Our group left Oban for Inverary, ( pronounced Inverara) seat of the Campbells and Dukes of Argyll. Marjorie and I weren’t particularly looking forward to the Aberfoyle Wool Show, but the NZ compere not only had us laughing but also recounted some fascinating tales, and everyone was amazed at the variety of sheep, some of which have 9 horns. Marjorie said, ‘Just goes to prove that even the most boring subject can be interesting if well done.’
On a cruise of Loch Lomond, the guide pointed out Rob Roy MacGregor’s cave, signposted for all to see. Here this famous Scottish folk hero and rogue supposedly holed up .Those with Scottish roots told us he had a generous streak and likened him to Robin Hood. Rob Roy took part in Jacobite uprisings from the age of 18, when he joined Highland clansmen in an effort to restore the Stuart monarchy . He was seriously wounded in the Battle of Glen Shiel in 1719.
Our next stop, at the Duck Bay Hotel, Restaurant, and Marina are situated in the Scottish National Park, with spectacular views across Loch Lomond towards blue hills in the distance. It was easy to see why it was a popular venue for weddings. We loved the flocks of Mallard ducks with green, blue and brown markings. It was a perfect spot to relax, chat and enjoy a lunch of cress soup and rolls.
Our next stop was Glasgow, a drab city in comparison with Edinburgh. Dinner that night was at the Harry Ramsdens Restaurant, famous for a simple meal – at $15 it was the most expensive fish and chips we’d ever eaten, but Morag assured us it was not to be missed.
Then our big limousine took us to see another side of Glasgow , a pub with folk music. Morag warned us it could be a culture shock. The Cultural shock proved to be for the adolescent and twenty-something drinkers, who suddenly found their favourite retreat invaded by a largely grey-haired group of tourists, including an 80 year old. The drinkers were open-mouthed.
None of us enjoyed the smoke-filled rooms, while many of the patrons seemed to have taken a drink or three over the limit. The majority of our party decided to leave, but Vince wanted to hear some more folk-music – and so did I. An inebriated Scottie we spoke to was scathing about the delightful Folk Songs we had enjoyed on the coach the past ten days, saying the average Scot preferred more modern stuff. He said to me, ‘Do you think I drink?’
I took in his bleary eyes and slurred speech, and quipped, ‘Does a fish swim?’ Luckily, he laughed.
In the second room a man moved aside for me to sit down and Vince found a seat on the other side of the table. Unfortunately, the fellow beside me became a pest. When a sloppy kiss landed on my neck, I edged away. ‘I’m with someone,’ I said, indicating Vince.My neighbour started swearing. I caught Vince’s eye and we left to catch a cab before trouble erupted erupted.
Our next stop was Culzean (pronounced Culane) Castle, perched on a cliff on the Ayrshire coast of Scotland at Carrick, with views to the mountains on the islands of Arran. On that brilliant morning, the lovely gardens were a delight of colour and texture. We learnt that, in the 18C, Robert Adam converted an old fortified castle into the fine Georgian castle we were seeing. We loved the circular saloon and oval staircase, regarded as Adam masterpieces. A suite of rooms were given to General Eisenhower for life, in gratitude for his wartime contributions to the defeat of Hitler. I was fascinated by the Adam fireplaces with their bullock head symbols and Vince loved the wonderful examples of inlaid woodwork, since he is an accomplished woodworker. One of the rooms was said to be haunted and Marjorie felt quite spooked.
That afternoon Marjorie and I walked a long way to see f the oldest house in Glasgow, built in 1471 by Andrew Muirhead, Bishop of Glasgow. We were overwhelmed by the simple beauty, and to folk from a young country like Australia, the date of construction seemed incredible. Once part of the St Nicholas’s hospital, it’s the only house to survive the medieval city. Canon Cuthbert Simpson lived there from 1501 to 1503. It has some wonderful, solid old furniture and artifacts. Across the way is a fascinating museum devoted to comparative religions, which includes many beautiful paintings.
By then it was time to hurry back to the hotel for the Burns night, which included presenting the haggis and a delicious meal. The performance of Tam O’Shanter was colourful with images of witches and warlocks dancing and bagpipes playing in the church. His wife Kate was angry because he went to town. ‘ Such a wife as Willie had…Ugliest wife…Quasimodo beautiful by Comparison.’ Willie tried to rush across the Brig-a-Doon before the witches could catch him…That was how the horse lost her tail as he jumped and lunged onto the old mare’s back.
On our last morning, feeling a little sad, we took the ferry for Arran Isle. We were lucky to have a splendid day to enjoy the island with a wide variety of scenery and wildflowers in pink, yellow, mauve. A gentle breeze stirred the fields of bluebells and the vistas included the Mull of Kintyre, made famous by the Paul Mcartney song. Proceeds were used to improve local roads.
Then it was off to imposing Brodick Castle. Morag said a fortress has existed on the site since at least the 5th C. Inside, the castle, which now belongs to the National Trust, is a collection of exquisite treasures, including porcelain, silver, paintings, photographs,and furniture, some of which also dates to the 17C .
We sat outside to enjoy a delicious tomato and vegetable soup, gazing towards gardens. The walled garden dates to the 17C. With the help of a little map, Marjorie and I set off to explore . We crossed tinkling streams and walked on mossy paths bordered by pink, red and golden rhododendrons, passed woodlands, lakes and waterfalls. On and on we went, reaching a wilderness area curiously denuded of vegetation, arriving back at the bus over an hour later, tired but happy.
In the pink of evening we sailed back for the mainland, watching seagulls ride the thermals, enjoying the crisp breeze. A lively conversation ensued with Lois, our octogenarian friend, so sprightly and full of fun she was an inspiration.
As we sped along the freeway, I had mixed feelings, looking forward to seeing my daughter, but sad that our friendly group was soon to split asunder.