30.8.16

Islay and Oban: Part 2 Oban

Oban sunset

So, my 16.10 arrival at Oban was dramatic, with a sudden heavy downpour after a pleasant day's sailing. Luckily there was a Wetherspoons on the quay, The Corryvreckan, so I sheltered there for a while to check out the Pokemon situation. After it eased off, I found a cashpoint and wandered over to the Royal Hotel, one of those hotels popular with coach parties, and had seen better days. I was in Room 218 with a view out the back.

The Green Shack

I went back out to the harbour and, tempted by a free hot mussel, ordered a £3.95 portion from the famous green shack, eating them in the rain, under an umbrella - not easy! Then it was back to Wetherspoons for another pint and, after watching the sun set, back to the hotel for a £5 tot of Oban.

Wethespoons

On Sunday, after a breakfast of beans, fried egg and potato scones, with tea served quickly by unflustered staff, I made my way to the distillery, where I showed my classic malts passport and got a free tour. The distillery is much smaller than Laphroaig, with half the stills - I did learn that the yeast came from Hull. At the end of the tour we got to sample 13-year old whisky, then the 14-year old in the shop, where we got another free glass. I used my £5 off voucher to buy a bottle, for £40. There was no photography allowed on the distillery tour. They have a tasting bar open until 6.30 serving wee drams for a bargain £3 a shot.

Oban Distillery

I dropped off the bottle at the hotel, checked out the free wifi in the lounge bar, then walked to the harbour. There was a big queue at the Green Shack, so I tried the Fishhouse upstairs, where they were doing a two-course lunch deal for £13.99. I had smoked haddock chowder and roasted local coley on a bed of prawn and leek risotto, washed down with a local beer - Skelpt Lug dark ale!

Purple Heather seal boat

I'd been debating whether or not to go on the boat to see the seals, but as the rain had stopped  I just had time to get there by 2pm, just as they were casting off. It was £10 and we headed for the steam ship monument, past the 1950s cathedral and finally to a rock full of seals. We also saw a pair of sea eagles and an M&S salmon farm.

 Seals

After a pint at Wetherspoons (Sirius Dog Star) and a portion of chips with curry sauce, I wandered back to the hotel to find a keyboard and accordion duo playing for a coach party of Canadians. Then from nowhere, entered a very loud piper! marching up and down swinging his kilt!

Free beer in 1st class

Monday, it was an early start to get the 8.57 train to Glasgow, another scenic journey. I walked from Queen Street, past Robert Peel, to Central where I had a longish wait in the Virgin First Class Lounge! Yes my £46.20 ticket back to Brighton was first class! I had two cappuccinos (from a machine), loads of biscuits and popcorn and played Pokemon until it was time to board my delayed train (floods near Preston). On board I had free cans of beers (Wreckless), a dry tuna salad and lots of pretzels. The Gatwick Express at Victoria was late too, and when I got back to Brighton there was an hours wait for a Seaford train, so it was a taxi home!

  Tickets home

More photos on Flickr.

< Part 1 Islay
< Edinburgh 2016

29.8.16

Islay and Oban: Part 1 Islay

Islay ferry MV Finlaggan

While I'm up in Scotland, I always like to tag on a little extra journey: this year it was the whisky island of Islay and a town I've always wanted to visit - Oban. I discovered that twice a week there's a ferry for Islay to Oban (even though I couldn't find it on the inscrutable CalMac timetables). So Thursday morning 18 August I walked down to Haymarket station and bought a ticket to Glasgow Queen Street. After a pint at a convenient Wetherspooons, I set off to find Buchanan bus station (no trains go that way). What I didn't know was that the Citylink coach was going to Campbeltown! Anyway I found it and the journey was very scenic, past the bonnie bonnie banks of Loch Lomond, Loch Long and Loch Fyne, where we had a comfort stop at Inveraray.

Loch Fyne at Inveraray

At Kennacraig I bought my two ferry tickets as a £15.80 HopScotch deal (bargain!) and boarded MV Finlaggan for the 2-hour journey, where I consumed a couple of bottles of Islay beer and a bowl of chips. At Port Ellen it was a short walk to the White Hart Hotel, where to my surprise the bar and restaurant were closed - but the key to room 3 was waiting for me at reception. The room was fine and I had a view of the sea. I walked to a rowdy pub, the only pub, the Ardview Arms, drank a pint of McEwans and checked my wifi in a quiet room to the right. After a wee dram of Laphroaig Quarter Cask (£5.80) i wandered back to the hotel to watch the olympics.

Lagavulin distillery

The White Hart lived up to its Fawlty Towers reputation at breakfast, where two extremely flustered women tried to keep a minibus full of Poles and a celebrated musician happy with poached eggs. Mine - beans, fried egg and potato scones - was fine however. I walked to the bus stop - I wasn't sure of the times as I'd found two different timetables on the internet, but one arrived heading towards Ardbeg so I jumped on and bought a £10 day ticket. It passed Laphroaig and Lagavulin distilleries (which were supposed to be just a short walk from Port Ellen) and turned round at Ardbeg. I decided to jump off at Lagavulin and try to get on a tour. No luck, they were full, but I got my passport stamped. So, after failing to get a lift, it was a trek through the drizzle along the cycle path back to Laphroaig.

Tasting at Laphroaig distillery

Not a lot of people know this, but I own a plot of land on Islay, thanks to Laphroaig whisky and I was able to print out a map of its location. I also got 'rent' in the form of a wee bottle. The £6 tour was great - unusually they do their own malting - but I still had a two hour wait for the next bus, so I sat down in the comfy lounge, tasted a few more drams and played Pokemon Go with their free wifi!

Laphroaig plots

The bus took me along long straight roads across the island to Port Askaig, via Laphroaig's peat bogs by the airport, where a raucous group of men up for a charity football match (one played for Arsenal!) were waiting, but the bus had to do a school run, so we went to the pub (Port Askaig Hotel) and I had a surprisingly nice pint of Tennents 60/- Light (more like dark mild). After a sing song on the bus, and them calling me Ronnie, they got off at Bowmore and I travelled back to Port Ellen in peace.

I gave the posh restaurant at the Islay Hotel a go for a cappuccino, and stayed to eat in the bar, where they had Islay Ales on draught. I had roasted scallops followed by chunky fish pie. Excellent!

View from the White Hart Hotel

Saturday 13 August, morning, the women at the White Hart were even more flustered, giving me bacon instead of tatty scones, but never mind. At check out, one of them told me the hotel was up for sale and the owners didn't want to lose his licence hence the bar downstairs being dark. I caught the 9.40 bus to Port Askaig and met two old girls who'd been on the bus the day before. I had an hour and a half to kill so jumped on the ferry to Jura (£1.30 return) with the women and back on my own, then a cup of tea and wifi in the Port Askaig Hotel.

Jura ferry

The big ferry was MV Hebridean Isles and the four-hour cruise took us past many islands, with a stop at Colonsay, most were uninhabited - in fact we didn't see any houses until almost at Oban. I had minestrone soup and more Islay beer. The weather was glorious until we arrived at Oban, where it threw it dowm. Luckily there was a Wetherspoons nearby...

Arriving in Oban

More photos on Flickr.

Part 2 Oban >
< Edinburgh 2016

25.8.16

Edinburgh 2016

Edinburgh freebies

Again, not much more than an itinerary:

Friday 12 August 2016
Travel up by train. Because Southern is so unreliable, get taxi to the station. Virgin East Coast delayed due to person on line at Newark, so had a half at the Parcel Office. Arrive Haymarket an hour and a half late, pint with Sam at Lock25 and go and inspect new BBC venue at George Heriot School. Raining.

Saturday 13 August 2016
£4 bus day ticket to Stand 3 for
12:00 Daniel Kitson presents an insufficient number of undeveloped ideas over ninety testing minutes, basically him talking to biologists on the front row, very funny though, and he's so quick witted.

Dazzle Ship at Leith

Bus to Serrano Manchego on Leith Walk for tapas, then to Leith docks for the Dazzle Ship. Bus back to Pleasance, thence to Mandarin House/Star Sea for chinese food and Blue Blazer for drinks then back to Stand 3 (same seats) for
22:05 David Kay, the self-effacing Scottish stand up. 

Sunday 14 August 2016
Taxi to Pleasance for 
13.45 Teatro Delusio by Familie Flöz - puppets and mine in masks, backstage at the opera.
Walk to Summerhall for

Meet Fred at Summerhall

15.55 Meet Fred by Hijinx Theatre - another puppet becomes self-aware helped by learning disabled actor Martin Vick.

Hole in the Meadows I fell down

Pint of porter and a quick look round the art before walking through the Meadows looking for Pokemon, where I put my right leg down a dangerous hole!

Surrealism at the modern art museum

Monday 15 August 2016
Art day. After a quick look round Daubigny Monet Van Gogh at the Mound with Mad, 14.30 art bus to Modern Art for Surreal Encounters: Collecting the marvellous to re-acquaint myself with all the paintings from the  Edward James collection that used to be in Brighton, now in Rotterdam. Back to Summerhall for more art and with a comp from Max, saw 
17.40 Molhados & Secos - Wet and Dry at Zoo - Argentinian physical theatre

Walked to Pleasance where I bumped into Jo Neary and Pad and saw
20.00 Pete Firman Trix at Pleasance Beyond - magic, with Sam dragged on stage!

Tuesday 16 August 2016
Brisk walk to Traverse for
13:15 Mark Thomas : The Red Shed - socialist comedy where we got to sing The Red Flag, Wakefield style.

Sunny walk to Book Festival, then bus to Dovecote and Talbot Rice galleries, then walk to George Square Gardens where we met Millie flyering, and home after a pint or two and a bowl of chips - spotted Paul Zenon and Alisdair Darling.

Best of Fest

Wednesday 17 August
Walk to George Square Gardens for 
12.30 'Best' of the Fest in Spiegeltent Palais de Variete - with drunken woman (Holly Burn), conjurer Chris Dugdale, Regency comedian Penny Ashton and Hoola Hoops by Flip FabriQue from Attrape Moi, all compered by Lloyd Griffith, who does impressive impressions of diy tape.

To Tanjore for Indian 'pizza' (uthappam) then back to Summerhall for
17.15 Adler & Gibb a play by Tim Crouch about a student doing a dissertation about a woman making a film about a reclusive American artist and her partner and an art dog (played by a child). Powerful stuff, as you'd expect. Then half an hour later it was back into the same room for
19.15 Robert Newman: The Brain Show - with Rob disagreeing with the experts and playing his banjolele

Then it was a final pint and a Mac and Cheese toastie and home. This year I didn't get to see Simon Munnery, nor the Fruitmarket, nor did I walk down the Royal Mile!

Mac and cheese toastie at Summerhall

Thursday 18 August 2016: Off to the western isles...