This morning we found an Italian place on George Square for breakfast. On the way back to our hotel we called in at Queen St Station to pick up our tickets for our rail tour of Scotland over the next two weeks. Just as we walked in off the street we heard the sound of women laughing and found ourselves face to face with a naked blow up doll with the groom-to-be’s face taped on it. Lucky guy!! We’ve seen a few bucks’ and hens’ parties here in Glasgow. Earlier in the day we saw a guy in a full bridal gown with his mates in George Square. I’m so glad I’m past all of that.
We got all the tickets for our rail journeys printed. There were so many of them it felt like I was holding a small deck of cards. The station appeared to be running like clockwork, with trains constantly coming and going, and the train departure info was easy to find and constantly updated.
We returned to our hotel to check out, then walked back to the station, which is probably only about 200 metres away. We stood in front of the departures board for about an hour, waiting for the platform number for the train to Oban. When it finally appeared, we saw that the first two carriages were going to Oban, the next two to Fort William, and the final two to Mallaig. (Although we didn’t hear carriages being removed, when we finally arrived in Oban, our train was certainly much shorter than when we left Glasgow).
Marg and I had reserved seats and so did Janie and Neil, but the two couples had been assigned separate carriages. Neil spoke to a ScotRail employee who assured him that it would be fine for the two couples to sit together in the same carriage, so Marg and I moved seats. Thankfully there were quite a few empty seats on our carriage, so we had no problem stowing away our suitcases and finding somewhere to sit.
Our train route is known as the West Highland Line. Marg and I have seen it featured on Bill Nighy’s ‘World’s Most Scenic Railway Journeys’. It didn’t disappoint, as we travelled along the banks of beautiful lochs, through ferny glens surrounded by high, barren crags, past livestock grazing in green pastures and amongst the tall pines and oaks of heavily timbered forests. Sometimes we climbed high above the scenic road that more or less followed the same route.
If you look closely at the photos below you will see Kilchurn Castle, which we passed. I tried to get a better photo, but when you’re sitting on a fast train you only have a split second to line up a photo, focus and take the shot. If you hesitate, you’ll probably end up with a string of blurry photos of trees and bushes whizzing past, obscuring the castle. Kilchurn Castle, on the shores of Loch Awe, has stood since the 1400s.
Marg and Janie enjoyed the views as much as Neil and I did, but also found the train trip a great opportunity to relax and crochet.
Just over three hours after leaving Glasgow, the train arrived in Oban. The moment you step out of the carriage and onto the platform, your eyes notice a rather unusual sight dominating the hilltop above the seaside town. It’s called McCaig’s Tower. It was built in 1897 by John McCaig, a philanthropist, to provide work for local stonemasons. He also planned for it to be a lasting monument to his family. McCaig designed it to resemble the Colosseum in Rome. But construction ceased when he died in 1902 with only the outer walls completed. From that time on, many people called the structure McCaig’s Folly.
Our hotel, the historic Perle, is directly across the road from the station – literally a 50 metre walk. We couldn’t believe our luck when we stepped into our room and set eyes upon the stunning view out over the pier and the harbour. Boats and ferries were going to and fro from the pier and occasionally the cries of gulls could be heard. It’s an idyllic seaside setting, and just what we were hoping for from our rail tour of Scotland.
Our first task was to call into a booking agent to collect our tickets for tomorrow’s boat tour to Mull, Staffa and Iona. We wandered a couple of blocks further down the street to the Oban Distillery, which was established in 1794. Unfortunately we were too late for a tour and even too late for a tasting. Thankfully we have booked a couple of distillery visits for later on in our Scotland tour.
We found a really nice little pub, the Oban Inn. It dates back to 1790, even earlier than the distillery. It was a pretty tight squeeze in there, especially on a Saturday evening, but we found a table upstairs and sat down to a few drinks and a great pub meal. And to compensate for missing out on the distillery tour, we treated ourselves to a wee dram of Oban 14 yo single malt.
When we walked out of the pub after dinner it was raining. The Scots have been warning us about the rain for the past week and finally it’s arrived. But we’re not going to let a little rain now and then spoil our holiday. So far we’re enjoying it immensely.
Looks like a great day!
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