Thursday, July 28, 2016

Exploring Scotland's West Coast

Exploring Scotland's West Coast - Title Graphic

There are many beautiful towns and villages the length and breadth of Scotland’s gorgeous Argyll and Bute region, along the nation’s west coast.  

The area has always been a popular area with visitors who are daring enough to brave the Rest and Be Thankful Road and head down the Kintyre peninsula to hop a ferry to one of the Inner Hebridean Islands, walk or cycle the Kintyre Way, or simply to drive along the endlessly winding coastal route down to Southend, Campbeltown or Machrihanish.  

The Rest and Be Thankful road is at the highest point of the A83 and is 803ft above sea level.  The road winds between Glen Croe and Glen Kinglas and offers some stunning views of the valley.  It’s not uncommon for the road to be impassable during bad weather, although a new relief road has been constructed to alleviate the pressure on main route    

I’ve driven it on too many occasions to recall while working for VisitScotland but, once you’re over it, the towns and villages all the way down the coast towards the tip of the peninsula are worth the trip.
My personal favourites for spending time are Inveraray, Tarbert and Machrihanish, which run from north to south along the peninsula.   

Inveraray is famous for its Castle, Jail and as the docking point for the Vital Spark ship, which was the setting for a popular comedy programme of the same name.   This will probably be entirely unfamiliar to if you’re not Scottish, but we loved it.  We might also be a *touch* biased, but don’t hold it against us.

Exploring Scotland's West Coast - Inverary

On the way into Inveraray, as you drive across the beautiful old bridge, you can’t help but be drawn in by the view of the town and harbour on your left hand side.  Unfortunately, a view of the Castle will be on your right hand side as you cross, and it can be a bit confusing to decide what to look at first.   You’ll become something akin to a meerkat as you glance furtively from side to side trying to get a good view of both.   Top Tip: Do try to also keep your eyes on the road.

Parking is in a pay and display car park in the centre of town, just next to the harbour, or you can park up and down the main street (if you can find a space).   I’m not one for reverse parking…or any kind of parking for that matter, so I tend to stick to the P&D for reasons of personal and public safety.

Exploring Scotland's West Coast - Inveraray
Loch Fyne
Inveraray Castle is the seat of Clan Campbell and the Dukes of Argyll and sits right of the shores of beautiful Loch Fyne.   The Jail is also nearby and both are fantastic attractions in their own right; as well as being very different (obviously!).    

Inveraray offers a lovely high street, filled with independent stores and some seriously good ice cream.   Allegedly.

The first time I stayed in Tarbert for work, I had a bedroom with a view out across the water and spend an inordinate amount of my time watching the CalMac ferry going backwards and forwards, dropping off and picking up passengers.  I should have been inspecting my B&B, but the view was far more interesting than checking for mars bar wrappers under my bed.   

Tarbert, like Inverary, is in a beautiful setting.   Its harbour is filled with anchored boats, gently floating on the water, and there are some great walks around the town that offer the chance to make the most of the scenic views.

Exploring Scotland's West Coast - Tarbert

Tarbert is famous for its herring (and other) fishing history and is the gateway for access to the Inner Hebridean Islands and the Mull of Kintyre.  The town sits between East Loch Tarbert and West Loch Tarbert, which are inlets of Loch Fyne.  

Like Inveraray, Tarbert also boast a Castle; although the two couldn't be more different  Whilst Inverary is grand and imposing, Tarbert's is pretty much a ruin sitting atop a hill.

However, taking the time to climb the steps and wander across the hill is well worth it for the views alone; even if the ruins of the 13th Century Royal castle might not be much to look at on their own.   

Exploring Scotland's West Coast - Tarbert
Tarbert Castle might not be much to see, but the views from the hill are spectacular.
Tarbert is also famous for its seafood and shellfish and this is served fresh from the water at many of the lovely local eateries.

One of my favourite spots is the Tarbert Hotel which, as well as its fresh seafood, also has a 
great menu for kids, as well as a host of more unusual whiskies.   Which are absolutely not for kids.

The Starfish Restaurant on Castle Street does a mean 'Starfish Platter', which consists of a range of daily caught delights, including oysters, crab, langoustine, and lobster which can be enjoyed with their homemade bread and chilled wine.

Just a few miles out of the town lies the impressive Stonefield Castle Hotel, which boasts 60 acres of manicured gardens, famous for their impressive array of Himalayan Rhododendrons and other exotic and rare shrubs.

Mach is a small village near the very northern tip of the Mull of Kintyre and is largely famous for its quality links golf courses.    

In 1905, a 400ft mast was built on the shores of Machrihanish Beach, which was used to make the very first radio transmission across the Atlantic.    On January 1st 1906, messages were sent and received between Machrihanish and Brant Rock in Massachusetts in the US.   Not a bad claim to fame for such a little town.

The beach in the town runs for 5 miles and is beautifully clean with sparkling blue waters, which makes the location one of Scotland's most popular surfing destinations.  I'm guessing the exposed location and the wind (It is Scottish, after all) will be of major assistance in this regard.

Exploring Scotland's West Coast - Machrihanish
Fairly calm...for Scotland 
As odd as it may seem, you can actually hop a flight to Mach from Glasgow Airport on a FlyBe jet.    The airport, which is on the outskirts of town, was previously used as an RAF base.   It's a great idea, as it's a hugely long drive otherwise.   However, the scenery is spectacular.

Visitors are also very fond of the purpose built wildlife reserve at Uisaed Point.    The all weather viewing area allows for year round sea watching and spotting of some of Scotland's cutest beasties, including seals and otters.    Also: watch out for the feral goats.  They're not that friendly, although very interesting to watch from a safe distance.

Exploring Scotland's West Coast - Machrihanish
Soooo adorable

What are your favourite places on Scotland's  beautiful West Coast?

Suzanne x

Sunday, July 10, 2016

5 Types of People You Encounter on Every Flight

Having recently travelled to Italy and back, and being largely bored on my flight, I got to looking around the cabin and realising that I see the same people on every flight; irrespective of class, duration or carrier.   

That got me putting them into categories....and that led to me writing this when I was absolutely sure that no one was looking over my shoulder, ready to give me a good slap in the face.  

These are my five classes of flyers.     I come under Category 4.    Just in case you were wondering.    

The Uncontrollable Child:
I seem to have the uncanny knack of booking myself into a seat directly in front of or behind the World’s Crankiest Child.     I am that person who has disciplined someone’s child at 30,000ft.       I don’t do it lightly, though; but if I pay for a flight, I’m not content to sit for 4 hours with your brat of a child kicking the back of my seat at two second intervals just because you have no control over them.   You don’t control them; I will.   

Don’t get me wrong – I like children…particularly the ones who bring doggie toys on their flights.   How can children that like puppies possibly turn into anything but wonderful adults*?  Exactly.      What I hate are children who make so much noise (that their worn out parents can clearly hear) and are left to get on with it.

Before you ask; yes, I have travelled on numerous occasions with a young child.   I have a stepson who is 16 and, for a lot of those years, he wasn’t (obviously).  He was regularly strapped into a seat on a flight as a 2-10 year old and instructed to behave.   And he did.

The only exception to my rule is sick babies.     When a baby starts to scream on a flight, everyone on board is pretty much screwed.  You can’t reason with babies.   You can’t offer to pay for extortionately priced Pringles and a Capri Sun in the hope that they’ll shut up.    You can’t bribe a baby.   Babies are too smart for that shit.     And the parents of crying, flying babies are all legends.

The parents of bratty, ill mannered, screaming 5 year olds?  Not so much.  

*Michael Vick is the obvious exception to this.  

5 Types of People You Encounter on Every Flight
Make it stop.   I beg you.  Make it stop. 

The Stiletto Wearing Bleached Blondes:
Lord knows, I like a pair of heels.     I’m definitely not a fan of bleach, though, but my hair is already blonde, so that might well account for that. 

I don’t mind getting dressed up every so often, if I’m going on a night out, or for dinner with Les, or even just if I’m feeling a bit low and know that a nice dress and good shoes will lift my mood.

I have NEVER, however, got dolled up to sit in an airport.    My airport wear is strictly stretchy pants, t-shirt and hoody.     My footwear?  Flip flops (if I’m heading somewhere I know will be hot), or comfy flats for any other destination.  

Wearing fitted stuff and high heels is a no go for me.    I need to be comfortable on a flight and, luckily, I don’t give a toss about what anyone else thinks of this. 

I can think of little worse that hanging around the airport lounge in a strappy dress and heels waiting to walk up those metal plane stairs, where it’ll almost definitely be windy enough to throw my dress up round my neck and show people my tan lines.      Or lack of, if it’s the outward leg. 

I have similar feelings about make up.    What’s the point?   All I’m going to do is sit bolt upright on a largely uncomfortable seat and while the hours away, wondering why anyone in their right minds would pay €4 for a quarter tube of Cheese and Sour Cream Pringles.     And then I remember: Bratty Children.

I recently got stuck behind a girl at Liverpool John Lennon who looked as if she was headed on a posh night out.    Alas, no…she headed straight to the airside Wetherspoons in 6-inch heels, a silky cat suit, and more jewelry and makeup that I own.      If she still looks that good after spending 3 hours on a Ryanair flight to Alicante and then tottering up a cobbled street on the way to her hotel, then I want to know how she did it.   And I want her barred from returning to the UK.

5 Types of People You Encounter on Every Flight
Who has this much time?    I'm doing well if I wash my hair before heading to the airport.  
The Arm Rest Hogger:
As I said before, I fly because I have to.    I’m not a strong enough swimmer to make it to Italy without the aid of a lifeboat of five, so it’s really the only way to see the places I want to see.

Although I’ve travelled frequently over the years, there’s one person I hate on a flight.     Yes…it’s the Arm Rest Hogger.  

This is the stranger you end up next to when you’re wedged in the middle seat between the single hippie and someone from a hen/stag party.     This is the person with whom you spend your entire flight locked in a fierce battle of wills.

There is an unwritten rule (in my head) that means everyone should have one arm rest each, with the exception of the person in the window or aisle seat.   No one, but NO ONE deserves to have All Of The Armrests.    

All passengers should claim the armrest to their left, or right, leaving the person at the window or aisle with the fabulously thrilling prospect of being able to lay both elbows down without fear of repercussion.  

Being the only person in the row with two armrests is one of the many joys of being alive.     And, as such, it should be treasured with the proper amount of gratitude and offer of drinks for the person next to you.   

Taking up two armrests when you’re in the middle seat just makes you mean.    And selfish.    And deserving of me immediately stealing the second one the INSTANT you move; go for something from your bag; summon the hostess; and/or visit the toilet.   I didn’t even *want* two armrests, but it’s suddenly become my goal in life.

5 Types of People You Encounter on Every Flight
Yeah, I'm just gonna stretch riiiiiiiiight out here beside you and invade your personal space, strange human I've never met before. 
The Quite No Toileters:
I am the shy, awkward traveller that falls into this category.   I refuse to move out of my seat to visit the toilet on ANY flight, unless there is a medical emergency.    I always pop to the loo before I board and I won’t drink on a flight unless I am actually seated right outside the facilities.

If I’m, say…seated near the front in Row 12A, and it’s an 11 row walk to the toilet, I will be the one with the crossed legs who is desperate to disembark first.      If I’m half way between the front and the back facilities, I simply can’t deal with the calculations and will stay put.     

If I’m in the middle or window seat, regardless of where I’m sat, I will not move.    I’m not entirely sure whether this comes from, but I’m guessing from many years getting up and down out of my seat to let people past.     I will only ever venture to the toilet if the following conditions are met:

·      * It’s not more than a few feet away; I’m at the end of an aisle and it’s vacant.
·      * I have a urinary tract infection.  

I swear I become camel like on a flight.  I retain all of my liquid until it actually causes my physical discomfort.  I’m not entirely sure why I’m like this, but it’s been going on for years, so it’s unlikely to change any time soon.    Until, of course, I am pretty old and simply cannot exist for an hour without a toilet break.   Alternatively, I might just buy those Tena lady things that I keep seeing on TV.   Actually, I might buy them now.

5 Types of People You Encounter on Every Flight
Even if I knew the plane bathroom looked like this, I still wouldn't go.   
The Clappers:
I understand that people are thrilled to be landing safely, despite being on the one of the safest modes of transport, but what I can’t deal with is people who actually clap on landing.

WHAF, people?    That’s like Les clapping when I deposit us in the Tesco car park in one piece in my little Toyota.    In fact, let’s not go down that particular road, as I’m fairly certain he might have done that once or twice.

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that I don’t like you.   I don’t get it.  Were you worried that our pilot was so bad that she/he wouldn’t make it?   If so, what the HELL are you doing on the flight in the first place?   Seriously.  

I have NEVER clapped when I’ve arrived anywhere by train, bus, tram, on foot (because obviously) or airplane, simply because I trust that the person in charge of my mode of transport has at very least passed their theory test.    If I was your pilot, I’d be raging if you clapped when I executed a textbook landing as if you didn’t think I had it in me.  

I know that you’re flying and it’s in the sky and an accident/crash will likely lessen your chances of breathing again, but really, people; show some self respect.


5 Types of People You Encounter on Every Flight
Seriously.   Clap when your football team scores; when your favourite band play your song...anything but when your flight does what you expected it to in the first place:  land in one piece.  
* Unless you land on the Hudson and every passenger makes it out alive in some sort of miracle landing after your engines have been taken out by birds.     If that happens, knock yourself out.

Do you have anyone else to add to the list of people you find on flights?   I was going to include the harsh judgmental woman in seat 3A, but I think we’ve already established her existence.   

Suzanne x 

Thursday, July 07, 2016

The Travel Bug's 3 Fascinating Facts About Buckfast (the town...not the drink)

TTB Fascinating Facts About Buckfast

TTB has been holidaying in the south of England; spending time in and around the beautiful Devonshire coast.  While he was there, he asked his humans if they would take him to Buckfast so he could get drunk check out the Abbey.

While exploring the town, these are some of the fascinating facts he picked up:

  • Buckfastleigh is a small market town in Devon in England and is mostly famous for the fortified wine which is produced at the Abbey.     Buckfast is now sold throughout the UK and is particularly popular in The Travel Bug's home nation of Scotland.   Neither TTB or his Scottish humans have any idea why.  

  • Buckfastleigh is the longest town name in the United Kingdom to have no repeated letters!   Unfortunately, TTB can't say the same about his new home town of Dyffryn.     He lives in Wales and if you don't live in a town with repeated letters, you're clearly not living your best life.   

  • Brook House, to the west of the town, carries with it the legend of the death of the Lord of the Manor of Brook, Richard Cabell.  On the night of Cabell's death, it was reported that large, fire eating dogs were seen galloping across nearby Dartmoor.   This is where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle took the inspiration for his famous Sherlock Holmes novel: 'The Hounds of The Baskervilles'.     TTB loves dogs, but he's doesn't want to be visited by any that breathe fire.    

Do you have any fascinating facts about Buckfast to share with The Travel Bug?