Monday, 11 September 2017

A long weekend in Scotland

This past weekend was the AGM  of the New Chalet Club, which took place in Stirling.  So I suggested that we go in our motor home, and pick up the Swan Whisperer's brother en route, so that they could enjoy a day's walking in the Trossachs while I was otherwise occupied.  All concerned thought this was a good idea, and, last Wednesday, we set off at about noon.

Scotland, even the Lowlands, is a lot further away than Brussels or Paris, so our first night was spent at a camp site near Knutsford.  We arrived at about 5:45 pm, and settled in, and when I posted a check-in on Facebook, a kind friend let me know that we were very near the Jodrell Bank telescope.  So the next morning, we headed off there to have a look. 
The Discovery Centre was excellent; informative without being too pedagogical.  There were plenty of interactive exhibits, so you could see how, for instance, a black hole eventually sucked everything into it.  The Jodrell Bank telescope itself was built well over 50 years ago, but is still very much in use, and is part of several clusters of telescopes - these, apparently, allow a much more detailed view of our galaxy than a single telescope would.

We decided to have lunch there, but it really wasn't very nice - you ordered something - a piece of quiche, for instance, or a sausage roll - and were offered a choice of chips or salad.  This was the "salad":

After this, we headed on and finally crossed into Scotland.  We spent that night in a hotel car park - one of the nice pubs that allow motorhomes under the BritStops scheme - in Leadhills, which was as beautiful as ever, and on Friday morning we arrived at the Swan Whisperer's brother's home in East Kilbride.  We went out to lunch with him and his wife and then set off to Stirling.

However, we decided to go via the new Forth crossing, as it had just opened.  This was a Big Mistake, as, instead of just adding one hour to our journey, as we had anticipated, it added a good two hours!  But it was worth waiting for:
We found the hotel in Stirling at about 5:30 pm, and I left the men to their own devices, and checked in.  There was about half an hour to relax and have a cup of tea before the first formal dinner of the weekend, which I duly did.  The food was good, and it was good to meet some old friends and some people I've only ever "met" on-line before.  However, after supper they laid on "progressive games", which are totally not my thing, so I went straight to bed and read!

The hotel did a really good breakfast, including haggis!  After this, we assembled into two coaches - we were asked to use the same coach all day, so they could be sure they weren't leaving anybody behind - and set off for Dunblane, where we saw the Cathedral:

The Leighton Library (which opened specially for our group - the librarian was brilliant and very informative):

and, of course, the Golden Pillar Box commemorating Olympic success:

After this, we piled back into the coaches and headed on to Loch Katrine, where we went on a steamship, the SS Sir Walter Scott.  This was a very pleasant journey and many of our number (not me!) enlivened it with hot chocolate with a shot of brandy in it, topped with "a featherbed of whipped cream". 

After the boat trip, the buses took us to the tourist town of Callander.  I had a look round the Callander Woollen Mill, vividly reminded of the very similar shop in Aviemore, where my mother and I used to spend far too much money on holidays gone by!  I also bought an ice-cream, but after that ran out of energy, so went back to the coach and dozed until it was time to head back to the hotel.

Our after-dinner speaker was the author Val McDermid, and very good she was, too!  I think everybody enjoyed her talk on how the Chalet School had influenced her life and writing. 
The next morning was the AGM itself, which didn't take long, and then we had a talk by Gill Simms, the author of the very popular Peter and Jane Facebook blog and whose first book is due out next month.  I think this was the first time she had been asked to speak, although I am very sure it won't be the last!
This ended the formal part of the weekend, but then there was a book sale and Sale of Work.  I was very, very, very strong-minded and didn't buy anything, but wandered round being tempted!  I'm not a collector, only a reader, so I don't actually mind what state my copies of various books are in, but 50p and £1 adds up when there are several of them!

By then, the weather - which had been glorious on the Saturday - had closed in again, and the Swan Whisperer and his brother had also run out of things to do, so they came and picked me up, and we headed on.  Because we were quite early, we decided to visit the Falkirk Wheel, which the SW and I had long wanted to see.  It was well worth the detour, especially as we were lucky enough to see it in action:

Then we took the SW's brother home, and headed south as far as just outside Wigan, where there was a canalside pub that allowed us to park up (Britstoppers, again), and we had dinner there.  The weather was dreadful, though - after dinner, I went straight back to the van, and was soaked to the skin.  The SW, however, had waited a few moments while making himself comfortable - and was bone dry!

That pattern of weather continued all day today as we drove south, but we got home about 5:00 pm, ready to sort out the van and do some washing before heading off again in 48 hours!

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