It’s the morning after my last day at Kincardine Castle and I catch an early bus bound for Aberdeen from our tiny village. There, I’ll catch another bus to rendezvous with friends who have just arrived in Glasgow. I am so looking forward to seeing friends from home and venturing out to the rest of Scotland!
Glasgow is Scotland’s largest city, but with 600,000 inhabitants, it is small by international standards. There are few remaining examples of its gritty, industrial past, but fortunately much of the old architecture in Glasgow is still standing. The University of Glasgow is a glowing example. Founded in 1451, the university is the fourth oldest in the English speaking world. The campus in the west end of Glasgow was built in the Gothic Revival style and clad in the local blond sandstone. While strolling the campus, a sense of history and whispered reverence is apparent. After all, the oldest university in the United States, Harvard founded in 1636, is a youngster in comparison.
The Hunterian Museum is part of the University of Glasgow. We entered the museum and were pleasantly surprised by the size and quality of their collection. The museum features extensive displays relating to William Hunter and his collections: geology, ethnography, ancient Egypt, scientific instruments, coins and medals, and much more.
Just like the states, craft beer is having a moment right now in Scotland. With niche micro breweries and bigger companies getting in on the act, craft and cask beers and ales are bigger than ever and Glasgow bars haven’t been left behind. A plethora of craft beer pubs in Glasgow dish out pint loads of the kind of brews good enough to make a beer buff weep. Now I know this is the land of legendary Scotch Whisky, but I can’t stomach the stuff, so we are sampling the craft beers at every chance and haven’t been disappointed.
While Glasgow is thin on tourist sites, its residents are down to earth, helpful, and fun. Its public transportation is reliable and super easy to navigate. But now we head out of the city in our rental minivan (cursing the dreaded driving on the left side of the road) and head to Loch Lomond, Oban, and the Isle of Mull.
Loch Lomond is the largest loch in Scotland, and the largest fresh water lake on the island of Great Britain. Surrounded by beautiful scenery and the occasional village, it is part of Scotland’s first national park. By pure luck we were hungry for lunch just as we came upon the small village of Luss, situated on the western shore of the loch. A settlement has stood on this site since medieval times although much of the current village dates from the 18th and 19th centuries, having been developed to house workers from nearby slate quarries. With its pretty sandstone and slate cottages garlanded in multi-colored roses, and its tiny beach, Luss is the definition of charm.
Continuing north, we arrive in Oban in time for cocktails. Oban was just a small fishing and trading village until the steamers of the early Victorian era started arriving in ever greater numbers. It became the main point of departure for the Western Isles and a regular stopping-off point for the steamers linking Inverness with Glasgow. The town itself lies in a crescent that is defined by the hills surrounding Oban Bay. It is the bay that provided the best seafood chowder my companions and I have ever tasted….the chowder that is still the subject of conversation days later! Today Oban is a busy resort town filled with restaurants, pubs, quaint little shops, and B&Bs.
Day two in Oban is a rare sunny one and we hop the ferry for the Isle of Mull where we will visit Duart Castle. It’s a lonely little castle, perched upon a rocky cliff. You’ll see it standing guard if you take a ride on any ferry from Oban.
Duart was designed and built as an extravagant home for the highland Maclean clan during the 14th century, and was restored from ruins beginning in 1911. It’s presently privately owned, and still a part-time residence of the Macleans. Views from the castle grounds are worth the trip and free to all visitors. Entrance into the castle is £6 ($8) and depending on your point of view may or may not be worth it. There are several furnished rooms (more than we saw in most Scottish castles), but they are a mish mash of periods in history. Purists will not feel satisfied, but if you like castles and old things and are unconcerned about historical perfection, then go for it.
Readers of this blog will note that I don’t cover every minute and every site of my travels. I prefer to write about bits and pieces and make each post an easy read. I do, however, keep a personal journal with more detail. So if ever you have a question, or want to know more about a particular city or site, just post a comment here and I will respond as best I can.
Next up…Isle of Skye