Monday, August 1–Dublin city, Co Dublin to Fort William, the Highlands

Flew from Dublin to Glasgow; picked up rental car; another minor disaster on the road North; Loch Lomond; West Highland Way; Glen Coe; wandering around the small downtown; Scottish Whisky Shop; St Andrew's church; Boots; small cell phone store; haggis, neeps & tatties at the Tavern;

Best Western Imperial

Black Toyota Rav4

Slideshow

11/29/2016

It's been a long day, and I slept worse last night than any night since I left home for Ireland. I couldn't get to sleep until sometime between 1:30 and 2:00 AM and kept waking up. For the first time while I was staying in that hotel, I kept thinking I heard voices or the TV coming from one of the rooms next door. I finally just decided I was fully awake and got up at 5:30 this morning. I also didn't feel particularly well. For some reason not getting enough sleep often messes up my digestive system, so my breakfast this morning was Immodium followed by more Immodium.

I was showered, dressed, packed, and checked out of my hotel just after 7:00 AM and was at the Dublin airport by shortly after 8 or maybe earlier. I wasn't wearing my pocket watch until after going through security at the airport and don't remember looking at the time until I got to the gate where my flight was supposed to leave.

When I got there I thought it looked a lot more like a bus station than a terminal at an airport, and I was right. The small, propellor driven commuter planes leave Dublin airport from somewhere sort of in the middle, so you take a small bus from the gate out to the plane and board it there. There was a small place selling some food at the gate so I had a smoothie and some yogurt while waiting for my plane.

Also while waiting, they announced it was going to be a full flight and asked if anyone would check their carry on bags to make more room available in the bins and I of course said OK. I still had to carry my pack and my hatbox on my lap on the little shuttle bus to the plane but after that I didn't have to worry about carrying them through the Glasgow airport when wle got there.

I don't remember much about the flight other than it was partly cloudy and there's not a lot to see between Dublin and the UK. I tried to doze off during the short flight and might have for brief instances every now and then. The flight reminded me very much of flying from Portland to San Jose–ascent, a short time at cruising altitude, then descent again.

The plane landed at the Glasgow airport in much the same kind of area as at the Dublin airport and we had to take a small shuttle bus from the plane to the terminal to collect our bags. I was not pleased that there were no restrooms between where we entered the terminal and baggage claim. I was surprised that there was no customs or immigration but then remembered that we were flying from an EU country to another EU country (for a while at least).

The Enterprise rental desk is in the Glasgow airport itself but the cars themselves and the service desk are a short walk away. Even though I had sent two bags home, I still had my two suitcases, my pack, my hatbox, and Chris's cane so I snagged one of the free baggage carts primarily because my pack kept sliding off my shoulder while pulling my suitcases along.

I'm driving a very nice black Toyota Rav4 for the next week, until I return to Glasgow this coming Sunday. I decided to not even request the Garmin but to use Google Maps on my Irish Android smart phone instead; even though it cost me a bit more than if I was still in Ireland it's still costs a lot less than using my home iPhone. I forgot to put the car charger for my Android phone in my pack instead of in my luggage and the battery died on me somewhere along the way. I was going to switch to my home iPhone anyway but that battery was dead also.

It turned out not to matter all that much because the route from Glasgow to here in Fort William, and indeed on from here to Mallaig a little further North along the coast, is very well sign posted, and is known as the Road to the Isles. The first part of the route from Glasgow leads alongside the very large and often stunningly beautiful Loch Lomond, which I might try and see as part of a day tour from Glasgow. There are actually some places scattered along the route where you can stop and take pictures, or when you get into the Highlands you can stop and park while walking along the West Highland Way.

I wasn't feeling well for much of the middle part of the trip but managed to find a small park with restrooms before things got too bad. I kept going until I got here to Fort William because I wanted to get here as soon as possible and also wasn't sure how my stomach would react if I had anything to eat.

The route also goes through Glen Coe, the glen itself, and goes past the Glen Coe visitors centre, and the site of the town where the infamous massacre on February 13, 1692 of many of its inhabitants by British forces took place.

Even though I'd come here by the steam train five years ago, I actually started recognizing the area several minutes before getting to the town center. I drove by the hotel on the lower road and didn't see it at first and had to stop at the parking lot for the large grocery store and the train station a little further into town and ask where it was.

My hotel, the Best Western Imperial, is a very pleasant old city center hotel with its own parking (if somewhat limited and often having cars of people not staying in the hotel parked there), a very nice old bar and a nice restaurant as well. My room's up a couple of flights of stairs, but someone brought my two heavy bags up for me and will take them down again when I leave so that's OK. I actually have a view from my room looking West out over Loch Linnhe.

It's also quite centrally located. The B&B I stayed in five years ago, Guisachan, is about a five minute walk on the other side of the town center from here, basically just above the train station and large grocery store where I stopped earlier today. The Imperial is a very short block towards the water from almost the center of the main pedestrianized street in the town center itself.

After I unpacked a bit I went for a walk through town to get some exercise and to see how things have changed since the last time I was here. There seems to be about the same mix of flourishing stores, pubs, cafes, coffee shops and restaurants and closed ones as there was then, but some of the ones which I think were open then are now closed and I think some of the ones open now are new since then. I stopped in at the Scottish Whisky Shop for a couple of small bottles of different scotches and came back here to drop them off before wandering up the other direction. I went into the very lovely St Andrew's church which I don't think I did last time and managed to pick up some more Slimfasts at the local outlet of Boots just before they were closing.

I found a place where I can take my Irish Android smart phone in and have them unlock it and put in a UK SIM card tomorrow morning after it's charged again. Since it keeps telling me it's almost out of storage I think I'll see if that's something I can have them add as well. Since the phone will now be unlocked, I'll just get a French SIM card when I get to Paris.

I stopped in at the local tourist office to pick up a map and to see if there's anything going on the next few evenings. Wben I was here for those two nights to take the Jacobite steam train to Mallaig and back five years ago I enjoyed a performance of the Lohcaber schools pipe band on the pedestrian mall one evening, and they're performing tomorrow and Thursday evening. I forgot to ask if anyone has day trips to the islands from here, so I'll stop in again tomorrow after I go to the phone place.

I saw a restaurant called the Tavern that looked very nice, and decided I'd have my first meal in Scotland this trip (since I'd skipped lunch) there when I saw haggis, neeps & tatties (mashed turnips and mashed potatoes) on the menu. I stopped in and was told they wouldn't be able to seat me for 45 minutes, so I said OK and came back here to finish unpacking.

The weather was quite nice here today, and I had taken my sweatshirt off all the way back at the Glasgow airport before driving off. It was still nice when I headed back out for dinner, which was extremely good. The mashed turnips were wonderful and the haggis was very good and the mashed potatoes were good mashed potatoes. The meringue strawberry sundae I had for dessert was amusing and very tasty as well. While I was having dinner I asked how long the restaurant had been open since I didn't think I remembered it from my last trip–dinner was so good tonight that if I ate there I'm sure I'd have remembered it–and they've been open there for about eight years.

When I left the restaurant it was noticeably chillier than it had been when I left the hotel. After I got back I took a bit of a rest but wasn't sleepy enough to go to bed yet so I finished watching something streaming on Netflix I had started a couple of nights ago, and looked up places online and on my maps where I might want to go while here.

I have three full days here in Fort William before I head on over to Mallaig. I plan on having a relaxed couple of days, and doing my exercise walking along the waterfront when the weather's nice enough. There are several shops and at least one other church I want to poke around in as well as the West Hightland Museum right here in town. A few minutes outside of town in one direction are Neptune's Staircase, a series of locks on the nearby canal, and Treasures of the Earth, a geological museum and shop. And a few minutes away in a completely different direction is the gondola up to the top of the Glen Nevis ski area which is also open during the summer.

It's now a little after 1 AM and I think I'll be able to get some sleep now. Good night.


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