In July, Gladys and I visited Scotland where I lived most of my first 25 years. This time we went to several places that were new to me. The blog contains a record of the trip. If you prefer to avoid the text and see many more photos, just select the 2015 galleries at http://prsimages.zenfolio.com/f273651450.
It was chilly windy, damp and green when we landed in Glasgow on July 7th - and it stayed that way punctuated by occasional hints of summer, much as I remembered Scotland in July. We hired a new Ford Focus, which is full of sophisticated electronics, but doesn't cope by itself with the pile of travel circles I encountered right away. However, we made it to Troon with just one scare. The idea was to start the trip with minimal driving and to visit southwest Scotland for the first time. In Troon, the Lido Cafe proved a welcome stop once we managed to find a parking space, which proved to be a common problem. It was upscale in decor and the breakfast welcome after our overnight flight. Next we escaped some rain and fought with the wind to view Troon's attractive but deserted beach.
Tired out, we covered the short distance to Ayr and were lucky to check in early after a struggle to find Miller House, which does not front on the street that the GPS suggested. The owner and room were both great. The driveway, however, was only fractionally wider than the car with rock walls on the boundary. Ayr India restaurant was very good.
Next morning was cold, wet, windy. Thinking we needed to be indoors we headed to the Burns museum in Alloway, just a few minutes to the south. We spent about 4 hours exploring the grounds and buildings - a National Trust site that we could not miss. I learned much about Robbie Burns and the period in which he lived. The museum itself, the cottage of Burns' birth, the Burns monument and the grounds all make for a valuable experience. The following photo shows the old cottage, well restored, and its vegetable garden.
Later we walked through the centre of Ayr, which is bustling with activity and retains most of its old buildings. There is no sign of office towers or box stores. No doubt they will be in easy reach of the automobile. Thursday was one of the best days of our trip. Photographer and old Flickr friend, Brian, had arranged to pick us up in mid-morning. We dropped Gladita in the main shopping area and headed south, through a green landscape of rolling hills, to Dunure and Girvan. The former is a picturesque village and the latter a well known beach and golf village. The next image of Dunure Castle will be the only ruined castle I show from the many to be found in Scotland.
After lunch in Ayr and a rest (jet-lagged for a week or so), Brian and Jane took us to an outstanding dinner. Thanks so much for everything.
Portsoy and the Northeast Coast
It was a long drive in the rain to Portsoy following the eastern route through Aberdeen. Our lunch stop was at a bistro in Stonehaven's market square. The strongest memory I have from this drive is one of countless roundabouts, although to be fair they probably speed up the traffic and are simple to negotiate when traffic is light. By mid-afternoon we had arrived at Durn House, which proved a delightful place to stay with incredibly helpful staff.
I completed the last four years of high school in Keith. My sister and cousin still live here with most of their families, and so a large part of the time was set aside for them. However, it was still possible to explore the northeast coastal villages, which I have always considered one of Britain's largely unknown gems. The rugged coastline is dotted with harbour villages, once centres of a thriving fishery, that are marvels of stonework and perseverence against a tough environment. Here are two examples from Portsoy:
Further to the east in Aberdeenshire the village settings are more dramatic as they lie at the foot of steep hills or cliffs on narrow ledges just back from the waterline. What once were fishers' settlements now await tourists or returns from North Sea oil. It had been a long time since I had visited Gardenstown.
Access to all was by single lane B roads, but the road to Crovie was the most difficult with barely room for one vehicle and extremely steep. When we squeezed into Crovie, there was nowhere to park and hardly space to turn. Afraid of being blocked in, we took the turn option and drove above the village to a point where we could stop and look down on it. So this is Crovie looking east towards Gardenstown (Gamrie in local dialect).
Our next stop was Perth, which we reached after lunch in Inverness and a journey through the Grampian highlands where snow was still visible. The dreary weather made stopping a problem until we came to the tourist shopping mecca, House of Briar (thanks, Susan, for the tip). I went to the lovely falls of Briar while Gladita checked out the shops. Perth is attractively situated on the banks of the River Tay. The old city contains many finely crafted stone building such as this restaurant:
The food proved excellent, both at a crowded high-end Indian restaurant and the more modest but delightful Centro Cafe. Most of the main street is pedestrian only - so good for shopping and people watching. Everyone is so much more relaxed in these settings.
Next day, we went to Scone palace on the edge of Perth. I didn't recognize that it was privately owned and that photos were not allowed. It retained an aura of elite wealth. The famous throne and stone were less than awe-inspiring.
Onward through the rain to Stirling, which sits on the border between the highlands and lowlands. It is best known for its grand royal castle on a volcanic plug towering over the town and countryside. After the short drive, we parked at the castle and joined the mass of other tourists. Apart from the beautifully restored interior of the royal residence and the chapel, it felt bleak and rather threatening. The interior of the residence itself was colourful but sparsely furnished. At least that left room to absorb the tourists. However, the views from the wall were superb in all directions.
A delightful cafe lunch in an ancient building about half way down the hill followed. Then, after some shopping exploration, we checked into our hotel just below the Wallace monument. The morning brought more wind and rain; so we decided to drive to Aberfoyle, which was through the lovely Trossachs area, to let Gladita shop at the woollen mill stores. That was successful, but the village was an ugly mix of styles and too much rain had fallen. Earlier we spent the morning escaping rain in the Thistle shopping centre. Stirling provided many good opportunities for street photography.
We decided after much thought to skip Edinburgh and head straight to Glasgow. What a good idea, because Glasgow is a great city - all cleaned up, wonderful architecture, friendly people, super shopping and food, multi-ethnic, and not overburdened by tourists. Parkopedia suggested that concert square was the most suitable parking close to Buchannan street, which G identified as the pedestrian shopping core. Garmin made it quite easy to get there. We spent about five hours in shopping and street photography before going to the Argyll hotel. Here we could find no street parking close by and finally had to phone the reception for advice. We squeezed into the last space behind the hotel in a filthy alley and left the car there until Monday.
A sample from Glasgow:
Sunday was a walking day. We strolled along Sauchiehall street, which is lined with handsome buildings that transition from accommodation to offices to stores and a pedestrian way that links with Buchannan street. Attractive and vibrant. Some more shopping, a side stroll to city hall, lunch at Eat, and then back for a rest. Later in the afternoon I walked past the stately Kelvingrove museum to the new riverside museum of transportation, which was noisy and crowded. It is free to enter like the other public buildings in Glasgow. At a quieter time, I would have found the transport exhibits more enjoyable. The architecture is nothing short of spectacular.
For other Glasgow photographs, try this slideshow:
Last day in Scotland. Our plan was to meet my cousin Christine and her husband Bill for afternoon coffee in Largs.
We escaped the rain by taking a pleasant cafe lunch, after which it was at least dry. Bill and Christine were great company - it turns out we had not seen each other for 58 years. Back in Glasgow, a fine meal at Thai Siam was a fitting end to the Scottish trip.
If you are not oversatiated with Scottish photographs, you might like to check out the 2015 entries in the Scottish galleries at: