UK 2019: Glasgow & Arran

Pictures from this part of the trip can be found in the Scotland gallery.

Day 1: Friday May 17 and Saturday May 18

We left work early (OK, Ken left early and Julie left a little early), got dinner, then went to the airport. The flight to Amsterdam was uneventful, although neither of us got much sleep. Ken spent a lot of time sitting on his tailbone, and it was sore for most of the trip. We had a few hours in Amsterdam where we walked around the airport looking for gluten-free food in the International terminal, and we eventually found Jamie's Deli (i.e. Jamie Oliver). The food was quite good. (Julie would have recommended Leon in the domestic terminal.) We caught our flight to Glasgow and slept much of it.

We rented a car at the Glasgow Airport for the first time, and as expected, driving in the UK is a baptism by fire. Ken had learned to drive on the left five years ago on a previous UK trip, and it came back pretty quickly. We also had a GPS courtesy of our Google Pixel phones, which was hugely beneficial at times during the trip. We tended to navigate via our paper map over long distances, and use the GPS when we were looking for a particular place in a city like a hotel.

We were excited to see Aunt Morag again — the 3rd time in 5 years, since we've had several trips in Scotland. She's always refused to admit her age, but her daughter & granddaughter photobombed her recent birthday picture with a big "95" sign. So the secret's out! We went to Garvie & Co in the village for dinner, and we enjoyed it. Morag invited us up for tea afterwards, but by then we were ready to crash. We rented the guest room at her apartment building to sleep — much easier than a hotel.

Day 2: Sunday May 19

Morag said we could have breakfast anytime after 9am, so we set the alarm for 9am and managed to sleep until then! We met her at her apartment around 9:30am, and we hung out at her apartment and chatted for much of the day. The time flew by. We took her grocery shopping, followed by a late lunch back at her apartment. Eventually, by late afternoon, it was time to leave for Ardrossan, which is about an hour from Glasgow. More accurate, it should have been an hour but we took several wrong turns getting out of Glasgow and ended up on tiny streets near the downtown area. Eventually, we took the correct turn and were on the highway.

We stayed the Edenmore Ardrossan and had dinner at Jaipur Indian Restaurant at the hotel proprietor's suggestion. It was the best Indian food we had the whole trip. We've realized that Indian restaurants in the UK are kind of like Mexican restaurants in the US — they're in every town, and it's the safest gluten free option. We also walked around the harbor area and found the ferry car park and also the local castle on top of a hill with a nice view of the city.

Day 3: Monday May 20

We took the 8:20am ferry to Brodick, Isle of Arran, where we were picked up by our friend Tom, whom we met at a sailing class five years ago. We were hoping to sail on his boat, but it was out of the water back in Ardrossan waiting on engine repairs. We drove across the island to his house in Pirnmill. Tom's parents built the house as a retirement home, and he's spent the last few years fixing up the place after they passed away. He thinks his sister will buy the place and move there as a retirement home, while Tom is plotting an extended sailing / driving trip in France.

Ken definitely appreciated driving around the UK with a local, because he was able to observe Tom's driving habits, such as crossing the middle line as needed to get around obstacles.

We went for a walk out of Blackwaterfoot during the afternoon along the seashore, then up the cliffs and back through sheep pastures and through the local golf course back to our car. Tom cooked his version of chili for dinner. Tom was used to a lot of fresh air, so he kept the heat off and the windows open even though it was 60s during the day and 50s at night. It felt a little like camping! We were happy to have a heated mattress pad on our bed.

Day 4: Tuesday May 21

We went for a driving tour of Arran. We first stopped at Lochranza, which we had visited as part of our sailing class five years ago. We looked at the marina and the local (abandoned) castle. We were rather amazed by the number of cyclists in this area. Arran is billed as a good cycling area because of relatively low traffic. The roads are very narrow and hilly, so it is not for the faint of heart. Most roads are narrower than county roads in the US, so the cyclist has to be on the road and assume the cars will move into oncoming traffic to pass. We realized that if we ever take a cycling tour vacation, we need to have a frank conversation with the tour operator about what kind of roads to expect.

We continued around the island and saw the boatyard at Lamlash and the view of the Holy Isle, which is a Buddhist monastery. We went for a walk along the seashore near Kildonan. The main road was closed, so we had to go down the cliff on an insane gravel road to get to the starting point. Fortunately, we were able to take the longer way back up the cliff later. The area is a favorite resting place for seals, and we also saw the Pladda Lighthouse. We stopped at the cycling-themed Velo Cafe in Lagg for lunch. They had a soup-and-sandwich special, which meant that Ken got to eat soup and some meat from Julie's sandwich for lunch. At least the soup was excellent. We had dinner at The Lighthouse restaurant in Prinmill, within walking distance of Tom's house.

Day 5: Wednesday May 22

Our final day on Arran — Julie suggested doing a hike near the Machrie Moor Standing Stones, which she had seen signs for earlier in the trip. We walked through an abandoned farm (because the landowner decided to not renew the lease) which was being used as a sheep pasture. Julie tried to make friends with some lambs, but they didn't want to get too close. We walked to several sets of standing stones and had great views of the countryside.

We then drove back through the island to Brodick where Tom suggested getting lunch at the local golf club. Ken had "nacho chips" and added bacon and jalapenos, forgetting that chips and bacon are both different things in the UK. It was basically french fries with melted cheese, smoky ham, and jalapenos — pretty good!

We then went to the Glen Rosa valley for some more hiking. It was also very beautiful. Julie spotted a large rodent in the water near some bushes — perhaps an otter? They had fenced off part of the area, and you could definitely see how much effect the sheep have on the landscape, because that was the only area with trees and tall grass. We returned to the car and went to the Brodick ferry port.

After arriving back on the mainland, we drove a little way to Kilmarnock where we stayed at the TraveLodge. We didn't turn on the GPS right away, and it took us a little while to find the place, which happened to be right off the main road (but we had already turned into the town before that). When we got there, something in the room caused both of us to end up with scratching throats, watering eyes, and stuffed noses. With some allergy medicine, we made it through the night.