Travel Theme – Peaks

Rather than fulfilling the weekly travel theme at Where’s My Backpack about Peaks with mountains and hills from the Peak District in the UK, which was very tempting, I’m digging out a few from the Scottish Highlands. They are all scans from photos taken in between 2000 and 2003 and they aren’t very good though I’ve done some or a lot of processing on them. I must dig out my photo albums and re-scan them because I have a much better scanner now.

Daily Post – Mirror

WordPress Daily Post weekly challenge this week is Mirror. I haven’t got a lot of photos of actual mirrors but still waters reflect perfectly.

This first photo is not a very good scan from a photo I took around 9 a.m. at a picnic site near Arrochar in the Scottish Highlands. A good friend of mine whom I had known online for several years picked me and another good friend up at our hotel in Glasgow and drove us through the Highlands to Oban where we caught the ferry to Mull and then to the island of Iona via a pedestrian ferry. Since we’d made quite an early start, we were ready for a quick snack and a break just as the sun was really breaking over the mountains. I think it was mid April so the mornings were still late in getting bright. We had a lovely day and lots of laughs. He passed away about 7 months later so I’m very glad I got to meet him face to face.

Long Loch from Arrochar

Long Loch, Scottish Highlands near Arrochar

A Rare Rainbow (DP Challenge)

The Daily Post at WordPress challenges us this week to post a photo of something Rare. I’ve posted this photo at least once before and it certainly fits this theme. Scotland, late August 1993. Driving across Rannoch Moor on a drizzly day on a tour bus. The sun must have been breaking out somewhere because we saw colours across the moors. Real colours like a rainbow but it was puddles of misty colour on the ground, not an arc over the sky. I took a quick photo through the window and was pleased to see it turned out. (Those were the days you had to wait for the film to be developed).

I posted the photo on Flickr and entered into a discussion with someone about it and he suggested it would have been the top of the rainbow. This part of Scotland is higher above sea level and at mid to late morning when this was taken, the sun would have been at about 40 degrees elevation and just the right angle for it.

Rainbow in the Highlands, near Glencoe. The "Hail Mary" lucky shot through the bus window

Rainbow in the Highlands, near Glencoe.
The “Hail Mary” lucky shot through the bus window

Edinburgh vs Glasgow

Edinburgh Castle from the Castle Gardens below

National Geographic Traveler, issue 32:8 (December 2015/January 2016) has a feature on top 20 “Must See” destinations. One of them is a short piece on Glasgow, the second city of Scotland. The author of the piece, Kimberly Lovato, opens with “If Edinburgh is the blue-blooded aunt at Scotland’s tea party, then Glasgow, just 45 miles to the west, is the T-shirt-clad cousin kicking over the kettle on the way out.

That made me chuckle but it’s pretty close to the truth when embodying the spirit and personality of the two cities. I’ve been to both, not for lengthy visits but several times each over the years though my last visit to Glasgow was in 2003 and Edinburgh in 2000. I’m overdue. That aside, though I like both cities, my overall feeling was that I preferred Glasgow.

Edinburgh is beautiful, with a newer section of tidy Georgian architecture nestled at the feet of the volcanic ridge that housed the older city, crested with a jaw dropping castle on the top of the cliffs. The old part of the city is now mainly hotels and tourist attractions, with the university and student population thrown in. The Royal Mile stretches from the castle at one end to Holyrood Palace and the remains of the abbey at the other and it is quite interesting to explore with mysterious narrow “wynds” or lanes, small museums, a cathedral and lots of places to have a drink or a meal.The new Georgian section has great shopping, parks, bigger museums and galleries and also lots of edibles and potables.  It’s also the seat of the government both historically when it was the seat of Kings and in modern days, the home of the new Scottish Parliament. You’d find a lot to hold your interest within the inner city of Edinburgh.

A Mausoleum in the Glasgow Necropolis

A Mausoleum in the Glasgow Necropolis

Glasgow was the largest sea port in Britain and was a huge transatlantic trade hub.  The Industrial Revolution expanded the wealth in the area and it was a more important city than Edinburgh as far as finance goes.  There are two universities and a cathedral and a reknowned art college.  An industrial city means there’s a lot of working class folk in addition to the student population. All of this booming industry generally ends up faltering and that’s what happened to Glasgow in the 1960s but by the end of the 1980s, things were looking up again and today, Glasgow is a vibrant city again, with a thriving arts scene. It’s not really lost that working class atmosphere, I think.

For me, Glasgow feels more “down to earth” and everyday, where the city as a whole is striving to put their best foot forward and bloody proud of their achievements, something that it feels like Edinburgh takes as it’s due. Edinburgh feels more “touristy” in the city centre than Glasgow, maybe because Glasgow’s tourist attractions are a bit more spread out between the city centre and the newer west end. Glasgow certainly has great museums,  theatres,  shopping, eateries, pubs and clubs, and a cathedral of it’s own.

In fact, on that last point, the old cathedral in Glasgow is one of my all time favourites of the ones I’ve seen and even nicer than the one in Edinburgh, it’s far more atmospheric though it’s not very large. Rising on a hill behind it is a Victorian  Necropolis Cemetery with wonderfully interesting memorials. Also very atmospheric to trod around on a foggy, overcast afternoon like I did.

The Garage, Sauchihall Street, Glasgow

The main thrust of the National Geographic Traveler piece spoke about 2016 being a Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design so there will be a lot going on there this year and the writer also enthused about the music scene in Glasgow. From the street performers to the club scene to the concert halls, it seems there’s something for everyone. One of my favourite memories of Glasgow was a gig in a club on Sauchiehall Street, The Garage. It was an impromptu night out and the band was 3 Colours Red, a punk band from the late 90s and early 00s and they were fantastic!

Some do say that the local Scottish accent is nearly untranslateable and it’s true that a strong accent here is tough for our North American ears but for the most part, we didn’t have a problem. We found the people working in the shops and cafes to be very friendly, with a great, albeit cheeky, sense of humour. Anyone that I deal with in a shop, hotel, pub or anywhere else who greets me with a smile and a little joke has my vote. I haven’t encountered that in Edinburgh where I’ve found the people polite, perhaps a bit more business-like but by no means rude. They don’t seem as glad to see you as Glaswegians do, however. Perhaps that’s due to the higher tourist count in Edinburgh, I don’t know. They get on with things because there’s usually someone waiting in the queue behind you or at the next table.

Glasgow has it’s share of tourists, too but Edinburgh seems to get more of the glory. It’s not that it isn’t a nice city to visit. I think everyone should enjoy what Edinburgh has to offer which is a lot. Edinburgh Castle really is interesting and worth the money you’ll pay to see it, plus the views over the city from the ramparts are boggling. The majesty of the Edinburgh Tattoo is something you’ll never forget (along with the heaving crowds of the Edinburgh Festival! But there *will* be great theatre, too!) Edinburgh perhaps has the more glamourous history to show off but Glasgow has lots of that, too.

I really want to see both cities one more time and I think if we manage to get there, we’ll probably have our base in Glasgow. You can take the train between the city centres in under an hour making for a great day trip.

Traveling through the movies: Scottish Highlands

WWDOOH1This installment of “Traveling through the movies” takes us to the Highlands of Scotland, particularly the northwest coastal area. The movie is What We Did On Our Holiday, from 2014, staring Rosamund Pike, David Tennant, Ben Miller and Billy Connolly.

The basic premise is that Tennant and Pike are Doug and Abi MacLeod, a married couple on the verge of divorce, which has been very hard on their three children, ages about 4, 6 and 10 or thereabouts. Doug’s father, Gordie is turning 75 and as he is very ill with terminal cancer, the family is going to drive up to Scotland for a large birthday party, likely Gordie’s last. Gordie lives with his older son and family, Margaret and Gavin and Kenneth. Gordie is a bit tightly wound and Margaret is struggling with depression. Kenneth is struggling with his father’s high expectations. Gavin and Doug seem to have a long time rivalry.

WWDOOH2The day of the party dawns and Gordie and the three younger grandchildren head to his favourite beach for the afternoon to get out of the way of the party preparations. While watching the children, Gordie dies on the beach and the children decide to give him the Viking funeral he told them he wanted, rather than have a lot of fuss and warring family members. They build a raft, and, using a spare can of gasoline from Gordie’s truck, set him aflame and push him out to sea. The repercussions are many but the movie ends with Gordie’s friends and family celebrating his life under a spectacular sunset on the beach.

WWDOOH6

Red Point Beach, Wester Ross

The scenery is the real winner, here. There are shots of the car driving down roads with the mountains rising bleakly on either side. The beach is surrounded by hazy purple mountains but the water is blue and the sand white. It’s easy to see why this is Gordie’s “God’s country”. I’ve been to the Scottish Highlands a couple of times, and this movie certainly makes me want to go again, hop in a car and drive wherever the notion takes us. It’s a beautiful country, much of it remote and with single track roads the further north you go.

WWDOOH5

Billy Connolly as Gordie MacLeod

WWDOOH3
There are pleny of movies that are set in the Scottish Highlands but many of those are actually filmed elsewhere, Ireland being one of the favourite replacements. Many of the castles in Scotland are seen in films, including Eileen Donan (Highlander, The World is Not Enough), Duart on the Isle of Mull (Entrapment) and Doune (Monty Python and the Holy Grail and the tv series Outlander which has lots of other scenes filmed in the Highlands as well). A few examples that have scenes filmed in rural Scotland include Braveheart (Glen Nevis and Loch Leven), Prometheus (Isle of Skye), Skyfall (Glencoe),  and a new upcoming version of MacBeth.

WWDOOH7

DP – Extraordinary

In my travels, I see a lot of things that impress and astound me, things that move me and make me go Wow! Many are items in museums but other things that I love are buildings/architecture, or a spectacular view as we drive over the crest of a hill. When trying to decide what to choose for the Daily Post challenge, Extraordinary, I was spoiled for choice and I could have picked quite a few things.  I chose these two.

This first is a shot I took out the window of a tour bus while traveling through the Scottish Highlands. It’s near Rannoch Moor and I couldn’t believe my eyes, a rainbow in the mist *on the ground*, rather than a arc overhead. I’ve been told that it comes out this way due to a few things, including the height above sea level and the angle of the sun at that time of the day (late morning). What you are seeing is the top of the rainbow arc, apparently. I took the chance at a few photos out of the window of the moving bus and captured it enough that you could tell what it was. The photo was taken on film, through a window,  has deteriorated some,  and scanned a long time ago so the resolution isn’t great.

Rainbow in the Highlands, near Glencoe.  The "Hail Mary" lucky shot through the bus window

Rainbow in the Highlands, near Glencoe.
The “Hail Mary” lucky shot through the bus window

This is an illuminated copy of two pages of the Canterbury Tales along with, underneath in the case, another plain undecorated copy, both from the 15th century. Seen in the John Rylands Library, Manchester. The decorated sheets are from the Oxford Manuscript. The other book is a 1476 first edition. It’s amazing that something so fragile is still preserved. The Ryland Library also has a fragment of  the gospel of John, dated to about 200 A.D. written on papyrus.

Canterbury Tales, Illuminated and plain, below it.

WPC: Creepy

The WordPress weekly challenge asks us to show something creepy.

The first time I traveled somewhere that affected me was the battlefield of Cullodden in Scotland. I passed through the visitor centre and out on to the area where the great battle between the Highland Scots and the English armies clashed on April 16, 1746. The Scottish were decimated. Many were buried on the fields in mass graves by clans. You can still see the risings in the earth and clan markers for some of them. There’s also a spot called the Well of the Dead, a spring in the earth where a particularly fierce charge through the English line of defence ended with the death of Alexander MacGillivray on this spot. This is a marker to his bravery. While walking around through the paths and looking out on the area, though it likely looks far different now than it did back then, and there’s a road cutting right through the middle of it, you can still feel something, maybe the spirits of the dead, maybe lingering cries of the dying as the wind whispers through the trees.

The Well of the Dead. Culloden, Scotland

Another recent creepy thing that we saw was this death mask in the Tower of London, something that an executioner wore.

Executioner’s mask, Tower of London

Travel Theme: Unexpected

Ailsa’s weekly theme is “unexpected” and I had to think about what I could write and post about. Unexpected…. Should I find a photo of an architectural detail that was unexpected? I looked through my Flickr photos of that sort of thing and came across a particular photo that brought back a travel memory.

A friend and I had driven to Glasgow for a couple of days and we visited the cathedral. It’s one of my favourites. UP the hill behind it is a Necropolis, a Victorian cemetery with lots of elaborate mausoleums (mausolea?) and monuments. We tramped around there in the fog and came across this one small one that had a barred gate over the front opening to prevent anyone from going in.

I looked in and couldn’t see anything in the dark interior but I decided to put on the flash and aim the camera inside anyway.  I call that a “Hail Mary” shot. This was the days before digital cameras so you didn’t know if the photo turned out until it was developed. I got lucky. This is what came out when the film was developed.

Madonna in the Glasgow Necropolis

Madonna in the Glasgow Necropolis

This wasn’t the mausoleum that the Madonna was in but it’s one of the more elaborate ones in the Necropolis.

A Mausoleum in the Glasgow Necropolis

A Mausoleum in the Glasgow Necropolis

Word a Week Challenge – Castle

Oooh, this week’s Word a Week Challenge is Castle!  Castles are one of my favourite things to visit, whether still intact or whether there are just ruins left to ramble through.  Many castles started off as pure fortifications but turned into more of a palace, a residence as the need for defence died down. Since palaces are not the traditional “castle”, for this post, I’ll just show photos of the more “industrial” versions with one or two exceptions.

Most of my castle experiences have been in the U.K. where castles are littered all over the countries that make up the United Kingdom. Welsh castles built by Edward I are huge and looming and forbidding. Often these and other castles were attached to walls that would surround a town/city to keep it safe from invasion. These castles were built to intimidate and you can see that they certainly would be.

Inside Beaumaris Castle, Isle of Anglesey, Wales

Conwy Castle, North Wales

There are still a few examples of even older castles. This one, Restormel in Cornwall, dates to the Norman period though became disused and fell into ruins after the English Civil War in the 17th century.

Restormel Castle, Lostwithiel, Cornwall

Edinburgh Castle is perched on top of volcanic cliffs. The old city ran from it’s gates down to the Royal palace of Holyrood. The newer part of the city lies across a loch which was drained and is now the park you see in this photo.

Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

Irish Castles seem to mainly be boxy looking, one large squared tower.  Blarney Castle is fairly typical.

Blarney Castle, Ireland

Leeds Castle was defensive but remained a residential home through the centuries, into the 20th century. It’s surrounded by a moat which was a fairly common means of defense for castles.

Leeds Castle, Kent

Outside of the U.K., there are also many castles. The Rhine is a popular river for castle spotting from a riverboat. This castle, in the middle of the city of Rome, was the Pope’s stronghold for both security for himself and as a prison.

Castel Sant'Angelo, Rome

Castel Sant’Angelo, Rome

The Tower of London is arguably one of the most famous castles in the world. It started as a Normal fortification built by William the Conqueror after the 1066 invasion. It’s grown quite a lot since the erection of the square middle “White” Tower. It’s been a royal palace, a zoo and a prison.

The Tower of London, contrasting with the new London City Hall across the Thames

This one, in Copenhagen, was more of a palace though is still called a castle.

Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen, Denmark