In August, my sisters decided to surprise me with a visit. It wasn’t entirely a surprise, they told me a week before arriving, but it hadn’t been something we discussed and I hadn’t seen them in two years so, yeah, surprised and happy all in one. They arrived on Thursday afternoon, a bit later than planned due to the connecting flight from Amsterdam being late. Not to mention the airline lost half the luggage. Thankfully my sisters are about the same size (to each other, not to me) so were able to share, plus there was the stuff we keep here and I had toothbrushes and other stuff in stock.
They arrived, they doled out some hugs (and gifts) and then they both schlepped off to bed to nap for a few hours leaving me to entertain myself with my new stuff. I, of course, had to snap a photo of them sleeping but I love them (and value my life) so I won’t post that one. Once awake we decided to walk to asda and pick up some groceries and then have a quiet night in.
On Friday, my sisters walked across the river to pick up the rental car, and then we walked to McPhabbs in the West End for their obligatory UK fish-n-chips. We dined al fresco, in the gorgeous summer sun, which was the best part of the meal. As usual, I really liked my chicken panini, unfortunately there was a lot left to be desired with their meals. Yellow fish/chips and no tarter sauce. So wrong. A bit disappointed, we left there and began strolling towards city centre but quickly veered off course to fortify ourselves with mucho necessary alcoholic beverages. We noticed the Black Sparrow had an outdoor beer garden so with drinks clutched tightly in our hands we went first down a set of stairs, then crossed a dark and damp den of iniquity through to another door and up a narrow set of stairs to a small exterior patch where we managed to snag ourselves the last available seats.
At one point, just before I noticed the skin was starting to bubble on my back (not really, but damn, I was too hot in my black long-sleeved top) I looked down to see the beer reflecting on my sister’s arm like some sort of wild tattoo.
Unable to bear the heat any longer (me, not them), we continued our journey towards town only slighly hampered by my incessant NEED to photograph everything. This one shows the Charing Cross Mansions reflected in the windows of the Tay House.
On Saturday we packed a bag, booked a ferry and a B&B, loaded up the car and headed North. Barely half a mile down the road my phone rings and it’s the driver from the airport, telling me he was outside my flat with the lost luggage. Hurrah. We turned around, had the driver toss the bag in the boot, and then off we went in search of a Starbucks. After bowing deeply with gratitude to the Coffee Gods, we dashed into M&S to pick up some food for the trip and were once again on our way to the Scottish Highlands.
Our main destination was Bidean nam Bian, or more precisely, the Three Sisters of Glen Coe. I’d suggested this as a place for the three of us to say our final farewell to our Grandmother (get it, three sisters?). For the past few years she’s been ‘resting’ in a lovely wee pot on my bookcase (a very pretty pot my sister’d brought me from Provence) as the last time we attempted this in 2009, it was absolutely bucketing down and had we even attempted it G’ma would have just been turned to paste and been plastered all over us. Eww. The journey up was gorgeous, and even though we had a late start and a spot of traffic, we still arrived with plenty of time to enjoy the view. The visitor centre up there was a terrific place to stop, check out the view, use the loo, and also pick up a couple of odd souvenirs. We then drove back to the car park where each of us gathered up our own camera gear (I grabbed G’ma) and then we headed off down the hill to the river.
This is a photo-stitched panorama of Bidean nam Bian mountain in Glencoe, with the Three Sisters: Beinn Fhada (Long Hill), Gearr Aonach (Short Ridge) and Aonach Dubh (Black Ridge). The Hidden Valley, leading up to Stob Coire nan Lochan, is in the middle of the two ‘Aonachs’. In the 2nd photo, towards the bottom right of the riverbed, those two bright specks are my sisters.
Leaving there we continued on to see Glenfinnan and the Monument – something I’d only ever seen from the train or in pictures. The Glenfinnan Monument, designed by Scottish architect James Gillespie Graham, is a 59 foot (18 meter) high column topped with a statue of “The Unknown Highlander” in a kilt.
The Glenfinnan Monument sits at Loch Shiel. Some of you may recognize this as the Hogwarts Lake (The Black Lake) in the Harry Potter series, as well as the “birthplace” of both Duncan and Connor MacLeod from the Highlander series.
At this point it was getting late and we still had to drive another 40 minutes further to our B&B. We arrived in Morar around half 7, which is when I noticed I’d forgotten to bring the directions to the Garramore House. We finally stopped and phoned the landlord for help, and arrived just about 8pm. We quickly popped in to grab the key before we drove into Mallaig for our supper and when we came back outside Quilly, an Indian Peacock, was on top of the car. Unfortunately, the camera was inside the bloody car so I had to wait until morning for a couple of shots. Now, if only someone wasn’t so sleepy they forgot to change the settings on the camera…
Small towns are such we had to dash to Mallaig if we wanted to get something to eat before everything closed. Supper was good, and I was highly anticipating the sunset shots I was certain we were going to get over the white sandy beaches of Morar. Alas, the sun went down a lot earlier than I was expecting and so it was nearly dark when we got back to the B&B. I received more presents (they’d been packed in the missing suitcase), one sister showered and the other started work (she’s an accountant) and I promptly fell asleep.
I arose early, had a wander around the grounds, took a few photos of the peacock(s) and then went inside to shower. We went down to breakfast, where I saw for the first time ever two peahens and two peachicks. Super cool. Breakfast done, we loaded up the car and drove back to Mallaig to catch the ferry across to Armadale on the Isle of Skye. This is Mallaig Pier and “Fisherman and Child” by Mark Rogers (2006), taken from aboard the ferry.
One thing we noticed on the journey, is there were A LOT of fucking tourists and so revising our original plan, we decided to scoot off the ferry first thing and make a bee-line for the Eilean Donan Castle. One sister had never seen it and it would have been a shame to have been this close (again) and not see it. I was so excited because after 12 years, I finally got to see Eilean Donan Castle with a BLUE SKY.
After an hour in the gift shop, we opted to take the driving route back home, stopping along the way if it suited us. Once past the main traffic snarl (road construction), we stopped in Luss for a quick wander and a bite to eat. I was so happy they finally got to see one of my favorite places to visit. Most times I’m there is during winter months, so it was a pleasant surprise to see all the flowers in bloom. This has been an incredible year for me getting photos of Hydrangeas. Either this was a crackin’ year for the blossoms, or I’m just becoming more aware of my surrounding. I suspect the latter.
Wandering in the cemetery at Luss Church, I saw this man sitting on the steps outside the gate and asked if I could take a photo. This is basically what we were looking at, and what he was painting (except he was below the cemetery)
On Monday we faffed about the flat and then went to city centre for dinner and a movie.
It started to rain just as we neared the theatre, so it was quick work settling on a place to eat. As we were going to Magic Mike, my sister didn’t think the fancy French restaurant was appropriate hence we found ourselves dining at the Walkabout. The food was pretty good and the service was provided by someone both adorable and cheeky. As we dined we discussed my business ideas, and market stall plans, and then we headed next door to watch some pretty boys dance. Yowza.
On Tuesday, unsure what the day would bring, my sisters and I left behind a dark and drizzling Glasgow and drove over to Fairlie, Ayrshire. We were immensely pleased to find warmth and sun at the Kelburn Castle & Country Park Estate and spent the rest of the afternoon photographing the castle, birds at the Falconry Centre, and wandering through the Glen. We still only managed to see just a fraction of the estate. Here we have the Graffiti Castle, a Western Barn Owl, a 1000 Year Old Yew, and the entrance to the Plaisance (a pleasant place) – a walled garden created in 1765.
After spending the afternoon at the Kelburn Estate, my sisters and I headed into Largs for supper. The lady at the Geraldo’s window recommended the Bean & Leaf, so we ate our meal there and then afterwards stopped back at Geraldo’s and each got some luxury ice cream to enjoy while we strolled back to the car. Every single bit of it was good – the company, the day, the weather, the food, the views… this is a stitched panorama of Largs Harbour.
For their final day here, we wandered around the shops in city centre, snacked and drank in various establishments, and then headed back home to plop down in front of the tele and watch a couple flicks. It was such a good visit, alas over way too quickly (sigh).