Day 10 – Isle of Arran and Stirling

We slept in more than we intended to. The shower was quite a challenge to get started (some weird machine to conserve both water and heated water). We almost missed breakfast, and I managed to slide in before they closed, and got them to hold on Heath’s order. The breakfast was terrific. Everything was fresh and locally made. Our very sweet hostess inquired about my tummy troubles, which seemed to be doing a bit better this morning.

We packed up and checked out, and our hostess allowed us to leave our luggage at the house for a few hours while we explored more of the island. First on the list was finding me meds for my stomach, which I was quick to take, just in case.

Next, the utterly confusing bus schedule (see yesterday) forced us to walk all the way from Broddick to the Aromatics and Cheese shop (I think it was just a few miles, though). The Aromatics shop’s scents were too overwhelming for Heath, so he shoved a handful of pounds in my hand and left. I got a few nice soaps, body wash, and some really awesome lemon lip balm. The cheese shop was tiny, but to die for: Scottish wines, whisky, cheese, and Arran Oatcakes. There was also a window into the cheese manufacturing where we could see them hand-dipping cheese wheels in wax. We bought a wheel of cheese, oatcakes, whisky sampler box, and a bottle of mead. I wish I’d written down the name of the wine that they had as I wanted to try to get a bottle, but no one on the Scottish mainland seemed to have it. Oh well, it just means we’ll have to go back again, eh? 😉

With the help of a local, we figured out which bus would get us back to Broddick. We hiked up the hill to our B&B, collected our bags, and went in search for lunch. We found a tiny shop selling hot sammiches (mine was a delicious pastry filled with mushrooms and chicken), and also got a coke to share, and a small pot of ice cream made by the island’s dairy. We had the loveliest most relaxing picnic on a little grassy knoll above the beach, but below level with the street level. I can’t begin to describe the bittersweet moment of totally feeling relaxed, but disappointed that we couldn’t stay longer. The sun was shining, cool, but not cold, and the grass was perfect for stretching out on.

We got on the ferry back with no problem (did I mention that you can bring dogs right on board?). Heath sat inside again, but I sat up on the deck for quite a while on the rear of the boat. The day was still bright and sunny and calm. I found that I avoided sea-sickness by making sure that I didn’t focus too long on any one point. Plus, the ride was very smooth. After a while, I joined Heath inside and read a bit of the next novel that I was working on, “History of Love” by Nicole Krauss.

We arrived in Adrossan, and I was relieved to find that we were able to retrieve our big suitcase without any difficulty (they didn’t even charge us storage). We had a bit of a wait for the train from Adrossan to Glasgow.

Our Scottish bad luck started again, though, because we accidentally missed our stop for Glasgow airport and had to backtrack with help from a train employee.

Our bad luck popped back up again with the pick up of the rental car. Heath had booked another navigational device for our travels in the UK, and confirmed with the company that we booked with that we would have one. Nope! The UK rental folks pulled some rule out of their ass that said because we were returning the car in England, and not Scotland, we couldn’t have a navigation system. They handed us a map that turned out to be completely useless. Ok. Fine. Then, the next blow. The place we booked with also did not mention the absolutely astronomical taxes in the rental quote. Last but not least, the UK would not accept our American insurance coverage (unlike Ireland), so we were forced to buy full insurance for the car from them!

To put it into perspective, for our six days of car rental in Ireland we paid about $300. For our four days of car rental in the UK, we’re paying $700! Total suck.

As a “consolation,” the rental company gave us an upgrade on the car for free. Big whoop! We wanted the money back so we could feed ourselves without going out of our budget and into our monthly bill money! The only bonus of this car is that the trunk is much much bigger, so we can stow our luggage without it being seen – very nice. The bad part, as it was bigger (not huge, just about the size of a Chevy Malibu), the driving got scarier.

As I mentioned, map they gave us was crap, so we naturally got lost immediately upon leaving the airport. We wandered furiously for a bit, and finally found a gas station. Two problems – when we pulled in to the gas station, it wasn’t a full station (i.e. not having a little shop where you could by candy, water, and oh, yeah, MAPS), and it turned out to be connected with the UK version of Walmart.

Now, anyone who’s heard Heath’s rants about Walmart knows not to get him started. But we had no other choice but to go into the main store that the gas station was connected with and buy a map there. Of course, the maps were difficult to find, and a long line to purchase (similar to a US Walmart), but I have to admit that it was the cleanest, brightest looking Walmart I’d seen – much nicer than the ones in the US. And one of the store employees was very nice, and helped us find not only the maps in the store, but also opened one up and showed us how to get where we were going next. It was Heath’s lowest hour, leaving Walmart with the knowledge that we had to give them $9.00. 😉

Back on the road, the map was a more helpful, but not a perfect guide. After minimal shouting, we managed to get to our B&B for the night in Stirling. Our host was very chatty. In the guide, we saw that we were close to the William Wallace monument. We were expecting a big statue or something. As we drove up to the B&B, we saw a really neat structure up on a tall hill nearby, but had no clue what it was. Our host laughed and explained that this huge towering building WAS the William Wallace monument.

We had a nice short walk to a local favorite restaurant, Birds and Bees, for dinner. We had camembert bites as appetizer, peppercorn chicken for me and sausages and mash for Heath for the main course. We sat next to a Scottish couple who were really amazed that Heath competed in highland games back in the states. They said most young folks weren’t interested in their heritage or doing things like the games or playing the pipes or step dancing.

We walked back, and were disappointed to find out that this B&B didn’t offer laundry service. We were getting a little desperate, clothes-wise. But no time to worry about that… time to sleep.

(no pictures today – see posts from yesterday and tomorrow).

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