An eccentric trip around the UK

Old Oct 9th, 2018, 11:00 AM
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OH --- so sorry about the Park Inn -- that wasn't my experience there, but then they had upgraded me and I never saw those attic rooms where I likely would have ended up for the rate I paid. At least the location is good (lemons/lemonade )
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Old Oct 9th, 2018, 01:16 PM
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Well, at least I only spent a couple of minutes in the attic! Room 208 was fine once I got the temperature up. Had a big bay window which probably didn't help with the cold.

Location was certainly good - walking distance to both train stations, a subway station, the airport bus and several restaurants. Plus a JD Weatherspoon next door for breakfast.
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Old Oct 9th, 2018, 01:50 PM
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So sorry about your travails at the Park Inn, Thursdaysd. I have sometimes pondered how hotels assign their rooms, and why they make the lives of their less mobile guests so difficult. Does no one ever check to see if their hotels are in fact accessible?

such a shame too about the School of Art - it seems extraordinary how many buildings burn down while they are being renovated.
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Old Oct 13th, 2018, 09:55 AM
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Seems I got my dates wrong, sorry. I arrived in Dundee September 24, and Glasgow September 28.

September 29 - Culzean Castle

One reason I had chosen to visit Glasgow on this trip was because my friends K and J had moved to Dunoon a couple of years back. Dunoon can be reached from Glasgow by a train to Gourock and a ferry, and on this day I took the train and K and J took their car on the ferry and we met up in Gourock, before they drove me south to Culzean Castle. Designed by Robert Adams for the Earls of Cassillis in the late eighteenth century, it is one of the premier properties of the Scottish National Trust (my Royal Oak membership still got me in for free). We had a longer drive than I had expected, and we stopped both for coffee and lunch, so it was well into the afternoon when we arrived. Good thing we were no later, as we were only just in time for the last tour of the day, which was earlier than normal as the castle was being used for a wedding. Given the number of locations I have visited on this trip that doubled as event space I can only conclude that event planning is a thriving business in the UK.


The first room contained the castle's armory, with a truly mammoth collection. Although some of it was carefully arranged to form ovals or stars, I was happy to pass through to the less warlike residential rooms beyond. While the centerpiece of the castle was Adam's dramatic and beautiful oval staircase, I enjoyed the other rooms as well. Many of the ceilings had delicate plasterwork, very much of the period. Plenty of furniture was in place, some with attractive veneers, opulent carpets and pretty wallpaper, along with more domestic items such as a cradle shaped like a boat, held our attention. When we eventually arrived at the kitchen, we were impressed by the unusual amount of daylight, along with a large collection of copper pots and pans. (Note to Janis - this time I did notice a mousetrap, complete with fake mouse.)

The tour included one room dedicated to then General Eisenhower. Apparently he had been a frequent visitor, both during and after the war. In fact, the top floor of the castle now comprises the Eisenhower Hotel, with six bedrooms, one of them the one used by Eisenhower. You can book the whole hotel if you like..... Should you be thinking of doing that I should mention that it is in prime Robert Burns territory.

Once outside we appreciated the castle's dramatic, cliff top location. The extensive grounds could keep a visitor occupied for some time, but the weather was unfriendly, and we still had to drive back to Gourock. We took the tourist transport back to the entrance area and had a quick cup of coffee before setting out. While I was pleased to have seen the castle I was even more pleased to have met up with K and J.

Back in Glasgow I ate dinner just round the corner from the Park Inn at the Mussel Inn. I had eaten at the Edinburgh branch in 2004, although I found this one a bit more bare bones. The mussels were fine, although a good bit smaller than the ones I am used to.
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Old Oct 17th, 2018, 10:28 AM
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Culzean Castle

So jealous.
My niece was suffering morning sickness when I visited Glasgow earlier this year, so we cancelled our planned outing to Culzean and other out of town destinations.
But I'm glad to see you were feeling up to the trip!
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Old Oct 21st, 2018, 10:55 AM
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September 30 & October 1 - Museums and Mackintosh

(Charles Rennie Mackintosh, that is, and do look up the places I'm writing about for photos.)

Sunday and Monday I was on my own in Glasgow, and I spent my time visiting museums and getting my Mackintosh fix.


Hunterian

I started with the Mackintosh House at the Hunterian. After moving my wallet and phone into the small waist pack that otherwise holds my camera, and leaving my day pack in a locker, I was annoyed to be sent back downstairs because NO bags were allowed. Since I then put my coat back on and loaded my pockets I really cannot see how this was any improvement. There was also no step-free access to the house, even though it was built into a museum. And no photos were allowed. (There is a slide show on the Hunterian website.) Of course, I enjoyed my visit anyway, the house was light and airy and there were plenty of artifacts.

My visit to the rest of the museum was less successful. The building containing the Mackintosh House had a special display on the museum's founder, Dr. William Hunter, born two hundred years ago. Although born and educated in Scotland, he moved to London where he became a successful obstetrician and professor of anatomy. While his wide-ranging collections formed the basis of the museum, this exhibition held rather too much information on his medical work for my taste. I moved on to the Hunterian Museum proper in the Gilbert Scott building, but while I admired the mile stones from the Antonine Wall, and the architecture of the building itself, it seemed I was just not in the mood for the geological and animal exhibits.

Kelvingrove

Given that Sunday was cold, grey and intermittently rainy, it was a perfect museum day, and happily I had a much better time that afternoon at the Kelvingrove. There were plenty of exhibits from the Mackintosh period, including one of his tearooms, fully furnished, but here I found the other displays enjoyable, too. Again, the building itself was magnificent, and partway through the afternoon someone showed up to play the organ housed on the second (UK first) floor. The Kelvingrove's displays of Scottish arts, crafts and artists were a stark contrast to the jumble of disparate objects at the new V&A in Dundee. Besides the Glasgow Styles area I particularly enjoyed the section on Scottish glass.

House for an Art Lover

This was my favorite Mackintosh sight. If Hill House had been open it might have provided strong competition, but it was closed to visitors for conservation work. The House for an Art Lover was designed by Mackintosh, in collaboration with his then-new wife Margaret Macdonald for a competition in 1901, but wasn't actually built until 1990. Photos were allowed. There was an elevator. There were hardly any other visitors. I had a wonderful time admiring all the design details, and the Music Room, which would have blown me away in any case, was set up for a wedding reception and looked absolutely gorgeous.

Eating

I had not paid for the expensive breakfast buffet at the Park Inn, preferring to go next door to the JD Weatherspoon pub for a very much cheaper cooked to order breakfast (with unlimited coffee). I ate a rather bad lunch at the Kelvingrove (in the cafe, not the restaurant), and a rather better one at the House for an Art Lover. I had intended to go back to the West End Sunday night to eat at the the Bothy, only to discover that the subway system stopped around 18:00! So Sunday night I ate at a very popular branch of Nandos, and moved the Bothy to Monday. I had chosen it for a local food fix, and started with haggis, which I hadn't eaten before. Really, I can't see what the fuss is all about. It was perfectly edible, but not very interesting. However, the lamb that followed it was just excellent - both texture and taste.
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Old Oct 25th, 2018, 09:42 AM
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My first visit to Fodors in months and how nice to find this thread. Have really enjoyed following you on your travels. And meeting old friends along the way. This is the perfect site for someone like me who is grounded for the present. Lovely to eat the meals, drink the drinks, stay in the hotels and travel on the trains! Had a look at your blog but it is still in Uzbekistan. Was that really 2016? Feels like a lifetime ago here! Look forward to more fun stories. Hope the medical stuff has got itself together and you aren't suffering too much. Take care.
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Old Oct 26th, 2018, 09:21 AM
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I had not paid for the expensive breakfast buffet at the Park Inn, preferring to go next door to the JD Weatherspoon pub for a very much cheaper cooked to order breakfast (with unlimited coffee).>>

oh, please not Weatherspoons, thursdaysd! Its owner is a notorious Brexit supporter.

You weren't to know, i know, so I'll let you off this time!
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Old Oct 26th, 2018, 01:19 PM
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Hi gertie - so sorry you are still grounded! Maybe I should be too. I did OK for three weeks, but not so much since.

Ann - that's a pity, I really liked the Weatherspoon hotel in Worcester last trip.
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Old Oct 27th, 2018, 01:24 PM
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"House for an Art Lover--This was my favorite Mackintosh sight. If Hill House had been open it might have provided strong competition, but it was closed to visitors for conservation work. "

I couldn't agree more. I loved my almost solitary experience of the house.
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Old Oct 30th, 2018, 02:41 PM
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<<Ann - that's a pity, I really liked the Weatherspoon hotel in Worcester last trip.>>

There's a Weatherspoon Hotel????
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Old Oct 30th, 2018, 02:49 PM
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https://www.jdwetherspoon.com/hotels...hire/the-crown

And others. The Crown was very good, the one in Shrewsbury not so much.
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Old Oct 31st, 2018, 07:53 AM
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Haha! Wetherspoon is an arch-Brexiteer. Us Remainers tend to keep away!!
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Old Nov 6th, 2018, 02:39 PM
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So, aside from a brief cold, I did pretty well for the first three weeks of the trip. The second three weeks, not so much. However, I am now home, and hoping my energy level will pick up. and I can finish this report.

October 2-3: Stirling and Dunoon

Tuesday I took the train to Stirling, and K and J took the ferry and drove over to meet me there. Stirling is famous for a castle, a battle, and a monument. Actually, there were several battles, Stirling being in the borderlands, but the important one was the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, when William Wallace was victorious over an invading English army. Subsequent campaigns in the "First War of Scottish Independence" saw Stirling castle fall, and the English under Edward I take control of Scotland, while Wallace was eventually captured and executed in London as a traitor. He became a Scottish hero, and the monument, an impressive tower on a hill overlooking Stirling, was built in 1869.

My interest was in the castle, first built, on an excellent defensive site, in the twelfth century. It changed hands between the Scots and the English several times, eventually becoming a royal residence for the Stuart kings in the 16th century. But after James VI/I left for London it lost its status, being used first as a prison and later as a barracks for various regiments. The interior of the palace buildings suffered as they were repurposed. The site was, of course, still impressive, as were the outer defenses and the exteriors of the main buildings. A pleasant garden, its lawn edged with flowers and sheltered from the strong winds by the castle walls, was a reminder of the royal women, including Mary, Queen of Scots, who had spent time here. Inside, a ten year project, costing 12 million GBP, had restored the Royal Lodgings, but I found all the bright new paint too obviously a reconstruction. Still, the hammerbeam roof in the Great Hall, rebuilt in the 1990s, was a remarkable piece of timberwork.

A notable feature of the King's Presence Chamber was the Stirling Heads, carved oak portrait roundels on the ceiling. Some were lost and others dispersed after the ceiling collapsed in 1777, but 36 of the originals were on display, and newly carved replacements decorated the ceiling. I thought the heads the most interesting part of the interior.

My last day in Scotland, Wednesday, it was my turn to take the ferry, although it was not a good day for a boat trip, or a visit to seaside town, being at best grey and misty. Dunoon had been a popular destination before the advent of cheap flights sent beach-seeking Brits to the Mediterranean, but the town seemed to be in reasonable shape. I was mostly there to spend time with K and J, and would head for warmer weather myself the next day.
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Old Nov 12th, 2018, 12:46 PM
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October 4-5: Jersey, Part One

From Glasgow, in the north, I flew to Jersey, way south. I had arranged for a wheelchair for Glasgow airport, although not for the smaller one in Jersey, and got an object lesson in the downsides. It had already occurred to me that you lost control - you moved when someone showed up to move you (and what if they didn't?), you needed to ask if you wanted to stop for the bathroom, or to buy food. This time I was delivered to the gate well ahead of time, along with a couple of others. And then we waited. And waited, as the inbound flight was delayed by bad weather, for hours. Eventually someone showed up to give us cards with money on them to buy food, but no-one showed up to move us TO the food. (Fortunately I had bought some on the way.) Finally we were moved to the new gate, and boarded the plane via a couple of lifts.

After this Jersey airport was a breeze, and I had added a shuttle transfer to my plane ticket when Easyjet offered the option. Jersey is a small island, but with a lot of traffic, and it took a while to reach St. Helier, where I was staying at a centrally located Premier Inn. My first Premier Inn, and while I had no view to speak of of, I was otherwise quite happy with the place. Aside from the duvet, which would have been welcome in Glasgow but was way too hot for St. Helier. I regret the now universal practice of providing duvets instead of sheets and blankets, I often have to take the duvet out of the cover.

After checking in I set out towards the waterfront, and Liberation Square. The Channel Islands were the only pieces of British territory occupied by the Germans in WWII. A lot of the islanders evacuated ahead of the occupying troops, but many stayed. The Germans imported slave labor and set about fortifying the islands for an expected return invasion, which never came. Although the islanders were not conscripted, towards the end of the war rations were running very low and starvation was a possibility. Liberation Square commemorates the arrival of British troops, and the unconditional surrender of the Germans, on May 9th, 1945. May 9th is now a public holiday.

Across from Liberation Square I found an elaborate steam clock called Ariadne, the Maritime Museum and Tapestry Gallery (the tapestry was made to celebrate the 50th anniversary of liberation), and a harbor with a lot of yachts and a nice walkway. The next day I took a boat trip myself. Usually I get bored on boats, but I thoroughly enjoyed this trip along the south coast of the island. Unlike the vast majority of the passengers I chose to stay downstairs in the shade (the weather in Jersey was a complete and welcome contrast to Glasgow) but there was ample open space for photographs. Besides the lighthouses, and the German fortifications, I was delighted by the changing colors of the rocks. I also got a good look at the outside of Elizabeth castle, the Tudor fortress guarding the entrance to the harbor, and decided that I didn't need to trek out to visit it.

The tourist season on the islands pretty much finishes at the end of September, and there were several things I might have done if I had been there a week or two earlier that were no longer possibilities. However, the islands' restaurants mark the end of the season by putting on special, cheap, menus for the locals. It's called Tennerfest, from the prices of the menus when the practice started, although the prices are now in the fifteen to twenty GBP range, still a bargain for upmarket restaurants. I had reservations for three dinners in St. Helier, but for the first night I ate in my hotel. In the past I have stayed in B&Bs, where this is not an option, but for this trip I wanted an elevator rather than stairs, which meant hotels. I found the Premier Inn's curry surprisingly edible. The next night I ate at Aromas, small, hot and crowded, but the food was fine.
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Old Nov 20th, 2018, 01:07 PM
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October 6-8: Jersey, Part Two

Jersey has quite a number of sights, given its small size, quite apart from the coast and beaches. While a car could be helpful, it boasts an extensive bus network. Unfortunately, the day I had planned to visit the Durrell Wildlife Park/Jersey Zoo a marathon interfered with the schedules and I chose to take a coach tour round the island instead. I also failed to make it to La Hougue Bie, a neolithic passage grave in use around 3500 BCE. The Jersey War tunnels were not on my list, as I had already seen tunnels at Dover, and the Hamptonne Country Life Museum was closed for the season.

The coach tour went counter clockwise round the island, instead of clockwise, because of the marathon, which meant the light was wrong for photos, but I got a good look at the island anyway. The coach was comfortable, and the food on offer at the lunch stop better than I expected, but I had a major issue with the driver. First off, he talked for the ENTIRE TIME. I couldn't hear all of it, but a lot of it wasn't really related to the sights. Worse, when I got off at the first stop, he established that I lived in the US. When I boarded after the stop, he stuck his phone in my face with a Trump video playing. Whether I am pro or anti Trump, and whether the video was pro or anti Trump, was entirely irrelevant. His action was rude, invasive and completely inappropriate.

Thanks to the tour, I got a look at the outside of Mont Orgeuil Castle, which was replaced by the Elizabeth Castle. I also saw a number of German defensive installations, which I confess I found uninteresting, preferring the several lighthouses. Unfortunately, the tide was out for much of the tour. The Channel Islands experience one of the largest tidal flows in the world, and I saw a lot of mud flats. Another time I will check the tide tables before planning a visit. The Jersey Museum, which included a restored merchant's house, occupied a rainy morning, and the Georgian townhouse at 16 New Street an afternoon. I also took a bus out to Samares Manor. Although especially noted for its gardens, I also paid to tour the house, and the rural Life Museum in the stables. Finally, I took a look at St. Matthew's Church. The interior was entirely redesigned by Lalique in the 1930s. While unusual, I didn't find it as beautiful as I had expected from Lalique's other work. Perhaps glass doesn't lend itself to such a large scale installation.

I continued to (mostly) eat well. The crepes at CocoRico were good enough I ate lunch there twice, and I ate from the Tennerfest menus at Green Olive and La Taverne, both of which I can recommend. Lunch at Marks and Spencer, however, was truly awful, which was a surprise. I expected it to be at least edible.
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Old Nov 20th, 2018, 02:02 PM
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I hope you notified the company of the driver's inappropriate behavior. What a shame

Wonder how many other visitors he has turned off??

I really enjoyed the glass church, I didn't find it particularly 'beautiful' but the altar rail and all the other totally glass features were fascinating. The volunteers there were some of the friendliest people I met on the island.
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Old Nov 20th, 2018, 02:36 PM
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I didn't contact the company, but I did write a TA review, to which they have not responded.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUser...l_Islands.html

The church was empty when I was there, I think it would have looked better with more light.
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Old Nov 20th, 2018, 02:49 PM
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I am loving every word of this report.

We have so very many places to visit yet, even though it seems we are always planning another trip. I don't know how we'll ever get it all in, but I must, must get to Scotland.
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Old Nov 20th, 2018, 04:27 PM
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Why thanks, St Cirq. Loads to see in Scotland! Back in 2004 I flew into Glasgow, took the train (now famous thanks to Harry Potter) to Mallaig and the ferry to Skye. Crossed back to Kyle of Lochalsh on the expensive new road bridge and took another very scenic train to Edinburgh via Inverness. I was able to see Rosslyn Chapel before that got too famous for its own good, too. But you are spoiled for choice - as you are in the rest of the UK, of course.
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