Monday 26 September

The sun is shining as we catch the train into Glasgow for the day and the first thing we do when we arrive is find a Costa for a nice soy latte which we haven't been able to get for weeks.

We decided to do the HOHO bus as Glasgow is much larger then Edinburgh, and we're very glad we did. With 24 stops, the trip takes almost 2 hours with commentary by Scottish archaeologist Neil Oliver. Luckily his accent isn't too broad. Bill had previously visited Glasgow on business, and done the HOHO but there have been several additions to the city since then.

Glasgow is set on the banks of the River Clyde and was once the world's largest ship building port. Sadly it has lost that title completely, but it will host the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

There are many great buildings as evidence of the City's earlier glory (like the Glasgow University above), and it's more recent resurgence (the Glasgow Science Centre, and Glasgow Tower).

Amazingly all council run museums are free, even the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, recently re-opened after extensive, multi-million pound renovations. We wondered if this might have something to do with why the economy is so glum?!

When the bus arrived at the Glasgow Riverside Museum (full of every kind of transport machinery imaginable) we wondered why the carpark was so full on a Monday. It turns out this is a long week-end since last Friday until Tuesday. That explains why the Glasgow City Chambers (council building) was closed.

Most of everything else is open however and after lunch we walked back to the Glasgow Cathedral, first built in 1136, destroyed in 1192 and rebuilt soon after but not completed until the late 15th century. It is dedicated to the city's reputed 6th century founder, Christian missionary Kentigern, later known as St Mungo.

We aren't sure whether this is still a working Cathedral as the rear pews have all been removed and replaced by several stalls filled with merchandise for sale. To access the choir stalls at the front you pass through an original wooden archway from the Middle Ages which is absolutely impressive. A door in the northeastern corner leads to the sacristy where Glasgow's university was founded over 500 years ago and where bullet holes can still be seen in this door as evidence of past unrest from centuries ago.

There is an entire second floor underground which not only houses the crypt containing the remains of St Mungo but also several altars and some sandstone pieces under restoration.

This is a very beautiful Cathedral with magnificent stained glass windows and some of the first examples of ceiling bosses. The exterior is about to get a good clean which will brighten the sandstone no end. We really enjoyed this visit.

The last thing for the day was to visit the City of the Dead – the Glasgow Necropolis – located up on the hill behind the Cathedral.

There is a multitude of gravestones large and small in various states of disrepair scattered on this highest point in the city, giving magnificent views below. The 3500 graves belong to the well to do of Scottish society dating from 1833 when the Necropolis was opened.  The dead have a great view.

That was enough for the day so we caught the train home but plan to return tomorrow when the weather is still supposed to be sunny and warmer.

Tuesday 27 September

The weather bureau got it wrong as it's raining again but we head back to the city for more of a look.

We took the HOHO to the Riverside Museum opened in June this year and containing examples of any and all types of transportation machinery you can imagine. All these brilliant feats of engineering from horse drawn trams and the earliest cars and motor cycles and all so well preserved plus loads of intricately detailed models of ships of all kinds.

After riding on the oldest electrical tram in the world in Budapest, it was great to see the world's first cable tram system here in Glasgow. It would have run very quietly and been very environmentally friendly with only the driver's speed and strength required to catch the hooks on the cable system to stop the tram and let it go to restart.

The weather was still gloomy but Sylvi really wanted to see the Botanical Gardens so we got back on the HOHO to get there. 

The Fern House was great and also contained trees and plants from Australia and New Zealand to name a few. And the fascinating Killer Plant House had so many tubular type fly catchers plus a small section of Venus Fly Traps.

There are lots of paths to wander and more glass houses to explore but we just did a quick loop amongst the trees with autumn colours, huge bushes of holly and several playful squirrels looking for nuts.

If the weather had been brighter we might have spent longer but we hopped back on the HOHO for a ride to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. This is a huge building that looks like it was once an entire school. With the recent millions of pounds invested in renovations the interior is pristine. The beautifully adorned ceilings are in themselves a work of art.

You could spend the entire day wandering from room to room, there is so much to see, but as it was already late afternoon we decided to definitely see two exhibits – the AC/DC exhibition (bizarre we know) and a painting by Salvador Dahli - “Christ of Saint John onthe Cross”.

We're both AC/DC fans. Bill was almost deafened at their concert many years ago. And as this exhibition just happened to be here when we were, we just had to have a peak. It told the complete story of the brothers Young forming the band in Australia in 1973 with Bon Scott as frontman, his untimely alcohol related demise, and the finding of his replacement Brian Johnson\. There was all sorts of memorabilia and personal effects and a large screen showing one of their loud and proud concerts. Another room focused on performances by Angus Young. It was great. But sorry no photos allowed but you can take a peek here.

We don't know much about Salvador Dahli's work, not being fans of expressionism. Probably the only thing we do know is the melting clock painting. “Christ of Saint John on the Cross” depicts a view from above of a short haired Jesus cruxified to a cross above the scene of a lake with a fisherman mooring his boat. It was very good, maybe a little bizare but didn't really tickle our fancy.

That was it for the day so we caught the train home.

Wednesday 28 September

Another dreary start to the day weather wise, but things improved by early afternoon to a bright, sunny and reasonably warm 21 degrees.

We pottered about in the morning and then went for a 3 hour hill walk along a nearby track with panoramic views over Loch Lomond. Unfortunately due to the recent rains much of the track was bog and Sylvi found out first hand that her boots were waterproof. 

It was a lovely walk though amongst beautiful trees, some covered in moss and we were ever hopeful of spotting some deer (which we didn't). It was also great to not be dressed in our rain gear and to let our bare arms feel the sun, something we hadn't been able to do since the end of our European trip in France.

After awhile back at camp we were joined by some new neighbors. Four middle aged blokes in a rented motor home without a clue about how to do anything to set it up, so they came to ask Bill for his help. We are intrigued by them – four blokes together in a motor home - but certainly hope they behave themselves tonight noise wise (which they did).

Thursday 29 September

The dreary weather is back so we packed up and headed further south to spend the night at Stranraer in the region known as Dumfries and Galloway before taking the 10am ferry at Cairnryan tomorrow for Ireland.

Whilst on the HOHO we went under the M8 highway which crosses the River Clyde and apparently receives more traffic then any other river crossing in the UK. In fact the section we went under had to be re-enforced several years ago as the heavy use had caused weakness. Anyway, today we actually drove on this section on our way to do a shop at Tesco before heading south.  Our vehicle certainly weighed more on the return journey, but the bridge handled it.

We drove through some beautiful countryside with rolling green hills, plenty of sheep and lovely coastal views. Occasionally we'd go past a ruined castle or abbey. At one point we stopped by the ocean to watch some seals or sea lions lounging on distant rocks. This location also held a memorial to a Russian ship, Varyag, built in 1898, scuttled in 1904 after a brave battle with to prevent capture by the Japanese who later raised and renamed it for their own use only to be bought back by the Russians several years later, then seized by Britain, sold to Germany, only to run aground and sink near here, off the village of Lendalfoot, in 1925.  Who would have thought a war ship could change hands so often.

Scottish poet Robert Burns spent the end of his life in the Dumfries area and there are several memorials to him in this area.

Although there is a caravan park at Cairnryan, it is very close to the ferry terminal which receives a high volume of traffic throughout the day and night, so we opted for the Aird Donald Caravan Park at Stranraer, just 10 minutes down the road. The park is managed by a lovely granny who told us we may well be alone tonight as it's the low season and she doesn't get more then a couple of arrivals each evening.

One thing there is plenty of here is cute rabbits bounding about, and after a quick look around the quaint village a short walk away, we were joined by two other motor homes.
We are back in a park where you have to pay for hot water to shower – 50p for 8 minutes. But Sylvi was lucky enough to get a freebie as the previous person must not have used up their entire 8 minutes. Bonus.

Overall the weather wasn't too bad today. There were a lot of dark clouds early on but as we drove south there were a few sunny breaks. At least it didn't rain, but the prediction is very grim for Friday and the week-end.

Goodbye Scotland, we will "Haste Ye Back" as they say as you leave each town, but tomorrow we cross the Irish Sea to Northern Ireland.

More photos here.

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