A Travellerspoint blog

Day 39 Glasgow, Scotland

Sunday 21 August 2016

overcast 20 °C

Glasgow … it was not on the itinerary and unfortunately we added it. When we drove in last night, it felt and looked like the bad end of King’s Cross in Sydney. We had a late night watching the Olympics so didn’t wake until 9am. As breakfast was until 12 noon, we didn’t rush down.
Finally, we headed out and in the daylight, things didn’t improve. We are right in the middle of the city and there is one mall that has some lovely shops but in the other streets there are a good deal of derelict buildings. There are some lovely old buildings but it is hard to appreciate with the surroundings they sit in. I am sure there are lots of lovely places outside of the city so we shouldn’t be too harsh. Just hope Edinburgh is better!

Posted by gpric6 07:54 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Day 38 Luib – Campbeltown - Glasgow, Scotland

Saturday, 20 August 2016

all seasons in one day 18 °C

There have been many stays in our journey that have been great, some not so great. When we were driving to Luib Friday night I was quite stressed about the whole idea. As it turned out, our stay at Hotel Luib was one to remember. The hosts were wonderful and it’s the type of stay that people talk about. We rose for breakfast and the lady had 20 people to do breakfast for all at once. She said that had never happened before. Apparently one group weren’t meant to come in until 9 but they came early. Anyway, it was lovely. We had a chat to the owner about the building itself, packed our bags and set the nav for the next drive.
There have been many songs in my head from over the years that have been driving my adventures – poor Ross. Firstly, the words “Speed bonnie boat … over the sea to Skye” took us to Isle of Skye. Today I was able to sing “Bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond”. I didn’t find the high road or the low road but we did find the bonnie Loch Lomond. It had been raining but there was a break in the weather so it was a pleasant sight. People were actually water skiing on the lake. We pulled in at Ardlui which sits at the top of the lake. We noticed a sign for a craft shop and it didn’t disappoint. She had some lovely pieces to buy. On our way to the lake, Ross spotted the Inn at Inverarnan and he remembered a Scottish lady at work speaking about it. We decided to go back for a closer look and it almost met with disaster. This maniac SUV driver came around a corner onto a bridge way too fast and nearly took us with him. Lucky Ross hit the brakes. We relived it all day. Just like at home, you always have to have your wits about you. We just hope his passenger gave him heaps!! Anyway we did get back up the road to see the inn and it was worth a look. Probably would have been an interesting place to stay. On the mountain behind the inn, a large waterfall was flowing. They are everywhere at the moment.
Mull of Kintyre sung by Paul McCartney and Wings was the driving force for today’s drive. I really didn’t think we would get to Campbeltown but we did. It rained initially but eventually it abated. The drive was over 100 miles and it took us over 4 hours, as there were so many beautiful sights to see and it was a windy road too. “Jack Brabham” was enjoying it. It was well worth the drive. The road wound around lochs and eventually we were on the west coast of the peninsula where you could see the islands of Islay and Jura. Suri tried to take us on a goat track but we are awake up to her now. It was a detour around the little seaside town of Tarbert and it was worth the visit. We were curious as to why there was a cloud collecting in the distance near the main southern headland and Ross thought it may have been Ireland. Sure enough, we had our first view of Ireland 13 miles across the Mull of Kintyre, confirmed by a chap at the visitor centre. From the west, the road cut back across the headland through farms. We spotted a sign to the Glennbarr Abbey so we called in but it was shut due to illness. We took a picture anyway.
Campbeltown was a lovely clean little place, once again, on the water. We had seen signs for a music festival but, unfortunately, it was cancelled due to the rain. A young girl explained that there would have been stalls and music along the waterfront. It was good for us though as we could park the car. We asked at the visitor centre where we would find the Linda McCartney memorial. It was in such an inconspicuous place, just a very quiet garden behind a building. It was lovely to read the information there as it told of her contribution to the Kintyre area during her life and how her and Sir Paul raised their four children in the area, away from the glare of publicity. It said the kids were able to surf etc but I am not quite sure how they would ever have done that as there would be no way I would ever get in this water. You would freeze.
As I was reading some information at the waterfront, I noticed the word “Kilkivan” and anyone who knows my family would know that I grew up in a town called Kilkivan in Queensland until I was thirteen and for our family, it was a very enjoyable time of our lives, especially for Mum and Dad. I asked the chap at the information centre and he said all that was there now was a farm and it had a sign on the gate. We had to drive towards Machrihanish and, sure enough, we found the farm Kilkivan. Now I am not sure if we had Scottish people living around Kilkivan but maybe that’s how I used to see the purple thistle that is the emblem of Scotland – they must have brought them with them! Machrihanish was another seaside place with a beautiful golf course. What a pity we already had a booking in Glasgow.
Our goal achieved for the day, we turned the car around and set our sights on reaching Glasgow. I now understand what the lyrics "Mull of Kintyre' mean and I can understand why you would want to come back there. The drive back was even more spectacular particularly around Lochgilphead as it had just rained and it was so beautiful. We also called into the Inveraray Castle but it was shut. That’s ok as I still have photos. Sometimes I just like to look at the outside.
Once we hit the freeway it took no time to reach Glasgow, thank goodness we do have Suri in these instances to help navigate the city streets. We found the Radisson Blu and unloaded our gear - a little embarrassing I might add. The room was not cleaned to the standard it should have been and we were very disappointed, having to have them come and fix this up. That’s another story. I must say, all the hotels and B&Bs that we have stayed at (barring our farm stay!!), have had a very high standard of cleanliness and attention to detail but no 5 star tag.

Posted by gpric6 04:01 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Day 37 Invergarry - Luib, Scotland

Friday, 19 August 2016

rain 13 °C

Today was one of those days we should have stayed in bed. My beautiful breakfast was spoiled because the chef overcooked my bacon. I couldn’t cut it let alone eat it. The boss lady said I should have said something but you don’t like to say anything. However, she asked me on check out if everything was ok and that’s why I told her. I didn’t complain about the traffic noise. On the whole, it was a lovely hotel with character. Would love to be there for the snow.
Now, I had planned to take the “Harry Potter” train ride from Fort William to Mallaig but I have been umming and arring about it due to time. Anyway, I decided to can the ride and to head straight for the gondola to Ben Nevis as the sky was relatively clear but not sunny - overcast. As we approached the Ben Nevis ranges, we could see cloud covering the big fellow but the lift was operating as it doesn’t go all the way up. The lady warned us prior to purchasing the tickets that there was a strong wind warning expected around 11 – 12pm and if that came through, the lift would be closed. We told her that that would not be a problem as we only intended going straight up, take photos and back again. Just as we went through the entrance gate there was a sign that said that the lift would stop now and then and not to be alarmed as they load goods. So off we went.
There were a couple of short stops and we were off again. At about the three quarter mark, we stopped. We waited and waited and no movement. There we were dangling 20 metres in the air, goodness knows how far up. Now I thought I could actually have a heart attack – I was not happy. I thought maybe if they opened the door, I could jump and grab a tree (mind would be willing but the body would probably not be able). Ross lay down on the seat and had a sleep. Meanwhile, 20 minutes must have passed and I decided to ring the Ben Nevis Ranges Centre!! I explained to them that I was sitting in the gondola on the side of the mountain and could she tell me what was going on. The woman on the other end of the phone assured me that they would get us down. Apparently a gondola had come off the rail at the top. Shortly afterwards we started moving – backwards. By this time, I was happy and I didn’t care that I wasn’t going to the top of the hill as planned. Then we stopped again and low and behold they started forward again. We went well until we were almost at the top and it stopped again and the wind was blowing and the cabin was swinging back and forth. I put my head in my hands – I thought I was going to die! Ross laughed. Finally, we pulled into the platform and the chap said to us that we probably hadn’t a ride like that for a while. He didn’t know he was speaking to someone still in shock! He explained that an emergency light had come on and they had to go through their emergency procedure.
Now we have taken quite a few gondola rides in our travels – Banff, Mt Roberts, ski lifts – but this had to be the worst I had experienced. I had no interest in taking photos. It was freezing cold and spitting to rain so we took a few quick shots and got back on the gondola - 11 pounds each believe it or not. I had said I would walk down but it would have taken some time. Back at base, we bought a cup of tea and shared a gypsy cream (biscuit) and headed towards Fort William.
Even though I had changed my mind re the train ride, I still wanted to go to Glenfinnan to see the viaduct. It is about 12 miles out and once we arrived, the chap on the gate would not allow us into the car park as it was full. We had to park on the highway and walk back, a risky business. The walk to the sight was around 1.3 kilometres and it was certainly worth the drive. For someone who has never watched a Harry Potter movie or read one of the books, you would ask why I would be interested. This bridge features in one of the movies. We were talking to a lady and she told us that the train had not come through from the morning and they were waiting for it to come. There was great excitement when we heard what we thought was the roar of the steam train coming to the bend but we were disappointed when we realised it was a jet plane flying overhead in the heavy cloud. It was a great sight – the first formed concrete bridge in the world so a chap said up there. We thought we would take the bush track and walk to the station. Half way it started to spit so we turned and headed back. On the way, we heard that a train from Fort William and one from Mallaig should be coming around 3pm. We weren’t going to wait to see if this happened. So, all in all, if we had have had tickets today, there would have been no train ride as apparently they had “technical difficulties”.
The rain started falling so we were pleased we stopped our walk when we did. The spotted umbrella that Lesley bought me years ago has been worth its weight in gold. Once we retraced our steps to Fort William we headed south towards Oban. Even though it was raining, we could see that it would have been lovely in fine weather. We happened to spot a café and a castle standing on its own so we turned around and headed back up the hill. The castle is called Stalker Castle. We hadn’t had lunch so we ordered a scone each and tea. We have become tea drinkers because you get two cups of tea each (4.5 from the pot here today) from the teapot that they serve compared to one cup of coffee and sometimes it is cheaper. Oban seemed to have a lovely shopping area but we basically drove through the city centre, did a u turn at a roundabout and headed out of town.
It was a bit disappointing to see some accommodation available at Oban. When we looked the other night, there was nothing there or at Fort William. The only place that came up was at Luib Hotel. This was around 50 miles from Oban and in the Loch Lomond and Trussocks National Park. It rained all the way and after going into the wrong hotel thanks to Suri, we found ours. Now I was quite nervous and we were in the middle of nowhere, at a hotel on the side of the road with 7 motor bikes parked outside. I walked into the bar, with all these eyes on me and I asked if this was where I had to check in. A lady with a German accent said that it was and she took me to show me the room. It was lovely. We grabbed a few bits of clothing so that Ross didn’t have to lug the ports up the stairs again. Apparently the hotel building is over 350 years old. The hosts, James and Nelly, cooked us some dinner – hamburger, salad and chips. We decided to have sweets – rhubarb crumble and sticky caramel pudding. What a day!

Posted by gpric6 00:43 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Day 36 A Day on Skye, Scotland

Thursday, 18 August 2016

sunny 22 °C

Believe it or not, it was so hot in our room last night. The traffic noise started quite early this morning. When we did get up, the glen was full of cloud. The hotel owner said that it usually dissolves by 10 o’clock. Breakfast here was lovely – hadn’t been cooked for hours and served up hard.
We headed off for our chance to see the Island of Skye. As I think I said, we weren’t able to secure accommodation there unfortunately. The hotel had a few tips to follow. Loch Garry was about seven miles from here but we were unsure of which it was. There was a large lake that was dammed. The mountains are quite high and rugged so we wove our wave through various “glens” until we came to Castle Eilean Donan. It was quite easy to find as it is beside the main road. We bought our ticket and headed over the bridge. As it is a tidal area, kelp and weed were visible as the tide was out. Once again, we were unable to take photos inside. This castle was built as a point of defence where three lochs joined but over the centuries, it changed in size and then was left to deteriorate. In 1912, two men set about following their dream to rebuild the castle. It took 20 years but they did it and that is what you saw today. It is very nicely presented.
The journey continued but, when we arrived at Kyle of Lochalsh, it was full of cloud. We could see some water but the mountains around the area were totally covered. We could see the Skye Bridge that connects the mainland to Skye. Once we got to the other side, the cloud soon dissipated and we could once again see the scenery. It is pretty much the same as the rest of Scotland. We drove all the way to Portree which seemed like a nice little place. We decided to go to the store and get some rolls and we made our own lunch and ate it on the side of the road. When we started back, we took the route to Dunvegan. There was a castle there but we didn’t go in. Once again it was hidden behind trees so you have to pay to see it and I wasn’t prepared to do that. There was some lovely scenery. We believe we were looking at the Cuillin Mountains as we drove back towards Kyle of Lochalsh.
We also tried to identify the Five Sisters of Kintail, a row of mountains. It would help to have signage like in Canada. We knew they were at the end of a loch and near Glen Shiel Bridge.
The Glengarry Hotel has been a good spot to stay except for the traffic noise. The dinner meals have been great – lamb shank last night and pork tonight.

Posted by gpric6 12:37 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Day 35 John O’Groats - Invergarry, Scotland

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

sunny 22 °C

Reluctantly, we packed up our unit at John O’Groats. Washing was done once again. Not sure if some of our clothes will ever fit us as we couldn’t stop the darn thing the first night and it must have dried the clothes for three hours. We had a quick walk into the shop and bought a t-shirt that commemorated our achievement – Lands End to John O’Groats. We also took a look at some local artists’ goodies. One chap did wood turning to make pens.
We headed west towards Thurso. Our first stop was the Queen Mother’s Summer holiday residence – The Castle of Mey. It was given to the trust in 1996. The initial structure dates back to the sixteenth century. She first saw the castle in 1952 when mourning the death of her husband King George VI. She bought it and moved in after renovations in 1956. It was a really moving tour, being familiar with the her. The lady who was our guide was delightful – no photography, no solo wandering. She introduced us at the front door where the Queen Mother’s coat hung from the chair. Nearby were her galoshes with studs under the heels. She wore these to take the corgis for a walk on the beach. The corgis’ dinner bowl was there. We moved up the stair case and the guide pointed out that the Queen Mother came to the house at 98 and still climbed the stairs herself. At one time, someone installed a rail on one side so that she had something to hold. She defied them and walked up the opposite side unaided.
The rooms of the castle were lovely. It was like she had lived there yesterday. Carpet was thread bare in places. The worm on top of the tapestry in the sitting room was interesting as was the mounted, fluffy head of the deer that someone gave her. She must have had a great sense of humour. The tour showed various bedrooms (eg Princess Margaret’s room that she never slept in), QM’s tartan suits, ball gowns, photographs, personal cards and letters, the kitchen, dining room, butler’s pantry and much, much more. After being shown through the castle, we were free to wander through the garden. It had beautiful flowers as well as fruits and vegetables growing. One of the young gardeners spoke to us and he said Prince Charles was there a few weeks ago. Of course the castle sits near the most northerly point in Scotland, Dunnet Head and the view to the ocean today was magnificent.
After eating our home-made sandwiches and drinking our tea in the car in QM’s car park, we continued our journey Thurso. The latter was much larger than I expected. We fuelled up and headed for Wick with the intention of finding the illusive Whaligoe Steps. Fortunately, we spoke to a lady on Tuesday and the hint she gave us was “opposite of Cairn of Get sign”. When I saw that I screamed at the driver to turn. He obliged. Sure enough we found a very small inconspicuous sign that referred to them. The café that another person said to look for was not functioning. We started down the steps and it was not as scary as I thought it was going to be. The sea comes right up inside and it is very impressive. Seagulls nest high on the cliffs above. Of course, what goes down, has to come up. The climb back up gave me my work out for the day. I felt quite satisfied that we had finally found these dreaded steps.
The time was 3pm and we were still way up north. The journey south was basically a retrace of our steps from our northward journey. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to try and explore the steep road of the north west. When we reached Urquhart Castle, we were finally in new territory along Loch Ness.
By 6pm we were at Hotel Invergarry where we had dinner and hope that we get some sleep seeing our bedroom is right on the main road to Isle of Skye!!

Posted by gpric6 14:50 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

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