The Road Trip!

This is what a whistlestop tour of the West of Scotland on a beautiful September day looks like!

The route: Glasgow to Oban via Glencoe, returning via Kilmartin, Crinan, Inverary, the Rest and be Thankful, and Luss.

The cast: Heidi from Boston and Fiona from Glasgow. Both interested in landscapes, entrepreneurship and, as the conversation took shape over 260 miles, many other things too.

The music: various Scottish, especially John Martyn and Caledonia

Here’s a sampling of our journey.

First stop – The Real Food Cafe at Tyndrum for coffee – and the first example of female entrepreneurship.

Second stop: The big layby on the A82, joining many other tourists for a view back towards Loch Tulla.

The view towards Loch Tulla

After passing across Rannoch Moor, shaped by glaciers, we reached Glencoe and had another photo stop whilst we discussed the Hidden Valley where the MacDonalds used to hide their cattle, and the infamous massacre in 1692.


Next stop was Oban, self styled seafood capital of Scotland, where we enjoyed a seafood lunch at Ee-usk, admired the glittering jewelry at the Gem Box,  and popped into the whisky distillery for a sniff of the amber nectar, all accompanied by the sound of the bagpipes being played by Oban High School pupils as part of a ‘500 minutes of playing’ fundraiser.  (Fortunately, they were good!)

In Oban, we also spotted the products of a couple Scottish female entrepreneurs, being sold in one of the local gift shops. A possible case study for Heidi to take back to Babson?

One of the many CalMac ferries that shuttled in an out of Oban as we ate our lunch overlooking the bay.

Young bagpipers, keeping the tradition alive.

After Oban, as the weather was so good, we decided to delve further back in history, and headed to Kilmartin, home of some 1000 year old Celtic crosses, Neolithic standing stones and evidence of 5000 years of human settlement (we won’t talk about the cow pat masquerading as a stepping stone).

We found the standing stones!!

Next stop was Crinan, at the end of the Crinan Canal, accessed via a single track road. We admired the determination of a few Scotsmen to clamber to the top of the lighthouse, despite the anti-climb cover on the ladder. We think the bottle of whisky they had with them was giving them superpowers.

View towards Corryvreckan from the sea lock at Crinan.

Somewhere in the distance was the Corryvreckan Whirlpool, one of the largest permanent whirlpools on earth and one of the most dangerous stretches of water around the British Isles.

Next stop was Inveraray, an 18th century new town with a fairytale castle, for fish and chips (from an Italian fish & chip shop, of course), eaten overlooking Loch Fyne.

Loch Fyne from Inveraray

Finally, we headed back down the side of Loch Lomond, with a short stop in Luss to see the picturesque cottages and church, and where we spotted a couple of Highland cows at last, thanks to an accidental detour.

Heidi on the pier at Luss – don’t jump!

Luss’s 19th century parish church.

The last part of the trip took us over the Erskine Bridge, with great views up the Clyde and finally back to Glasgow.  260 miles in 12 hours.

Some of our conversation topics:

What exactly is Great Britain? A: Its actually the name of the main island of the United Kingdom.

Is Scotland a tolerant country? A: yes

Sweden used to drive on the left too.

Boston has roundabouts.

Annie Lennox is Scottish. So are Simple Minds and the Proclaimers.

West beer is brewed by a German woman living in Glasgow (another female entrepreneur). Turns out St Mungo, patron saint of Glasgow, was also a brewer!

Why do so many cars have Arnold Clark stickers? A: It’s a very big car dealership. 

University tuition fees in Scotland (free), England (£9k/yr) and Germany (mostly free)

Most Scottish and US university degree courses are 4 yrs but English ones are usually only for 3 yrs. 

Munros are Scottish hills higher than 3000ft.  There are nearly 300 of them. 

The Cobbler is a Munro.  

Do the Scots and English get along? A: most of the time, just not during football and rugby matches!

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The future – it’s not like in the movies

This is the second of the opinion pieces that I’ve been asked to write as part of the Scotsman newspaper 200 year celebration.

It was published in the Scotsman on 3rd August, 2017, but I thought I’d reproduce it here, to keep my writing in one place.

According to a recent report by the Institute for the Future for Dell Technologies, 85 per cent of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet. That’s only 13 years away, and yet how can we even begin to imagine what that might look like? The pace of change in my lifetime has been incredible and so many jobs of today didn’t exist when I graduated. Unsurprisingly, many of these are technology related, e.g. mobile phone app developers, but some are surprisingly low tech too, resulting from big changes in the way we live and work. The gig economy doesn’t just refer to delivery drivers; dog walking services are an example of that I couldn’t possibly have imagined when I was a teenager and was expected to take care of our family dog.

There is no doubt that the pace of change is accelerating. My Dad still has his vinyl records from the 50’s, I got my first cassette Walkman in the early 80’s, then later in that decade came CDs (remember them?) and the next big leap in music technology, the iPod, appeared in 2001.

When we look back at the science fiction movies and TV of the 60’s, mobile communication and computers were major features. Can you tell me honesty, if you had a flip-style mobile phone, that you never said ‘Beam me up, Scotty’ when you first got it? The novel 1984, written in 1948, anticipated video surveillance and video calling with TVs that covered a whole wall. Real life took longer to catch up, but now we look back on these authors as being exceptionally prescient. Flip phones, which merely had one function, are already a thing of the past; now we have smart phones, our hand-held computers. I find it hard to believe that the iPhone is only 10 years old, so ubiquitous and essential have smart phones become in our lives. We have electric cars, driverless cars are being developed, but we are still waiting for teleportation. And who doesn’t long for that, when stuck in traffic on the M8?

The dystopian future resulting from the rise of technology, as predicted in the movies, is not inevitable. Robots and computers have already replaced many of our labour intensive jobs but new industries have emerged, employing people in ways we could not have imagined, and creating opportunities to embrace more stimulating occupations. The challenge for us is not technical but societal. When some people struggle to accept a female Dr. Who, how can we minimise inequalities and ensure that people are not left behind in this brave new world?

One thing we do know is that the movies don’t get everything about the future right. So how can we anticipate what the future will really look like and what do we have to do to make sure we can all prepare for the jobs of the future?

In fact, the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed. If we look around we can see signals that anticipate how our own lives might be impacted in the next few years. We need to learn how to identify and interpret these signals, applying new technologies and new ways of working to our own businesses. And we need to ensure that our young people are getting the education that they need to create their own futures, well beyond 2030. We need to give them the confidence to know that if they can imagine it, it can be done.


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