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Well, by this time it's almost the middle of May, been gone 3 weeks and getting a little home sick. Still enjoying myself tho, and now get to fulfill my childhood dream of visiting Scotland! Left New Lanark, driving toward next nights stay in Lochgilphead; getting very comfortable driving on left, so I risk turning the radio on. Hadn't before because of intense focus on driving. And what do I hear but Johnny Cash-how American get you get! Eventually I found the Gaelic BBC station. Driving through Glasgow early this Saturday morning presents no problem, very well signed and easy to navigate through. Had planned to stop along Loch Lomond for breakfast but couldn't find anything open that early-was a pretty drive none the less. Saw a sheep stuck in a guardrail, stopped the car and that scared her so bad she struggled her way free! First real stop of the day is Inveraray, had breakfast at the Argyll Hotel, very good but 10 GBP. Then walked about the town a bit, stopping at a bench along the loch-another beautiful day.
Toured the Inveraray Jail, very interesting. The courtroom is quite hokey, just nod your head as you enter. Sounds like prison reforms went into effect around the 1840s, but sentences still seem excessive, e.g. 7 years for stealing a silver watch! Folks were so poor that they were often better off in jail anyway, but sometimes they were just deported for a number of years.
Then drove on down the Kintyre peninsula, scenic country. Stopped at Auchindrain Township; what a fantastic insight into tenancy living in the old days! Can't stress enough how much I enjoyed this site-fabulous old farm equipment with explanations of farming practices, and drystone buildings that people shared with the livestock living on one end. The last tenant was there into the 20th century. Different homes had period furniture, it looked as if they had just stepped out to do the chores. But the highlight for me was a mid-18th century hand loom, made partially from driftwood. I mean, what a treasure-looked like it would still function - shades of Silas Marner!
Then on to Kilmartin and the museum there; good displays on prehistoric times, excellent timeline relating glaciers/weather patterns, sea levels, plants and animals with what people were doing (1st wheel, 1st farming, monument building etc.) from 20,000 BC to present. The museum is right next to extensive standing stones; you can walk about a mile or so and see many. Then backtracked a few miles to Lochgilphead and checked into B&B, then went to a co-op for picnic supplies. Drove back in the direction of Kilmartin to visit some more standing stones and ate, sitting on ancient stones nestled in a carpet of bluebells and other wildflowers, giant old oaks towering above-idyllic.
Couple miles down the road is Fort Dunadd, an Iron Age fort where it's believed that the 1st king of Scotland was crowned and the Stone of Scone used to rest. There is a cup and footprint carved into the rock here; yep, my foot fit perfectly. Panoramic view from the top of the loch and pastures, with sea gulls flying below me, and the sun going down. Must have sat up there for an hour just loving it all, finally someone else showed up and I left to let him enjoy it himself.
The most American motel-looking place of the whole trip! Located on street right behind the Tourist Info Center, so off of the main road. Large room, large bed, only 30 GBP including excellent full breakfast. Kinda nice to be reminded of home again at this point! Spotlessly clean and comfortable, helpful and friendly hosts...wish I could have stayed a week.
Next day drove the long way to Oban, along Loch Awe, more pretty mountain country and my first single track road in the UK, kinda fun! Did stop and pick an early blooming rhododendron for the car and my room later. That's my state flower so felt a bit entitled, tho probably not supposed to!
Stopped to visit this beautiful and interesting 13th century ruin, also adjacent chapel.
Next stopped at the Sea Life Center, where they handle wildlife rescues. Admission is a BIT pricey (I think adult 10 GBP?) but certainly for a good cause. Fantastic tanks set up with different large and small creatures. One young shark came up out of the water at me! The rays look otherworldly. Learned that there are reefs in this corner of the world, kinda like coral reefs, built by "tube worms," I'd never seen anything like that before-very special little environment. There are 2 elderly fulltime resident seals who live there as well as two North American otters, watched them all being fed by staff, who tell you all about them. Walked the little nature trail there and I'm happy to say the tidepools were teeming with life.
After all that went to hotel in Connel, near Oban, interesting big Victorian affair, beautifully decorated - nice room. Bistro on site, had dinner (great food at reasonable cost) and drink and went for a walk in the garden, and down to look at the Falls of Lora there on Loch Etive. Back for another drink and went on into Oban to find the pier and parking for morning ferry/daytrip, don't want to be late and miss the boat! Oban looks like a bustling seaside resort town.
The next day my luck with the weather was changing, bit of rain and wind. Took the "3-Isle Daytour" offered by CalMac Ferry and Bowman Coach Tours (42 GBP). The 3 islands are Mull, Staffa and Iona. On the ferry met a couple, she was from US, he was from Canada; had a nice visit. At one point she said something like, "if not for courage of the fearless crew," and before you know it we were looking at each other quite seriously, reciting the words to the theme song of "Gilligan's Island," her husband looking at us strangely! Guess it's only an American show- just cracked me up anyway! Turned out to be a really good day, despite intermittent rain. The bus driver made many interesting comments while driving across the Isle of Mull. Met a young S. African doctor on the bus, and had another nice visit. Isle of Staffa, where Fingal's Cave is, was VERY windy, had the slightest touch of sea sickness on arrival there, tho the crew said there was little swell that day. Iona was fascinating as well, at the ancient Abbey some volunteers were serving tea and cakes, had a good visit with a lady who was volunteering there for, I think 6 weeks, how fun would that be! Then back to the hotel by 8 PM or so for another good dinner.
Better weather this day, especially once away from the west coast. Drove around Glen Coe, enjoying the scenery, then on up the Great Glen. Detoured to Glen Affric nature reserve, just lovely, still snow on distant hilltops. Lots of small fry rising, picked up a piece of mica and an agate. Hardly anyone around, just walked about a bit and sat on a rock for a while, the sun popping in and out. Really reminds me of home!
Rest of the day a bit dull, stopped in Beauly and washed laundry again, had fish and chips while doing that. Drove on to Tain and to B&B, checked in, again very nice place. Walked around town, stopped and bought a paperback book, sewed up my pants because I've lot so much weight, from all the walking. (yeeaa!) Up early in the AM for drive/ferry to Orkney.