Scotland - The Tour - The Awards

Lion Rampant

Having just got back from a 12-day whirlwind with my partner and my first serious look at (part of) Scotland in 20 years – and in no particular order………

Ice Cream
Dino’s Radio Café on the front in Helensburgh for an award something along the lines of:
“Greatly anticipated, likely to disappoint – but didn’t” (if you get my drift)

Still in the same family and still making their own ice cream daily to the family recipe. Quality has not been compromised and it tasted as good as ever and was a wonderful value £1.60 for a single nougat slider!

Nardini’s – where did you go wrong? Thank goodness their boarded-up eyesore was hidden behind the “Viking” Festival we attended in Largs.

Best Coffee on the whole trip
The waiting room at Fionnphort while waiting for the ferry TO Iona

Worst Coffee on the whole trip
The waiting room at Fionnphort on returning FROM Iona. Eugh! You switched to instant during the day – while we were on Iona.

Journalism Award
To Jamie Cossar of the Cumnock Chronicle for running a story inquiring about long lost cousins removed who died in WWI and which turned up my still alive godmother – who I had lost touch with 34 years ago. It was great to see her again.

Journalism Award – Runner up
To “Scottie” at Rampant Scotland for keeping me well informed about the state of the country in my absence – you got it about right!

Best Read on the trip
Walking with Murder: On the Kidnapped Trail – Ian Nimmo. I didn’t realise Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Kidnapped” was based on so much fact……. You learn something every day.

Architectural “Carbunkle”
To the housing development at the old Meadowside Granary. I know Glasgow is trying to enlarge its tax base to pay off its poll tax debts but in the words of Billy Connolly – “Aw Come Oan!” What a positively awful mess. I didn’t meet one person who liked it.

Lump in the throat and tear to the eye
To Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum for having remade itself to a standard that has little kids hanging onto their parents hands – staring in wonderment at the newly presented collection – just like I used to 40 odd years ago. The cleaning of the ceiling in the main hall was pretty good too. As I say – I had a lump in my throat watching the kids….. However I did miss the dioramas with the animals in them.

Going to rack and ruin
The “Vital Spark” lying in Crinan Basin. Would the gentlemen in Edinburgh who reportedly owns the remains of the puffer – please accept one of the many offers I am told have come your way by people who DO want to restore her. She is not appreciating in value – and the BBC are unlikely to try again after their last dreadful outing with Gregor Fisher as Para Handy. BBC – give up – you are not going to find another Roddy McMillian who with a slight pursing of the lips and keek of the eyebrows could speak volumes to the original stories.

Most confusing city redevelopment
Inverness – I might as well have been in America in the “Mall” area of town.

Bought up by foreigners
The Island of Mull – where did all those English people come from?

Best Bed and Breakfast
Taking account of location, location, location, value, quality of accommodation, breakfast and host – Captain Blair’s “Tir-Na-Glaic” in Crinan.

Most Interesting Breakfast Conversation
To Shirley Strachan – host at Ronebhal Guest House in Connel – for insights into how to dye and blow dry your sheep to look good before putting them up for auction (I kid you not) thus levering your price on the day by 26%.

Biggest Disappointment
City Litter – it’s better than it used to be – but it is still not great.

2nd Biggest Disappointment
The 4-lane path up from Arrochar to Ben Ime with branch to Ben Arthur. I KNOW we need to deal with erosion but it was a bit of a shock….. Mind whoever planted all the brambles along the side of the path deserves an award for “part of the walk likely to be taken most slowly”.

3rd Biggest Disappointment
Glasgow Parks Department for the Fossil Grove in Victoria Park. If the sign says it is going to open at 11am then it would be nice if it did. We hung around and hung around and made pantomime at the CCTV cameras – but no one ever showed up to open it.

Really moving award
The new memorial spot to the side of the Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge. The many handmade personal markers laid in the peat with mixture of name of veterans of WWII and victims of the current mess in Iraq was pretty raw.

Best Interpretation of a Historic Area.
To the National Trust for their visitor center at Glen Coe.

Runner Up Interpretation of a Historic Area
Stirling Castle for their display on the history of the kings and queens of the castle as it related to Scottish History. If you are trying to give someone a geo-political history of the period in a nutshell – This was pretty good.

Arranger of best scenery of the trip
To Icelandair for working with the weather guys to arrange a landfall in clear skies that allowed spectacular views of: St Kilda, Benbecula, Skye, a view across the Great Glen to North Sea, Loch Fyne, Loch Long, Balloch and the Maid of the Loch on Loch Lomond, Campsie Fells, landing at Glasgow Airport. Nice job!

Worst Political Comment by the locals
The cost of the Scottish Parliament Building

Best Political Comment by the locals
The way services have improved for the disadvantaged and elderly and with new schooling initiatives under the new Scottish Executive compared to the situation in England.

Best part of the trip award
Sure things change in 20 years – but not as dramatically as I expected. It’s still Scotland. There really were not that many surprises that were as bad as the disappointments I’ve listed! It was nearly all to the good.