Sunday, August 18, 2019

Saturday 17th -- across Arran

Here's something very clever:

Every so often I shave. As well as the usual shaving gear, I require a good light and a mirror. The last two places have had both... except for the "good". The light is always above the mirror. When I look at my face in the mirror -- the light from above creates shadows where I want to shave. Well...

Lagg Hotel has a light above the mirror -- and the mirror tilts! I tilt the mirror and can see my face -- with no shadows. So simple. So brilliant.
===

This morning, we drive across Arran, from Lagg to Brodick. Google maps shows a road along the north coast, a road along the south coast, a road across the middle. If you know where to look, and zoom in close, you can convince Maps to show you another road across, a bit south of the obvious middle road. GMaps is useless at showing road options across "long" distances, as you zoom out, roads disappear -- and are not used in route selection.

We follow the "hidden" road, from Blackwaterfoot to near Brodick. It's a nice easy road -- compared to the twisty coastal route! Even better, this road takes us directly to the ferry terminal. We will use this road on Monday.

Today, our drive across Arran is easy. There's a lot of single lane with passing places but we pass just six vehicles in about 20 km. Easy :-) Though one was a truck, that made me sit up and take notice... and extra care.

We visit Brodick Castle, now a National Trust property. It's magnificent! Deb says, It's nice to see how the other half live. The other .001%, I say.

The owners -- for the last few centuries -- were the richest family in Britain. And top nobility. One lord travelled the world collecting expensive souvenirs. Back home he would then have his souvenirs set in gold and silver settings. A more recent lord bought race-horses which never won. He lost the family fortune, a generation later and the government took the castle as death duties.
===

There's a bit of original castle, a solid lump designed to be defended. Well, not quite original, one or two earlier castles failed the defence and were razed. In more peaceful times the very rich lord extended the castle -- made it three times as big. The new part is less castle, more a very fancy hunting (and entertaining) lodge.

We go through the castle. It's full of amazing stuff, with lots of explanation.

We reach the butler's pantry, he has a lot of work, a lot of responsibility. Down a narrow staircase -- to the kitchen. Wow! It's huge... what more can I say?!
===

We walk through the gardens. The massive beds of fuschias. Lawns, trees, flowers. The formal walled garden, the less formal woods. We walk along a forest trail, find a cache, walk back.

There's one shower of rain, otherwise fine and sunny. We eat lunch at the castle cafe (a separate, new building). Then we drive home -- along the road that google does show.

The scenery along either road is excellent :-)
===

Back to our hotel. Coffee in the cafe. I would like to collapse on a soft sofa in one of the lounge areas but they are all occupied. ie there are some other people in each room. Back to our own room, relax until dinner. Which is delicious.
===

A very short stroll after dinner, across the road to the "other" garden area. We spot another brilliant innovation:

There are compost bins, plastic, looking like upside-down rubbish bins, we have one at home. These ones have an opening, a door, at the bottom. As the leaves etc compost -- you can dig out compost from the bottom! Then add more material at the top. Continuous composting... brilliant!

To get compost from the bottom of our own bin we have to empty the whole thing. We decide that we will start a business, importing these bins into Australia.
===

And that's the end for today. Tomorrow we plan a couple of walks starting near the hotel. Today, now... sleep.





====    Dr Nick Lethbridge  /  Consulting Dexitroboper
             Agamedes Consulting / Problems? Solved.
===

"I would like to think it's possible to construct a society where our orders don't involve slaughtering our own people." ...Gen. Khiruev via Yoon Ha Lee

===

dying for you to read my blog: notdotdeaddotyet.blogspot.com.au :-)
====
   

Saturday, August 17, 2019

friday 16th -- camera

On our afternoon drive I notice that the camera battery shows as flat. there's still some life in it but not much. that's just a day and a half of photos :-(

i'll have to remember to recharge every night. and get a spare battery.

it's a good camera, does what i want of a camera. as far as i can tell... i'll be interested to see what the photos actually look like. but it has more features than i need, so more options than i can manage. including a tendency to show menus when i just want to take photos. just needs practice and learning, i guess...

and i'm learning to recharge every night.




====    Dr Nick Lethbridge  /  Consulting Dexitroboper
             Agamedes Consulting / Problems? Solved.
===

"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away." … Blazing Swan Survival Guide

===

dying for you to read my blog: notdotdeaddotyet.blogspot.com.au :-)
====
   

Friday 16th -- Lagg Distillery

We start the day -- after a good breakfast and a bit of a rest -- with a walk to the Lagg Distillery. It's new, just months old Deb tells me. A fifteen minute walk from our hotel. Uphill along the road. A pleasant walk but warm. Weather forecast is for heavy rain. In our corner of Arran we have cool sunshine. I'm soon down to a shirt, carrying my light jacket.

The road is a narrow two lanes and winding. Maybe half a dozen cars pass. Either side are stone walls or hedges, sometimes trees, fields beyond that. Crops, grazing land, a few sheep, lots of cows and calves. A stone cottage, a farmyard, a larger stone farmhouse. Less than a km away, the sea.

All very pleasant. Idyllic English... Scottish countryside.

We reach the distillery. There are some interesting words about Arran: geology, people and whisky. (Arran is divided by the same fault line that splits highlands from lowlands. Little local boats are wherries. People lived in small groups called clachans.) We don't pay for a tour, we do stay for coffee.

Deb has an ad for New Orleans style dinner tonight, we book.
===

We set off back towards the hotel -- and turn off along a "cart track" to "Cleats Shore". We're passed by a car. Which reaches the gated end. Then does a multi-point turn to go back again. We go through the gate, the track continues.

The track leads down to the sea. There's a large stone "wall", a natural pile of rock. Apparently it's quite common on Arran for rock to have been forced up to look like a stretch of wall.

There's a stone and concrete shed, used by cattle for shelter, by the look of the "mud" floor. We're within a few metres of the sea, almost down to sea level.

We walk a bit further, to the beach. Large stoney pebbles down to the water. We know it's a beach because there are seagulls. The large British type, with their distinctive calls. Most of the birds, though, are different, we have decided that they are shearwaters.

We continue walking parallel to the sea but staying in the grassy (and sometimes muddy) field. And there are pigs! Three adults and half a dozen large piglets. I like pigs, there is something so unattractively appealing about them :-) These pigs are behind a single line electric fence, very effective for an animal with a sensitive snout.

We zigzag up the hill, through paddocks, past cows and calves. There is a stone structure... It looks like an incomplete bridge, just the first couple of metres.. heading out into thin air. Or a tunnel mouth... with no tunnel. Where it could be a tunnel is... perhaps... a fireplace inside a very small room with no front wall. It's not a ruin, it looks almost intact. We have no idea what it is.

Out of the cow paddock into a sheep paddock. Up to a gate -- and out of the paddocks, back to the cart track. A very pleasant walk!

Back to the road, back to the hotel. We have a late lunch (soup and a roll) at the Velo Cafe, a part of our hotel to attract passing cyclists. There's a strong cycling theme, with books, pictures, videos of cycle races. Then we go back to our room and rest.
===

A bit later we get in the car and drive, in the direction away from the distillery. We are thinking of coffee and cake but there are no nearby cafes. We do find a couple of caches and some great views, then we turn back.

The cheese factory and shop is closed, possibly for good. We park at a primary school to look for a "cheese" named cache... a pleasant walk through woods. There are some pretty decorated stones along the way, probably done by the primary school children.

Walking back from the cache we see a path leading directly to the hotel... Deb follows that path, I go the slightly longer way to get the car.

Coffee and victoria sponge cake at the Velo then more resting in our room.
===

Evening. We drive to the distillery for dinner. A set menu with a "deep south" theme. It's delicious, there's plenty of it.

We sit next to Irene and Ray from Toxeter (I think those are the names) (home of JVC Machinery) in Staffordshire. A delightful couple :-)  They are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. They walk nearly every Sunday in the Peaks District, near their home. He repairs, makes like new, old tractors. As a hobby.
===

Then we drive home -- and it's the first time on this holiday that we have been out after dark! Back to the hotel. Coffee. Blog... And sleep.





====    Dr Nick Lethbridge  /  Consulting Dexitroboper
             Agamedes Consulting / Problems? Solved.
===

"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away." … Blazing Swan Survival Guide

===

dying for you to read my blog: notdotdeaddotyet.blogspot.com.au :-)
====
   

Friday, August 16, 2019

Thursday 15th -- Oban to Arran

Today we leave Oban. Once again, the gps has us turning down a dead-end street. After some tricky maneuvering and a near miss with a stone wall, I get back on track. Down to the main road, ignore the gps, we drive out of town.

Weather: There was heavy rain last night. As we leave our b&b the rain has stopped. The rest of the day is fine and, very occasionally, sunny. The only rain is a heavy shower in the early evening. The temperature crawls up to perhaps 16C, I'm sometimes chilly in a short-sleeved shirt and light jacket.

We stop at Arduaine Garden. It's more formal, more maintained, than Angus's yesterday. No better, I think, though Deb appreciates the labelled plants. Again, we get lost while trying to follow a lightly marked trail.

Walking out the path passes a bistro(!?). We stop for coffee, which we drink outside. It's cool but comfortable and the view -- over yet another loch -- is beautiful.

Then we drive non-stop to the ferry at Clanoigh. Not quite non-stop, I occasionally pull over to let other traffic past.

I realise what is really different about Scottish country roads compared to Australian: there are always large trees leaning over the Scottish roads. Yes, the scenery is completely different. But the driver barely sees the scenery -- for the trees.

Soon after I realise this, getting close to Clanoigh -- the trees run out.

I turn -- despite Deb's instructions -- into the wrong ferry terminal. We are on a narrow country road, there are several ferry terminals. A few miles later and we are at the correct terminal, there's not much here. Parking area, concrete slipway into the water, marked bays for cars to queue for the ferry. We are first in the queue, we park facing down into the water.

While waiting for the ferry we look for the Kintyre Trail, a walk track that passes here. There's an old stile to get from field to carpark and that's about it. No signposts, no trail markers.
===

We see the ferry leaving Lochranza on Arran, it's not very far away. It arrives, lowers a solid steel ramp, we drive on. Out of the car, inside to pay, we sit down -- and the ferry is already on its way. It's very smooth, we can hardly believe that it's moving.

I wander round the ferry. There are seats on the two decks above us, metal seats, outside. The ferry must be able to carry a couple of hundred people, today it's a couple of dozen.

I chat with a fellow passenger, a geologist. He says Arran started as a volcano, a big granite "pluton" pushed up. And "Hutton's Unconformity" changed the way that people understand geology. I'll be reading up on that but not writing any explanations.

I spot a dozen or more dolphins in the water! By the time I get downstairs to tell Deb, they are gone... ah well.

random memory: We don't see much wildlife. We have seen a rabbit... and a hare, while we were looking for a geocache. That was days ago.

We land at Lochranza and are off the ferry within minutes.

We stop for a late lunch, scones, at the Lochranza Hotel. Very nice, great view across the water. Then drive on.

From looking at google maps I know that Arran is Lochranza, Brodick, Lagg Hotel and nothing else... Wrong! There are several not too small villages down the coast road. Lots of people, accommodation, hotels... it's a busy holiday island.

It's a very pleasant drive down the coast. The road is narrow but two lanes. Constant twists and bends, I watch the road like a hawk, constantly nervous. But there is not too much traffic. I stress, but enjoy the drive.

btw: Our street gps has a feature that may be new, it beeps in warning. When road signs indicate, narrow road, sharp turn, oncoming traffic may be in the middle of the road... the gps beeps. I guess the warning locations are in the gps. I've not noticed this in Australia, here the beeping is every minute or so... lots of warning spots.

We drive through Brodick to look at the ferry terminal, we'll be back there in a few days. Then on towards Lagg. And on and on and on... It's 13 miles (I think) but the road makes it seem a lot further.

After what seems like an age I comment to Deb, The phrase that comes to mind is, "the arse end of the world." It's beautiful... yet it seems that we are driving beyond all civilisation. Okay, except for the village at Whiting Bay, the cottages everywhere, the hotels... It just feels like the middle of nowhere.

And we reach our hotel. After 4pm.
===

Lagg Hotel. Google has trouble finding Lagg, it prefers to call it Kilmory. The hotel is old (1793? I'll check that.) Very nicely done up. We're in a Garden Room, upstairs, overlooking a garden and a stream, possibly a brae. Very peaceful.

We eat dinner in the hotel, very nice. Having driven the roads... we may eat every meal in this hotel :-) The assistant chef was knocked off his motorbike, he's now in hospital, the owner is helping. It doesn't hurt the quality of the food, we enjoy it all.
===

Deb borrows a book of 25 walks, three are near Lagg. We'll check the weather tomorrow before we choose between walking or castle or distillery or brewery. Or cheese factory. All good choices :-) ... for tomorrow.





====    Dr Nick Lethbridge  /  Consulting Dexitroboper
             Agamedes Consulting / Problems? Solved.
===

"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away." … Blazing Swan Survival Guide

===

dying for you to read my blog: notdotdeaddotyet.blogspot.com.au :-)
====
   

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Wednesday 14th -- extra

In the chocolate cafe, there's a window to watch the chocolate work. A window into a room with two tempering machines -- for dark and milk -- and one worker. The worker is hand-shaping chocolates.

He has a tray of chocolate balls, perhaps 300 of them. The balls look to have been squeezed out of a piping bag: flat bottom resting on the tray, almost round, small tail on top. The man picks up a ball. Pinches off the tail. Rolls the ball to make it smoothly round. Puts the round smooth ball back on the tray. Then on to another chocolate ball. Over and over and over...

He may have been working on the same tray when we left the cafe.





====    Dr Nick Lethbridge  /  Consulting Dexitroboper
             Agamedes Consulting / Problems? Solved.
===

"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away." … Blazing Swan Survival Guide

===

dying for you to read my blog: notdotdeaddotyet.blogspot.com.au :-)
====
   

Wednesday 14th -- Oban on foot

We're in a b&b, breakfast is good. Hot food and cold food. A full house of guests, a full breakfast room.

Back in our room, Deb points out an interesting feature. When the toilet seat is up, the flush buttons -- set in the wall -- are hidden. No need to go to all trouble of lowering the seat... Just push it down a little and the seat slowly and carefully lowers itself. Entertaining and pointless :-)

Also, in the bathroom, are heated towel rails. Except... they only work for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. Cunning and cheap.
===

By 10 o'clock we are ready to get out and see the town. No way we will drive... Even if the traffic has thinned out, we may never find "home" again!

We set off on foot, across the hill. We're following signs to McCaigs Tower. No idea what it is but there are signs... Okay, I've checked Wikipedia: The "tower" was built in about 1900 by a rich man. He intended to build a family museum and provide employment for local stonemasons, but died when only the outside wall was done. Inside is now lawn and garden, a bit of a folly.

We walk down to town and find ourselves right next to the Oban Chocolate Cafe... which is crowded. We decide to just buy some chocolates... which we do... then Deb spots an empty table so we sit. I order coffees and -- overwhelmed by all the chocolate -- I order a jam and shortbread sort of biscuit (Empire, no chocolate) to share.

We walk north, to Dunollie Castle. Along the coast road then through woodland. Dunollie is the ancestral home of clan chiefs for clan MacDougall. An online review says that it is not worth the price of admission, that's why I don't bother with online reviews -- it's well worth the visit. And we find a geocache on the way, our one Oban cache :-)

The castle is ruined but the manor house -- where people lived and still live -- has a lot of interesting stuff. Including some family history and family letters. We stay long enough for a light lunch. We buy a souvenir... which lucky person will get it when we get home?!

Back to town. It's a small town but busy. Started as a fishing port, now spread along the seafront from North Jetty to South Jetty. There is no bypass, all passing traffic must go through the town. End to end is an easy walk, probably less than a km. There are two parallel roads then a maze of streets back up the hill.
===

Back at the castle, my camera battery has run flat :-(  I do carry it always switched on -- so that the gps will always be ready. It may be smart if I get a spare battery.

There's a camera shop in town, they don't stock my camera battery. Oh well. I'll have to be careful abour recharging.

We pass a bookshop. Dangerous, says Deb, but we go in anyway. And buy a couple of books. We can't resist books...

Then we look for a shoe shop that we have passed before... and buy a pair of hiking boots for me. Boots? They are labelled as trail shoes. Feel solid enough. And if Scotland can't sell a good hiking boot, I'll be disappointed.

It's an expensive walk through town!
===

Back to our room, we relax for a while. Then head out for dinner.

We try a place which is fully booked. The next place is just closing. We end up on the seafront where yesterday we ate fish & chips. Today we eat indoors at The Olive Tree. It's pleasant, cosy, slightly upmarket. We agree that it's about the same standard as Killin Hotel but with decor at least 20 years younger. Food is delicious.

We just eat mains. Mine is pan-fried sea bass on pea and scallop risotto. Delicious and I'm sure it's healthy :-) Deb has tempura sole, she says it's delicious.

We walk back to our b&b. Each time we walk home it's uphill. We usually go via a Jacobs Ladder, concrete steps up the hill. We pause regularly to admire the view. There are three seats on the way up. (And, I suppose, three seats on the way down...) It's hard work. Good training for trail running :-)
===

Back in our room we have coffee and Oban chocolates.

Today we have walked about 7km. In mostly fine weather. Soon after we get home -- there is a shower of heavy rain.

The end of another good day :-)





====    Dr Nick Lethbridge  /  Consulting Dexitroboper
             Agamedes Consulting / Problems? Solved.
===

"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away." … Blazing Swan Survival Guide

===

dying for you to read my blog: notdotdeaddotyet.blogspot.com.au :-)
====
   

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Tuesday 13th -- Killin to Oban

Today we leave Killin. As Deb says to me at dinner time, You've had a difficult day.
===

The day starts well. Another hearty breakfast: grapefruit, orange juice, scrambled eggs, sausage, hash brown, toast, marmalade, porridge, tea and coffee. I decide that that's enough, without adding haggis, baked beans, bacon or cereal.

The porridge is... not as I make it. Killin Hotel porridge is made with milk and is still runny. I eat it with jam, a practice I picked up from my cousin and his wife.

The food service is very very fast... Today I just manage the timing: grab juice & grapefruit. Place hot food order. Make tea, make toast, butter half. Hot food arrives, I'm almost ready to eat it. Porridge and coffee come last. Today I realise, I could always tell the waiter, No, I am not yet ready to order the hot food...

We leave the hotel just after 9:30. And stop two minutes later, at a bank. It's a Bank of Scotland, with the St Andrews Cross in front of the name. I can't help reading it as the X-bank of Scotland. There's an ATM round the side, we only realise this because we see a man using it. Deb withdraws fifty pounds.

For a while I thought we were going to have a cash-free holiday. Then I remembered packing money left over from the last English holiday. (I keep leftover cash rather than exchange it. It's good for the next holiday, or for the next family member going on holiday.) The cash is immediately useful -- cards are no use at the long house, nor at yesterday's tea rooms. Mind you, the notes are good but the pound coins are no longer valid currency.
===

We drive out of Killin. It was a good village :-)

On to a main road. Busy but not too bad, I can occasionally pull over -- lots of "truck stop" style parking spots -- to let cars pass. We've been here before. Either traffic is slightly less or I'm getting used to it.

In one village we stop to look for a cache. It's a bit of a walk up a hilly road, on the other side of a railway station. We don't find the cache but enjoy the walk. We drive a couple of miles down a single lane road for another cache -- which we also fail to find. But it does lead us to a nice walk -- through forest, to a waterfall. It's not "Stoney" Hill but something similar. The cache is off the walk trail and into the forest, we don't even leave the trail. Again, an enjoyable walk.

We also find Angus's Gardens, an open display garden. It's a memorial garden, in memory of a son who was killed aged 28. The mother wanted a less formal, almost natural landscape. Photos show lots of flowers and flowering shrubs. Today it's green and pleasant and in need of some pruning.

We wait in the car while a heavy shower of rain passes over. It's fine and almost sunny for the rest of our garden visit. Typical weather for this holiday. btw: I think we are in Glen Lochie.

The garden is big enough to get lost in, so we do. Deb asks me if I would like a memorial garden, she finds the idea a bit weird. We agree that a memorial compost heap may be more suited to my memory :-)
===

Back to the main road. A mile or two further towards Ft William. We turn off known roads, towards Oban. The road gradually drops down, to run next to Loch Awe. Mountains in the distance but this loch is between almost gentle hills.

We reach Connell(?) which has a distinctly seaside feel: it looks like there is seaweed on the edge of the water. Of course I could be imagining it, as driver I don't have much time to look.

So far so good. And now the day goes downhill :-(
===

We reach Oban -- and traffic stalls. It's bumper to bumper all through town. Okay, we keep moving but it's stop-start. We want to stop for lunch, parking areas are full. I finally grab a roadside parking spot, two spaces. My careful rental car parking -- making sure there is enough room in front to get out again -- takes up a bit more than one space.

It starts to rain. Heavily.

It's ticket parking, we have no good coins, the ticket machine rejects the "old" coins. (The honour box at the garden had no such problem... I'm sure the coins are acceptable at a bank...) We make a hasty purchase in the nearest shop and ask for change in coins. Buy an hour's parking ticket.

Walk through the rain -- and traffic -- to the nearest cafe. I sit, Deb goes to order at the counter, which is out of sight. It takes so long to place the order that I start to worry, I stand up to see if she is okay. Food -- eventually -- is good.

The rain has almost stopped. We go back to the car -- just as the parking ticket expires -- set the gps to our accommodation and start driving. The somewhat shortened space behind us is still empty, makes getting out quite easy :-) though we still need to wait for a kind driver to let us out into the still bumper to bumper traffic.

The gps wants us to turn right across one full lane of traffic and into another. I refuse to even try, I make the easier left turn.

The gps recalculates and sends us in a circle to the same intersection. I make my own way through town. The gps recalculates. Guides us into a no-entry one-way road. No, can't go there, it's the wrong way. I drive past. The gps recalculates, turns us into a dead end, someone's private parking. I manage to reverse out.

The gps recalculates, I ignore it and drive out of town. We try again. The gps wants us to turn right at that awful intersection. By now the traffic has cleared, the turn is easy. But pointless.

The gps recalculates, tries to get us against the traffic into those one-way roads. I drive way out of town in a different direction. Amongst farms and past a golf course. Deb and I check maps. We head back into Oban.

This time we have managed to approach town from the correct direction... We easily find our Glenroy Guest House. Even the gps knows the way... this time.

We arrive -- pull into the private parking area -- and check in. Phew.
===

We walk into town for dinner. Fish and chips outside, on the jetty. Then coffee and cake in a little cafe. At least I ask for coffee, I get tea. Deb says, You've had a difficult day.

Now it all gets better :-)

We walk round town. The Oban Distillery visitor centre is still open, we buy whisky. The centre closes while we are there. Not to worry, we don't want to *learn* anything. Though a distillery tour would be interesting -- if they were not fully booked.

We walk back home via some steps. (Deb has a tourist map, far better than a gps.) The steps... go up a long way. I guess it's good for us...
===

And we find our way back to our b&b. Ready to rest.






====    Dr Nick Lethbridge  /  Consulting Dexitroboper
             Agamedes Consulting / Problems? Solved.
===

"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away." … Blazing Swan Survival Guide

===

dying for you to read my blog: notdotdeaddotyet.blogspot.com.au :-)
====