Saturday, October 09, 2010

Scotland Whit A Relief

It was Christine who said first, after we had driven some distance into Scotland, "oh what a relief, I like Scotland". We both were feeling this, maybe it was the better weather, the wider roads, better signage on these roads, or the lack of traffic, but straight away it was more relaxing to be in Scotland.
We met some fellow cyclists right on the physical border who were on the Lands End to John O'Groats ride and this added something special to entering Scotland.
We headed into Dumfries late afternoon and checked out the Burns influence in the quite big little town of Dumfries, he spent a considerable time here. This was the first town in weeks that actually had a free carpark in the centre of town so maybe that's why I took a shine to Scotland straight away, though the sense of humour was also evident pretty quickly as this shop sign displayed.
Then I spotted this sign, pointing to the pub, The Douglas Arms, for Citizens Advice.
Dumfries has a connection with Scotland's national poet Rabbie Burns who spent quite a bit of time in the area.

So off we headed to the place where I was born and grew up (Ayr and Kilmarnock, respectively).
I left at the tender age of 16 when our whole family emigated way back in the mid 60s, more than half a life time ago. I still remember certain things though, and a lot has not changed very much.
Burns Cottage in Alloway, Ayr, the birthplace of at least two famous Scots.

My sister Louise went back to Scotland about 4 years ago, and told me our favourite icecream shop had gone. I was heartbroken, but resigned to change, life moves on, but hey, she was wrong, it's still there with the same decor, and the memories of my childhood came flooding back.

When I was a boy the owner was the little Italian man who started the shop, Varani's Icecream, called The Forum Cafe "The Cream of Kilmarnock". They have special tubs of icecream that spin making that special texture, the flavour's great too, supposedly healthy, tho I was never interested in that. The person serving you uses a stainless steel paddle and loads a miniature bricklayer's hod with a wafer, then loads up with the icecream, much like a bricklayer again putting mortar on his brick. Then they stick another wafer or a nougat  chocolate covered wafer on top and load this amazing sculpture into a very simple paper bag, and off you go out of the shop. With my very old local knowledge I recommended Christine try the plain icecream and she was not disappointed.
I only had two icecreams......honest!
Heading accross the Lowlands of Scotland there are plenty of windmills generating power, we arrived in Edinburgh in August at the height of summer, with an Arts Festival and a Fringe Festival and the Edinburgh Military Tattoo all happening  up in the Castle/Royal Mile area. Without all this happening Edinburgh is a wonderful city to explore, and therefore it had far too much to try and take in the 2 days we had in Edinburgh.
This is the famous Greyfriars Church story about the dog Bobby, that stayed on its master's grave for many years till it died.
Tickets for the Tattoo are booked out months in advance, but still it was impressive just to see the setting right next to the Castle, is really stunning.
The Fringe Festival is a busker's paradise, anything goes, it's information overload, one simply cannot take in even a small fraction of what's happening.

So we headed north across the Forth Road Bridge.
In the Cairngorms this was a very cold night in the Hotel Rover for two cheery Kiwis though we did spend a great evening in a pub in Spittal of Glenshee, where a Dundee folkie was in fine form!
Don't know the name of this place, but what a stunner and the photo below was only around the corner of that arch on the left.
So now we were heading for my Auntie Netta in Nairn just east of Inverness. I have extremely fond memories of Nairn, that's where we used to go holidays, where I learnt to ride a bike (a full size man's bike with bar) by pedalling between the bar and the pedals.

Netta is still living in the same house less than 100 yards from the sea, yes it's a special place. Christine had spotted in the tourist info as we drove toward Nairn that the Nairn Highland games were the following weekend so we amended our plans to head around the north of Scotland and down the west coast to Skye and return to Nairn in time for the Skirl of the Pipes and the Kilts.
Auntie Netta still lives in Inverene, on the Links in Nairn, I used to go there as a boy around 10 and thats 50 years ago.
The beach behind me in my last visit 18 years ago was a stoney beach, now it's all sand.
This is what happens when you walk around Scotland dressed like this fella, you meet all the other weirdo's.

The scenery in the North of Scotland (and we had pretty good weather) is stunning, no need for commentary from me!
 Horizontal washing hung across from the house on the shore of the Loch, for every tourist in the world to see....I loved it!
Even the rocks in Scotland are unique!
Another one of our Hotel Rover morning views.
This is Inverness Castle, I'll close now and resume the next blog at the Nairn Highland Games.
Och aye the noo!
Stay safe and Free
Jimu and Christine.

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