About our wee visit to the ‘old country’
Nothing much had changed in Scotland. It was my first visit back since I left for Arizona two years ago. The weather was the same but I must say it was great to feel real rain on my face after the interminable desert sunshine.
The first things I noticed when our plane flew over the border from England were wind turbines – dozens of them scattered across the rolling hills of Dumfriesshire. The second notable sighting was the new Forth crossing in the distance. The bridge was impressive, the turbines less so – I subscribe to the belief that they’re a blot on the landscape.
At Glasgow Airport, I asked a taxi driver if he could take us to Paisley Gilmour Street station. “Nae bother”, he replied. I told him that was the first time I’d heard anyone saying that since March 2015. To be honest, I’d forgotten how good it is to hear daft Scottish sayings.
The Paisley train coincided with the Saturday afternoon Scottish football matches ending, so that made for an interesting journey to Largs. Everybody in our carriage seemed to be using the word that only means something in and around Glasgow – hingwe. “I was aw hingwe”, and “he was pure hingwe” and she was hingwe-ing”. The scary part? They all understood each other.
Kilwinning station was the next stop, we had to change trains there. Two gallus dudes were walking down the platform belting out their finest rendition of The Sash, and a couple of police were dealing with a guy who had just had his face slashed – not that he really knew too much about it.
It was all very much a case of “Welcome back to Scotland”. Just the way I remember it really.
Largs, my home town, overlooks the stunning scenery of the Firth of Clyde. I count myself very fortunate to have been brought up in such a beautiful spot. It was the same as ever, a new pub opened here, an old one closed there – and Nardini’s, the famous ice cream parlour, resplendent in all its glory. Largs was looking good and, surprisingly, that gave me a warm, content sort of feeling.
The ‘Pencil’ at Largs
We hired a car and headed for two nights on Skye. It lived up to its ‘Misty Isle’ nickname this time round. The Old Man of Storr and the Quiraing were hidden in the clouds and there was rather a lot of rain about. But every so often the weather would clear, and we would turn a corner to be confronted by Hebridean scenery at its finest.
Sheep make driving challenging on Scotland’s islands
Kilt Rock was my favourite touristy stop, and Dunvegan Castle, ancient seat of the Clan MacLeod, was pretty impressive too. And a stop at the ruins of Duntulm Castle provided a happy reminder of the quirkiness of Scottish humour. Duntulm is no more than a pile of rocks and, as we were walking back across the field towards the car, a couple and their two dogs were coming in our direction.
“Is the café open?”, the guy yelled at me, gesturing towards the castle.
“Café, what café?”, I said.
“The café at the castle, round the back,” he said, looking at me as if I was daft.
“I never saw a café.”
“Ach, I’m just winding you up.”. And off he went, guffawing. He probably says the same to every glaickit looking tourist he sees.
The drive back to the Central Belt was as jaw-droppingly awesome as ever. We stayed with relatives in Lochaber, stood with a bus load of Far Eastern visitors photographing the Commando Memorial in Spean Bridge, and took a cable car (or gondola) up Aonach Mor.
Then it was down through Glencoe, the jewel in the crown of Scotland’s scenic drives, in my humble opinion anyway. If there is one thing I miss about living in America, it’s being able to hop in the car and drive into the Highlands, or along the banks of Loch Lomond, through the Trossachs, or down by the Clyde. I envy all of you who can still do it.
It was over all too quickly. A two-week holiday flies in. In many ways, it was as though we had only been away for two weeks, not two years. Scotland being Scotland, it never fails to delight, and we flew back with a ton of happy memories.
The photos turned out pretty good too. They should whet everyone’s appetite for a good Scottish road trip. We’ll be back sooner rather than later.
Kilt Rock, Skye
Looking across the Waternish Peninsula, Skye
Below: Duntulm Castle, Skye