Scotland — August 2018
Our first trip outside England was to Scotland in August 2018. This trip was first on the list to meet Iain’s great aunty (Aunt Anne) in Glasgow who he hadn’t seen in 12 years. Unfortunately due to communication issues we were not able Aunt Anne whilst in Glasgow so we had to visit her later in our trip.
Day 1: Manchester to Glasgow (11/8)
The start was rough as expected with our cheap early tickets meaning the alarm was set at 3.30am. The train ride was easy with one change in Wigan. We arrived in Glasgow just after 9am to a sunny yet cold day. We were told by reception staff to carry an umbrella and rain jacket with you whilst walking around.
Glasgow Central Station (Interior, view from outside, view into building)
Before we went to explore the city, we dropped our bags at the hotel and grabbed a hearty breakfast from a cafe on Byres Road. After brunch we went to visit the University of Glasgow — J.K Rowling got her inspiration of the Hogwarts Castle from this university.
University of Glasgow buildings. Faculty of Engineering (bottom right)
We walked from the West End of Glasgow to the city centre. We certainly got a vibe of a big Dunedin whilst here. Our first stop was at The Lighthouse. This was a good place to stop at as we got panoramic views of the city. We grabbed a quick photo in front of the Gallery of Modern Art.
Streets of Glasgow (L), The Lighthouse Stairs (R)
Panoramic views from the Lighthouse (L), Gallery of Modern Art with Duke of Wellington statue (R)
We then stopped at the town centre to see the European Championship fan zone area before walking to Glasgow Cathedral and Glasgow Necropolis (Victorian style cemetery).
Views from cathedral and the beautiful stained glass displays (L, Centre). Glasgow Necropolis (R)
Next stop was Glasgow Green. We were pretty exhausted after seeing the cathedral and cemetery and decided to follow a slightly dodgy but interesting looking bike gang parade headed to Glasgow Green. Unfortunately they took the long winded route (1.5 hours vs 20 mins)!!!. We were so tired after the walk, we quickly explored the People’s Palace before catching an Uber to Ashton Lane where we grabbed a nice Indian meal out for dinner.
The People’s Palace (L) and Fountain in Glasgow Green (centre), Ashton Lane (R)
Day 2: Glasgow (12/8)
Our second day in Glasgow started with a visit to the local Catholic church be. It was a typical Scottish summer day- very wet. We decided to go visit Aunt Anne’s place just so we knew about the parking facilities near her place. After stopping by we went inside the Kelvingrove Art Gallery for a quick visit. We caught up on work for the rest of the day.
There was a slight issue as by the time we had finished work, the kitchen was closed at the nearby restaurant we wanted to eat at. This meant we had to eat at the hotel restaurant. The experience here wasn’t so good — we had to wait 50 mins for a drink to be served and even longer for dinner as there was a big tour group present. However dinner was nice and we managed to get a discount on our dinner.
In front of Aunt Anne’s (L), Kelvingrove Art Gallery (centre, right)
Day 3: Glasgow to Edinburgh (13/8)
It was an early start for Iain as he went to grab the rental car from Glasgow Airport. It was a rather wet day to drive to Edinburgh and we went to drop our bags at the hotel. Afterwards we headed for lunch to meet Iain’s family (Aunt Anne and her friend Bill and David’s cousin Beth and her husband Arthur). We were all treated to a nice meal by Aunt Anne and it was great to meet some of the extended Walker family. The rest of the day was spent working. We had a light dinner at the hotel.
Lunch with the extended Walker Family
Day 4: Edinburgh (14/8)
We spent most of the day working but we managed to find a break in the rain and walked up to Arthur’s Seat to see panoramic views of Edinburgh.
After the walk, I headed to do the Potter Trail (a tour that stopped by things/places that gave J.K Rowling inspiration for her Harry Potter books) whilst Iain worked in a pub.
Pub near where tour started (L), Thomas Riddell grave that inspired name for Voldemort (R)
William McGonagall Grave (Inspiraton for Professor McGonagall (L)), School houses which inspired Hogwarts houses (Centre), Potter Row (R) — inspiration for Harry Potter’s name
Spoon Cafe Location (first book written here — L), The Elephant House (second and third book written here — Centre), Victoria St — Inspiration for Diagon Alley R)
Wizard shops in Victoria Street
Nearby to the pub Iain was working from, there was a South Indian restaurant where we stopped for dinner.
Day 5: Edinburgh (15/8)
On our third day in Edinburgh we decided to get out while it wasn’t raining and see the Fringe Festival festivities in the morning. We watched a street performer in front of St Giles Cathedral, then wandered down the Royal Mile to the Scottish Parliament and Palace of Holyroodhouse (where the Queen stays when she visits Scotland).
View of Edinburgh Castle (L), Fringe Festival Festivities on Royal Mile (Centre, R)
Scottish Parliament (L, C), Greenery near the Parliament (R)
Palace of Holyroodhouse (photo I took from hands inside the gate oops)
The rest of the afternoon was spent working in the hotel room until we met David’s cousin Laurenne and her husband Ranoch who treated us to a traditional Scottish meal. After dinner we headed to a bar where we ladies grabbed a drink. Scotland has strict drink driving laws, so the guys didn’t drink.
Dinner with Laurenne & Ranoch
Day 6: Edinburgh to Balmaha via Glasgow (16/8)
We drove to Glasgow the next morning to visit Aunt Anne. It was lovely spending time with her. She showed us the special IRW (Iain Rhodes Walker) album she had it was very interesting.
Iain and Aunt Anne (1993)
Mid afternoon we headed to our glamping pod in Balmaha. The pod Iain booked us in at on Air BnB was tiny and rather cold. We were thinking about the practicality of working from here in the next few days as the internet connection was poor. As a result, I brought the bad internet connection issue to the accomodation staff’s attention. Fortunately within a couple of hours they moved us into a new modern build glamping pod that was next door to Balmaha Lodge which had the internet modem inside it. I was very glad to get this small upgrade!!
We worked in the room for a bit then headed for dinner to Oak Tree Inn pub across the road. After dinner it was back to work for the rest of the night. Work standup calls were done the next four nights in Balmaha Lodge inn entrance as it had the best signal.
Glamping Pod (L), View from glamping pod (R)
Loch Lomond lakes (L), Traditional Pie from Pub (R)
Day 7: Balmaha (17/8)
We spent the whole day working as it was bucketing down with rain outside. Additionally we had access to no facilities beyond the bathroom (shared between 10 people) and our room, so we had to suss breakfast. Nearby in Drymen we grabbed a cooked breakfast whilst working for a bit. Later on I managed to camp inside the kitchen in the Balmaha Lodge to work in. It was weird staying at this place as we had no access to a kitchen or dining room. For dinner we headed back to Oak Tree Inn where I grabbed Nachos. Afterwards the rain stopped so we went for a walk to stretch our legs.
Dinner in Balmaha and walking around the lake
Day 8: Balmaha & Glasgow (18/8)
To start off our weekend we drove to Glasgow to spend time with Aunt Anne again. Soon after arriving we had a Facetime chat with David and Lynn in NZ . As the morning went on we decided it was our turn to spoil Aunt Anne so we took her for brunch to a local cafe. I had a tasty Gnocchi. After lunch Aunt Anne took us through pages of various photo albums that she had bookmarked in advance to show us. She was so kind.
Morning in Glasgow with Aunt Anne
We arrived back in Balmaha around 5pm and were keen to do something so we walked up Conic Hill nearby. There was low cloud and fog up the top so nothing could be seen. After heading down we eventually found somewhere to eat for dinner (it was busy in the neighbourhood being a Saturday night).
Day 9 — Balmaha (19/8)
Fortunately our last day in Scotland, brought no rain! We drove to church first thing in the morning then went to do the Ben Lomond walk. There was a small issue when parking — we had no coins! Iain decided to walk to the nearby pub to grab change. But the pub owner was super nice and advised us to park at the pub and not pay for parking (yay).
Walking up the Ben Lomond took longer than expected. It was very hard to tell where the summit of the mountain was. The walk up reminded us of doing the Tongariro Crossing. There was very low cloud on our walk up which made views from the summit quite disappointing. Fortunately, 10 minutes into our descent the clouds started clearing and we got to enjoy the views whilst walking down (better than the reverse we thought). The walk took us a solid 5 hours.
Ben Lomond Walk. Views from the summit (R)
Stunning scenery when the clouds cleared
After we did the walk, Iain was ready to have a break and stop for a cold drink before driving to Lake Menteith to have a lakeside dinner. It was indeed a great meal to have to celebrate our last night in Scotland.
After dinner I still had some energy so we both decided to catch the sunset from Conic Hill and see the summit views while there was no cloud. It was very peaceful as we were the only ones out.
Sunset at Conic Hill
Day 10: Balmaha -> Glasgow, Glasgow -> Manchester (20/8)
Our drive back to Glasgow the next morning was nice and easy. We drove to the airport where we bid farewell to our car. Then we caught an uber to Glasgow Central Station where we caught a train to Manchester.