Scotland: Glasgow

 Scotland was beautiful.

We left Oxford on Monday morning.  Things started off right by learning that we’d gotten a free upgrade on our rental car, and instead of a 4 door sedan we had a small SUV.  You could argue that we’d end up paying more in petrol, but I was glad for more space, heated seats, and sitting a bit higher on the road.

We traveled north from Oxford through Birmingham (where Chris will be this week, actually) and into Scotland.  We passed all sorts of interesting road signs that made me want to pull over (“Shakespeare’s Country”, “Camelot”, “Gretna Green”… I wanted to visit that last one to see if any Victorian couples were eloping!).

Joe did very well on the car ride.  I’ve gotten in the habit of sitting in the back with him for part of the journey, but this time around I began to wonder if perhaps he was old enough to sit for longer periods by himself.  Being car sick helped convince me!  Here’s Joe having a grand time reading “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”.

And here are a few photos that I snapped from the car.  You can’t go on a road-trip without having a some of those, right?

I’ll tell you in advance that my photos do not do the Scottish countryside justice.  It was absolutely beautiful.  Yes, it was cold and rainy, but I still loved it.  The high hills and peaks, the mist swirling around everything, the beautiful green grass, the highland cows (I saw some!), the low-lying stone fences that criss-crossed the fields, and then the sea… you have to view it for yourself to understand.

We pulled into Glasgow around 5pm and got our first taste of what Scottish cities are like.  The road signs?  Terrible!  Or perhaps they just take getting used to.  We did think that Edinburgh did a better job at labeling their streets than Glasgow.

We found our hotel without too much difficulty, parked the car, and got into the lobby.  I’m going to skip over any description of our hotel in Glasgow because, frankly, it was awful and deserves an entire post of its own.  I’ll leave you with one word to sum it up: gross.

We asked the concierge for a recommendation of a family friendly restaurant nearby.  The only things that she could come up with were McDonald’s or Pizza Hut.  Eh, no thanks.  We ventured out on our own and in what can only be described as a monumental lapse in judgment, I suggested we go into a Mexican restaurant.  Mexican food in Scotland.  It was not the best choice, but we were hungry and tired and ready to just eat!

We got up the next morning to a pouring rain.  I’m happy to explore in a light or moderate rain, but not pouring rain.  Chris had said earlier that he really wanted to visit Glengoyne Whisky Distillery, so we opted to head about 40 minutes outside of town to do the tour.  It was a great idea and I’m glad that we did it.

Why was I so glad to visit a whisky distillery when (a) I don’t drink whisky and (b) we’d be touring it with a 16 month old?  The answer has multiple parts.  For one thing, the drive outside of Glasgow was our first time to truly venture into the Scottish countryside.  Glengoyne Distillery lies right on the boundary of the highlands and lowlands, so I was able to see a little of both.  It was like something from a movie and I kept expecting to see a Scotsman climbing the hills in a kilt with a bagpipe slung across his chest.

We drove past places and streets with names like “Mugdock”, “Balmore”, “St. Kentigern’s”, “Craigmaddie” and “Strathblane”.  I soaked it all up while trying to pay attention to the directions and not steer us to far afield.  We pulled up to the distillery and I was surprised to see how “out there” it really was.  It’s out there!  The address is in Glasgow, but nothing reminiscent of Glasgow remained.

I wish that I’d gotten some more photos of the surrounding country, but it was pouring rain and I was worried about damaging my camera.

We walked back to the visitor’s center and were able to join in with the first tour of the day.  I can tell you that they don’t get many people showing up with 16 month olds!  I had to change Joe right off the bat, and the first thing the receptionist said was, “Oh – I don’t know where you’ll be able to do that.  We don’t get many babies here.”  I told her that I’d changed Joe on my lap in an airplane mid-turbulence, that I’d changed him in the trunk of a car, and on a boat.  I was sure that I could find a place to change him in the visitor’s bathroom!  And I did, naturally :-)

Joe had a great time during the tour.  There were so many different sights, sounds, smells, and people that he just soaked it all in.  We were 3 of a group of 7, so it was a nice size and everyone was able to see what they wanted and ask lots of questions.  Chris had no trouble drinking my share of the whisky sample and I could tell that he was having a great time, too.

Here’s a photo from the back of the distillery.  They don’t actually use this water to make their whisky (that comes from about 5km away in an area filled with dormant volcanoes), but they do use it in some part of the process.

My two happy guys…

Chris later informed me that he  felt like Joe was trying to scalp him in this photo, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at him :-)

We came back to the hotel and got just a little bit lost on the return trip, but we found our hotel in the end.  Joe was totally zonked out and went straight to bed for his afternoon nap.  I was car sick from the long, winding roads, and Chris had to leave right away to head to the university for his talk.

Joe and I headed out later in the day once he’d woken from his nap.  The rain had stopped and I was ready to get out of that hotel.  We walked all along Trongate and Argyle with a little bit of window shopping along the way.

I decided to check out the train station.  It looked so impressive from the ground but, as it turns out, it really was just a train station :-)

One thing that I did learn while in Glasgow?  Marks and Spencer stores are everywhere.  And you know what?  I really like them.  I was so hungry while we were out walking and decided to check out the “Food to Go” section at M&S.  So good!  I ended up buying several different things to take back to the hotel for dinner (Chris was going to be out late for work).  Joe, the little stinker, ended up eating almost all of my basil, tomato, and pinenut pasta salad.  Apparently he thought that was better than the chicken wrap that I’d got for him.  No matter – both tasted great in my opinion.

We got up the next morning, packed the rest of our gear, and headed a bit further north to see Edinburgh, which was definitely my favorite of the two cities that we visited.

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