This is my original blog – all my blogs  since I started in 2009 - are here including those from The Ale Archive – all the beers I’ve sampled at home and on our travels since 2012.
 
Since 2012 most of our travel has involved a caravan. I now have a specific caravanning blog called (Get Your) Legs Down which not only documents all our trips but includes product reviews, site listings, storage locations, mobile service engineers and much more. It too is on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

The Tour pt 12 - Normal service has been resumed

Good morning. Yes, on the morning of Thursday 31st May after a week or so of great weather - the rain is back. We are supposed to doing  a cruise on Coniston water this afternoon but will see what happens to the weather first.

Ok, Coniston is where we are - not in it, obviously, or even on it but an a beautiful wooded site just a short walk from the shore and a short drive from the village of Coniston in the heart of the Lake District. It is a large site - probably one of largest we have been on - and also one of the best. There is not  a uniform layout like some club sites. There are sunny and shaded areas, and plots hidden away amongst the trees. Idyllic.

We left Moffat early Monday morning. I drove the first and frankly the easiest bit. Straight down the A74(M) and on to the M6, crossing the border back in to England for the first time since April 10th. We paused at some services for over priced coffee then swapped over driving . Site instructions had stressed that it was best to approach the site from the south so we came in via the bottom end of Lake Windermere before turning off to go up to Coniston. Well, if this was the best way, one can only wonder how bad the other way would be. The section from the turn off was only about seven miles but at times seemed a lot longer. Steep inclines combined with roads so narrow you struggle to squeeze a fart through made for an interesting end to the journey. The site was easy to find though and arrival, siting and set up went about as smoothly as possible. Not only that but they said they could squeeze us end for an extra three days meaning that we wouldn't have to go to Blackpool for the long weekend. Even better.

A plan was formulated for the afternoon. A quick stroll down to the lake. Back to put the awning up, a fry up then a couple of ales in one of the nearby pubs later. Well, we got down to the lake easily enough. The sun was out and it was warm - absolutely lovely. Then Trev suggested a short cut back. Now this won’t mean much to most of you, but remember, I’ve been travelling with Trev many times and have been on some of his ‘short’ cuts before. Instead of insisting we go back the same way I foolishly agreed.

Well, three days later when we got back to the site, hot, thirsty and with aching feet, plans were amended somewhat. We got in the car and drove straight to the pub……

P5280002_thumb[9]P5280001 

P5280009 P5280002 

Tuesday, and still warm although there was some cloud about. We drove down to the southern end of Windermere, to Haverthwaite to get the steam train from there to Lakeside, then a cruise up and over to Bowness-on-Windermere. We’d actually done this before, some fifteen years ago I think, albeit in reverse - we’d brought my Mum & Dad up for the weekend for Dad’s 60th birthday, and stayed in  lovely hotel in Windermere. As many of you will know, Dad was pretty much wheelchair bound and had to ride in the mail carriage but it didn’t matter - he loved it. It was October and pretty cold too but a round of hot toddy’s helped as I recall.

Anyway, it was just as much fun as I remembered it - the old carriages and the sounds of smells of a steam engine. The train doesn’t go very fast - it’s only an eighteen minute journey and in fact you could almost walk it quicker but that’s not the point. The cruise on the lake was good too - and nice to be able to sit outside and freeze to death as on Loch Ness. Steam engines of course are nothing if not dirty. I wore black - just for a change - so the inevitable smuts from the chimney would not show up. However, Trev’s white jacket is now not quite as white as it was….

P5290005P5290002 

 P5290008P5290051

Bowness is the central point for lake cruises and is a pleasant bustling little place. We had a good walk around, pausing for tea and toast in the morning and lunch later on. The journey back was just as pleasant and not a little soporific, the sun having broken through too. A very enjoyable day and it brought back some happy memories too.

P5290014 P5290028

P5290032 P5290035

Wednesday. Cloudy but still dry and not cold. I coaxed the old crate in to life - that’s the car, not Trevor in case you were wondering - for a drive around. First up was Hawkshead and one of the most beautiful picture postcard villages in the Lake District. They sensibly banned cars - well tourists cars anyway - from the centre of the village a while ago and it was certainly the right thing to do. A great place to walk around and lots of quaint shops, cafes and pubs to explore. Of course, the Lake District is Wordsworth country and every corner boasts some connection. Here, the Young William went to school and boarded at one of the houses in the village.

P5300013 P5300004

Next up was Ambleside, at the northern end of Lake Windermere. ‘Disc Parking’ was proclaimed by the road signs and this reminded me of the ridiculous voucher parking system that Brighton council used to run - you parked up, went to the shop to buy a voucher and come back to find a parking ticket on your windscreen. However this turned out to be much different. You pick a disc up from any shop, or one of the on street dispensers - indicate the time you park on the disc and leave it on the dashboard. You get up to an hour’s free parking. We spoke to a traffic warden about this and he confirmed it - it operates all over Cumbria. What a good idea. Coffee and bacon rolls were procured and devoured after a walk around - it’s hard work this sightseeing lark you know - then we were back in the car heading north.

P5300018 P5300014

We passed through Grasmere, where Willy had a home - which you can visit - for a fee, and then continued north stopping at Keswick at the northern end of Derwent water and utilising our shiny new parking disc again. Keswick has a pencil museum. Yes, you read it right. Graphite mines nearby ensured Keswick was a centre for pencil manufacturing. Indeed, Derwent pencils are still a favourite amongst discerning artists. When I worked in the office supplies business, Derwent pencils were always in our catalogue. One of the  attractions though is the worlds largest pencil - some eight metres long. We thought we could manage without seeing this though, so didn’t go in.

Next up was Cockermouth, old Willy’s (yes, him again) birthplace. Famous too, more recently for the horrendous flooding of November 2009. I can still recall as am sure can many the tv pictures of the eight foot high water running down the streets. The town has, largely, recovered now and there are lots of shiny new shopfronts - although all probably now uninsurable. We took a tour of the local brewery - Jennings - put out of action for nearly a year after the floods, but now happily back in full swing. They donate 10p from every pint sold to the Cumbria Flood Recovery Fund. Good on ‘em. The tour itself was interesting and we both actually learnt something too. Generally, northern water is too soft for brewing as it is. Brewers like the sort of water found in the Midlands so they add salt and gypsum to harden it a little. Further on in the process, as most will know, hops are added. There are both male and female hops but the female hops are almost always used as they are much more erm, bitter. No comment.

P5300025 P5300026

The tour ended of course with a sampling - and quite a generous one too. We loved it so much that we came away with a four pint keg drawn straight from the barrel as well as a couple of cases of bottled ale for the weekend.

P5300035 P5300032

Heading back south now and along the coast we paused at Whitehaven for fuel but nothing else. I can’t recall a specific Wordsworth connection but no doubt he stopped for a sarnie or a pee or something at some point. And no doubt there will be a plaque somewhere to tell us.

We passed the Sellafield nuclear power station further on and stopped at Ravenglass, another pretty little village right on the coast that unusually did not proclaim a Wordsworth connection.

P5300040 P5300045

Right as I finish up the rain has stopped - just about. The Coniston water cruise doesn’t start until nearly five pm so hopefully it will have brightened up even more by then.

So, until next time…

Sunday, 27 May 2012

The Tour pt 11 - So long to the Saltire

Something we’ll all be saying if Oily, sorry, Alex Salmond has his way and brings independence to Scotland. An event which will also cement his place in the history books - though I’m sure that has never crossed his mind. The ‘Yes’ campaign started up here this week at least two years prior to any referendum, bringing to the forefront all those Scot’s who love their country so much that they chose to live in er, America. Hmm.

Anyway, the reason for the title is not the above but the fact that we spending our last night in Scotland - Moffat to be precise, in Dumfries & Galloway. We’ve just returned from a drive around punctuated with a meal and a few pints at one of the local boozers. So, if this makes even less sense that usual, at least you’ll know why!

Right, where were we. Oh yes, Edinburgh. After the ‘day off’ on Wednesday we were back on the tourist trail, visiting the Royal Yacht Britannia in Leith. I’ll apologise now for the lack of a decent picture of the ship from the outside. Britannia is moored  next to a shopping centre which you have to navigate through to get to the ticket office. The face of capitalism. Anyway, to the ship itself. Now, I love boats, well ships, but I didn’t think I would enjoy this so much. You are given an audio guide to take around with you in what is quite a structured tour, starting at the bridge and moving down, through the officers quarters to the Royal bedrooms and their private and formal reception rooms. The final stop is the engine room which is just brilliant. Immaculately clean - as it always was. The commentary is informative and witty without bombarding you with facts. The ship is simply stunning from top to bottom and I want one. I offered Patsy as a straight swap but they were not interested. A terrific attraction and well worth a visit if you’re in this neck of the woods. If you are a Caravan Club member you get twenty percent off too. Lovely.

Well, to be honest, there is not an awful lot more to tell you about Edinburgh. After the Yacht we bussed and walked in to the city, skirting the old town and Grassmarket. On Friday we went in to town again but ended up on a bus out to one of the suburbs later on We skirted the pretty suburb of Murrayfield with the famous stadium and further on Edinburgh Zoo. On Saturday, after a morning excursion to the nearest supermarket we lazed around by the van enjoying the sun and listening to the cricket on the radio - just one of the best things ever invented to fall asleep to. There’s nothing like it. Saturday evening brought with it the cultural highlight of the tv schedules that is the Eurovison Song Contest. Several large glasses of Cab Sav helped to numb the worst of it - and to laugh at the rest.

Sunday, and time to leave Edinburgh. I dearly hope that we’ll be back one day. It’s ironic that the much better weather we have been longing for, perhaps in a way, stopped us seeing more of the city. Having been wrapped up against the wind and rain for such large parts of the trip it was so nice to be able just to sit out and relax in the sun.

The sixty-five  or so miles to Moffat was straightforward - eventually. On the way out of Edinburgh  I turned left before the polite lady on the SatNav told me too although had we carried on we’ve have wound up on the same road. At the next junction I followed her directions exactly and found ourselves heading back towards the city centre. Fortunatley, Edinburgh city council had provided a roundabout less than half a mile up for such an eventuality. I will be forever grateful

The rest of the journey was uneventful. We arrived in Moffat ok and the SatNav deposited us safely. At a garden centre. This time a large empty car park came to our rescue and we were soon pulling up the site entrance. There was a blackboard by the entrance saying that no vans could be accommodated before midday. It was eleven o’clock. We ignored it.

Good MORNING the woman behind the counter said pointedly as I walked in. I apologised for arriving early, but as we were only here for one night it wasn’t a problem. By midday we were sited, fed and watered too.

Moffat is a pleasant place with a buzzing high street and the sun had certainly brought everyone out. It’s famous for wool judging by the erection in the high street.We had a quick look around then headed south to Lockerbie. Famous of course for the wrong reasons and back in the news again so recently, we wanted to go to the memorial which is just outside the town. As you will see, there is a large plaque listing all those killed. To side and around are further individual plaques. There is an interesting little visitors centre too, staff, entirely voluntarily by an enthusiastic old lady who showed us around and offered to answer any questions we had. We didn’t have any but that didn’t deter her. I think she was glad of the company. Thank gawd there are still people in the world like this, giving so selflessly of their time. She gave us directions out to Tundergarth, where the nose cone of the plane landed and where there was another simple, but no less poignant memorial.

The weather all day has been stunning and the sun was still blazing as we left Tundergarth to head back for grub and grog. Sun however, means shadows and it is in shadows that dangers lurk. There was a loud bang and the car lurched violently as the front nearside wheel happened upon a pot hole that must have been the size of a  crater. Pulling over as soon as it was safe to do so, we got out to inspect the damage. Nothing was obvious and indeed the car was still driving ok so it appears that somehow we got away with it. Perhaps Oily should spend less on his ‘Yes’ campaign and more on fixing the bloody roads. At least then, when the referendum comes, people will be able to get to the polling stations in one piece.

Right. A bottle of something cold awaits. Tomorrow we cross the border back in to dear old England and head for the Lake District. And if this weather continues it’s going to be terrific.

P5240002P5240001

P5240013 P5240022

P5240026   P5240039

P5240044  P5240060 

P5270001P5270006

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

The Tour pt 10 - Heading South

Yep, we have started or slow journey south and with quite a bit to catch up on I’ll dispense with the usual introductory  drivel and get straight in to the main er, drivel!
 
Thursday 17th and the day after Nessie stood us up will not go down in Nonsense! history as one of the better days of the trip. It was raining, obviously, but we needed to head out to find some WiFi or a decent mobile signal to get the last blog sent.
 
It would have been easier had we been willing to fork out for a parking space in town but as it  would only have been for a few minutes, felt disinclined to. We found a cafe in the end near the sports centre which offered not only a parking space right outside but a decent mobile signal too. Food was off the menu however as the dishwasher was broken. Presumably using dishcloth and a bottle of fairy liquid is against ‘elf & sayfety’ these days. We settled for tea and crisps. I got the blog sent but discovered on the way out of town that the pictures hadn’t carried with the email version. We spotted a bar offering free WiFi and parking and so pulled in and got the blog sent again, this time over a pint. Nothing to report for the rest of the day - apart from rain.
 
Friday, and off to Perth, about 110 miles away. The journey was probably one of the easiest we have even done - just straight down the A9 passing through the edge of the Cairngorms. It was cold, wet and bleak but still beautiful and the road was good too  - in fact we could have gone straight to Edinburgh easily.
 
The site itself was  a little way out of Perth, in Scone. The Satnav app guided us successfully through Perth and over the river before trying to send us the wrong way again. Apparently putting in the right postcode helps! Anyway, using common sense this time we ignored it and got to the site just fine. It was a pretty site, just behind Perth racecourse and just a a couple of miles from Scone Palace. We arrive early but they were happy to accommodate us.
 
It didn’t really stop raining all day, but thanks to our early arrival we were able to watch all the later arrivals. It is fascinating to watch how others - many no doubt far more experienced than us - site and set up their van. There are the mature couple, who have clearly been caravanning for years who arrived, get the van sited then quietly attend to the various jobs with hardly a word uttered. They’ve done it so many times and know exactly what each of them does and it flows like clockwork - a pleasure to watch. Then, another pair, clearly the man was more in to caravanning then the woman. Not having a motor mover attached he spent ages, reversing, then pulling forward, then getting out to check, while she sat in the car with her arms folded. Then later on, the size queens - families, with big 4 x 4’s and even bigger twin axle vans. Several of them arrived and were clearly together. Obviously using a motor mover was a sign of weakness as they spent ages shunting backwards and forwards to get the vans sited right. All had vanity plates too - there were some serious egos being massaged here. Later, as the women passed between vans with glasses of wine, the men stood around talking and clutching bottles. None of that girly wine stuff for these  - that most manly of all beers - Miller Lite - was the beverage of choice. How butch!
 
Saturday, and with the empty promise of some sunshine we went in to have a look around Perth. Pleasant enough but not really enthralling, the local (and free) museum was good though and we had the most gorgeous sarnie at a little cafe - the accompanying tea was good too. We also came away with a new rug for the van. In the afternoon both Patsy and the car got a wash.
 
Tv reception was good here and there was cheap WiFi too. STV - that’s really ITV rebadged for most of the time - has been running trailers for the upcoming Euro 2012 football championships. The trailer features a catalogue of England misses and gaffes. Bless ‘em. Scotland do not feature in the trailer however, because they erm, didn’t qualify.
 
Sunday, and off to Edinburgh just 35 or so miles away. There was this weird bright thing in the sky making everywhere feel warm - it was quite remarkable. The journey was straightforward enough apart from negotiating the numerous pot holes and ruts on the Forth bridge .The SatNav app had chosen the shortest route to the site, and the directions provided by the club seemed to take us all around Will’s mothers. We settled instead for something in-between using, again, that old fashioned thing; a map and got there with no problems. having had a brief drive around later on we done the right thing.
 
The site itself is very pretty and is in contention for one of the best so far. Beautifully laid out and with a number of trees it is just yards from the banks of the Forth and only a short bus ride in to the city centre. With the awning erected we enjoyed the late afternoon sun.
 
P5200008P5200012  1
 
Monday, and a dull start but with the promise of some more of  that bright stuff later we headed out to the bus stop to start exploring. We’d decided to give the usual hop-on/hop-off tour buses a miss. For £3.50 you can jump on and off the local buses all day and that’s what we planned to do. First up was a ride along the coast to Leith, home of the Royal Yacht Britannia which was on the  ‘to do’ list for later on the in week, then up Leith Walk, through Edinburgh town centre then out through Morningside to the less salubrious suburb of Oxgangs in the south. I am a keen fan of Ian Rankin’s ‘Rebus’ series of books and was already seeing street names and places from the books.
We took another bus back in to town and paused for tea and scones - and an overdraft - at a pretty little courtyard cafe. Then, back on another bus and out east to the end of the route to Tranent. On the way back we stopped at Portobello and it’s divine city beach. It was purely coincidental that beer o’clock approached just as we arrived back in the city to swap buses for the journey back to the site.
 
21-05-12 (3) 21-05-12 (4)
 
 
Tuesday, and with another sunny day in prospect it was time to prise open the wallet for a visit to Edinburgh’s castle - along, seemingly with half of Europe. One can only imagine, if  it’s busy now, what it will be like in the summer. However,  for the views alone, the entrance fee was worth it. Over to the west was the Murrayfield Stadium and to the north we could just catch a glimpse of a cruise ship in dock at Leith. What makes the castle special though is how wonderfully preserved it all is. We gathered with everyone else for the firing of the one o’clock gun then with all nooks and crannies explored and camera battery exhausted we left. It was a fabulous afternoon and having been starved of decent weather for so long  we decided to make the most of it by going to the  er, cinema. Friends will know that we are regular cinema goers at home and it was at least six weeks since we last went, although to be honest the film was average at best. The complex though was fantastic, with a couple of IMAX screens too - far better than Cineworld’s Brighton setup.
 
Right, almost up to date. It’s Wednesday morning and the sun is out. Plans for this afternoon are loose - maybe a trip into town later this afternoon - or maybe not. It doesn't matter What I do know is that I’ve already fallen in love with Edinburgh and we’ve not even ‘done’ the centre properly yet. It really is a beautiful city and I can’t wait to see more of it.
 
 
P5220006 P5220034 P5220045
 
P5220039P5220065P5220007
 
P522001322-05-12 (3) P5220020 P5220018

Thursday, 17 May 2012

The Tour pt 9 - Grey, grey, grey!

Good morning! Well at least it was. The sun was out as I got up for an early morning stroll to the er, toilet block. Later, as we sat having a cuppa the cloud arrived and we’ve just had a hail storm. The hail stones have now paused and we are waiting to see what’s next. I never thought the heating in the van would get used quite so much on this trip. Oh well.

Ok, location? We are about six miles to the east of Inverness, by Cullodoen Moor and about a mile and a half away from the site of the last ever battle to be fought on British soil - in 1746. History buffs will also know that this is where dear old Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Jacobite mates got their backsides well and truly kicked and Charlie scuttled off to the Isle of Skye wearing a frock. I know it’s true ‘cause I read it in a guide book. History was a never one of my favourite subjects - along with English, although reading this you can probably tell that already!

Right, diary time. After the rain of last Thursday, Friday was at least dry if still bitingly cold and windy. In the morning we went in to Oban to have a look at McCaigs tower perched on a hill overlooking Oban and providing some good views of the area. A stroll around town followed with the usual tea break - a proper tea pot once again, and then shopping and topping up with diesel. In the afternoon I had planned to give both Patsy and the car a wash but it was too cold and windy and CBA (Can’t Be Arsed) had set in. The well stocked site shop provided the evenings liquid refreshment in the form of a couple of ales from the local Oban brewery which were very well received.

P5110027 P5110019

P5110009 P5110010

Saturday, and the 120 or so mile drive up to Inverness. The weather was good - the sun was even out and we stopped half way up Loch Ness for a cuppa and sarnies. Across the road was a small monument to one John Cobb who attempted the world water speed record on Loch Ness in 1952. he He died in the attempt as his jet powered craft broke up but not before reaching 206 miles per hour.

Trev’s SatNav app guided us accurately off the main road and through Inverness and on to Culloden Moor. It then proceeded to deposit us in a narrow cul-de-sac before the actual caravan site. We really should have known better and used our common sense. One of the residents who very kindly came out to move his car for us said it happens all the time. How comforting!

The site itself was fine, with all the usual Caravan Club facilities but it’s certainly not the best kept one we’ve been too, however the more extremes of weather up here may have a part to play in it’s maintenance. TV reception was pretty good, mobile reception was almost negligible - just enough to make a call but no good for internet. Having got the van set up we headed out in search of a pub with WiFi or a least a decent phone reception. We didn’t find either but the beer was nice!

Sunday, and we were in, the weather forecaster had promised us gleefully the night before, for a really foul day.  It was at least dry however as we headed out and north to John O’ Groats.

A couple of old oil rig gantry's were perched in the Cromarty Firth  and the north sea beyond looked grim and foreboding. The rain was trying to put in an appearance as travelled further and the wind was whipping up too. We passed the massive black wooden ageing sheds belonging to the Dalmore distillery. Further up, signs were inviting visitors to the Glenmorangie distillery. We drove past,a  little reluctantly.

The landscape flattened out as we approached John O’Groats and, with the absence of any trees and the blustering wind and cold it looked pretty bleak. There’s not much in J o G itself - a large car park surrounded by shops and cafes all hoping to part you from your money. Even the toilets had turnstiles. The famous sign, marking the distance to London, Sydney, etc was absent. A note pinned to a nearby hut informed all comers that the sign was ‘not in use’ as there would be no official photographer on site. It was also pointed out that the sign is, and always has been, a private enterprise and photo’s can only be taken with the permission of the official photographer. A price list followed, starting at a tenner a photo. Hmm. Fortunately, another sign, erected by the cafe by the small ferry terminal gives the opportunity for free photos and prove we were actually here. We did put our hands in our pockets however, and not just because it was cold. A fridge magnet was added to the ever growing collection and J o G will also go down in my memory as the place for the worst cuppa of the trip. No tea pot here, just a plastic cup and a miserable looking tea bag floating on top.

 13-05-12 (7) 13-05-12 (13)

John O’Groats may be the furthest point from Lands End - 874 or 876 miles depending on which guide book or hoarding you read but the most northerly point of mainland Britain is Dunnet Head and although it’s but a few miles away, the drive to it does make it rather special. The landscape becomes even more stark as the single track road winds it’s way slowly up hill. When you reach the head itself there is just a small car park and a stone with a plaque to tell you where you are. Right at the edge a lighthouse is perched looking over the dark raging waters of the Pentland Firth 80 metres below. Despite, or perhaps because of the now howling wind and rain it felt so much more ‘rea'l’ than John O’Groats. We had passed a couple of very fit looking cyclists on the way up, and as we returned to the car they arrived and were taking photo’s of each other by the sign. As a good tourist I offered to take one of them together although I should point out that the fact that one looked VERY good in his black lycra had absolutely no bearing on the offer whatsoever. At all. Honest!

P5130026 P5130030

13-05-12 (20) 13-05-12 (23)

The journey back was wetter and windier as the promised foul weather continued. Back at the site we spent a rather unsettling evening in the van as she was buffeted by the heavy winds, reminding us of that night back in Freshwater early on in the trip.

Monday, and the weather had eased somewhat. We drove in to town, parked up and headed for that tourists favourite, the hop-on hop-off bus tour. Inverness is a pretty city with the River Ness running through the middle and the ubiquitous castle. The tour took us past the castle and along by the river, crossing to the opposite bank and taking us past the sports stadium. Whoever recorded the commentary clearly had a sense of humour as they said that Scotland was one of the top Rugby Union teams in the world. We looked at one another and grinned - I know of at least one particular Welsh reader of this blog who would beg to differ! Anyway, we did a complete circuit then hopped off by the river and crossed through the beautiful Ness Islands that sit in the middle and over to Whin Park for a coffee and snack. Then, as we went to wait for the bus to appear it started raining. It was at about this time that, wet and shivering I was contemplating flights to Spain from Inverness Airport that the bus arrived. We jumped back on and, predictably, it stopped raining.

Once back in the centre we strolled around for a while before we decided that we had worked up sufficient enough thirst for a pint (or two). There’s an awful lot of tap beer in Scotland but this pub offered four real ales, all from local breweries. Between us we tried all of them.  Trev commented to the barman about the Scottish accent up here in the north and the barman declared that they are the best spoken people in the UK. That may be open for discussion but it is certainly a much softer dialect - sort of BBC Scottish if you like - and resonates very easily on English ears. Well mine anyway.

P5140020 14-05-12

14-05-12 (5) 14-05-12 (14)

A foray into the local Co-Op was required on the way home for a few essentials, like wine, as Patsy’s cellar is now at an all time low, well empty. Having set an arbitrary limit of no more than a fiver for the wine I came out with one costing nearly seven. I can tell you though that the extra was worth it.

Tuesday, and a journey across on the train to Aberdeen, the Dallas of the UK. It took two and a half hours but the time passed surprisingly quickly. We passed the massive Chivas distillery with it’s rows of large ageing sheds. I’ve seen bottles of this stuff at duty free shops all over the world and it’s incredible to think that it all comes from just here. A little further up was the barrel storage area - and there were thousands of them. The landscape flattened out as we approached Aberdeen and reminded us of East Anglia - it really was like being back in the fens.

P5150026 P5150021

Right. Aberdeen. On of the first things that springs to mind is oil. But another should be grey. Everywhere is grey. Beautiful churches, old cottages, modern shopping centres. All grey. Concrete, stone and granite. All grey. Old and new. All grey. It is the most remarkable city we’ve ever seen. Top to toe in black - just for a change of course - I actually looked more colourful. It’s said that on a sunny day the granite glistens and sparkles. It is also said that on a cloudy damp day you can’t tell when the buildings finish and the sky starts. The weather today was, mostly anyway, something in between so we didn’t see it at it’s best or worst. No excursion on this trip would be complete without some of the wet stuff and we were duly advised with a short hail storm. Initial navigation of town centre completed we stopped for a pub lunch at what was apparently Aberdeen’s oldest boozer. With burger devoured and pint supped we set course for the harbour area passing another pub that promised that it was Aberdeen’s oldest.

15-05-12 (1) 15-05-12 (2)

15-05-12 (6) 15-05-12 (10)

The brightly coloured rig supply boats in the harbour provided some relief from the grey monopoly. Just up from the harbour was the maritime museum complete with a three storey high model of an actual rig. The museum gave a good insight in to the oil industry and was, also, free. Even better. We returned to the railway station having forgotten to pick up the all important fridge magnet. Neither the mind or feet relished the walk back to the shops so we returned empty handed.

15-05-12 (15) 15-05-12 (13)

It was Wednesday morning when I started this blog but is now Wednesday evening although you won’t get this until Thursday morning at the earliest as we need to go in search of WiFi or a good phone signal.

This afternoon we had a date with Nessie. The cruise started just outside the city centre on the Caledonian Canal, passing through the lock at Dochgarroch, then merging with the River Ness and in to the cold black waters of Loch Ness. The three hour cruise gave plenty of opportunity for photo’s, and on a nice sunny day, up on the top deck would have been delightful. We lasted about an hour before frostbite set  in and we went downstairs for coffee and scoff. I’m afraid I have to report that Nessie stood us all up and did not put in an appearance.

P5160005 P5160032

P5160058 P5160063

Right, that’s it for now. Friday we head south for the first time on the trip, traversing the edge of the Cairngorms before stopping near Perth for a couple nights. Then From Sunday we shall be in Edinburgh for a week and hopefully some better weather!

Until next time…..