Our trip to the British Isles
September 23 to 26
Scotland: Loch Leven, Scotland to Holderville, NB
For a full description of towns and sites visited see Towns Visited
Monday, September 23, continued
Still on A82 we began the climb from sea level upwards through the pass of Glen Coe. The village of Glencoe is on Loch Leven and it was near here in 1692 that the Campbell’s murdered several of the MacDonald’s on orders from King William. The pass is a wonderful place, surrounded by mountains and a photographer’s paradise. Continuing upwards we came to the Rannoch Moor, a bleak and desolate place of bracken, heather and tough-looking clumps of grasses with pools of water in between and some larger lochs. The SAS (Strategic Air Service, probably the toughest military outfit in the world) use this area as a training ground for their soldiers. There is a hotel of sorts but very few if any private houses. Not far into the Moor is the Glencoe Chair Lift and Ski Museum. Historically, both Wallace and Bruce used this moorland as a hideout from the authorities. We soon passed a sign that said County of Argyll and Bute. I looked back at the other side of the sign and it had written on it Welcome to the Highlands. So I guess that means we were out of the Highlands. However, there were still many high mountains that we drove past as we went into Stirling County and then back to A & B. It would be fun to go back, rent a car, and spend a week or two touring. Throw in the Lake District and Cornwall, and a detour to Hadrian’s Wall where it is still a wall, the trip would be complete! Anyone want to set a date????
Anyway, we started downhill, so maybe we had left the Highlands behind. The railway tracks were again visible and paralleled the road for many miles. We stopped at Tyndrum for lunch (1:45 – 2:30). Near Crianlarich saw several rail cars loaded with what looked like 6 ft or 8 ft logs, small diameter. From Crianlarich it was downhill to the northern tip of Loch Lomond – 34 km long, up to 7.2 km wide and 190 meters deep. There are 38 islands in the loch, some connected to the mainland with causeways: these are called cranocks. Lots of forests on the east side and some on the west side. At Inveruglas we dropped off the ones who opted for the boat tour while the bus went on to Tarbet, 4 miles down the loch, and waited there for the pickup of these intrepid mariners. Ben Lomond (974) is visible from Tarbet. (Ben means mountain). At 4:37 we were at the southern end of Loch Lomond. The land here is gently rolling with agricultural land. Further along we crossed the River Clyde on the Erskine Bridge and on to Glasgow. Gary tried to give us a tour of the city but it was 5 o’clock traffic so gave it up and took us to our hotel. The hotel is 155 years old, very elegant, built by British Rail. The hallways are 6 to 8 feet wide, the staircase the same. We were on the 4th floor but had to go up 5 flights. It’s a Scot's thing, I guess! Beautiful old building.
Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland – 754,000 population. It was built on cotton and tobacco, and shipbuilding on the River Clyde. Tourism is a major industry, employing 47,000 people. There are 1000 pubs in the city, several universities, many old buildings.
September 24, Tuesday
Left hotel at 8:10, heading for M74 which took us south toward Gretna Green. Some agriculture outside the city, then we started going uphill. The hills were not high and there were sheep in pastures. Further along there was a range of hills to the west which could be the Lowther Hills. Came to the intersection with A702 – it was this route we took to go to Edinburgh, so we were now on a piece of highway previously traveled. Arrived at Gretna Services on A74(M) at 9:45, left at 10:30. Loo stop and some shopping. The old blacksmith shop here is famous as a marrying place for underage English lovers as Scotland had a lower age of consent. The chap who owns this complex was a hobby cattle breeder, maintaining herds of Belted Galloways and Highland cattle. Last year they all had to be disposed of because of the hoof and mouth disease. He is quite discouraged about it and undecided whether or not to start again.
10:35 we were back in England and heading due west to Newcastle Upon Tyne. The highway, A69, closely followed the course of Hadrian’s Wall, thought it was not visible at any point along the way. The wall was constructed by the Romans in 122-128 AD and its purpose was to hold back the wild Picts and Scots. It was 73 miles long from the mouth of the Tyne River to the Solway Firth. On the wall at every mile was a station and every 5 to 6 miles was a fort. Up to the 1800’s the wall served as a rock quarry for the inhabitants. We stopped at 12:00 at a small remaining portion of the wall in Newcastle, not very spectacular as it was only 2 or 3 feet high; there were the remains of a station or guardhouse in the wall. However, we did see lots of the stones from the wall in the church across the street!!
The hills in the Tyne Valley were a good size, not mountains by any means, but higher than what we had been driving through. There are much higher ones to the south – the North Pennines, elevations 400-600 m. Hedges common here, also trees often marked out field boundaries. Closer to Newcastle the land leveled somewhat and there were large farms with big farmhouses. Newcastle was founded in 1090 when some chap built himself a new castle. People of this area are known as Geordies as they remained loyal to King George II during the 1745 rebellion. The population now is about 189,000, and in the recent past Newcastle was important as a shipbuilding center and coalmining area. In skirting the city we passed The Angel of the North, a huge statue of a man with outstretched arm in the shape of airplane wings. I am unaware of the significance of this.
Just south of Durham we stopped at Durham Services on A1(M) for lunch 12:30 to 1:15. Service was slow and we had to gobble down our less-than-decent lunch purchased at Wimpy’s. (Oh! for bread and cheese!!!). To the east of this is the Miller homeland. My great-grandfather George Miller came from the Stockton-on-Tees/Middlesbrough area of North Yorkshire in 1831 and settled on the Kingston Peninsula. My father was born in the house he built, and my cousin now lives in it. It is a mile and a half back of my place.
At 2:45 arrived in the city of York, parked and walked across the River Ouse via the Lendal Bridge. Caroline took us on a walking tour to the cathedral and down the old streets, including the Shambles, to the public loos. Then we were on our own until 5:30. There was an open-air market where I got a Harry Lauder (Scot) and a Slim Dusty (Australian) CD. The Shambles is a very old street with the upper stories of some of the houses on opposite sides of the street only 3 or 4 feet apart. Lots of shops along it, and we did some shopping for selves and home. The cathedral is impressive and we wandered around it a bit. Eventually went back across the Lendal Bridge. There are two small guard houses on the bridge, one at each end. One is now a gift shop, the other vacant. Walked a bit on the old city walls then back to bus. 20 miles down the road in Selby we stopped for the night, the last one that we will all be together. Chatted with folks in the lounge after supper.
Wednesday & Thursday, September 25 & 26
8:07 AM we were on the road again – our last day. Saw several nuclear power plants as we drove south. Lots and lots of agriculture, a few trees. Bypassed Nottingham, so familiar a name from the tales of Robin Hood. Couldn’t see Sherwood Forest, but it still exists. Derby is to the west; it is notable as it was the southern-most place that Bonnie Prince Charlie and his army reached during the 2nd Jacobite rebellion – 1745-46. At 9:26 crossed over the Trent River with its many canal locks. Ontarians will be familiar with the Trent Canal System as there is one in that province on their Trent River that runs from Trenton on Lake Ontario to Lake Simcoe. It is still in use for pleasure boats.
We drove through a bit of Coventry, a city that was badly bombed during WW II. The Cathedral was hard hit but the walls remained standing. It has been left that way and a new one built adjacent to it. Coventry is the hometown of Lady Godiva, and she is included in the city’s coat of arms. Industries here include thread, buttons, clocks, Players cigarettes, bicycles, Jaguars and munitions. 11:10 to 1:05 was spent in Stratford Upon Avon, Shakespeare's town. Lois and I had lunch in the park – ahhh! bread and cheese!!! A couple of people were feeling flu-ish and were extra happy to get to the Regent Palace in London at 3:30. Our room was terrible – hardly able to move around in it, it was so small. I think all of us were glad to have the trip end, although I am sure we all had a great time. It was time to stop, I guess. Helen Lancaster had to fly out soon after getting to hotel and there was a tube strike that day. But, she got a taxi to Paddington Station and train from there to Heathrow, and caught her flight.
That night for supper a group of us went to a pizza joint next door. It was buffet style and the pizzas were not too bad. We sat around for a while drinking beer and talking and telling lies. Next morning Lois and I made our way to Heathrow via the tube to Paddington and the train to the airport. We checked luggage at Paddington which simplified things a bit. Had a good flight to Halifax, leaving at 11:15 AM London time and arriving 2:30 PM Halifax time – 6 hours and 15 minutes. I had left the car in long-term parking, we loaded luggage and headed for Holderville, arriving here at 8:00 PM. First stop was to see the delightful Serena, our 4 year old granddaughter, then Brett & Christine, then home. I drank the last of my water; I had filled the bottle from the tap in the Regent Palace and had the last sip here. I imagine that I am the only person ever to have drunk London water in Holderville!! I wonder if this will start a trend or fad??
Oh, yes, the bus traveled 4932 km on the trip.
Good-bye for now.