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yonza bam

Bus pass ramblings

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Got mine six years ago, but hardly used it. Decided to make an effort, and googled some timetables. Had to be doable in a day, as I didn't want to bother with B&Bs. I was surprised at what could actually be done. For example - Strathaven - Hamilton - Glasgow - Inverness - Fort William - Glasgow - Strathaven. A long time sitting on a bus, but as I've never been down the Great Glen or visited Fort William, it had an appeal. Even more ambitious was Strathaven - East Kilbride - Kilmarnock - Ardrossan - Brodick (ferry) - Lochranza - Claonaig (ferry) - Tarbert - Portavadie (ferry) - Dunoon - Gourock (ferry) -Glasgow (train) - Hamilton (train) - Strathaven. I'd have to leave the house at 8.10 am, and I'd get back in at 11 pm. Cost of ferries £14.50, and trains £8.60. Seemed like a good deal.

For a starter, I decided on something less arduous. I could get to Oban, take a ferry from Oban to Craignure on Mull, and a bus to Tobermory. I'd have 1 hour 40 minutes in Tobermory, before I'd have to get the bus and ferry back to catch the last bus back to Glasgow. I'd been to Oban a couple of times in my youth, but never been to Tobermory. First problem was that the open air bus station in Oban town centre was closed due to it being their 'charity day'. The town centre was taken up by dozens of tables, a pipe band led a parade etc, so the buses were disrupted. I read the notice on  what would normally have been the stop for Glasgow, which told me on which street the temporary bus stop could be found. But, as I was unfamiliar with Oban, it took me some time to find it.

But, the next problem was the killer. I went to the ferry terminal ticket office, to get my ticket, only to be told that the ferry was delayed by an hour and a half. The weather was fine, so it must have been a mechanical problem. So, the Tobermory trip was no longer doable. There was no way I could get there and back again to catch the last bus if the ferry was an hour and a half behind schedule. So, I had a few hours to kill in Oban before getting the bus back to Glasgow. I took some pics, had an excellent al fresco fish supper, a pint of Guinness in a bar, and a wander around town before getting on the bus back.

The bus from Glasgow to Oban had gone through Glasgow airport, Erskine Bridge, Ardlui, Tyndrum and Crianlarich. I assumed that it would be the same return journey, but the bus back took a different route through Inveraray and Arrochar, missing out the airport and the Erskine bridge. It was even more scenic than the first route. Apparently, buses whose 3 digit number ends in 7 go the Tyndrum route, while those ending in 6 go the Inveraray route. And, if you google for the timetables, you might not get both buses on the page. It's two different companies, although both have the Citylink logo. One company leases. When we got to Glasgow, I looked out the window, and saw Crow Road. It looked exactly like Crow Road at Dumbarton Road, so I got off the bus, intending to get a train from Partick to Hamilton. I could see the railway bridge over the road going to Partick station less than 100 yards away. Except it wasn't. It was the bridge over Great Western Road going to Anniesland station. Crow Road at Anniesland looks uncannily like Crow Road in Partick. So, I found myself on Great Western Road, and just jumped on a number 6 bus to East Kilbride.

Don't know where I'm going next. I've never been to St Andrews, which is a 2 hour 36 minute run from Glasgow. It's 35 years since I visited Edinburgh zoo, and I've never been in the castle, so that's on the bucket list. Back to Oban to 'do' Tobermory, or around Arran, Mull of Kintyre, and the Cowal peninsula. I'm starting to get the bug.

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I don't know who yonzabam is, I thoroughly enjoyed the post, so many places I have missed; not at all jealous but a wee bit of "one day". Weird as it might be but Hollow Horn came to mind, very quickly while I was reading. He was great at finding, or having a different view of very ordinary things and he was great company. Another person who came to mind was a man frae Greenock, and a lunch with him and Pat...were we in a museum(?) just cannae mind.

Last time I was in Perth I left the nieces and caught the bus for downtown. It was a Sunday, no regular buses and the driver never mentioned my fare; I had put , I think it was two pounds and away we went to a number of small villages, time spent for the round trip was better than 2 hours....had my camera and took many photographs, don't think there was one worth keeping, lots of hedges and such.

Saw my COPD doctor. She is moving out of town (Chatham to Woodstock Ontario). She re-newed my inhaler presciptions for a year and I asked if she was being a bit optomistic; she shrugged.

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Second outing today, and another one that didn't go to plan. Decided on the Glasgow-Inverness-Fort William-Glasgow run. There's a change at Perth for the Inverness stage, for which the timetable allots 5 minutes, except the connecting bus had 'broken down', and there would be an hour's delay, which was actually an hour and 15 minutes.

Cut a long short, I got into Inverness with 5 minutes to spare for the Fort William bus. It took two hours to 'do' the Great Glen, and arrive in Fort William. I noticed that Ben Nevis still had patches of snow near the summit. I had two hours to do the tourist bit, which is probably generous. Fort William is charming, but there's not a lot going on. Basically, just the High Street. I thought it would be a harbour town with lots of fishing boats, but it wasn't. There's a pier, but few boats. I visited the museum, which was better than I expected for a small town. It has about 8 rooms, all of which are packed with exhibits, including the 'birching table' and birch, which was used for miscreants. It has two holes in it for the birchee's (is that the right word?) arms to go through, and they were tied together under the table. I think it said the last birching that took place was in 1948, a teenager who had broken into a shop.

It was sunshine and showers all day, but the clouds parted for the sun as the Glasgow bus left Fort William. The run between Fort William and Glencoe was the most stunning scenery I've yet seen, particularly at Glencoe. I'd only ever seen it on television, but it doesn't compare with actually being there. The mountains were truly 'majestic'. That's the only word. I saw a red deer stag road kill at Bridge of Orchy, but although I keep an eagle eye for wildlife, I've seen remarkably little on my two trips, despite doing several hundred miles through what ought to be perfect  woodland wildlife habitat. I saw one roe deer today - 10 minutes outside Glasgow, on the motorway verge, and a hare at Quarter village, outside Hamilton. I didn't see a single live mammal in the Highlands, not even a rabbit.

I've ticked off Inverness and the Great Glen, and probably won't do them again. But, if I can get a sunny day, I'll do the Fort William run, and stop off at Glencoe to get some photos. It's a magical place.

 

 

High Street

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That's fantastic, Yonza Bam. I've had my pass a long, long time but obviously need to be more adventurous.  I've gone to Edinburgh a few times and great deal jumping on the bus to Dunoon with trip including the boat.  There's a great service to Aberdeen, where you are served tea and then a soft drink and crisps on the journey.  

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Was talking about my bus pass rambling to the workmates (yep, still a cooncil worker, and I'll keep at it until  they decide to put me out to pasture), and someone suggested that there was a bus from Glasgow to Skye. I knew about it, but had looked at the timetable and seen it wasn't doable. Turns out, the situation is the same as the Oban route, in that there are two different companies operating, and you may not get the timetables for both buses on the same page. The buses are the 915 and the 916. The 916 can be done if I get in very early to Hamilton railway station. The bus leaves Buchanan Street at 0650 and arrives in Uig, on the north west point of Skye at 1350. Then, there's 55 minutes to stretch your legs, get a pint and something to eat, and get the same bus back at  1445, arriving in Glasgow at 2213. It's a heck of a long time on a bus, but I've decided to take a crack at it.

But, not today. I've taken a week of my annual leave this week, and decided to do an 'easy one'.  Today, it was St Andrews, mainly because I've never been there, but also because a nurse who was attending me during my colonoscopy said it was 'fantastic'. At just 2 hours and 36 minutes from Glasgow, it would be a dawdle compared to the Inverness, Fort William, Glasgow adventure. No hitches, this time, and I arrived in St Andrews at 1155. It's a lovely place, a mixture of old and new, with the emphasis on old. There were a lot of graduates in their black gowns getting photographed, and lots of well dressed proud parents.

I was surprised how near the golf course was to the town. Tiger Woods could have driven from the course to the town centre. There's a golf museum, but that didn't interest me. The ruined castle had a £9 admission charge, which I was not going to pay. The ruined cathedral was very impressive. It must have been a huge building in its heyday, and you wonder how people back then could have built such a thing.

There's an aquarium in the town, which I decided to visit. £12 admission charge, reduced to £10 with a concession card. From the outside, it looked pretty small, so I had the feeling I was going to be slightly ripped off. But, it was a lovely experience. Compact and bijoux. Although it's called an aquarium, it's also a reptile house, and has huge Atlantic seals, penguins, meerkats, marmosets, tarantulas, and a colony of leaf cutting ants. Highly recommended if you're ever in town. I tried uploading a picture or two, but got the message that I was only allowed to upload 501 kb. I've no idea what that means. I guess I'll always be a computer numpty.

 

 

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Easiest one yet. Edinburgh to do the zoo, castle and Royal Mile. I've got mixed feelings about the zoo. The giant pandas were off limits because they are being rehoused. There's aye a summat. There were quite a few other enclosures that were vacant due to reconstruction. I walked through the walk through monkey enclosure and guess what. No monkeys, and no explanation. It wasn't as if they were playing hide and seek with the visitors, which many exhibits seemed to do. They just weren't there.

On the Tripadvisor page, it's claimed the zoo has 1,000 exhibits. There's nothing remotely like that, and that's the main criticism of the zoo. There simply aren't enough animals. After 15 minutes walking, including through the enclosure with the invisible monkeys, I had seen just meerkats (they're such cute little buggers) and penguins. They could do so much more with it. For example, there's a very large field with just three zebras in it. They could have added wildebeest, antelopes, buffaloes, warthogs etc, and called it something sexy, like 'Serengeti'. It would have made it much more interesting, and wouldn't have been overcrowded. Same thing with the wallaby enclosure. Just five or so wallabies of the same species when there are umpteen species in Australia.

On the plus side, a lot of work and planning  has gone into the actual physical layout of the zoo. What the zoo lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality. It is heavily into the conservation aspect, and many of the animals, such as the Asiatic lion and Sumatran tiger, are critically endangered. The animals all have much roomier enclosures than I remember from my youth, and that's a good thing, but it also means they can hide away in a corner, and never be seen. I may be the only visitor today who saw the Sumatran tiger, just a tiny patch of brown and black stripes about the size of a football, visible through the vegetation about twenty yards away from the path.

The first few comments about the zoo on the Tripadviser page are from visitors who visited today or yesterday, and they're not complimentary.

https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g186525-d213530-Reviews-Edinburgh_Zoo-Edinburgh_Scotland.html

On to the castle, which I'd never visited. You have to expect that if you visit on a sunny Saturday in July, it's going to be rammed with tourists, and so it was. As I joined the insanely long queue for a ticket, the one o'clock gun went off. After buying the ticket, I thought that would be the end of queuing, but there was a further long queue inside the castle to see the Scottish crown jewels. I didn't bother. I added lots of pics to the ones I took in the zoo, and that's about all. I actually found the view from the castle rampart across Edinburgh, the Firth of Forth, to Fife the most interesting bit. There was a telescope with a map next to it detailing all the islands and other features that were visible. The Royal Mile was worth walking, but too touristy for my liking, with the obligatory bekilted bagpiping busker.

An okay day out. 6/10. No idea where I'm going next.

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Second attempt at getting to Tobermory yesterday. I only recently found out that the bus pass allowed you to get rail concessions, but only in Strathclyde region. Up to 10 miles, and it's £1 for any single journey, and £1.50 for a return (off peak). Beyond 10 miles, and it's half price. I thought Strathclyde region was history, but it still seems to apply for some things, like transport. Not being sure about the boundaries of Strathclyde, I googled for maps, and found that Oban was in Strathclyde. Some maps show Mull as part of Highland region, while others show it in Strathclyde. I'd have guessed Highland, but the more 'official' maps claim it for Strathclyde. Train single to Oban from Glasgow is £26. Since I'd never traveled by train to Oban, I opted to shell out £13 just for the novel experience, and get the bus back.

First problem was that Queen Street station is currently undergoing what looks like root and branch reconstruction. It's a building site, and its lost its ticket office. Got help from the temporary information booth, and was told that there was a ticket office situated outside the station, so that was me sorted with the ticket. Next problem was that the train divided at Crianlarich, with the front part going to Oban, and the rear part going to Fort William. I've had this situation several times in the past, and there has always been a sign board on the platform designating the front part beyond this point. Not so, today. Either someone forgot, or they don't do it any more. So, I walked right up to the front two carriages, just to be sure, but all the seats appeared to have reservation tickets on them, so had to walk back and get on further down, hoping it would be okay.

The train was absolutely crammed, mainly with foreign tourists, and the only seat I could get was facing the 'wrong way'. I hate having my back to the engine, and the sight of the world streaming past in that position has often caused me to feel travel sick in the past. Just another quirk my brain seems to have. Before we got to Crianlarich, the conductor informed all the passengers with tickets to Oban, that they would have to move to the front two carriages, otherwise they'd end up in Fort William. I told him I'd seen all the reservation tickets on the seats, and he said that didn't matter if they had 'Queen St' on them as they had not been taken up, so I could sit on them. What the hell is that all about? Lots of people book tickets for trains, then don't bother showing up, keeping passengers with tickets from using them? Sorry, but that just doesn't compute with me.

When I reached the front two carriages, I still couldn't get a front facing seat. All the available seats were facing the 'wrong way'. It seems I'm not the only one to prefer travelling on a train facing the front. Just to cause me further annoyance, six raucous 20 and 30 somethings got on the seats surrounding me. They had all been drinking, and it was still only 9.15. I felt a tap on my shoulder. Big guy, 30ish, sitting next to me drinking a can of Strongbow, and judging by the 'merry' vibe, he'd had a few. "Haw, buddy . . . could ye swap seats wi' ma pal doon there (points) so that we kin sit the gither?" I was pleased with my self restraint in declining his proposal without swearing.

Well, that's the last time I'll be getting the train to Oban. The scenery on the bus routes is far better, too, and bus and train take almost exactly the same time to get there. Add in the £13, and it's a no brainer. Bus every time.

The Oban to Craignure ferry takes 50 minutes, and there's a connecting double decker bus at 1.20  waiting to take passengers to Tobermory, which also takes 50 minutes. There's another service, at the same time, which goes in the opposite direction, to  Fionnphort, the ferry terminal for Iona. That takes an hour and 40 minutes. There's no way to get to Iona and back in a day, though, as that's also the last bus back when it returns. However, you could simply do the run to the ferry terminal, and stay on the bus for the return. You'd see a lot of Mull. That's one for the future.

Tobermory has a population of around 1,000, but it punches well above its weight as a tourist destination. There's a distillery, with visitors centre, and free samples of their product, an aquarium (not great), museum (tiny, but interesting), umpteen bars, hotels and restaurants, including an Indian and Chinese/Thai, craft shop, outdoor activity shop, fishing gear shop and that's just the ones I remember. It's photogenic, and I took about two dozen pics to add to the ones I took on the ferry and at Craignure. I'll probably go back some day, but I won't be getting a train.

 

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Hi Yonza, Sounds like you've been having the time of your life with all these adventures.  I love St Andrews and have been there a good few times.  I love the town centre and also the beach but I didn't know there was an aquarium. 

Good for you making the most of your pass.  Next time you go to Mull you should definitely go on to Iona.  Well worth a visit.  

Oban's a great place for catching a boat to the islands.  I quite fancy checking out Kerrara, which is just a hop and a jump – you can go on a boat trip to see lots of sea life.  

I think that day trip to Skye would be a bit beyond my energy levels.  

If you want to send me any photos you wanted to post email them to me and I'll reduce the size and you can put them up. pat@glasgowwestend.co.uk

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Thanks, Pat. Afraid Iona isn't doable in one day. The Skye trip is definitely daunting. Makes the Glasgow - Inverness - Fort William - Glasgow trip look like a dawdle. You're right about St. Andrews, but for me the traveling is more enjoyable than the destination, and it's not the most scenic trip. I still can't get over Glencoe. I'll pick out some pics and you can select your favs.

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I love Glencoe. It's the most atmospheric place.

 

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First good weekend weather for a while, so decided to get out and do the 55 miles of coastal road around Arran. I'd only been in Arran once, for a few hours in the 80s, and I still don't know what I saw. I had expected Brodick, the 'capital', to be an actual town, instead of a  row of detached houses punctuated by the odd hostelry and shop. It's much more developed today, but still not what I'd call a proper town.

The 0945 ferry from Ardrossan took 55 minutes to make the crossing. It was late leaving because of the sheer number of tourists. I thought the Oban-Mull ferry was crammed, but this was really crammed. Oddly, most of the passengers seemed to be Brits, while most of the Mull ferry passengers seemed to be foreigners. The bus to Blackwaterfoot on the west coast going via Lochranza on the north coast was also crammed, with some passengers not able to get on. This created an additional delay, and the bus was half an hour late leaving. As a result, about 8 tourists who had intended getting the ferry from Lochranza to Claonaig on the Mull of Kintyre, had to watch the ferry sail away without them from the bus. They weren't best pleased.

Total time for the round trip was two and a half hours. The south of the island was unimpressive - just rough pastureland that you can see anywhere in Scotland. The north was more scenic, but not in the same league as the Highlands. Overall, I felt slightly let down, but it was still a worthwhile day out. Whiting Bay looks like a nice place to retire to, but Lamlash has more pubs  and shops. 

 

 

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I agree, Yonza.  I like Arran but don't get the Scotland in miniature claim.  Some parts of it are pretty and always nice to see the sea but there's nothing as atmospheric as Glencoe nor beautiful as Loch Lomond nor the Western Isles.  Enjoying your journeys, thanks. 

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We cheated a bit as we got a lift up and down to Largs. We had great fun doon the watter and used bus pass on bus when we went to Millport. 

 

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Nice pics. Heck, the last time I was in Millport, Yuri Gagarin had just become the first man in space and Harold MacMillan was Prime Minister. Can't decide on the next 'weather permitting' journey. The forecast for Saturday is looking decidedly dodgy. Campbelltown, Dunbar and North Berwick, or Rothesay to Dunoon through the Cowal peninsula are all possibilities. I knew tour buses went on ferries, but didn't realise service buses did likewise. But, there's a bus that travels from Rothesay to the north coast of Bute, then gets on the ferry to the Cowal peninsula, and then on to Dunoon. Sounds like an interesting trip.

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Campbeltown. You wonder why it exists. Hard to imagine a more remote town of comparable size (pop. 5,000) on the UK mainland. Its heyday was in the Victorian era, when it had a fishing fleet of over 600 boats, a shipbuilding industry, and so many distilleries, it earned itself the name 'Whiskyopolis'. Times have changed big time. No ships are built today, the fishing fleet has virtually ceased to exist, partly due to EU quotas, and just one distillery remains.

It's a 4 hour 10 minutes drive from Glasgow. But, you have to go far to the north, up to Inveraray, before you can turn south to the Mull of Kintyre. That's because the sea lochs, Fyne and Long have to be circumvented. They don't call it 'Loch Long' for nothing. It's a journey of discovery. So many 'hidden gems' of coastal villages, like Ardrishaig, for example. 

There were far fewer tourists than on my other trips. I think that's mostly because Campbeltown probably isn't on the 'to do' list of most tourists, but I also noticed fewer tourists on the more 'mainstream' part between Loch Lomond and Inveraray. I think the tourist season has peaked. I expected that most of the passengers on the half full bus would be going to Campbeltown, like myself. So, I was very surprised when more than half of them got off the bus at Kennacraig ferry terminal. Kennacraig services Port Ellen and Port Askaig, on Islay, and also the small island of Colonsay. The ferry to Port Askaig continues to Colonsay, then on to Oban. Total journey time is six and a half hours. I've become something of a 'ferry bagger' and intend to do that trip some day.

Campbeltown has some impressive architecture. It used to be said that the number of churches almost equaled the number of distilleries. Maybe it's a compensation thing. Many of the churches have eccentric architecture, as if they were trying to outdo each other in order to attract the faithful. One has a spire that completely dominates the church, and looks like a lighthouse. Most have other uses today. One is a heritage centre, but it's only open Mon-Thu. The museum is only open Mon-Fri, so I didn't get to see either of them. Behind the museum, there's a memorial garden to Linda McArtney, with a bronze statue of her sitting on a rock. It's out of the way, and easily overlooked if you're a casual visitor, but well worth the effort to find it. Next to the shut museum, there's a delightful looking art deco cinema house, which is believed to be the oldest (1913) purpose built cinema in Scotland still showing films.

On the way back, the bus stopped for 10 minutes at Inveraray, and passengers got out to stretch their legs and do whatever else you can do in 10 minutes, like down a half and a half in a pub. I had a walk round and noticed the 'Vital Spark' berthed at the pier. I don't know if it's actually one of the ones used in the TV shows, or if it's just a replica for the tourists. It's a lot smaller than the impression you get from the television shows. Arrived back at Buchanan St bus station at 7.10 pm. It was a long time on a bus, but I liked this one enough to do it again some time.

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That was a long journey, Yonza, but sounds very worthwhile. Really enjoyed your article.  I've never been to Campbeltown, as you say, it's a bit of a journey. But I do know how long Loch Long is and we've been to Colonsay when Jim played at the festival there.  Some lovely beaches.  Love the idea of the church architects vying for eccentricity. :)

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It's Strathaven Balloon Festival day, so have decided to stay put. The balloons have already been up at 6.30 this morning. No idea why they pick that very early start. They're usually up on Friday evening, but the wind was too strong yesterday, so they stayed grounded. They'll be back up just after 6 pm.

Hope there's not a repeat of last year, when STV had a news item about it, resulting in literally thousands of sightseers coming into town from all over Scotland. There just wasn't anywhere for them to park, resulting in pandemonium. Today is the 20th anniversary of the event.

So, I'll just make this a general information and rambling summary post.

The National Entitlement Card for over 60s, commonly known as the 'bus pass' entitles users to free bus travel throughout Scotland on virtually all services, but not tour buses, like city sightseeing buses. You can use it as far as Carlisle and Berwick-upon-Tweed, in England. It also allows you to travel off peak on trains, after 9 am week days, and all day Saturday and Sunday,  within Strathclyde Region, at reduced cost. For journeys up to 10 miles one way, it's a standard £1 single and £1.50 return. Longer journeys are half the usual price. You can't use it on ferries, unless you live locally on the island or peninsula that the ferries serve. However, ferry prices are government subsidised, so very good value. For example, the Oban to Craignure, on Mull, ferry costs £7.40 return. It's 50 minutes and 11 miles each way, so good value. Ardrossan to Brodick return is £8. The card also allows you to get concessions (typically 20%) for entry fees to zoos, castles, museums etc.

Best bit so far - Glencoe

Worst bit - Glasgow to Oban train

Hidden gems - Tobermory, Fort William museum, St. Andrews aquarium, Campbeltown Linda McCartney memorial garden.

To do list:

Dunbar and North Berwick, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Rothesay to Dunoon (bus goes on a ferry for the 400 yards from Bute to the Cowal peninsula), Uig in Skye (if I'm feeling up to it). Also, the ferry from Lochranza in Arran to the Mull of Kintyre changes its destination from Claonaig to Tarbert during the winter season, because Tarbert is a sheltered harbour, so more suitable for winter travel. I went through Tarbert en route to Campbeltown, and it looks a cracking wee village, so I fancy getting the ferry from Lochranza to Tarbert, then across Loch Fyne on another ferry to Portavadie on the Kyle of Bute, and then a bus across the Cowal peninsula to Dunoon. It might be the only trip I do all winter, and I'll be waiting for ideal weather. I might have to throw a sickie to do it, but as I haven't had a day off sick in two years, I'm due one. :P

 

 

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On 8/26/2019 at 11:39 AM, Pat said:

Fabulous information, Yonza.  Definitely fancy that Campbeltown trip.   
Bob Law is another enthusiast and I've never been to Musselburgh or Prestonpans . http://www.glasgowwestend.co.uk/bob-laws-blog-musselburgh-walking-and-photography/


 

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That's a once in a lifetime photo of five flying Canada geese on the link. I'm jealous. I've been to Musselburgh three times - twice for the horse racing, and once when I was a volunteer for the Scottish Wildlife Trust. There was a guy with us whose knowledge of the Scottish bird watching scene was phenomenal, and there's a patch of sea very near to Musselburgh racecourse which has an amazing variety of bird species, although I'm not sure what makes it so special. I saw lots of species I'd never seen before, that day.

 

HERE'S THE PHOTOGRAPH YOU WERE IMPRESSED BY, YONZA.

Canada-Geese-in-Flight.-River-Esk..jpg

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Yes, fabulous photo, Yonza.  I was in Dumbarton a couple of weeks back and we took a wee drive down Havoc Lane past my old school, Notre Dame Clerkhill, which is now a ruin. The story went that Wallace's cave was down there near the shore. Sure enough graffiti on the wall with his name.  There is a new (to us) road down to the Clyde.  We sat for ages as it was like a bird sanctuary, including dozens of swans swimming on the Clyde and we saw one tall black bird that I thought was a shag.  There were many different species including some that I didn't recognise, some birds with similar colouring to seagulls but much smaller and rounder.  Will definitely go back.  It was fascinating.  
Shot of some of the swans - not too clear as just had my phone and the were far out.
 

swans clyde.jpg

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After so much bad weather recently, today was too good to miss out on. I like the sun, but I'm not a big fan of very high temperatures when traveling, so today was just about perfect. Rothesay to Dunoon would be the main bit. The ferry from Wemyss Bay to Rothesay took 35 minutes, and cost £3.50. There's a bus from Rothesay that gets on a ferry at the northern tip of Bute and travels 440 yards to Colintraive, on the Cowal peninsula, before carrying on to Dunoon. There's a £1 charge on the bus for the ferry.
 
The Cowal peninsula is like a southern outlier of the Highlands - very rugged and craggy. It would be an intrepid hiker who went off road. It was a scenic trip, spoilt by the increasingly common sight of the desolation left behind when the monoculture spruce plantations are clearfelled. The plantations themselves are a blot on the landscape, and little used by wildlife. No other vegetation can flourish in their sunlight free interiors. However, when the trees are cut down by today's high tech machines, they are debarked and have their branches shorn off. All this wood is left on the ground, along with the stumps, and it just looks terrible.
 
I always do a bit of googling about where I'm going, so I know where to visit. In Rothesay, I settled on the castle, museum and St Mary's chapel, which is a 15 minute walk from the town centre. In Dunoon, there was the Castle House museum, and not much else. It was very poorly signposted, so easy to miss for the casual visitor. It's another hidden gem.
 
There's a bus in Rothesay that does a circuit around town, and another that goes out to Kilchattan Bay and back, so if you've got some time to kill, you could go on one of them. I got on the around town bus, which took 20 minutes to return to the town centre. The bus went up  the steepest road I've ever seen a bus travel on.  There's also a sightseeing bus, which does a round trip of Bute, starting from the town centre bus stop just across the road from the ferry terminal. You can't use the bus pass on it, but you get a small discount on the £12 fare.
 
The ferry from Dunoon to Gourock wasn't a Cal-Mac ferry. It was an Argyll Ferry, and cost £4.80 for the 25 minute crossing, which is a bit dearer than  Cal-Mac prices.

caledonian mcbrayne ferry.jpg

castle rothesday.jpg

fountain rothesday.jpg

castle inside rothesday.jpg

dunoon ferry sm.jpg

museum dunoon.jpg

dunoon museum 2.jpg

dunoon and water.jpg

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Another super trip, Yonza.  I really like Rothesay and that bus you mention that goes round the Island and to Kilchattan Bay is very handy. The driver let us off exactly where we wanted to go.  Quite a lot to see in Rothesay.  Love your photos of the museum in Dunoon.  I love it too, agree it's not so easy to find. 

I'll hunt for some of our old Rothesay photos and se if anything I can add.  

Those Cal-Mac fares are amazing.

Wonder where you're off to next?

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Two destinations today - North Berwick and Dunbar. I'm getting gallus. I'd never been to either. There was a good bus service to both from Edinburgh, a bus every half hour. I decided to go to North Berwick first, then on to Dunbar, before returning to Edinburgh. North Berwick is the headquarters of the Scottish Seabird Centre, yet another hidden gem. Like the St Andrews aquarium, it's a 'tardis', and much bigger on the inside than you'd guess from looking at the outside. Maybe 'iceberg' would be a better analogy, as the hidden bit is underneath. 

There must be many visitors who think that the ground floor cafe and gift shop is all there is to it. But, the real action is down below. There's an admission charge of about a tenner, but it's well worth it. There are remotely controlled cameras on the neighbouring islands where the seabirds breed, including Bass Rock. You can control the cameras and zoom in, and see the results on a big screen. The kids loved it.

But, that wasn't the best of it. There's a theatre, which I didn't know about. I was passing by, and a very welcoming young lady with a beautiful smile asked if I'd like to come in. I didn't want to, but even a pensioner like me can't resist that charm. So, I did, and was given a pair of 3-D plastic glasses to put on. I was a bit sceptical about this, but did as suggested. Now, I've seen every episode of the BBC's Blue Planet, and loved them all. You'd think documentaries about marine life couldn't get any better than that. You need to see this. It's made by Jacques Cousteau's son and narrated by Daryl Hannah. It's all about whales and dolphins (and Florida manatees). But, it's the 3-D thing that blew me away. Maybe I'm just an old fogey who's unacquainted with this stuff, and today's youngsters know all about it. But, this was like something from the 'Twilight Zone'. The close ups were far closer and detailed than anything in Blue Planet, but at certain points in the film, the whales and dolphins appeared to be swimming around in the theatre. I had no idea that such technology existed. Of all the hidden gems I've found on my travels, this was far and away the 'hidden gemmiest'.

Outside the Seabird Centre, I could see the Bass Rock to the east. It looked as if it had been whitewashed, but that was obviously due to all the gannet guano. 'Guano' is a technical term for 'droppings'. 'Droppings' is a polite term for shite.

On to Dunbar. I got the biggest fish and chip portion I've ever had for £7.60. It was so big, I couldn't finish the fish. That was a first. I often don't finish the chips but never leave any fish, but this fish portion was huge, and the seagulls got about a quarter of it. And, the chips were actually a bit 'crunchy', in contrast to the usual soggy pale chip shop chips. I don't remember the name, but if you're ever in town, it's just off the western edge of the High Street, and has a board outside saying it was established in 1916.

There's a museum in town that is dedicated to John Muir, who was born in Dunbar, and emigrated with his family to the US in the 19th century, aged 11. It's the house he was born in. He returned to Dunbar to revisit relatives as an adult.  He is revered in the US as being one of the pioneers of environmental activism, and was the driving force in the establishment of the US national parks. He is particularly associated with Yosemite, in California, which is near to where he lived.

In the past, Dunbar castle was one of the most important castles in Scotland.  Today, it's a decrepit ruin, and bits keep falling off it, so visitors aren't allowed. But, you can still get lots of good photos.

paddys mile stone.jpg

restaurant.jpg

bird.jpg

ruins dunbar.jpg

cliffs sea.jpg

 

rock sea.jpg

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