Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Greenock and Inverary Scotland

Today we docked in Scotland. Greenock, Scotland to be exact, and as luck would have it, we hired the most awesome cab driver named Dave. We hired him for forty-five pounds an hour and had him drive us to Loch Lomond National Park, and Inverary Castle.

The day was overcast, but not cold. Perfect weather, actually, for someone like me who barely tolerates the sun. Our drive took us through Greenock, which looked quite charming, and out to the western side of Scotland, through Luss and Inverary.

We stopped and photographed the most picture-perfect cottage I have ever seen, and again at Loch Lomond where people and dogs were swimming, paddle boarding, and enjoying the water. The Loch reminded me of the lake we used to go to, as kids, in Marion, Va. called Hungry Mother State Park.
My guess is that the water temperature was around 72 degrees, which isn't too cold if you are not a big, fat, baby like me!

Dave enjoyed telling us many stories of Scotland and explained that yes, while they do have a 45% tax rate, they can choose to live in government housing, from age 16 forward, for thirty to forty pounds a week.
These homes mostly look like duplexes and apartment-type row homes, but apparently once you are given one at 16 you can keep it for life, or until they put you in a "hotel" style nursing home, for free.
The government pays all maintenance fees, such as roofing, etc. Of course, you can also "purchase" a home, but they seem quite adverse to mortgages, here. Home prices seem to start at around seventy thousand pounds, which seems relatively inexpensive to homes back in the states, but when you consider that 45% of your income goes to taxes, not everyone can afford to buy their own home. If you turn sixteen and are still living in your family home, you would be required to pay "rent." You are considered "grown" and 16, you can drink, drive and marry!

Once outside of Greenock, most of the homes were larger and required purchase. Also, once you turn 65 you no longer have to pay rent and everything is "free."
Do not quote me on all of this information, as I was listening to a Scot's explanation and he had one heck of an accent! lol

Once we arrived in the town of Inverary, we walked up the drive to the castle, where the Duke actually still lives. Inveraray Castle is a country house near Inveraray in the county of Argyll, in western Scotland, on the shore of Loch Fyne, Scotland's longest sea loch. It is one of the earliest examples of Gothic Revival architecture. It has been the seat of the Dukes of Argyll, chiefs of Clan Campbell, since the 18th century.

We saw the main floor, several rooms upstairs, and the dining room where part of the Downton Abbey Christmas scenes was filmed.

The castle was quite pristine likely due to the fact that people actually still live there.
There were many rifles, and other weapons used at the Battle of Culloden hanging on the walls. I am not sure what many of them were called, but if you are an "Outlander" fan, then you will know what I am talking about!

We saw fancy coronation robes and a wedding dress that was simple and elegant, and other robes worn by Lords. The history and imagining people dressed in such garb, walking around the halls of this castle is a bit hard to wrap my head around. The ceilings are so high and ornate, and I immediately go to, "How'd They Do That?"

The tartan of the house colors are black and blue and green, and I quite liked the plaid. The furniture was beautiful, without being garish, and nothing seemed too over the top. In my opinion, it was a lovely castle!

My favorite room, of course, is always the kitchen! I love looking at old stoves, ovens, pots, and pans, and this one did not disappoint! I can only imagine the hustle and bustle that must have occurred on a daily basis to feed those living in the castle.

Once we were through with our tour, we just called our favorite taxi driver Dave, and he came and picked us up. I just love hiring a cab, versus taking a bus tour! The bus tour through the cruise ship would've cost us 640 pounds, and we would have been gone eight hours and been around WAY TOO MANY people.

This day cost us 265 pounds, and we had our own personal informant and comedian at our beck and call. Way to go!

Back on the ship and we needed a "snack" aka lunch. Guy's Burger Joint was what was open, so we had burgers with TONS of delicious grilled onions. Dinner in three hours? ugh

Now, what does one do? We have three, free hours. Well, how about writing a little, relaxing a little, and hitting the early show? As an officially "old" person, I have found that I am often too tired, after the late dinner, to enjoy the show, so we have been going to the show before dinner. Tonight was Kate Lindeman; Viva Variety. She was truly spectacular!
A classically trained soprano that mixed classical music with modern-day pop in a unique way. Truly a delight. She sang an opera aria and performed a duet with one of the other singers from the ship's regular entertainment troupe. It was magnificent and gave me goosebumps, on my goosebumps! It was "The Prayer", which I am sure you have all heard sung by many of the greats. It was the most talent I have ever "heard" on a cruise ship thus far.

Dinner, blek, then bed!
What a great day, had by all.
Night, y'all!

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Monday, August 15, 2022

Holyhead, Wales

 Our typical plan of getting off the ship and into a cab did not happen in Holyhead. First, we had to tender to land, and there were literally no taxis, anywhere to be found.

We decided to walk into "town" and see if we could get one there. Nope! The town has pretty much dried up and blown away.

We stumbled across St. Cybi's Church, where there was a random gentleman handing out pamphlets, and historical information. He had some interesting facts about the Vikings, but I'll be darned if I could understand half of what he was saying!

There were christenings going on in the church, so we were unable to go inside.

After wandering the grounds, and looking at some of the graves, we decided to walk back towards the ship and an old fort and castle that were within walking distance.

Fortunately for us, there was a tour van that was dropping some people off in town, and the gal with the tour offered us a ride back to the start of the path towards the fort and castle. 

It was a total bonus and made it possible for me to be able to make the trek.

I do not know the history behind the castle and fort, but it is totally abandoned and makes me wonder if it was just a tourist type of attraction at some point, as it is just sitting there empty, with barbed wire all around.

The tower and fort area look authentic and old, but there were no signs for any of those structures, either.

All in all, there isn't much to Holyhead, and had we known there would be no taxis, we may have found another way to travel further inland, but since we are trying really hard to stay away from "crowds" the bus option wasn't at the top of our list.

Hopefully, tomorrow there will be more options in Greenock.

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Bricks for the Brave!!