A different kind of travelogue. As an avid young traveller I often wondered what would it would be like when I got older, gathered commitments, created children and accrued debt. This is what it's like.
It is our last day in Scotland and I am not happy.
Scotland has been a treat, a real treat. It is not as if I didn’t know that it was beautiful here. It is not as if I hadn’t had a chance to come before. I used to ive in the UK. I visited many times but usually with a party in Glasgow in mind. There was a time when I went for a party in Dundee too.
All I need to say about that is that IRN BRU actually works quite well for a hangover but there are somethings that even IRN BRU cannot fix.
After driving around Skye and the Highlands we finally were rewarded a little decent scottish weather. That is; it rained.
We continued our journey but soon cut our losses. What’s the point in driving a really beautiful road when you cannot see the beauty. So the slightly expensive facility of having a car of our own came into its own. We changed our plans. Spent 10 minutes with the map and iPhone and let’s go to Inverary.
We would never have stopped there if not for the rain but I am so glad we did.
There was no room at the George Hotel but they found us a room out the back apologetically. (We had just spent a month in Vietnam and our ability to handle sub-optimal accommodations was rather enhanced.) It was a significant step down from the rest of the establishment but the whole experience was really positive. We just appreciated them going out of their way. And they charged us hardly anything.
A relieved LessBaggage Family had a place to sleep and we started to gathered our bags. Then we stopped gathering our bags.
The Loch Fyne Whisky Shop was calling us. It called me from across the road. The sign saying “Tasting” did anyway. I know little about Whisky. I tend to avoid the Scottish Whiskies and focus on Irish Whiskey, if I step out from the norm I tend to go rather far afield. Like Tasmania or Japan. A short education later my tummy was warm and a fine bottle of a Islay Whisky was in hand with my friend Chris in mind. There are many distilleries in Scotland. Drinking whisky is a fine end of evening activity but it doesn’t fit so well with driving or kids. I also find that after a few sips my palate is completely altered. Thus I have turned into a very little & not very often wee dram sipper. I am not an expensive guest if it’s whisky we are drinking.
The chap behind the counter was given the challenge of finding me something novel with a handful of fairly random adjectives and Voila! A bottle of Bruichladdich. A re-opened Islay distillery. In truth I didn’t appreciate it until I was by a fire in Donegal a few weeks later.
I associate whisky with walking now. If I go for a long multi-day walk I usually carry a very small bottle of whisky or whiskey. (I am just going to refer to it all as whiskey from now on because I am Irish.) I walk very light and I bring very little whiskey. I am not afraid to bring a fine example either. I may have it with a little cold mountain spring water or ice melt. If i am cold I may have it with a little warm water. It’s my whiskey and I will drink it the way I want to. I looked at the bottle in my hand and saw myself walking along atlantic beaches lashed by wind and rain beside my old friend. I resolved to make it so.
Feeling a little warmer inside it was time for a little walk around the town before some solid nutrition at The George.
It took me a little while to figure out what was odd about Inverary. The plan of the town, the nature of the buildings, the shape of the streets, they were all a little curious. There is a fantastic old iron sailing ship at the tidal stone walled harbour on Loch Fyne, a big spooky Gaol, several fine houses and Inns. It is an old new town. A new town conceptualised in 1749 by none other than William Adam just before his death and built over the following 50 years by son, John Adam, amongst others.
I do like new towns. I feel that there is something fantastic about naturally evolving settlements but also something fascinating about their counterpoint. Inverary is like a model town, the scale of everything fits. It is beautiful, unique, uniquely Scottish and in some ways carries the echo of Williams Adams style. (Which was usually rather exuberant.)
We ducked out of the drizzle and into the Snug at the George. There was a peat fire. There was laughing. There was a cozy corner.
We grabbed that. The kids tell me it was destiny.
The next morning we ate, we packed, we drove along the shores of Loch Lomond and past the urban edges of Glasgow. We skirted the Ayrshire Coast. And we reached Loch Ryan. Cairnryan.
I was going back to Ireland. I was bringing my children. It is never simple going back to Ireland.