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.
Here’s a sampling of our journey.
Second stop: The big layby on the A82, joining many other tourists for a view back 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?
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!