in which the Scottish weather disappoints, yet we still press on to see an island not far from Glasgow and climb to the top of a hill. With final reflections on the visit and on Glasgow near the end.
Short a car, our access to the best parts of Scotland was clearly limited. Particularly considering money and weather limitations. Had the weather been spectacular on the day in question, I might have proposed a trip up the West Highland Line (and indeed, I have pledged to myself, if I ever go to Scotland again, I will either do the West Highland Line (Britain’s most scenic railroad) or the West Highland Way (an 8 day journey or so from Glasgow to Ft William on foot), depending on how hardcore I feel–on the other hand, I highly doubt I will be returning to Britain any time soon).
Anyway, our day began, thanks to the lack of public transportation before 10 am on Sundays in Glasgow, with a long walk to Glasgow Central, where we caught an 8:40 train to Ardrossan, where we caught the ferry onwards to Brodick. 15 pounds return–certainly within the budget. Upon disembarking, we set off on our adventure. Only the base of Goatfell, the highest of the hills on Arran and our destination for the day, was truly visible, thanks to the large clouds of mists that were settled around the mountain. Still, it was nice to be out in nature, my hiking boots firmly on my feet, and ready for a climb.
And so, we were off–up and away, as it were. At first, we had some nice views onto the harbour, making us all the more sorry for the weather to be so gross. Yet, I don’t regret that we pressed on and climbed the mountain anyway.
After a short while, we were firmly into the mists that engulf Goatfell in the first picture of the post, and our visibility was not greater than some 20 meters or so, meaning we could hardly see the people ahead of us, let alone views to the bottom. At some point, about 45 minutes from the top, the weather became particularly bad, and we pulled up our rain coat hoods and pushed on in silence.
And finally, we reached the top. Perhaps one of the most anticlimactic hiking experiences of my life. Where the Gipfelkreuz, the gaudy crosses that top pretty much every mountain in Germany and Bavaria? Where the lovely views to the bottom? There was hardly even a marker to announce that we were at the peak.
Oh well. At the same time, it’s not exactly an absurdly high peak. Not even 1000 m above sea level. Though, I should add a caveat–when I hike in Germany, the elevation difference is generally comparable, as I have generally started at an elevation of some 800 or 900 m, and climbed to peaks at 1400-1800 meters. So, since our hike started quite literally at the sea and therefore at sea level, it was fairly legit. We took a commemorative photo at the top, just to prove we were there. I think it does justice to just how little we could see.
And then, since the weather was not so nice at the top (windy, misty, but not raining), we headed immediately down, pressing on towards the bottom, where the weather improved markedly. What struck me then was the alien colours of the landscape. The yellows, oranges, and purple-ish browns seemed completely foreign. I tried to take a picture to capture this, but pictures hardly do it justice.
And perhaps yet stranger when you added the very yellow flowers in bloom.
Scotland is certainly a beautiful country, and I only wish I had had more time to take in some of its more beautiful corners. Or had had better weather to better appreciate what I did see. But I can hardly complain. For the three days that she hosted me, Mirjam provided a wonderful introduction to the country. Quite literally. When I think of all we did–saw Glasgow, including its arts scene, ate haggis, drank whisky, drank Tennants and Irn Bru, climbed a hill, saw a loch–we even heard a bagpiper on the subway one of the days. I will just assume he was wearing a kilt.
With that said, I can hardly put to words how lovely it was to have a long weekend to catch up with Mirjam. Mirjam and I go way back–she was a foreign exchange student who lived with my family my junior year in high school, so, 2003-04. She has continued to be a close friend of mine, and I am so glad we’ve managed to keep in touch all of these years. One of the funnier parts of the experience was the fact that, after more than half a year in Scotland, she has a decided Scottish twang in her English, which struck me all the more as it was the first time we really spoke English since about 2006, when I showed up at her house much more capable of speaking German than ever before.
Glasgow itself was also a nice destination. I appreciated it because of the sense I had of just how livable a city it was–in stark contrast to Edinburgh, which I would discover the next day. With a thriving arts and music scene, as well as good connections to the highlands, Glasgow offers much to the visitor. Sure, it’s not as pretty as Edinburgh. Not as touristy. In fact, sort of ugly and industrial in many parts. But here’s the thing: cities that came of age in an industrial age tend to look like that. I can forgive that in a city, particularly when a city has so much to offer its visitors and inhabitants. It’s rough around the edges, certainly–has the highest rate of drug usage in all of Scotland, which is hardly surprising. Gritty and dirty. And yet, I decidedly approve.
And, with my introduction to Scotland thoroughly underway, only one thing remained. My final day in Edinburgh. During which I employed somewhat unusual time management decisions, but which totally reflect my interests and desires. That is to come, and thus, I will leave this post here, with a final thank you to Mirjam, for an excellent weekend of hosting, guiding, and planning. It was wonderful.