Xmas 2015 in Edinburgh

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Xmas 2016
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Going up December 22nd-23rd 2015

Up at 7, which gave us plenty of time to eat, wash & check everything over. Even so, we left at 08:40. Ken only made up his mind at the last minute which route to take & chose the A1 all the way. It was dull until we got to the motorway bit to Peterborough, where we had drizzle during a coffee stop, bladder bursting. There was intermittent rain for much of the rest of the trip. We have a problem with the driver’s windscreen wiper, which creeps out of its hook & flips round if not regularly checked. A clip has broken. On the first section of the A1, there are still villages after Biggleswade crying out for by-passes. We stopped with some puzzlement at Ferrybridge Services for a lunch snack, the food on offer otherwise being objectionable of various grounds. Has one ever heard of lasagne with chips, for goodness sake? We had tea & quite nice paninis. The roads here are a bit confusing, as the services nestle in between the A1 (M) & the M62 but Ken got out without disaster. At Catterick, they are still converting the old road into a motorway, although most of it North of Ferrybridge has been done. We turned off & went to Richmond, as it was only about 14:35. This was a delight &, if we need to stop over on the way to Edinburgh again, we will stay there & explore it. The road away goes straight to Scotch Corner, where Ken had booked us into the Holiday Inn, a brick monster outside but all Art Deco inside.

Ken asked the guy on the desk & he said it was first, an RAF hospital built in the early 30s, then it became the Scotch Corner Hotel & now, a franchise off Holiday Inn has taken it & spent £3M on refurbishing it, preserving as much Art Deco as possible. Ken had a fairly hard-earned bath, as Ken had to operate the flick wipers for a lot of the journey, owing to the patchy rain & muck thrown up by big lorries. Ken had kept speeds down to 50-70, as not in a hurry. It would not have been much fun in this weather if we had tried to do it in one day. We repaired to bar, which had an acceptable local brew.

The Scotch Corner Holiday Inn

The Art Deco staircase & chandelier

Breakfast at 08:15. We were away at 9 after Ken took photos of the hotel & the art deco staircase & chandelier. It was a lovely day until after lunch, with acres of blue sky. We fairly dawdled along the A1, although there were roadworks before Newcastle (Js 66-72). We went off on the coast road at Alnwick, expecting to get coffee at Seahouses but every café was shut. However, not only did Ken get good photos at Bamburgh of Sir Lancelot’s castle but there was a nice café open for hot chocolates, necessary, as it was much colder & with a wind.

Bamburgh Castle from the Seahouses Road

Bamburgh Castle from Bamburgh village

We stopped in Dunbar for a snack lunch, as Ken had never been there before. A fine looking town. The wind howled down the main street but the snack was welcome. A birthday party (19) was going on. Ken asked ladies outside where the castle was & they said it was somewhat demolished. This turned out to be true.

In Dunbar

In Dunbar

The Severely damaged Dunbar Castle

Arriving in Edinburgh & a trip to the Trossachs

After creeping in to Edinburgh, despite dodging round by the Royal Mile, the hotel porter took our truck keys & took it away to we know not where! The Roxburghe Hotel sprawls along the East side of Charlotte Square. The room is roomy but has a severe lack of storage, small wardrobe & no drawers. The shower is fixed, which is anti-woman. Otherwise, it is quite posh & the radiator did not seem to work. We went for dinner, Caesar salads & puds with an expensive bottle of Pino Grigio which will last two days. We chatted to the couple from Ayr on the next table & booked dinner for 16:30 on Xmas Day. On finishing, the room was till freezing but a Polish guy brought up an oil electric heater & James, also from Reception, showed how the air conditioning could be fixed to heat the room, which was quite toasty when we went to bed. On the news, they announced that the Forth Road Bridge, which had been closed due to incompetent Scot-Nat maintenance, was now open to all but HGVs.

Roxburghe Hotel


Ben Lomond

The next day, the weather looked so-so , not raining & with some blue sky to the North-West. Breakfast had a fruit buffet & cooked was served, although fish was extra, soddit. We drove off up to Sterling on the M9. It did rain on & off. We turned off to Aberfoyle, where we stopped for coffee & hot chocolate. Then, we took the dead-end road, 15 miles to Stronachlachar.

Loch Chon on the way & French Farm

The last lochan - Loch Arklet

Panorama of Loch Katrine from Stronachlachar

Most of the surface is appalling & by the first lochan, runs very close to the water. There some very good views & by the last lochan, Ben Lomond (Ken thinks) with snow on it. The views from Stronachlachar varied, with a bit of Sun coming out, as it did occasionally all day. The purpose of this trip was, in fact, to get more photographs for Ken's "Lesser known Schubert Songs" lecture.


Down East of Loch Katrine

We went back to Aberfoyle & drove over the Duke’s Pass but at the East end of Loch Katrine, not only do they want to charge for parking but there is not much Trossach to be seen. We stopped in Callender for soup & cake for lunch, then drove back. In Edinburgh, it was quite dry. So, rather an iffy day altogether & Ken hade fewer photos than he had hoped for.

From Duke's Pass

Loch Achray

Xmas Day in Edinburgh

On Xmas Day morning, we were in desperate need of a walk, although it was quite cold out. At least, it stayed dry. We went East along Princes Street, almost alone & Ken stood in the middle of a carriageway to take a photo, unheard of. We went up The Mount, to find a terribly vulgar light setup, discourtesy of Richard Branson, in the Royal Mile. The only coffee emporium open was Starbucks, which did a roaring trade but locked all the loos, really outrageous. Avis’ left knee was giving her trouble, so it was a miracle she got up The Mount but we went back down North Bridge, which is less vertiginous. Ken did get some useful photos.

The Castle from St. John's Church

The Castle from Princes Street

Up the Royal Mile

Panorama of outside the Royal Mile from Princes Street

After coffee, reading a bit & rewarming his feet, Ken went out again round the Stables & up many steps to the castle, then down The Mound & back, garnering more photos. There was snow on the Pentland Hills, which are not very high.

Pentland Hills with snow from....

...the Castle Wynd looking West

Over the Forth from the Castle

The Castle Wynd looking East

A last excursion up country

Yesterday’s plan had been to got to Falkirk first & look at the Antonine Wall. This, we did & first, found the Falkirk Wheel, about which, we had had no idea. This is a formidable chunk of engineering to get canal traffic up from one level to a much higher one.

The Falkirk Wheel over the canal

The Falkirk Wheel close up

The Falkirk Wheel from the side

As it turned out to be quite a hike to Tony’s (Emperor Antonius Pius's) Wall, Ken left Avis in the Visitor’s Centre & set off, helped by a local couple walking their dog. The actual wall is much wider than he had anticipated & the deep ditch is on the Southern side. All there is of Rough Castle, one of the Roman forts, is the ditch system surrounding it.

Tony's Wall left & ditch right

North Gate of Rough Castle

Wall ditch & castle ditch off left

After this, we drove off to Loch Lomond via the Carron Valley, which had one tricky bit of flooded road but otherwise, just had a poor surface. We turned up Loch Lomond & stopped at Luss.

Panorama of Loch Lomond from Luss

Ben Lomond over Loch Lomond

Ben Arthur over Loch Long

As the weather was very good, the services were overwhelmed, so after being charged 30p for pees, we carried on & went over to Arrochar, stopping for soup at the café, which took 3/4 hour, as they were overwhelmed as well. Loch Long was still, hence the photo of Ben Arthur with reflexion. We then drove back to Edinburgh via Gareloch, Erskine Bridge & the M8, stopping for fuel at the services on the M8.

Art Scene

The Campaign Trail

Traveller's Tales -
Haydn & Wales

Traveller's Tales -
Alpine trip

Traveller's Tales -
Capital Ring

Xmas 2016
Index page

Contact: Ken Baldry or Avis Saltsman, 17 Gerrard Road, Islington, London N1 8AY +44(0)020 7359 6294 or e-mail him or her
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