You Take the High Road, and I'll Take the Low Road
and I'll Get to Scotland Afore Ye
July 23, 2005
Our morning didn't start out very well today as we were awakened by the people in the apartment above us coming in at 1:45. The apartments are in a row of converted Victorian townhouses, and the floors are quite creaky when walked on - this is what we heard this morning. Then, again at 4:30, the floor noise woke us up a second time. We are guessing that the people had an early morning flight and were checking out (fingers crossed that this is the case).
The area around our hotel is known as Merchant City, and is a great and central location. Historically, tobacco lairds and traders came to Merchant City to do business, socialize, and eventually build their townhouses. The area was completely rejuvenated in the 1990's, and today is quite up-market with lots of trendy restaurants and boutiques.
So, getting back to our day, after a bit of a lie-in, we finally set out for the day after noon. We walked Glasgow Green and toured the People's Palace and the Winter Gardens. The People's Palace was purpose-built in 1898 as a cultural museum for the people of Glasgow. A magnificent conservatory at the back of the building houses a tropical winter garden.
From the Palace, we walked through the Barras Market (the name is a dialect version of "The Barrows," and dates from the time when goods were sold from barrows). It is really nothing more than a flea market - a cheesy one, at that, but now we can say, "been there, done that."
After the market, we made our way to Glasgow Cathedral. The stained glass windows were amazing, although, most date from the mid-20th century. But, I found a few examples dating from the late 19th century. The Cathedral itself dates from the 13th century, and really was quite impressive. We also walked through the necropolis, which is filled with crumbling, massive monuments.
We left the Cathedral and walked back toward our hotel, with a quick stop at a small grocer. No big plans for the evening, just to connect to the internet and make some additional travel arrangements.
July 24, 2005 This morning was a bit better than yesterday - it was 6:00 when we were awoken by the floor creaking upstairs!! Thankfully, we were able to go back to sleep, and then worked on updating our on-line journal, so it was, once again, after noon, by the time we got out and about. We stopped at a local coffee shop for lunch (baguettes and soup) and then proceeded on to Kelvingrove Park. There is an incredible museum at Kelvingrove, but, unfortunately, it is closed for renovation, and is scheduled to reopen next summer. We were fortunate enough to attend a gala event about 2 years ago at the Kelvingrove when an actuarial meeting was held here in Glasgow (I gave a presentation on "finite" resinsurance). The Kelvingrove Museum's collection was quite impressive, and we were truly disappointed that it was not open during our visit - maybe, next time!
We stopped off at the Museum of Transport, which was interesting, although not as quite as nice as some other exhibits we have seen. But, the price was right - free! All in all, we estimated that we walked about 6 miles today. Needless to say, by the time we made our way back to to Exchange Square, we were more than ready for a break. So, we stopped for "al fresco" refreshments" at the Royal Exchange Square - we sat there for quite some time, just basking in the sunshine (yes, we are in Scotland!).
"Let Freedom Ring"
Nothing much happened yesterday (the 25th), we checked out of our hotel in Glasgow and took a taxi to pick up our rental car for the drive to Seil Island and the Willowburn Bed and Breakfast. It took us about 3 1/2 hours to get here, which was a bit more than we remembered. The weather was gorgeous and we stopped off a couple of times to enjoy the loch views.
After breakfast this morning we headed off on a hike to Puilladobhrain (the pool of the otter), which is an isolated area on the opposite side of the island from the Willowburn. There is safe anchorage here, and there were actually 4 sailboats moored this morning. The views are gorgeous, overlooking a larger sound and some small islands. While we were walking along the shore, several RAF jet fighters went screaming across the Sound. Mark looked skyward and said "Oh, the sound of freedom", and it really gave me pause to think about the freedoms that we all (including our allies, the British) take for granted. Anyway, just wanted to inject a bit of patriotism in our journal!
After the hike, we walked back to the hotel and quickly regrouped for a drive around the island. There are lots of small single-tract roads with scenic views of the waters around the island. For lunch we stopped at the Tigh an Truish pub, which is just as you cross the bridge on to Seil Island. The "Atlantic Bridge" was built in 1792 to join the island to the mainland, with its high arch to allow ships to pass underneath. Tigh an Truish or House of Trousers got its name during the time of the Jacobite rebellion when kilts were forbidden. Soldiers changed to trousers before going on to the mainland and back into their kilts on returning home.
We returned to our hotel in mid-afternoon, and sat in the garden reading, enjoying the sunshine and watching the various wildlife and bird life (our particular favorites are the 7 ducklings - they are so cute!). Dinner is included at the Willowburn, and never fails to be incredibly delicious, with plenty of local seafood, meats, fruits and vegetables featured in the cuisine. And I must say that the sticky toffee pudding tonight was simply to die for - an incredible ending to a flawless day!!
July 27, 2005
Happy Birthday David - we were thinking about you today!
After a delicious breakfast at the Willowburn, we set out on a "photo shoot" - we were trying to capture the morning light before it got too intense. Of course, when you are as far north as Argyll in Scotland, dawn breaks between 4:00 and 4:30, so by 10:00, the light is already pretty intense! I think we both got a few decent shots though.
We then decided to take the ferry across to the Isle of Luing. The ferry looked quite seaworthy, but it wasn't very large, holding a maximum of 4 cars. We got a little concerned when a big cement truck was in the queue just in front of us. Luckily, the ferry capitan is very experienced at this sort of thing, and transported the passenger cars in one trip, and then came back for the truck (or lorry, as the Brits would call it). We spent a couple of hours touring around the island, but quite honestly, we were a little disappointed. The sea views were fabulous, but not really any different than from Seil. Also, we thought that since the island was much less populated than Seil, that we would have a better chance of seeing wildlife, but, we didn't see much of anything, except sheep and cattle. We did learn one thing though - Luing is the only place we have been in all of Scotland (and we've been to just about to every corner of the nation) that does not have a pub!!
After our return trip on the ferry, we drove south of Seil to Loch Melfort and had a light lunch at a small hotel just off of the loch. Then, we drove along the loch, enjoying the incredibly scenic views. We returned to Seil in late afternoon, and finished off the day with another amazing meal at the Willowburn.
July 28, 2005
We were up early this morning - packing our bags once again. We checked out of the hotel and hit the road by 9:00 - made really good time getting to the airport in Glasgow at just under 3 hours. We got checked in for our flight, stopped for a refreshment, and made our way down to the gate.
Unfortunately, our flight to Dublin was slightly delayed, but we made up a few minutes on the short, 40-minute flight. The weather in Dublin today was simply abyssmal - rainy and windy. We all know the stereotype about Dublin weather, but while we lived here, it was our experience that it very rarely rained all day. Well, today was one of those rare days! Luckily, it was just a travel day, so the rain didn't impact us too much.
July 29, 2005
Another dismal and rainy day in the land of green. But, on the bright side, I didn't mind that I had some work to do for LRG today! I worked until about 1:30, and then Mark and I headed out for a late lunch at a local pub. Ireland passed a law last summer that prohibits smoking in all public places, including restaurants and pubs. What a huge difference it makes - now the pub experience is very enjoyable. With the rain, we really didn't get much sightseeing done, we just walked around locally. Hopefully, the weather tomorrow will be a little brighter.