I got up reasonably early (8am?) on Saturday morning and packed my suitcase . . . badly. I may’ve been a little tired and hungover from the night before (there was a bit of a bonfire and party on the beach, not in honour of me leaving, just a coincidence).
I had one (well, two) last things left on my list of things to do: take the boat tour of the inside of Smoo cave and walk all the way to the ends of the inlet at Smoo. I had been to and past the cave so many times but just hadn’t got around to doing these yet.
Unfortunately the water level in the cave was way too high to take the boat in, so that was out. Put that on the “next time” list, with Arkle! I did walk all the way out to both ends of the inlet though. Not particularly impressive or interesting but a nice walk and good to see the area properly.
Then it was a long drive down to Inverness. This is the first time I’ve driven the direct route from Durness to Inverness so I got to see all sorts of places I’d only ever heard of (Bonar Bridge, Lairg). There was a road bike race coming the other way – heaps of cyclists struggling up Scottish hills! I’m glad we were going the opposite way and not stuck behind them!
We took a shortcut (or detour, I’m not sure) along a scenic route, which gave some beautiful views of the valley.
Then, coming over the Kessock bridge (over the Beauly Forth) into Inverness there was a massive cloud bank. It went from a lovely sunny day, to complete white out half way over the bridge. All of Inverness was covered in cloud! Pretty weird for me, although I think not unusual around here.
We stopped in town for a late lunch then headed out to Scott’s sister’s flat (where we had stayed last time). Scott said goodbye then headed back to Durness (he was working that night). I hung out with his sister, her partner and the kids for the rest of the afternoon, had pizza for dinner then we went out for a “girls night out” in town: Scott’s two sisters, another friend of theirs and her partner (he was a very good honorary girl for the night!).
We started at a cocktail place called Bar One. The cocktails were pretty amazing and the other patrons were . . . . entertaining? My Australian accent was a hit with some people. Then we went to a nightclub called Vinyls. 80s and 90s music with a big dancefloor and incredibly sticky carpet! We had some more drinks (including punch from a fishbowl!) and danced a bit, having a great time. Things got a bit trashy very quickly towards the end (not for us, but for the other patrons) so we left, getting kebabs on the way home (a must for a big night out). These kebabs were nothing like we have at home – you couldn’t pick it up and eat it?!?! Anyway, I swear I ate at least half of mine but the box still looked full! It was HUGE!
The following day I packed again (still badly) then we went to Great Outdoors to exchange my gaiters (the top elastic cord had snapped somewhere near Suilven) which the store did with no problems. The kids had a great time running around and playing in all the tents that were set up. Then we dropped by Scott’s other sister’s house to say goodbye, then it was off to the train station.
This was a pretty sad time for me. Durness had been my home and these people my friends and family for the last two weeks and this was the final stage of leaving all that behind. From here I was on my own again.
Still, the train ride to Edinburgh was quite pleasant. I went past many place names I recognised (Dalwhinnie, Pitlochry, Cairngorms) and found it quite amusing to hear “next station . . . Perth”!!
My hotel in Edinburgh was amazing (Frederick House Hotel). I had found it on special so had an amazing room for only 50 pounds. Wow. It was such a luxury to have my own space and privacy again!
I had come to Edinburgh today for a concert. It was actually a “Yes” campaign concert, but I was going because one of my new favourite bands, Frightened Rabbit, was playing there. I had missed out on seeing them in Perth early this year when the festival sold out, so I was delighted when they posted on facebook a couple of weeks ago that they’d be playing this concert. The rest of the lineup was pretty amazing too – Mogwai, Franz Ferdinand, Amy Macdonald plus some others.
I wandered down Rose Street and went to a restaurant called Essence for dinner. It was quite lovely, but probably would’ve been better with company! Then on to the concert. It was in Usher Hall, which is a stunning theatre. The energy was also amazing. There was so much passion and pride in the hall. I think if you weren’t a yes voter already, being there would almost make you one! Apparently the leader of the campaign (Alex Salmond) and a bunch of famous people (Brian Cox) were also there, so I was in fairly high company . . .without realising it.
They played a recording of Caledonia Calling, which I know from an Australian band, Colcannon. It made me cry a little and the lady next to me kindly gave me a tissue. She probably thought I was just so passionate about the vote . . but really I was thinking “I don’t envy them deciding which way to vote but at least they get to live here!! (I have to leave soon)”
All of the performances were really good, with the only bad part of the evening being the stupid couple in front of me who decided to stand up all the way through Franz Ferdinand’s set, completely blocking the view of everyone behind them. Luckily they left after that! The band I’d come to see were good, but seemed a little out of practice with each other – I think the lead singer had just come back from doing solo work in America, so maybe that is why? Still glad I saw them though!
The following morning I had finally packed my bag properly and checked out, leaving my bag at the hotel so I could have a wander around Edinburgh. It was raining. Not heavily, but more than a mist. A constant drizzle that actually made you wet if you were out in it for more than five minutes.
I stopped at Hotel Chocolat for “breakfast” – a salted caramel hot chocolate (“with 72% cocoa chocolate to cut the sweetness a little”) and a chocolate brownie! It was amazing! The hot chocolate was so delicious. I had seen this place on the way to the hotel yesterday and decided that I had to try it. I also had a lovely chat to a couple from Aberdeen who came in, about walking and weather and insects and snakes.
I went for a short walk up the Royal Mile but it wasn’t much fun in the rain. I had been told that the weather in Glasgow was better today and that once the rain sets in here like this it doesn’t change, so I decided to bail out and just go straight to Glasgow (I had to be there tonight anyway, but had been planning on spending the day in Edinburgh before going over in the afternoon.
I picked up my suitcase and headed for the train station, stopping at a pub in Rose St for a pint and some food (whitebait . . . I’d been drawn in by the baked camembert, but they were all out. They were out of chicken too!). I almost missed my train in Edinburgh when the ticket seller sent me to the wrong platform. Luckily I heard them announcing my train and managed to find the correct platform in time.
When I got to my accommodation in Glasgow (a little emotionally worn out) they told me that they’d been trying to call me since 7am (I’d obviously given them my Australian number) because there’d been a problem with my room and they couldn’t accommodate me. What?!?!?! If I had’ve known thismorning I would’ve just stayed in Edinburgh!
EVERYTHING in Glasgow was booked out. The B&B receptionist tried to find places, I tried, a panicked call to Scott led to him trying to find places too. I was faced with paying 400 pounds per night, or staying 30 miles away at Loch Lomond!! Eventually, after at least half an hour, we found the Tartan Lodge hostel could fit me in, although I’d have to move rooms each day and I’d be in shared dorms (3 bed and 4 bed). Also, it was ~35 pounds per night. A HUGE change from my 50 pound stunning hotel room in Edinburgh! At least it was just down the road so I could walk there. The hostel was quite good . . . but not how I’d envisaged spending the last two nights of my holiday!
I still don’t know why everything in Glasgow was booked out. I also still don’t know whether the B&B was telling the truth about the “burst pipe flooding the room” or whether they just had a regular guest who wanted the room so they made an excuse to kick me out.
I checked in to the hostel, googled interesting bars in Glasgow then headed down to Sauchiehall Street to get some dinner and pass my evening. I started at Variety. The bar was nothing special but it was friendly enough and I really enjoyed their music selection. It was not really anything I knew, but all really good to listen to. I kept myself happily occupied reading the Uni newspaper.
When it was dinner time I headed a few doors up to Nice n Sleazy’s for a burger and White Cinnamon Russians (yum). They are known for their burgers so I tried one. It was on a small bun but very tall – impossible to put in your mouth. This reminded me of an earlier discussion with Scott about how burgers too big to fit in your mouth should be outlawed. I agree – eating a burger with a knife and fork is just not the same experience! Also, the burger was a bit too spicy, and maybe I wasn’t as hungry as I thought, as I struggled to finish it. It was accompanied by the best chips I’ve EVER eaten though – the perfect blend of crunch and soft chip, and salt. YUM!
Nice n Sleazy’s was supposed to have an open mic night tonight, but I could see no evidence of it. I was just about to go home when I went downstairs to use the toilets (ladies toilets in bars in Scotland, and probably the whole UK, are invariably up/down at least one flight of stairs and around a few corners.) and heard singing. It turns out the open mic night was in a separate part of the bar in the basement. I sat down at a very centre table (all the edge ones were taken) and was amazed by the talent on display. There were some regulars doing covers (pretty amazing voices though) but also some original songs. Wow! Some of these guys are really good. In particular, a guy from Berlin (part of a band called Sleepover Station) and a local guy, whose name I didn’t catch. Wow! I ended up leaving at about 10:30! A much later night than I’d intended. On the walk home I passed a guy in a Darth Vader mask playing the Game of Thrones theme song with a piano accordion!! (Here is a picture of him from a few days later)
Tuesday morning I “checked out” (including having to pay to put my luggage in storage before checking back in that afternoon!) then walked in to town. I stopped for breakfast (waffles, maple syrup and bacon – yum!) on the way.
I walked down to Trongate to check out the opening times for the Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre (later this arvo). I saw a busking Latin band who were pretty good, and looked like they were having loads of fun, which made it so much more enjoyable to watch them.
I also saw some human statues, all painted black. The first time I saw them I thought they were actually statues! I saw them later today with their masks off too.
I went to the Lighthouse. It is not actually a lighthouse, but an old tower building that used to house the newspaper. It now has a Charles Rennie Mackintosh display and various other exhibits including a huge Commonwealth Games exhibit and a very interesting exhibit of different building materials. I even went right to the top of the tower – lots of stairs for an interesting but not particularly visually stunning view of Glasgow.
Then to the Sauchiehall Willow Tea Rooms for lunch, and some gift buying. This is another Charles Rennie Mackintosh building (or at least the interiors are based on his designs and the gift shop is focussed on him.) Charles Rennie Mackintosh was a Glasgow architect and artist, mainly in art deco style.
Then back to Trongate to the Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre. This is a collection of moving sculptures made from scrap materials built by a Russian artist who ended up moving to Glasgow in 1993. You can go in and see all the sculptures (not moving) for free whenever the gallery is open, but it is definitely worth paying to see a show if you can. This goes through a selection of the sculptures, turning them on individually, with choreographed light and music. It is quite lovely. Whimsical and poignant, dark, sad and humorous. It is genius and incredibly well presented.
After this I went back to the hostel to check in again, then back into town for dinner. I had decided to try the Pot Still, but when I got there it was absolutely packed (I thought I saw signs for a baby shower?!?!?). There were no tables so probably no chance of getting food. I was pretty low on blood sugar (getting a bit shaky) so I needed to find something fast. The second place on my list had been Hairdressers, but they didn’t do food and the place over the road (Stereos) only did vegetarian food, which I didn’t feel like. I didn’t have time (or energy) to look around much more so I decided to go to a place I knew – The Butterfly and Pig (mum and I had dinner there a few years ago).
I ordered straight away (Sea bass plus mash and salad, and a cider). The meal was delicious. I followed up with Sticky Pudding for dessert and another cider. The ciders on the empty stomach did hit me a little!! I read The Times newspaper tonight – reading the paper is a great way to keep occupied when eating out alone.
They also had an open mic night here tonight. They were setting up, but no takers yet, as I was leaving. I didn’t bother staying as it had not been anything special a few years ago when we saw it, and I wanted an early night. Interestingly though, the host was playing some classical music on his guitar just before I left which I recognised as a piece I play on the piano (Bourree). Not what I expected to hear on guitar in a pub in Glasgow!
On Wednesday I got up, showered and repacked for the final time, then took the bus into town. I’d walked every other day but didn’t think my luggage would like being wheeled that far! I put my luggage in storage at the main bus station. This ended up being a real pain. They said my suitcase was too wide for the storage lockers so I had to take some stuff out. Then I decided to put stuff from my daypack into the locker too so I wasn’t carrying it all day. Sadly (stupidly), as I was doing so I dropped the small bowl that I had so carefully carried all the way from Loch Ness Clayworks near Drumnadrochit! I thought it had escaped unscathed, but found out later that it had quite a large crack and a crushed section on the edge. Grrrr. Very unhappy with myself and the luggage storage guards (not their fault, but it helped being angry at someone else).
I had breakfast at an Italian sports bar (weird, I know, but nice enough) then went for a walk. I was still pretty upset about leaving and needed to walk, . . . and walk and walk and walk! I walked all the way out Sauchiehall Street through Kelvingrove, admiring the fountain on the way.
I decided part way out to go and see the newly restored bandstand – it had been in a terrible state last time I was here but I’d seen an article on its restoration in the Lighthouse. It looked amazing, but unfortunately was all fenced off so I couldn’t get a closer look.
I then remembered that last time I was here, Mackintosh house had been closed so we’d been unable to see it. This is a recreation of the interior of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s house (and his wife, Margaret Macdonald). The original house was about 100m away but was demolished due to stability problems, probably due to old mine workings! All of the furniture and fitting were put in storage until finally he was famous enough that someone decided to recreate the house.
I walked up through Glasgow Uni to get there – there were heaps of students out handing out stuff for Freshers week . . . I obviously don’t look like a student anymore as nobody tried to give me anything! The house is open by guided tour only so I bought my ticket then killed time waiting for the tour in the adjacent art gallery. They had a Whistler exhibition (American painter) and an exihibition of Scottish landscape painters. It really made me wish I could paint like that so I could capture my essence of the hills and countryside.
The CRM house was pretty incredible. The whole house is ‘designed’! I don’t know if I could’ve lived in such a formal, uniformally motiffed place! I guess it was their stuff, and the style they loved though. I loved the tall mirror in the bedroom, but otherwise it was all so ‘set’. Don’t get me wrong, it was all amazing and beautiful . . . just not the style I’d like to live in! The tour guide was very informative and it was an interesting window into Charles and his wife’s lives, complimenting everything I’d read in the Lighthouse. It seems like him and his wife were really good together. I do wonder why he stopped designing buildings though.
From here I walked to the Exhibition Centre, thinking it was the amazing looking building designed by female Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid. Unfortunately, I got my buildings mixed up and Hadid’s building is actually the Riverside Museum!! The Exhibition Centre is not so exciting to look at (although it is big and Sydney Opera House-ish), but does have a group of interesting structures nearby including the Rotunda, BBC, SSE Hydro Stadium, Clydeport (Finnieston) crane and the Squinty Bridge.
More walking, back along the river to the middle of town (I still needed some more walking to clear my head) then up to the Buchanon Street Tea Rooms (the sister to the Sauchiehall Willow Tea Rooms) for lunch. I was, coincidentally, seated at the exact same table that I was at with mum two years ago. This made me smile. I had the high tea, the same as last time, which was absolutely delightful . . . especially the scones and jam and cream, and pecan cheesecake!
After that, back to the bus station (with a stop at Tesco’s to get extra food for the plane), past more street performers, then out to the airport. Again, this was a very sad time for me. I felt more like I was leaving home than I was coming back to it.
On the way to the airport we went past a huge “Yes” demonstration. A bit of a word on the referendum drama. . . . when I had arrived here, there were a few Yes or No posters, and maybe a couple of people with badges or shirts on. By the time I left, it was crazy. A lot of houses had yes or no posters and flags in their windows and there were people campaigning everywhere. In the countryside, huge “Yes”s would be painted on fields or buildings. I say “Yes’s” because the Yes campaign was a lot more vocal, . . . and a lot more aggressive about it. There were even stories of Yes campaigners pulling down No signs and replacing them with Yes, smashing windows that had No posters in them and painting “Yes” on No supporter’s houses. It was pretty intense. The escalation was very obvious, and surprising, to me as I’d spent the intervening weeks in Durness where it was all relatively low key (you just had to be careful about what you said around certain people!). It was certainly a very contentious issue, with strong beliefs and passions on both sides.
My trip home was fine. Almost all of my flights were about 30 minutes late, but I had enough transit time that this was not a problem. As mentioned in a previous post, the last flight (Malaysian Airlines from KL to Perth) had all sorts of weird complications, but ended up being OK, if a little late. All of my plane companions were pleasant enough, although I didn’t really talk to them until the very end when I ended up talking to an older man who was returning home to Perth from visiting family in Egypt. I did get a bottle of Amarula in Amsterdam which helped me through the sadness of leaving and the long flight to KL!
Perth greeted me with a hot and bright sunny day. This did not help my mood. All I really wanted to do was go back to Scotland. It was great to catch up with friends and family again, and lovely to have Merlin back. He was very happy to see me, and lay across the door of his foster home so I couldn’t leave without him!
Still, I was not excited to be back in WA. I have lived here for a very long time now and it was all so familiar. Plus, I was reminded how much I didn’t want to be living in the city. Everything was rigid and ordered and structured, controlled . . . nothing like the wildness of the Scottish hills.
My holiday was amazing. I had such a wonderful time. Even though things didn’t go perfectly, and there were parts that were downright miserable, . . . I still enjoyed myself so much. Most of all, I felt like I was at home there. Rather than getting Scotland out of my system, this trip has just made me want to go back even more.
Still, I know that things always seem better on holidays, and that I’ve only been to Scotland in summer, and not in the long, cold, dark winters! I keep reminding myself of those things, and making sure that I appreciate every good and beautiful thing that I have here in Perth. I’ve gradually settled back in, cherishing the things (and people) I love around here and trying to appreciate and make the most of how amazing Perth, and Western Australia, is. And don’t get me wrong, it is a wonderful place to live.
However, this trip has made me realise that I want to change some things in my life. So, stay posted. You may not hear about them immediately but I’m looking at the world with a fresh outlook so who knows what exciting things I may come up with!
I know this is an incredibly long, and not that interesting, post to finish on so congratulations if you’ve made it this far. Thankyou very much for sharing this journey with me and I hope it’s given you at least part of the joy it gave me.
Just a reminder for those who joined in late, or want to revisit part of the journey, I have put links to all of the posts, in order, on my 2014 Scotland Trip Stories page, which you can access through the top menu. I’m also going to gradually upload some additional photos, with links to them from these page.