into the dance hall was like going back in time. Music blared. Footsteps shook the floor. People laughed. The air was full of energy!

There were people of all ages from 18 to 70. Unlike America, people will ask you to dance left and right. They are very courteous and bold to say the least. Maybe that’s why so many women love Scottish men. One thing to keep in mind is when you are asked to dance say yes most of the time. It’s seen as rude if you say no.

When you get on the dance floor be ready to be tossed into the crowd. You might have a hand or an elbow to the face. Who knows? People are moving around so quickly and it’s hard to keep up sometimes. They don’t care if you get in the way. They’ll keep going no matter what.

If you’re a woman, you will feel like a light gazelle compared to the men. I always thought of myself as a bit bigger but that didn’t matter to them. They were able to lift me off the floor when we spun around. I honestly can’t tell you how long my feet were actually on the ground.

By the end of the night, you will be sweating like crazy. Make sure you wear something light and have a good fan! It’s one of the best workouts. The finale dance is one you can’t miss. It keeps you on your toes and there is continual spinning until you’re dizzy and can’t distinguish your left from right.

 

Dancing the Ceilidh is an experience every traveler should try at least once. It brings you into the Scottish culture. It’s old fashioned, gay (in the sense it’s happy), and will keep you on your toes. The best part is that you can either go with a group of friends or on your own. No matter what, you will be on that dance floor by the end of the night!

Check out this video!

 

 

 

Scotland Travel Memoirs: The Scotch Whisky Experience

Early Sunday, I flew into Edinburgh for the beginning of my travel writing internship back in September. It took some time for the apartment to be ready, but when I got in there one of my three roommates showed up. M- and I decided to head out and explore the city. We both knew that if we didn’t keep moving we’d sleep the day away and the jet lag would win.

As a lover of American whisky, I immediately had to take on the Scotch Whisky Experience. Poor M-, she wasn’t a fan of it but found the history of the process fascinating. She decided to get the Silver Tour while I went with the Gold.

Tours

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Most tours provided by the company take you through the history of distilling whisky. Visitors sit inside a whisky barrel and are provided the intriguing history from a ghost of long ago. Processes from malting and mashing to fermentation and distillation are described in detail.

People have the choice of two major tour experiences:

The Silver Tour – Educational tour through the world of whisky distilling plus a sample tasting of your choice from one of the four major regions; Duration: 50 minutes

The Gold Tour – The Silver Tour + tasting of 4 extra malts in the McIntyre Gallery; Duration: 70 – 90 minutes

Other tours are also available such as Educational Tours for large groups or The Taste of Scotland which combines food tasting from the Amber restaurant. The Scotch Whisky Experience is so profound that it offers a special training course in its’ Scotch Whisky Training School. The training school immerses people into the world of whisky with activities for enthusiasts or professionals. At the end of the course individuals obtain the “Certificate of Expertise.”

Types of Scotch

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There are four main scotches available to taste from the four main regions in Scotland: Lowland, Highland, Speyside, and Islay. Should you want to venture and try the fifth option, be ready to have your taste buds shocked.

  • Lowland – the flavor is lighter and tends to have grassy and flowery tastes
  • Highland – there’s a wide range of flavors for this one and it depends on which area you’re tasting the whisky from
  • Islay – this has a potent smoky flavor (Note: if you’re tasting more later you might want to hold off on this one since the taste lingers awhile)
  • Speyside – whiskies from this region are lighter and have fruity flavors, such as banana

The Tour & Tasting Experience

M- and I were excited to start the tour. The barrel ride was a neat experience. We sat in the large seat and went around with a “ghost” taking us through the history and process. After we were done with the ride, we headed into another room where we got to see the process more in-depth. The smell of whisky floated through the air making our mouths water.

While the history portion was interesting, what I found fascinating were the floor to ceiling glass cases of whisky from all sorts of places and ages. A table was situated in the middle of the room with some whiskey, empty glasses, and a pitcher of water. The lady talked about the whiskey and invited us to all take a sample of it.

Holding the glass I could already smell its’ potency. The lady held her glass to her nose and said, “The trick is to breath it in through your nose and out your mouth. Taste all of the flavors.”

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Excuse the crazy hair. We were tired after long flights.

I got the glass up to my nose and started to breath the aroma. Not a second more and I was coughing, and my eyes started to water. Earlier I had told M- of my love for whisky, but never had I smelled anything this strong. She laughed as her eyes began to water. What I couldn’t understand was how everyone was taking it so well. This stuff was strong! The aroma alone burned my throat, and I could taste it without taking a sip.

The next step was to taste the whisky. The lady offered us the choice of diluting our drink with some water or taking it straight. I immediately went for the water and so did everyone else. The lady said there’s no wrong way to take your whisky, it’s all dependent on what you prefer. The whisky connoisseurs had other sentiments on the subject.

Once we finished our glasses we went into a slightly larger room where we took a seat at several tables shaped in a U. For each spot, there was a glass and five circles. Each color represented a different region in Scotland, and the fifth one was the extra whisky from the Campbell Islands which they had in stock.

Each of us moved our glass over the whisky we wanted to try. I decided to go with the fifth one since they said it had a cinnamon flavor. My first thought was Fireball from back home. I knew it wasn’t going to taste exactly like that, but the thought of cinnamon was appealing. Let’s just say it did not taste like cinnamon, but it was still quite good.

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The tour ended in the small bar overlooking the Royal Mile, McIntyre Gallery. I showed my card to the bartender, and he brought the line of whisky samples to taste. M- and I went to sit near the windows with a gorgeous view of the city. There was little in the glasses, but I already knew I wouldn’t be able to handle tasting all of them.

After experiencing the last couple of tastings, I watered down the glasses a bit. We shared the drinks and started from one end and worked to the other. We ended with the heavy smoky flavor which we knew would linger for hours ruining anything else we tasted.

The lighter whiskies were great, better with some water and would have been perfect with some ice. Unfortunately, I couldn’t keep drinking the whisky. This was the first time I had called it quits and left alcohol on the table. It wasn’t from drinking so much, it’s from tasting to many different flavors at once.

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Overall, the experience was great. It kept us awake and got us relaxed from all the flying, searching for the apartment, and unloading our bags. After all the tasting you’ll most likely want something to eat the Old Town has some of the best places to eat! An added bonus is that you get to keep your sampling glass from the tour.

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