Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Day One

I was worried about not getting enough sleep on the plane, since I wanted to be fresh for our first day. The flight wasn't so bad after all. I ate some (not very satisfying) food in the airport so I could forgo the meal on the plane and maximize my sack time whilst we were in the air. This and a couple of Klonopin did the job pretty nicely. Ever the gallant one, Robin slept on the floor (!!!) so I had the 3-seat all to myself on which to stretch out.

First job on arriving in Glasgow was to find our hire car. Last time I was here I had pre-paid the car and the company subsequently went out of business leaving me on the phone on hold with Travelocity for over an hour. I didn't share with Robin my fears of a similar scenario this time. Our company, Practical, does not have offices in the terminal, so we phoned their office and was told they'd "be there in about 5 minutes." Only I misunderstood the meeting instructions and it ended up taking about 30 minutes to finally find each other. Once that was done, our rental agent, William, who was incredibly funny, complete with a thick Glaswegian accent full of glottal stops and other fun Scots-isms, got us ready to go. We've been issued a Fiat Panda in electric blue:

More than once on returning to the car today I thought the back end had been chopped off. It handles well, especially now that I'm getting the hang of driving on the left again. There were a couple times on making turns that I almost went into the right lane; thankfully I kept my senses well enough to avoid disaster. So far. On occasion I check with Robin to make sure I am indeed on the correct side of the road. Eight years is a long time. The last time I was here was in 2001; then it had only been 2 years since I had been driving on the left. It's harder to get back into the swing of it now. I'm sure I'll be zipping around like a native again in a day or so.

First stop of the trip was Glasgow Cathedral. The cathedral is in a part of the city that is old and quite charming. I had forgotten how sprawling and built up the city is.

Here's a picture of the cathedral:

Here's a picture of the cathedral with me in it:

Across from the cathedral is Glasgow's "Oldest House," a charming building of three floors with a lovely garden in the back:

I think I was taken with this a bit more than the cathedral, especially since it had some whimsical carved stone faces at the back of the garden. Here are two of them:

Whilst sitting in the garden at the Oldest House the sun came out in force and I enjoyed some welcome radiation.

After a very refreshing cup of tea and scone in a nearby museum café we decided to make our way out of the city and towards Ballachulish, our stop for the night. Soon after leaving the city limits the scenery began to change dramatically to the steep, stark hills of the Highlands. The road was heavy with traffic and although I had slept better than usual on the flight, I still had not had my full night's rest; I started to get very sleepy. We stopped in a layby and I slept in the car for 45 minutes of the most hearty sleep of recent memory. Robin, the guy who spent the night on the floor of the plane cabin, wasn't at all in need of a nap and went for a walk in the wilderness, coming back to the car with no fewer than six ticks on his person. Once awake, we continued our route on the A82 alongside Loch Lomand. Even though we had clouds and rain the scenery was astounding.

We took a short detour to see some falls that are part of the route of the West Highland Way and were there in time to see some daring lads dive in to the chilly shallows:

By evening we arrived in Ballachulish for a welcome pub meal of fish and chips (and a couple pints of McEwan's 70/- for me).

Friday, May 22, 2009

Getting Ready!

Leaving in TWO DAYS! So, today I phoned the estate office in Islay to find out how to go about getting into the cottage next Saturday. The woman who answered said, "Oh, just go to the cottage, the keys will be in the door!" I didn't bother to tell her that's not how we do things here in Philadelphia.

Friday, May 15, 2009

It's a Blog!

Okay, I made the first post just the map because my Compose window got hung up with all that HTML in there to read. Or something. Not sure...

If you click on "Larger Map" you can see the planned route in better detail. The insert got a little squiggled at the end where we make the trip from Kintyre to Islay.

My idea for the itinerary is:

25 May: Arrive in Glasgow. Pick up luggage and car. For some reason I picture that it will be sunny and hot and I will be feeling unwell because I spent my night on a cramped, smelly plane. It's much more likely to be cloudy and cold (and I'll still be feeling unwell). In any case, we'll make our way out of the airport to the first stop: Glasgow Cathedral. This is a Historic Scotland site that I never managed to get to in my years living in Edinburgh. From there we head north in the direction of our B&B near Glencoe (which is near Fort William) for the first night. What the day brings will depend upon how tired we (well, me, really) are.

26 May: We may try to hike near, around, if not up Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the UK. This seems a bit ambitious for a 2nd day activity. Watch this space.

From here I only have a rough idea in mind:
  • From Fort William head towards Inverness, stopping at Urquart Castle along Loch Ness.
  • Continue north to Tongue, turning west there to the Dun Dornaigil Broch (another missed HS site).
  • Travel along the coast west and then south to Ullapool where I hear there's a great yarn shop!
  • Continue south to Glenelg near Skye to see the group of brochs there. I have been there before but only briefly. It was striking and beautiful; I promised myself I would get back there someday.
  • From Glenelg we'll make our way to Oban, the relatively large port on the western coast. There's a distillary there; it may be a good place for overnight if we can find lodging.
  • On Friday the 29th we'll be staying in the port village of Tarbert. I've already booked this and it looks like the B&B is right on the harbor (when I'm actually over there I may start adding "u"s to words like this).
  • On the 30th we make our way to Islay from Kennacraig. Then it's an entire week on Islay visiting distillaries, walking, and hopefully visiting the neighboring islands of Jura and Colonsay.
So it's all quite exciting really!

Scotland 2009, An Itinerary

View Larger Map