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.
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.
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!!
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 couple more days in Oban for shorter day trips.
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.
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!!
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…