Hebridean Hop 22: returning home

Saturday 18th August 2018

After an early start, we were in the ferry queue at 7am ready to depart Castlebay at 0755. Once on board, we positioned ourselves near the restaurant ready to beat the rush for breakfast when it opened. That rush didn’t materialise, and wandering round the ship later we found out why. Many people had brought their pillows and duvets and were catching up on sleep! When we got to the top deck, we were amazed to have it to ourselves most of the time. The howling wind might also have had something to do with that …

More or less on time, at 1240, we approached our destination, Oban.

We didn’t linger, choosing to drive to a pub outside town for lunch, and then to make our way home to Glasgow. Our Hebridean Hop was over. Some thoughts:

  • We drove just over 1000 miles, a seemingly modest amount for three weeks, but once you’re on the islands there aren’t a lot of places to drive to! The roads are greatly improved since our previous visits, but most of them are still single track and consequently slow. Being impatient to get straight from A to B just doesn’t work.
  • Other infrastructure – museums and cafés – has also improved greatly, enhancing the tourist experience and, it is obvious, bringing greater prosperity to the islands. It’s probably selfish to feel that this diminishes the charm and makes the islands feel less remote. However, I’m glad to have caught them at this point before they become overrun, as seems to have happened to Skye.
  • We were lucky with the weather – and I mean that, despite having written about some terrible downpours. It could have done that every day, whereas most days were reasonably fine and some were sunny and warm. However, if you must have guaranteed sunshine, the Hebrides will not be for you!
  • We walked, on average, seven miles a day, much of that on beautiful, golden sands. This was enough for our collection of dodgy knees and feet!
  • It’s 25-30 years since we last visited any of these islands and we can’t understand why we left it so long. This year, current thinking is that we will visit some of the Inner Hebrides, but they don’t lend themselves so obviously to a “hop” and will involve more route planning.
  • Thinking of going to the Outer Hebrides? Yes, I think you should! Find all my posts with the tag Hebridean Hop for inspiration.
  • Finally, I’m linking this post to Cathy’s On returning home invitation. Check the link for details: Cathy’s current post is about leaving Japan after teaching there for a few months.

Oban and Dunstaffnage Castle

Thornloe Guest House

In May, we spent two nights in Oban, a west coast town a couple of hours north of Glasgow. It was a last-minute decision, so we were lucky to find a wonderful place to stay, the Thornloe Guest House, which was as attractive inside as out.

 

Note the open window above – we never tired of the view from it as you can see below. After staring at the island immediately in front of us, Kerrera, for so long we were inspired to visit it the next day, but that’s for another post.

As we only had one full day, our time in Oban itself was mainly spent wandering around at night before and after dinner. Beautiful!

 

In one of the pictures above, you can see the round arches of McCaig’s Tower on the hill above the harbour. We climbed up to it one evening for sunset views back down to the town.

 

Close to Oban is Dunstaffnage Castle. We visited on our way to the town and found they were having a Viking day. Some of those Vikings look quite scary, but we ran across them in a Chinese restaurant in Oban that evening and they seemed much more genial then!

 

Coming next, I’ll take you for a walk round Kerrera.

Glasgow Gallivanting: May 17

Arran Ferry from Brodick Castle Gardens
In the UK, May is bookended by Bank Holiday Weekends and we took full advantage of both. May 1st saw us on a ferry returning from Arran after spending time there with friends, and at the end of the month we had a couple of nights in Oban.

Oban at dusk: view from our room
Full posts to follow! So what else has been happening?

Cousins

My cousin Tracy and her husband have just bought a new boat. We were able to inspect it before a family lunch at Kip Marina. Doesn’t she look delighted?

We also had dinner with another of my cousins, Ian, and his wife Lynn. No photos were taken at that event, but here we are as kids on the back green of our grandparents’ tenement flat. That’s their kitchen window behind us. I think this is 1971, so I would be 14 and Ian 4. His wee brother and my younger sister are also there, and a small girl at the end who, I think, must have lived in the same building. I have no recollection of her at all.

 

Voice from the past

Redby Infant School, Sunderland, 1963
While I’m on a nostalgia theme, how about this? As some of you know, I administer a blog, It was always sunny, for my Mum who is writing the story of her life. When she came to the section about me starting school I included the picture above and was surprised recently to receive a comment from one of the other children, the boy fourth from the left in the front row. He’d Googled the name of the school and up this popped! We’ve been exchanging memories and trying to complete a list of all the names. Can’t find me? I’m fourth from the right in the back row.

Talking of things popping up, and in the blowing-my-own-trumpet department, I was touched and delighted to find my name in Update, the professional journal for librarians in the UK (third paragraph). One of the most satisfying aspects of my career was mentoring and encouraging younger librarians so it’s great to know it was appreciated. Thank you so much to Jennifer for mentioning me.

The Elephant Park

Glasgow has many fine parks, and I’ve written about the major ones, such as the Botanic Gardens, many times. All over the city, however, you can find pocket-sized parks amidst the urban sprawl. Last year, these two concrete elephants near my home were sending out an SOS signal because redevelopment of an adjacent building put them under threat. When I passed by the other day they had obviously just been made-over (one still has its Wet Paint sign) so I’m hoping this means they have been reprieved.

The last bit

Four theatre / concert hall visits, three guided walks, a visit from my sister – I’m running out of time to write about everything this month, so I’ll quickly finish by returning to my programme of expanding your vocabulary with Scottish words! The Women’s Library guided walks that I’ve co-led have not been blessed with good weather – an understatement to say the least. Both guides and partcipants were drookit. If you can’t guess what that means from the pictures, click on the link! I have more walks coming up in June, so I’m hoping for better luck.

So that was my May – how was yours?