I spent the remaining time of the day first at walking along the banks of Lake Derwentwater, shooting with the LX3, and then drove down to Lake Ullswater. Only, it was raining all the way through, and didn’t stop even when I reached Greenridding where the Youth Hostel is supposed to be. I say supposed because even though there are map entries and a few signposts on the road, I couldn’t really find it. Blame it on my lack of observation skills, if you must, but that’s how it was. Combined with the dreary weather and the rain that wouldn’t stop, along with a dead primary camera, I figured it might be better if I went back to Keswick.
Driving back, I was thinking if it would get better tomorrow and I’d have a better day at Windermere than I did today at Ullswater. The area at Ullswater is very pretty, and the road runs low by the banks of the river, but it was difficult to enjoy it in such pelting rain. Somewhere between Ullswater and Keswick I decided it might be better if I went to Solihull, near Birmingham, where a friend stays. Lake District is beautiful, but after the witnessing the splendor of the Scottish highlands it doesn’t inspire much within. Additionally, being close to a big city might give me a chance to get the camera checked and possibly repaired. So I turned the car around, and drove to Solihull. 197 miles in 2.5 hours. That was short journey, but felt really long because of having to struggle with the car on the motorway with the heavy crosswinds and the lashing rain almost all the way through. Got there safely though, and I hope something works out.
I caught up with a friend today and we spent the day taking a hop-on hop-off bus tour of some of the main attractions in Edinburgh including the Edinburgh Castle, the National Museum and Holyroodhouse Castle (not necessarily in that order, though). Some of the exhibits in the War Museum inside the Edinburgh Castle premises were fantastic, but not having enough stamina to look at everything closely meant that we didn’t spend a ton of time within the castle, even though the exhibits and views over the city were quite good. It was quite windy up there, not to mention chilly being a dry day, so we were both glad when we good out of there and got ourselves hot coffee at a café nearby.
Walking along the city streets had us pass by a Scot dressed in a full kilt, standing on a busy street corner playing his bagpipes, much to the joy of most passers-by, especially tourists who couldn’t get enough photographs of theirs taken with him, to which he would graciously agree.
The Scott monument in the city centre is extremely distinctive and stands out among all the other buildings, being a very different colour from them. I’m not sure whether the dark stone which the monument seems to have in abundance was a design choice or a result of many years of existence among the elements, but it sure does give a very strong presence to the structure, which means it is impossible to miss if it occupies any part of your vision while walking around the streets. A 3 pound entry fee allows you to climb to the top through a narrow spiral staircase in the middle of the monument, which again is always crowded, particularly at the topmost section where there is space for no more than eight to ten people at most.
Luckily the weather today remained good throughout and despite the cold winds blowing it was great to see Edinburgh (well, most of it’s most popular places) with the sun shining on it.
I came to Edinburgh today and thankfully the Youth Hostel here wasn’t hard to locate. It was a short walk from the bus station. The hostel itself is quite a departure from the others I’ve stayed in so far, mostly up in the highlands. It’s much larger, has a huge number of rooms, and is open all day long. I’ve grown quite fond of these hostels, funnily, and I do believe they make it so much easier for someone on a budget to travel around a country such as Scotland in relative comfort and security.
I rested for a short while after checking into the hostel and then proceeded to take a walk on the streets of the city. The architecture is certainly distinctive and has elements such as the few cobbled streets, especially in the old town, that speak of days gone by. It’s also very crowded, and the whole place seems to have been overrun by people from out-of-town, looking to capture some of the enigma that Edinburgh, as the capital of Scotland, is associated with. I was admittedly one of them, although being alone allows me a certain degree of detachment from the whole process, while retaining the curiosity and willingness to explore.
Once again, having no fixed agenda or desire to only see the monuments, but rather giving into whatever I feel like doing at any point of time allowed me to catch a faint tune while I was taking a walk through the Princes Street Gardens. At first it seemed as if I was hearing things, because even as I stood at the same spot where I thought I had heard the sound, all I could make out was the wind ripping across the branches and leaves of the trees nearby along with the cackle of a group of youngsters chatting nearby. Just as I moved I heard the sound again, and this time I was sure I wasn’t imagining stuff. It sounded like a flute or a saxophone, and as I followed the notes over the air, I found this young fellow standing in the middle of the walkway in the park playing his instrument while resting on the railing besides him. I shall refrain from stating the instrument he was playing because, frankly, I don’t know and I didn’t ask him. All I know is that the music he was playing was extremely good, and seemed perfect for the late evening ambience that prevailed at the time.
I sat down close to where he was playing and stayed there for 15-20 minutes, while people crossing both ways stopped, listened for some time and then walked away, or paid no heed to the beautiful sounds being created by this young fellow and his instrument, and went on with their (rather loud at times) conversations and walked right past. His tunes were melodious and soulful, and he seemed to be quite proficient in his playing, as one who has spent years practicing their craft. The music I heard sitting there that evening was a great way to get introduced to the city on my first day there. It never ceases to surprise me how having music can alter the way we perceive the world around us at any given point in time, irrespective of our own mood or state of mind. It was great timing that I was there when he was playing, because as I later found out he wasn’t a regular there, but was only playing for a short while on his way to the west of Scotland where he would soon commence his new job. Thank you, Ano (I hope that’s how you spell your name) from France, for making my first evening in Edinburgh such a great one.
Today turned out to be quite a day. I had booked the ticket to Aberdeen thinking that I’d want to at least see one place on the east coast between Inverness and Edinburgh, but little did I know it was to turn into something so unexpected. While walking out of the train station at Aberdeen in the afternoon I heard someone call out my name, and I turned around to find, to my amazement, Barbara (from the workshop) standing there looking astonished (as much at my presence there as my at facial expression, I’m sure!) I didn’t know she’d be travelling by the same train to Aberdeen as the one I had booked my ticket in. I had a faint idea that she had told me yesterday she’d be in Aberdeen today for some reason, but I didn’t know anything about her itinerary. I was as surprised to see her at the station as she was to see me standing there.
We ended up sitting in a restaurant, having food and talking about everything under the sun for a good two hours, I think. She had originally planned to do some shopping in the city before leaving for Dublin in the evening, and I had thought I’d roam around the city after dropping my bags off at the local Youth Hostel. In the end she did manage to get a short amount of time for shopping while I got trashed by the time I got to the hostel, waiting for the bus for almost 45 minutes. I found it so easy to talk to her, both yesterday and today. I think she’s a beautiful person, full of life, and has an easy-going demeanor and the desire to explore new things and places. She has a child-like curiosity for new things, but a sensible approach to them guided by her experience, and I think that makes her a very appealing individual to hang around with, especially in a strange new city, be it Inverness or Aberdeen.
Started back from Torridon today. I think I’m staying at Glen Nevis, and will try to see if I can visit the Glenfinnan viaduct tomorrow. It’s close to Fort William and should easily be doable. Not sure if I’ll mange to squeeze in Castle Stalker too, but we’ll see. Castle Stalker is on the way back to Glasgow, but it is accessed via a route which is different from the one I am planning to take so I’m hoping to visit it tomorrow, otherwise I might have to skip it.
Stopped again at Eilean Donan castle to manage and squeeze out a fiew photos with the sun shining on it. I had stopped here on my way to Torridon a couple of days ago, but at that time the clouds were out in full-force and I had to be content with very a very moody-looking caslte. The sun obliged today, albeit after standing in the cold, waiting for it to make an appearance for a good half hour. It was worth it though, because the castle looks like a million bucks in the sunlight, and I was glad I decided to wait for it to happen.
The drive back from Torridon also had me stopping at a number of places, contrary to what I had thought. It had been very cold last night with the result that all peaks in Scotland had seen snowfall on them. This created a situation where every scene I had witnessed while driving to Torridon had acquired a different atmosphere. I didn’t repeat all of those images, but definitely a few, because with the snow showing these places had undergone a significant change of character.
The hostel at Glen Nevis seems to be the most unfriendly feeling of all the SYHA hostels I’ve stayed in so far. I can’t quite put my finger on the reason, but it just feels less welcoming than the others, and more so in stark contrast to the one at Torridon, where the guy at the reception was the most friendly I’ve met in any of the hostels. Anyway, I just need to sleep here, so I’m not going to let this feeling run amok. We’ll see how tomorrow goes.
Contrary to my expectations I didn’t move around a lot today. Spent most of my time at the small village/town of Balloch close to the hostel. There is a place called the ‘Loch Lomond Shores’ over there which has a visitor’s centre along with a gift store and the works. There is a small place for families to have a picnic or just hang around. The whole place is built around the southern end of the loch and has a few short walks.
The other place nearby is the Balloch Castle Country Park (entry free). Didn’t get to spend too much time here. Came in around 5.30pm and left an hour later, having only seen a small part. Will come back tomorrow..
It was a little cold today, and I think I might have caught a little bit of it. My throat feels scratchy but I’m hoping it doesn’t aggravate and I don’t have to deal with the usual consequences of a cold, cough, and fever.