So last we spoke, I was sitting in the airport waiting to board a flight for Scotland. Let me assure you, this is absolutely the first moment I have been still yet awake in the last 48 hours. I hit the ground running in Glasgow about 1 pm local time yesterday and have only stopped for about 7 hours sleep since! Luckily jet lag doesn’t seem to be an issue. I guess adrenaline can counteract the effects of jet lag.
Let me start with some pre- and during travel photos.
Luckily I had no problems with my connection to Glasgow in Amsterdam. By 1:00 pm local time, I was on the ground in Glasgow. I picked a great time to have a non UK passport. The queue (that’s a line for you Americans) for non-UK was only about 10, while the UK passport line was easily almost 200. After zipping through immigration (thankfully I had the right answers to all the questions), I picked up my luggage and staggered, I mean made, my way to the International Arrivals area where Susan was waiting, quite literally, with open arms.
I know I’ve mentioned it before, but how lucky are we that the Outlander fan community is filled with such wonderful and talented people? Susan and I have been online and Skype friends for only months, yet she made it her mission to help me plan to get the most out of my 16 days in Scotland. She patiently put up with my dithering and procrastinating over exactly what things were important to me and even reshuffled things again when it turned out that Candida was going to be able come over as well. It’s nice to have friends with skills and on only day 2, I can more than vouch for Susan’s abilities as a blue-badge tour guide and holiday planner.
After dropping my stuff and a quick shower at Susan’s place (and by dropping my stuff, I mean lugging my overstuffed bags up 4 flights of steps), I felt awake enough to start getting out and seeing Glasgow. I already had plans for the evening (more on that later), but we had several hours to kill before then. On Susan’s (and her BF Andy, also a blue-badge tour guide) suggestion, we made our way to the Kelvingrove Museum. The Kelvingrove is a purpose-built building designed to showcase some of the magnificent art housed in Scotland. It was opened by Queen Victoria herself and there is a lovely painting of the event hung in the museum. Susan and Andy were able to tell me that the artist actually had every person depicted in the painting sit for him so that the representation of faces would be entirely accurate. There were also interesting exhibits of paintings, sculpture, furniture and clothing.
After the Kelvingrove visit, Susan and I left Andy on his own and climbed the hill to the University of Glasgow campus. Most of the buildings are gorgeous and made of red sandstone. There is also a stunning clock tower and the quadrangle was used as a film location in Harry Potter (think Dumbledore’s death). The cloister section is also very beautiful.
Making our way back down the hill, Susan, Andy and I decided we were feeling peckish (hungry for all the Americans out there) . We settled on Indian curry and were soon ensconced in Mother India restaurant. All the food at Mother India is served tapas style, so we perused the menu and manage to settle on 2 dishes each out of the many offered. My contributions were Garlic Mushroom Pakora and Lamb Saag, which is lamb cooked with spinach. After consulting my FitBit tracker, which at this point registered over 5 miles walked for the day, I helped myself to some of the Naan Indian bread. Everything we had was just delicious.
After finishing dinner, we headed out into the rain for the Argyll Hotel. What was at the Argyll, you might ask? The Argyll is where an event called An Gealbhan is held every Friday evening. This is an evening dedicated to Gàidhlig song and conversation. Hmmm…now I wonder who we might know from the Outlander world that would show up at an event like that? Yep, as many of you may be shouting at your computer screens right now, the event is currently being hosted by none other than Àdhamh Ó Broin, Gàidhlig tutor to the stars of Outlander. We had arrived a bit early, so I patiently sipped a Diet Coke, hoping that the caffeine would keep me going for another few hours.
Soon enough Àdhamh arrived and I was finally able to collect my long promised hug and yes, I promise I delivered all the hugs as requested by you guys as well. After exchanging a few wee gifts and delivery of some special items, the entertainment portion of the evening began. I absolutely love listening to Àdhamh play and sing. He has such a strong clear voice and is very talented in the songs he writes himself. Another Outlander fan @Heilancoo was in attendance and was convinced to contribute a song or two as well. Even I (after a wee dram of whisky, I must confess) was tempted into singing and attempting my interpretation of Cape Breton style step-dancing to another performer’s Puirt-à-beul or mouth music. All in all, much fun was had into the wee hours of the morning. I didn’t get home until 1:30 am (sorry Mom).
Back up and ready to go at 8 am, I managed to repack the things I needed for the week into my small carry-on and Lands End tote. Amazing how much lighter everything is without 5 lbs of grits, 6 boxes of Jiffy cornbread mix, and 2 lbs of River Street Sweets on board! Lugging these back down the four flights of stairs was much easier. Susan and I headed into downtown Glasgow to pick up my rental car for the next two weeks. Yes, it was finally time for the moment of truth! I have to admit that I have been just a wee bit worried about this portion of the trip. I have only driven on the left once before, about five years ago in Ireland. And I look back on the experience with equal parts amusement and remembered terror. We had a flat tire on the first day in Ireland! (A bank holiday I might add.) Luckily, my left hand driving skills seemed to come back pretty quickly as I jumped in my rented VW Sharan and followed Susan north. We made a brief stop in the village of Luss for some beautiful views over Loch Lomond to Ben Lomond (and yes, I did spend the next twenty miles singing ‘on the bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomond’).
Susan had graciously offered to go with me to Inveraray Castle. Downton Abbey fans will recognize this as the location where the Downton crew goes to holiday in Scotland back at the end of Season 3. (No, just think about the holiday. Don’t think about the end of that episode. No time for tears.) It is a French inspired castle and full of lovely pieces of art and furniture. Susan and I also stopped in the Castle Tea Room to have a spot of lunch. Susan opted for a curry chicken baked potato while I had a lovely Tomato and Spring Onion Quiche. Oh, and a piece of millionaire’s shortbread. (Hey, I never promised to be perfect on my diet during this trip.) After lunch, we popped into the gardens for some photos and then dashed back to the cars through the raindrops. I did also get a lovely photo of a rainbow, one of three I saw today.
After our visit to Downton, I mean Inveraray, it came time for Susan and I to part ways as I headed through Argyll. Up until now, the driving had been made much easier by the fact that all I had to do was concentrate on driving on the left and following Susan everywhere she went. Now, I would have to both concentrate on the left driving AND where I was going. Thank goodness for GPS! Per Àdhamh’s suggestion of the previous evening, I would spend the next several hours wending my way through the lovely glens and lochs of Argyll. I was very amused to find that each glen appeared to have its own weather. From one glen to the next, I experienced sun, fog, rain, sun, part sun….I call it weather whiplash!
I headed down to Lochgilphead, making my way through villages and places I had previously only known through Cape Breton fiddle tunes (Tullochgorum). I turned for north and made my way towards Kilmartin and my final destination of Oban. I stopped along the way to climb at least to the foot of Dùn Ad, an ancient hilltop fort that was also used for sentries to crown Kings of Scotland. (I only climbed to the foot of it because it was raining and I have never been known as a mistress of grace and agility and those rocks looked verra slippery to me. No time for broken bones or sprained ankles on this trip). I also had the lovely treat of a spectacular rainbow (my second of the afternoon). I took that as a sign that I was meant to be in Scotland. I would have liked to think it meant I should be here permanently, but I’m pretty sure my Mom won’t be in favor of that. At least not unless she comes with me and then my Dad would be pretty unhappy.
My last stop before reaching my overnight destination of Oban, was the cairns and standing stones of Dunchraigaig Cairn. Here I parked the car and wandered through the pasture (startling at least one cow) and taking a close look at the cairn, some rock carvings and a group of standing stones. I approached the stones with caution but felt that it probably was still far enough away from Samhain to be safe. 😉 I heard no buzzing from the stones anyway. My luck probably wouldn’t run to finding Jamie Fraser, so why chance it.
Back in the car, I headed the last 25 miles or so to Oban. After um…several…trips through the town centre and a quick call to Susan, I did mange to find my accommodation for the evening. The Hawthorne Bank Guest House is lovely and situated on a hill overlooking Oban. After a quick check-in on the Internet (are you very proud of me for surviving an entire day of no internet with no obvious withdrawal symptoms?), I headed back into town for dinner. I ate at the Fishhouse restaurant overlooking Oban harbour and across the way to the Isle of Mull. I thought it only appropriate to feast on mussels for my dinner. I have to report that they were some of the best cooked mussels I have ever had. Very large and so tender, they were served in a white wine garlic cream sauce. Once again checking my FitBit, I found myself having walked over 5 miles again, so I treated myself to a single piece of bread and butter. The meal was absolutely delicious.
Replete and satisfied, I headed back up the hill to the Hawthorne Bank to write my blog and hopefully get some sleep! You’ll have to forgive me if there are any typo or grammatical errors. I wanted to get everything written while it was still fresh, but my beauty sleep calls. I need all my faculties to make my way over to Skye tomorrow. I have a feeling those roads aren’t quite as good as the ones I drove today.
Slàn leat an-dràsta! (goodbye for now)
P.S. I almost forgot to include how much fun I had reading all the Gàidhlig place-names on the signs today. It’s so much fun to see how the Gàidhlig names were corrupted into the English place-names in most cases.