Feeling somewhat energized by an eleven hour rest that we hoped would allow us to make a big one-time adjustment to the change in time, we arose on Friday morning (August 31st) to a cool but clear morning in Glasgow (7 degrees celsius). We enjoyed a full Scottish breakfast at the hotel (ham, sausage, eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, baked beans, blood pudding, and toast), and then, while Mary did her morning Qigong practice (she has been taking Tai Chi for nearly 7 years), I went out for a 45 minute power-walk in the immediate vicinity of the hotel.
My destination was the Buchanan Street pedestrian mall which is similar to 8th Street in Calgary, Granville Street in Vancouver, and Grafton Street in Dublin, where we visited last year (May 2017). My route took me across Argyle Street and under the City Centre railway overpass that is one of my favorite sites in downtown Glasgow. Reaching Buchanan I turned and walked uphill to see if I could find the boutique hotel we stayed in 10 years earlier (the Buchanan Hotel), but it had become a casualty of progress and is no longer there.
I completed my walk and we checked out of the Glasgow Marriott around 9:30. We had taken note that the weather in the days ahead were going to be rainy, so rather than stay in Glasgow and visit a few things we missed the last time, we would hit the road, and start exploring, while the weather was sunny and dry.
I should note, that Mary has Scottish ancestry from her mother’s side of the family, who come from the MacGregor Clan in and around Glasgow. A great grand-mother who married into that family was also born in Scotland, in the town of Paisley, some 15 miles west of Glasgow, so it seemed somehow appropriate that Paisley would be our first stop.
To call Paisley a town seems somewhat incongruous, given it has a population in excess of 75,000, but it is in fact known as “Scotland’s largest town”, having never been granted city status. As we entered the city, the first thing we saw was the magnificent Paisley Abbey, which dates back to the 12th century, and was founded by Walter, the High Steward of Scotland, and a prominent member of the Royal House of Stewart. It was not open to the public on the day we were there, but it is still an active church after more than 850 years!
One of the reasons we had identified Paisley as a potential stopping point is that the Paisley pattern which was so prominent in the 1960’s , is indelibly linked to that town (I had a purple paisley shirt and matching tie myself). Paisley was a very important mill town during the Industrial revolution and the Paisley design was copied from the costly silk and wool Kashmir shawls. The design was adapted first for use on hand looms, and, after 1820, on Jacquard looms (on the right). From roughly 1800 to 1850, the weavers of the Paisley became the foremost producers of Paisley shawls in the world. It became particularly fashionable after being worn by the young Queen Victoria. Our pre-trip research had indicated that the Paisley Museum had a significant collection of original shawls as well as a major exhibit of the looms that had been in use back in the 1800’s.
We made our way to the Museum by walking the main streets of Paisley, and as we approached it, we were quite taken by a magnificent church spiral that dominated the skyscape beyond the museum itself. It belonged to Thomas Coats Memorial Baptist Church, and we walked a ways past the museum to check it out before circling back to the library itself. In addition to the history of the Paisley shawls, and the story of the town of Paisley, we enjoyed seeing a room dedicated to a local group of disabled artists whose work was being celebrated for all to see.
Some readers of this blog may not be aware that the business card of every DSA staff member features a silhouette of a bird that has some personal meaning to each individual. In Mary’s case, her bird is the Belted Kingfisher, and as she loves to tell people, “the female Kingfisher is far more colourful than it’s male counterpart”! So, my favorite thing about Paisley was that just 30 yards from where we parked there was a giant mural of a Kingfisher. It just seemed like such a great omen for the weeks ahead.
From Paisley, we headed 45 minutes SW toward the seaside town of Troon, home of the Royal Troon Golf Course, one of 13 courses that hosts the British Open on somewhat of a rotating basis. There was an event on at the course on the day we arrived, so parking for a visit was just not in the cards,but as we drove by, we stopped to take a picture of the hotel and clubhouse that players see as they make their way along the wind-swept coastline of the Firth of Clyde.
We also saw the infamous pod bunkers that can swallow a golfer entirely, and some have walls that are so steep, the only way out is to play the ball backwards/or away from the hole. Later in our trip, we plan to walk the last three holes of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club at St. Andrews.
While we had set out for Troon in hope of a peek at a famous golf course, what we discovered was a lovely seaside town, with lovely homes along the waterfront, and a quaint downtown where we strolled the streets and stopped for a bite to eat.
Our next stop was one of the most important historical sites for most people with any ties to Scotland – the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum. It houses many of his original works and there are displays specific to eight of his most famous poems.
The site also includes the cottage where he and his three siblings were born, and two locations made famous in the poem Tam O’Shanter – Brig O’Doon and Alloway’s Auld Kirk. There was a fair amount of walking involved to take in all aspects of the museum but it is well worth the visit, as it contains a rich collection of all things Burns.
Our “feet up” place at the end of the day was the Daviot Guest House in Ayr, and we were quite fortunate to get a spot here as on the following two days, the annual Scottish Air Show was taking place, and this guest house was literally a stones throw from the beach where thousands would be gathering on the weekend. While there were plenty of spots we could have stayed at, this one was high on my radar based on pre-trip research, so we felt quite fortunate to take advantage of a last-minute cancellation that opened up a spot for us. The hosts were terrific, the room was warm and comfortable, and the end-of-day walk along the sea-wall meant for a perfect end to our first full day in Scotland.