Family, friends and free trains

After a couple of days in Glasgow, we head to Oban to meet up with my mum and sister who have come up from Kent to Glasgow on the overnight sleeper train.  The plan was to arrive before them (yes, was…), get a few essentials for our cottage before meeting them at Oban station.  Anthony and I set off from Glasgow, the weather is not the best but not as wet as forecast again today.  We enjoy the lush green scenery for an hour before the train stops at Helensburgh.  People get on, then off again others get off and back on again.  There seems to be some confusion.  Apart from the bell sound as the intercom comes on, we can’t hear anything, we have a dud intercom in our carriage.  The couple who came on, then off, have now come on again but they are going to Glasgow.  What do they know we don’t yet?  Twenty minutes later and with another bell sound and no message, the train starts up again but goes backwards, obviously back to Glasgow.  A young lady beside us with internet access explains that the line ahead has been washed away and all trains NW of Glasgow have been cancelled.  We find out later that while the track is still there, a couple of feet of soil below it has been washed away – a suspended rail line if you will – and all trains are being replaced with coaches.

A tweeted photo of the track at Helensburgh

Just as the train pulls into Glasgow Queen Street railway station, a lady from Scotrail asks us where we are headed and adds 2 ticks to her Oban list.  We are in the last carriage and are the last ones to be asked.  No time for any explanation.

We all get off at Glasgow Queen Street, unsure as to where to go and get our replacement coach.  Glasgow station is the middle of refurbishments and is a bit of a zoo at the best of times.  But what do I notice?  My mum and sister talking to a guard, also trying to find out where to go next.  Well, that is not exactly how we had planned to meet.  Not the relaxed welcome but a scramble to somewhere.  The place is a zoo, no announcement, no one to direct us, but we eventually find someone who guides us to a bus and off we go. The 4 of us.

The journey to Oban is extremely scenic.  We are grateful for the calm and excellent coach driver as many places, and bends especially, are barely 2 cars wide.  

ScotRail must have lost lots of money around that time with all the delayed journeys:  30 minutes late and you get 50% of the cost of your ticket back, 60 minutes and more late, your journey is fully refunded.  Small recompense for the hassle.

Ominous skies in Oban…

The trip to Oban is part of my mum’s 90th birthday present and the plan for our the first full day in Oban is to take my mum to a place she has always wanted to go to: Staffa island.  Our tour today includes the following: ferry from Oban to the island of Mull,  a 1.5 hr coach ride across Mull, ferry to Iona, 2.5 hours on Iona exploring the chapel and abbey, ferry to Staffa with 1.5 hours on Staffa before doing the same journey back to Oban.   There are many tours out of Oban and we are impressed by the organisation of Staffatours and our brilliant bus driver Sheila in particular.

Heading out of Oban

With my mum, leaving Oban for Mull


Mull here we come

The weather magically clears perfectly for us and we are amazed how my mum, in her 90th year,  managed to climb up all those stairs on Staffa – truly remarkable and inspiring!!

Island of Mull

Island of Mull

Fun scarecrow competition, Island of Mull


Heading onto a ferry from Mull to Iona

Iona chapel and Abbey


Staffa lies 10 kms west of the island of Mull and is known for its vertical basalt columns and a cave said by Mendelssohn to have inspired his Hebrides Overture.  Sadly, due to renovations at the entrance of the cave, we were not able to enter the cave.  A long but magnificient day nonetheless. 


A special moment setting foot on Staffa

Staffa basalt columns

Made it to the top, my sister Diane, our mum and me, Staffa

Time to take it all in, Staffa

The ever patient Anthony

Mum and Anthony in the distance, Diane lying getting the perfect shot midway

Mendelssohn’s cave on Staffa

A couple more days in Oban for shorter day trips.

13th century Dunstaffnage castle

Walking to Dunstaffnage chapel

The magical forest around Dunstaffnage castle

Dunollie Castle, near Oban

The return trip to Kent 3 days later was nothing short of horrendous:  the train line was still closed for another few weeks, so buses are put on. We are refused access to the earlier stopping bus to the nearest train station, have to wait another hour, by which time the number of passengers is more than double the capacity of the single bus.  Although we manage to get on, one confused passenger gets the driver to make a short detour to drop her off at a small village – she thought that was where she was going to get onto the train, but that was the wrong village.  By the time we get to our destination, we have missed the train!  Our bus driver is not allowed to go all the way to Glasgow, just 61kms away.  An hour later, another coach, with 4 fewer seats arrives.  Another zoo… and another free train ticket.  (But not when they have busses…) But what amazing luck we had – we saw all we wanted under beautiful skies.  A very special trip with my mum and sister (and Anthony).

Scotland is calling me back already!…

After Scotland, we spend a few days catching up with our niece and a few old friends in Kent.  We really enjoyed a community movie night organised by Anthony’s old college friend.  The number of volunteers involved and the services they provide such as driving people who are unable to drive themselves, the inclusion of two shorts around the theme of the movie, Green Book, and historical documents explaining what the “Negro’s Green Book” was about made for an inspiring and very enjoyable evening. 

Rusthall Community Cinema volunteers, Kent

Interesting historic documents add to the movie experience

Me picking the main prize – and my own number!!

Enjoyed watching my niece Camilla play netball

Time for a trip see family and friends in France too.  More new sights, lots of live music, lots of long walks and way too much food!! 

Old friends from uni time in Lille, here in Jonsac

Église St-Gervais-St-Protais, Jonsac

12th century graffiti, Église de Moings

12th century graffiti, Église de Moings

Église St-Martin de Chadenac

Notice the vending machine outside the boulangerie

Bought my first fresh baguette out of this machine

Sunrise on l’ile d’Yeu

Ile d’Yeu must have the largest concentration of old French cars

With my dad

Typical beach carpark, Ile d’Yeu

“I can save a life – respect me”

Ile d’Yeu at siesta time

Ile d’Yeu siesta time

Ile d’Yeu

Now it is time to return to Iceland, and get rid of all those extra kilos.  Let’s hope our new gloves are waterproof and warm or better still, that the waterproofing feature is not tested too much…

– Anne

18 comments on “Family, friends and free trains

  1. Great adventures, stories and photos (family, history and geography). How wonderful for you to have such experiences Continue to enjoy (and you better not sweat the small stuff – ha ha) 😊😊 Nola


  2. So sorry we missed the Scottish part of your trip. Despite the travel disruption you seem to have an amazing trip and created wonderful memories with your mum. Lovely photos … she’s an inspiration to us all xx


    • We were sorry you couldn’t make it – hopefully we’ll see you when we head your way again! Yes, mum is an inspiration to us all – quite amazing. We were glad we could share this time together. Xx


  3. Wow Anne and Anthony!!! The ups and downs of travelling but especially difficult with Ninety year olds! The scenery is magnificent. I hope you had a wonderful time with your Mum – so special Very special times☺️
    Look forward to your next adventures in Iceland. Stay safe. Best wishes Dave and Marianne xx


    • I think she did better than a lot of much younger folk – she is quite amazing! Very special times indeed. We are looking forward to some kinder weather in Iceland – fingers crossed!! Xx


  4. A great dialogue on the tour from north/wet to south/sunny – what a pleasure to travel with family. Thanks for the blog.

    PS . I am in UK early Nov would be great to catch up if you are around.


  5. Fabulous adventures as always Anne and Anthony !…..Great blog….thank you for allowing us into your travel life. Look forward to more Iceland stories soon !

    Best wishes and stay upright xoxo


  6. Funny reading above about standing upright : more or less the message I promised
    to write to myself after seeing some of the photos, ie ‘ remember in future to stand up straight ..


  7. What a lovely thing to be able to see both your parents and Deane in this holiday Anne. Gorgeous scenery AND blue skies. I can’t help thinking of you whilst we are here in the Red Centre Anne, it seems that every indigenous person has taken up the call to be an artist and there is a massive glut of art that I am sure you would be horrified to see. We have had to cut our holiday short as we received word on Sunday that Madge has only days to live. She was fine when we left but her bowel cancer has created a blockage. WE are heading back to Gin Gin via the Plenty Hwy tomorrow with Phill telling me, “It’ll be right.” Arrrggghhh!!!!! Until next time my lovely safe travels and love to you both.x x x


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