Spain Day Five

After a leisurely breakfast, we decided to go for a walk along the river that runs beside the campsite.

The path lead us to a village called Labuerda.

The road to Labuerda

I suppose it took us about half an hour to walk to the village. It is small (according to Wikipedia it has 172 inhabitants). It is attractive, set around a square with a c12th church as its focal point.

Behind the village is the massive Peña Montañesa.

We had a mooch around the village, found the Parque de Mayores (Park for Oldies) and a few interesting doors.

We decided that we could do with lunch and a cold beer. The only place that appeared to be open was a bar/restaurant called Fonda Carrera. Neither Diane nor I speak much Spanish, “dos cervezas por favor” is about my limit. Consequently we didn’t manage to explain that what we wanted was a cold beer and something light to eat. We were ushered downstairs to a table in this covered courtyard, where lunch was being served. We ended up having a very good lunch of five, six or seven courses, depending on how you counted. I had manitas, which according to Google translate means handymen, slightly disturbing. It can also mean trotters, pig’s trotters to be precise. I almost chickened out and ordered the chicken, but I thought that pig’s trotters don’t often appear on menus in the United Kingdom so why not go for it. I’m glad that I did. They were slightly gelatinous, but tasted magnificent. The meal, which included half a litre of wine each and coffee, came to €26 each.

Handymen (Manitas)

After lunch we wandered back the way we had come, but we stopped for a while as I did a watercolour sketch of Peña Montañesa.

Later on, as the sun was setting, it took on a wonderful rose colour.

Another enjoyable day, completely unplanned.

Spain- Days Three and Four.

Day Three

It was time to say goodbye to Playa Arenillas and start, gradually working our way to France. The plan today was to drive along the North Coast to San Sebastian, where we would have a stop for lunch and some sightseeing, before heading about fifty kilometers further south to our campsite for the night.

The plan worked well until we arrived in San Sebastian. Almost all the car parks in San Sebastian are underground and consequently have a maximum head room of two metres. The van not including the television antenna is 2.3 metres. We drove around for a wee while before we eventually found some on street parking, with the added bonus of being next to a bus route into the city centre.

We liked San Sebastian a lot. Unfortunately we didn’t have a lot of time to explore.

We spent about two hours there before we decided we needed to head off to our next campsite. It was about sixty kilometres south. At a place called Urbasa. The drive south was fairly flat, but as soon as we left the motorway the road went up, rapidly. After negotiating a series of very tight hairpins the road levelled out on to a plateau about a thousand metres above where we started. On the way up we got stuck behind a cyclist, I say stuck but he was going as fast as we were, about twenty five to thirty kilometres an hour, up a significant climb. It was only as we passed him I noticed that he was wearing a Caja Rural (a Spanish pro team) jersey. I suspect that he might have been a professional out on a training ride.

It is a lovely campsite which we shared with a herd of donkeys, one of which thought that our windscreen wipers might make a tasty snack.

It might have been a good place to spend a day or two. There were lots of walks and bike rides, around the site, but we were only using it as a break in the journey.

The next morning, after breakfast in the site café we headed off, back down the hairpins and into the Pyrenees.

Day Four

We had a longish trip ahead of us. We were trying to work out where to stop for lunch when Diane saw a sign for Castillo di Javier. So we had to visit.

It is very well preserved/restored. It was the birth place of St. Francis Xavier. (Javier is the Navarra spelling) I think it is now owned by the Jesuits. There is a Jesuit seminary next door. It is an interesting place to visit (and only cost €3). The story of his life is well, if a bit hagiographically told through artefacts and art.

There is a good restaurant next door. Well worth a detour

After a tour of the castle, the associated chapel and a good lunch we headed off into the Pyrenees. After couple of hours driving through increasingly beautiful scenery (and increasingly challenging roads) we arrived at our home for the next two nights, Camping Peña Montañesa in the foothills of the Pyrenees.

The view from the site

As we had arrived late and couldn’t be bothered to cook, we had dinner at the campsite restaurant. It was OK, but nothing special. The beer was cold and the food that was supposed to be hot was hot. We could have hung around after dinner to watch the Champions League Final, but decided to go back to the van. We knew when Real Madrid scored by the noise.

The campsite is also situated in a dark area. After dark the stars were spectacular. It was good to go to sleep with the skylight open looking up at the stars.

Spain day two Bilbao and the Guggenhiem

We were still staying at Camping Playa Arenillas. Today we had decided to go to Bilbao, specifically to visit the Guggenheim Museum. The trip required two buses and although the information we had from the campsite was a bit vague, we thought we had it sorted.

Not quite. There was supposed to be a bus stop near the campsite,  but we couldn’t see one, so we decided to walk along to the stop in the village. As we were walking along the bus went past. Diane elisted the help of a couple of local council workers, but they spoke as much English as we speak Spanish. They tried to get us a taxi,  but to no avail. We gave up and they went back to doing what they should have been doing.  Shortly after, a bus that wasn’t shown on our timetable appeared, to take us into Castro where we could get the bus to Bilbao.

We got to Bilbao about twelve and found a taxi to take us to the Museum. It is an impressive building. Designed by Frank Gehry and opened in 1997. For more information follow this link

What we thought was the entrance.

We found our way in.

The ground floor is given over to exhibitions and installations. One in particular,  which is site specific, Richard Serra’s “The Matter of Time” is highly impressive.

The Matter of Time

It is massive, sinuous and confusing to navigate. So in a sense it echos the museum. It is formed from large 50mm thick steel plates. So as well as being an amazing work of art, there was some serious engineering involved in its production.

There were two exhibitions on at the time of our visit.  The first was of the work of the French painter Jean Dubuffet. 

Following the Second World War he decided to reject the conventional norms of aesthetic beauty, to create art in what he described as a more authentic manner. He adopted non-conventional materials. In some ways his art was informed by the same sensibilities as the contemporary Italian “Arte Povera” movement. Though how much contact they had is unclear. Ultimately what he produced was one of the foundations of what was known as the “Art Brut” movement.

Dubuffet

The second exhibition was titled “Motion, Autos, Art and Architecture” it is curated by Norman Foster. In some ways it was similar to an exhibition that the V&A put on a couple of years ago. The emphasis was slightly different. The V&A exhibition concentrated on the design of the car, whereas this exhibition concentrated on the vehicle as an art object. There were some beautiful cars, notably a Citroën DS and a 1959 Cadillac (the one with the tail fins). The cars were complimented by art contemporary to their creation. It worked well.

The top floor is dedicated to the permanent collection. There is a Rothko, an Yves Klien, a Cy Twombly series, as well as a few others.

Outside the museum there are various large scale artworks, mainly by Jeff Koons, “Mamam” , Louise Bourgeois massive spider sculpture also features.

Puppy-Jeff Koons
Mamam

It was worth the trip.

Spain Day One

My morning started with the ship playing very gentle wake up music over the public address system at around five. It was enough to wake me but not quite enough to get me out of bed and into the shower. It took a while but eventually I came to the conclusion that if I wanted to have breakfast before we disembarked I had better get up and dressed. I had a cup of coffee and some cereal to get my body and brain started.  Diane, joined me half way through, she initially wasn’t going to have any breakfast. After that we checked that we hadn’t left anything behind in the cabin and wandered down to deck three to get the van.

The van now has a name by the way. It, or I suppose I should say she, is now known as “Bianca”, because she is white and Italian. White would not have been my first choice colour, neither would Diane have chosen it, but it seemed to be the only colour available, so we went with it.

Our first two nights were spent at Camping Playa Arenillas, which is on a beach near the small town of Islares, half way between Santander and Bilbao.

We had a self misguided (Google assisted) tour of the area looking for a supermarket. There probably were several in Santander, but we decided to head to the campsite first. From there we went on a tour. We found some things in a small village shop, but ended up in Castro Urdiales, the nearest town of any size. It is an attractive fishing port.

After we got back we went for a walk down to the beach, where on the advice of an Irish lady we met, Diane decide that a swim, sometime before we left would be a good idea. We debated eating at the campsite restaurant, be decided to cook in the van.

Apart from a small shower on the way along the coast, the rain in Spain stayed mainly on the plain. It is quite hilly around here.

Above the campsite we could see these rather strange structures, anyas to what they might be? 🤔 Ideas welcome in the comments.

On our way.

I haven’t written much on here for well over a year. AFC Wimbledon haven’t exactly inspired me to write and I haven’t been to as many away games this past season compared to previous seasons.

We have a new Campervan. The Big Green Bus has gone to a new owner. I hope they have as much fun with it as we did. We have replaced it with an even bigger bus, yet to be named. We had a couple of trips out to familiarise ourselves with it. This however is the big one. Three weeks in Spain and France.

I am writing this on board the MV Galicia, heading for Santander, in Northern Spain.

We drove down to Portsmouth to get the ferry last night and sailed about 21:30. Apart from a hold up at the check in gate, we got stuck behind a car that had two dogs and the wrong paperwork, everything went smoothly. Our cabin is small but perfectly adequate for two nights.  The bunks are comfortable and the toilet works.

Going on board
On the ferry
Leaving Portsmouth – The Spinnaker Tower

We had supper in the lounge,  tapas and a glass of wine, then went to bed about eleven. We woke up somewhere of the Brittany coast.  Breakfast was good, nothing spectacular but perfectly fine.

It occurred to me that this is probably the first time I have been at sea for more than a short inter- island hop since I left the Merchant Navy. We also did something that I never did during my MN years. We sailed between Ushant and the mainland. We always went round the outside. But I assume that the Master is a Breton and knows what he is doing.

The whole journey has been a pleasant experience, helped by the fact that Diane decided to upgrade us to a Commodore class cabin. It was only £35 more than a standard cabin, but gave us significantly more space and also access to the Commodore lounge, which as well as being quieter than the public lounges also had complimentary tea, coffee, and cakes. At lunch time and pre-dinner wine and tapas were available, also complimentary. Well worth the extra cost in my opinion, if you are planning an overnight trip on Brittany Ferries

After a very enjoyable dinner we wandered up on deck to watch the sun go down. Also to give the whales and dolphins one last chance to show up. Diane had been religiously looking for some all day.

Biscay Sunset

It was then time for bed, as we had an early start on Wednesday morning. The ship docked at 7:00, so that meant up about 05:30 if we wanted breakfast before disembarking.

(Volunteers’) Away Day 2022

I haven’t posted anything for about a year and a half. It is possibly the time to rectify that.

Our trip to Crewe Alexandria on Good Friday (15/04/2022) was designated the Volunteers’ Awayday for this season.

I have been volunteering on and off at the club for a few years now. I hadn’t actually intended volunteering this season. However, we had a major problem with our ticketing arrangements at the start of the season. One of the consequences was that the season tickets were not sent out on time. Season ticket holders were asked to pick them up in person from the stadium. Not having anything better to do on that particular day, also because I hadn’t actually been to our new stadium I decided to wander along.

I collected my ticket and had a look round the club shop (I ended up spending about £100). It may have been a ploy by the club to get us all into the shop. As I was leaving I bumped into an old friend, who I used to volunteer with back at Kingsmeadow and who I hadn’t seen since COVID-19 curtailed the 2019-20 season. We said hello, and got chatting. Then he said “Are you doing anything for the next couple of hours? Could you give us a hand with some advertising hoardings?”. I wasn’t, so I said yes, and ended up as part of the work party volunteers team.

My reward was a trip to Crewe, with lunch and a match ticket thrown in.

The trip up to Crewe was fine, the lunch was fine, things started to go wrong, as so often this season when the football started.

Actually the first half went quite well. Our on loan striker, previously known as a waste of space, scored a decent goal on about the twenty minute mark. We went in at half time, one nil up and on top without ever looking dominant.

It started to go wrong fifteen minutes into the second half. Our striker who we were thinking might just be OK, made a suicidal back pass to our ‘keeper. It was intercepted by their centre forward and we were back on level terms again. Every one was silenced, even the Crewe fans, a collective “WTF”. The heads dropped, two minutes later we were two one down.

That was probably the moment we were relegated, at least in my mind. We tried to get it back, but the belief had gone. Deep into added time, while pressing ineffectively for on equaliser, we gave the ball away and they scored a third. And that was it.

The full horror show highlights? Are shown above.

It was a long depressing trip back to SW19, only brightened by the landlord of the Alex inviting us volunteers back for a pint.

First Home Game in Almost Thirty Years

As one of our songs goes;
“The Wombles had a dream,
To watch our football team.
Back at Plough Lane, where we belong,
The journeys been long.
And the F.A. were wrong,
Were AFC Wimbledon,
And we have come home.”

Following the publication of the Taylor Report in 1990, which introduced new safety measures for football stadia including the regulation that the stadia of teams at the highest level be made all-seater by August 1994,[16] the board of the club decided that Plough Lane could not be economically redeveloped to meet the new standards.[17] The work required to modernise Plough Lane would have been difficult and expensive, but not impossible as the board claimed.[12] A supposedly temporary groundshare with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park was announced the same year, to begin from the start of the 1991–92 season. This arrangement was only expected to last for a few seasons, but it would ultimately last for 12 years and would end in a very different fashion to what might have been expected at the outset.[12] Wimbledon’s final first team match at Plough Lane came on 4 May 1991, coincidentally against Crystal Palace. 10,002 spectators saw Crystal Palace beat Wimbledon 3–0, before swarming onto the pitch to bid farewell to the ground.

From Wikipedia

Tonight November 3rd 2020 we played our first game back in Plough Lane for almost thirty years

I only ever went to one game at (old) Plough Lane, and I can’t even remember who we played. I had recently moved down from Scotland after getting married and fancied going to watch some football. Vinnie Jones was booked, but that doesn’t really help to pinpoint the game. I then disappeared off to the Solomon Islands and by the time I came back the Dons were playing at Selhurst. It was there that I started supporting them. Mainly because of the 157 bus. It ran from the top of my road to Selhurst.

It has been a long and at times a hard journey. The old Wimbledon FC ground-shared with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park for twelve years, then were franchised to Milton Keynes. The Wimbledon fans decided to start our own club AFC Wimbledon like a phoenix from the ashes of the original club.

Open trials were held on Wimbledon Common, and from that we ended up with a team. We started in the Combined Counties League in 2002, nine years later we were back in the Football League. In 2016 we won promotion to League One. We have stayed there since.

Initially we were tenants at Kingsmeadow, ground-sharing with KIngstonian. We later bought the ground from them. Though many of us have fond memories of our time at Kingsmeadow, It was never really home. When the chance came to go back to Plough Lane the Dons’ Trust grabbed it with both hands.

Our problems were not over. There were delays in planning approval, mainly caused by our current Prime Minister (at the time he was Mayor of London). After it was approved we still had the problem of paying for the place.

We are a fan owned club though, the only sugar-daddies that we have are ourselves. Our crowdfunding/share issue raised about £2.5 million, but that still left us with a shortfall of about £11 million. The Plough Lane Bond was set up, allowing fans to lend to the club over periods of up to 20 years and to name the rate of interest we wanted. In my case I had a lump sum from my pension that was sitting around, safe but earing almost zero interest. I decided that, while the bond wasn’t as secure as the bank, it also wasn’t too risky, and I would get a reasonable return on my money. (I didn’t put all my lump sum in, it isn’t that safe) That and an investment by a local businessman closed the gap to a sum we could afford to borrow at commercial rates. By the way it is still open if anyone would like to earn a bit more interest than your savings account.

We had two more ground-shares to go through. Because the stadium wasn’t ready for the start of the season, we played our first home games at QPR’s Kyian Prince Foundation stadium and we also played Brighton in an EFL Trophy game at Crawley.

That takes us to tonight and our game against Doncaster Rovers at Plough Lane.

Just one big problem. I should have been there in the West Stand – Block 106 – Row J – Seat 28. Instead I watched an entertaining, but ultimately frustrating match in front of my computer. Due to Covid-19 no fans are allowed at the moment. When we will be allowed back is anyone’s guess. I hope we can get back before the end of the season, but I won’t hold my breath.

When we are allowed back that will be the time that it will really feel that we have come home.

LOCKDOWN HOLIDAY 5

Back to Glasgow and Home

After a breakfast at the hotel, it was time to head to the station to get the train back to Glasgow.  The reverse of the journey we made a few days ago. However instead of the grey drizzly weather we had on the way up, it was clear and sunny for the journey back.

We passed KiIlchurn Castle on the way up, but managed to get a photo of it on the way back.

We arrived back in Glasgow Queen Street just after twelve. We weren’t quite ready for lunch so decided to wander around the centre of Glasgow. Considering that I spent the first thirty years of my life in Scotland, I really don’t know Glasgow well at all. I never had a reason to visit the place. Edinburgh was closer and much easier to get to.  Apart from one job interview, and the occasional trip to Hampden, there was no need to visit. I have been to Sydney more times than Glasgow.

We were ambling down Buchanan Street when we came across the Willow Tearooms, as designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. We thought that would be a good place to have lunch, but they were a bit full. The earliest they could give us a table was about two fifteen. We said thanks, but no thanks and headed off. We found a café in St Enoch Square called “The Glasvegan”. Surprisingly enough it turned out to be vegan. I had a Not-dog, and Diane had a sandwich called Homucide. They were both decent. I passed on a cappuccino for a black Americano. I am not saying that I am about to become vegan, although if I had to I could live without meat and dairy products, except in my tea and coffee. Soya, oat or almond milk just don’t work in my opinion. In fact the only thing that stopped my late wife Grace  from becoming completely vegan was the fact that she had to have cow’s milk in her tea.

My niece Vicki has fairly recently moved to Glasgow, with her baby Remi and her partner Finn. As Diane has never met her, and I hadn’t seen her for at least two years, we arranged to meet up for a coffee. We managed to navigate the busses, though Diane was disappointed to find that her London Travelpass wasn’t valid, and she had to pay.

We spent an hour or so catching up on what was happening and meeting Remi for the first time. Both Vicki and Finn work in the theatre, so the past few months have been difficult, but they both currently have work, so that is good. We caught the bus back to the hotel, the same one we stayed in the first night.

This evening we were supposed to have a “Gala Scottish Farewell Dinner” at a local restaurant. What we would have been served I can make a guess at. Haggis would have featured somewhere, either as a starter or a main, and the pudding would have been Cranachan. Because all restaurants have to close at six p.m. this was not possible. The Holiday Inn Express gallantly stepped into the breach, with possibly the worst meal I have ever been served, The starter was Tomato and Basil soup, which tasted exactly like Tesco’s own brand Tomato and Basil, and was therefore edible if not exactly great. The main course was advertised as penne bolognese. What arrived was macaroni cooked to the point of disintegration with a sauce of dubious provenance, it certainly did not look and taste like any bolognese that I have ever seen. I was accompanied by two slices of garlic bread, baked from frozen. They at least were edible. Pudding was some kind of cheesecake, probably from Iceland (the shop not the country). I think the cook had brought a three-year-old in with them and to stop them getting bored had let them loose with the squirty  cream to decorate the slices.

Diane’s granddaughter could have done a better job.

At least the beds were comfortable.

Back Home.

Breakfast the next morning was reasonable, nothing spectacular, but it filled a hole. Then we walked back up to Central Station to catch the 10:37 Pendolino  for London. We managed to bag a table, the train was fairly quiet leaving Glasgow, and had a pleasant masked trip back to London. We were home by five.

Summing up….

It was a very strange holiday. It was the nearest to an alcohol free holiday that I have ever had. It was also the least sociable holiday of this type I have ever been on. Nobodies’ fault, but normally we would get together with our fellow travellers, for a drink either before, or after dinner. Due to the restrictions, that was not possible, so everyone went back to their rooms after dinner.

I didn’t hate it, the scenery was amazing, as was the weather, especially for October on the West Coast of Scotland, but it wasn’t as much fun as it would have been without Covid-19. But without Covid-19 we would have been on a Rhine cruise.

LOCKDOWN HOLIDAY 4

A Strange Trip to Mull and a Distillery Tour

We didn’t expect this holiday to be normal, but today it became just a little weirder.

At least we didn’t have to get up at five-thirty this morning. We had the morning free. I think that the morning was supposed to be a trip to the Oban Distillery. Due to the current restrictions our tour had to be split into two groups, one group had the morning slot, ours had the afternoon.

We didn’t do that much with our new found freedom. We went to Tesco’s, to top up on our snacks. Tesco’s in Oban may have the widest catchment area of any supermarket in the UK. People apparently come from as far away as Barra to do their shopping. (Probably a monthly shop rather than weekly.)

Having picked up our, hotel supplied, packed lunches we set off for the ferry terminal to catch the MV Isle of Mull, to Mull. Craiginure, to be precise.

MV Isle of Mull (Photo from Wikipedia)

I’m not sure what the original itinerary was, but what happened was we caught the ferry across to Mull, disembarked, then re-boarded, and went straight back to Oban. The Sound of Mull is a very scenic cruise, and the weather was excellent, if a little chilly, but it would have been nice to spend a bit of time actually on the Island. I am making the assumption that getting us back for the Distillery was the object of the exercise

We arrived back in Oban in plenty of time for our distillery visit. Again it wasn’t as I had anticipated. I thought we would be given a tour round the actual distillery, followed by a dram in the sample room. What we got was a very entertaining talk on how the whisky is made. Our guide explained how the taste of the whisky is influenced by how the malt is produced, the smokiness, from the peat, the esters that give the whisky its subtly, from the brewing, and to a lesser extent, distilling process. Above all the character of the whisky comes from the cask that it is matured in. Normally the casks are second hand American Bourbon casks, but they also use old sherry casks.

We were given a ‘tasting’ stave of four of the distillery’s products. The standard 14 year old, a Distillers Edition, the Little Bay and a Distillery only bottling. The only problem was that because of current restrictions on selling alcohol in Scotland, we were only allowed to nose (smell) them. Now you can tell a lot about a whisky’s character by its nose. The people who produced blended whiskies, such as Bells or The Famous Grouse, do it almost all by the nose. However it is not quite the same as being able to taste them. They did however give us samples to take away and taste at our leisure. It was unfortunate that the sample bottles looked like the type of thing you would use to take a urine sample to the doctors. We were assured that the product inside did taste much better.

I decided, based on the nose, to buy a bottle of the fourteen year old. When we tried our samples back at the hotel, I decided that I had made a good choice. Actually, the Distillery only bottling was sublime, but it was £100 a bottle.

I may have a comparative tasting session with the Caol Ila. I could also include the Ardbeg that my sister bought me for my birthday and Diane’s current favourite, Laphroaig. The Ginger Wine will not be going anywhere near any of them.

Tonight we didn’t have a dinner booked at the hotel. Rail Discoveries, rightly, assume that most people like a change from the hotel food and want to find a restaurant and eat out for one night of the tour. Scottish Covid-19 restrictions, unfortunatly, mean that all restaurants have to close at six p.m. which is a pity because Oban has a few decent restaurants. Takeaways are still allowed to open, so we found a chip shop. Diane was boring and had cod and chips, which you can get in any chip shop anywhere. I had white pudding supper. I haven’t had one for about forty years.

Also while we were waiting for our chips we saw a most magnificent sunset.

The chips were nearly as good.

Lockdown Holiday 3

Over the Sea to Skye

Today was apparently not supposed to have been the way it turned out. We were supposed to have a leisurely breakfast, followed by a coach trip to Fort William to catch the Jacobite steam train to Mallaig. From there we were to catch the ferry to Skye.

Our little friend Covid-19 put paid to that. The Jacobite, in order to ensure adequate distancing, had to reduce the numbers of people on the train. Our tour was bumped.

Instead of a leisurely breakfast, the alarm went off at five thirty, for a continental breakfast at six fifteen. The coach left while it was still dark. I know that the road from Oban to Fort William is quite scenic. The road follows the coast and has views across Loch Lhinnie to Ardgour and Morven. We would have to see it on the way home.

We made it to Fort William in time for the regular 08:30 service to Mallaig. It should be said that the scenery is exactly the same whether you are sitting in a seat on the 08:30 ScotRail service or first class on a steam drawn special. In fact, it could be argued that you actually see it better, because it is not obscured by clouds of steam and the carriage windows are not covered with the crud that a steam engine kicks out. Also, from a (retired) professional point of view I think that boilers that are older than I am are potential bombs. Some people were disappointed that our steam train trip was cancelled, but not me. The only thing I did miss was the scent that you get when steam and lubricating oil come together. It takes me back to my days at sea.

The line from Fort William to Mallaig is rightly celebrated as the most scenic in the United Kingdom, it is up there with anything in the world. The line crosses the Glenfinnan Viaduct, made famous by the Harry Potter films

We arrived in Mallaig about ten o’clock. As we had a bit of time to kill before catching the ferry we had a wander round the town. We found a baker’s shop and bought a couple of sausage rolls to supplement our rather meagre breakfast. We were also found by a friendly labrador who smelt our sausage rolls and decided that they were his.

After that it was “Speed Bonny Boat” time, except that the MV Loch Fyne is neither bonny, nor is she speedy. She is a very functional vessel whose design owes a lot to World War II landing craft.

M.V. Loch Fyne

She got us “Over the Sea to Skye”.

Some images from the crossing

A visit to Armadale Castle (Home of Clan Donald) was next on the itenery. A bus had been laid on to take us there, but as it is only about a kilometer from the ferry terminal, and it wasn’t raining, we decided to walk.

The castle gardens are very attractive, with views over the Sound of Sleat. The castle itself is a ruin. It was abandoned by the MacDonald family in 1925 and has since fallen into disrepair. There is also a museum in the grounds, tracing the history of the Hebrides, through the history of Clan Donald. This is not as self-centred as it might appear. For a long period, during the middle ages, the MacDonalds ruled as Lords of the Isles. So to a certain extent the story of the Western Isles is the story of Clan Donald.

By the time we had seen round the museum, wandered around the grounds, and eaten our lunch it was time to head back to the terminal to get the ferry back to Mallaig.

The castle and it’s grounds

Back on the mainland, our journey back to Oban continued by coach. Partly to give us a slightly different view of the scenery and partly to allow us to stop at Glenfinnan to view the viaduct from a different angle.

On the way south we caught up with the Jacobite steam train. This caused a certain amount of excitement among some (mainly older male) members of our party. I feel that I should point out that while I love trains, it is travelling by train that I love, rather than the means of propulsion. Other people do feel diferently. Our driver knew of a place a few miles ahead where she thought that we would be able to get a good photo of the train exiting a tunnel. We then had a high speed race to get to the favoured spot before the train. I have never before experienced a coach taking a corner on two (three?) wheels.

We made it in time to see the train, but my photos were essentially a cloud of steam. We headed south to Glenfinnan, where we stopped get photos of the train crossing the viaduct.

Harry Potter on his way home.

An aside: I have just realised that there is a flaw in the Harry Potter story line. If you are going to cross the Glenfinnan Viaduct you need to catch a train from Euston and not from Kings Cross.

Also at Glenfinnan is the Memorial to the failed 1745 Jacobite Rebellion. Charles Stuart (aka Bonnie Prince Charlie) unfurled his banner here and laid claim to the crown of the United Kingdom. In 1815, after the Jacobite cause was no longer seen as a threat a local laird erected the monument.

1745 Monument

After that it was back to Oban. We did get to appreciate the views across to Ardgour and Morven on the way home.

Over dinner we found out via our waiter that the hotel is apparently haunted. We shall keep an open mind.

Despite the five-thirty start it turned out to be a good day.

Random thoughts, ramblings and rants

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