AlbaWhiteWolf Goes to Scotland – Travel Review

We wanted to take the dog away over the Easter holidays and we settled on Scotland as a relatively grief free destination. Given that Theresa May is car crashing us into a hard Brexit that is likely to result in an SNP retaliation and a second independence referendum, we decided we would take the opportunity to visit Scotland before relations sour and they start requiring passports to cross the border from merry little England.

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Me and Alba travelled up on the train from Sheffield to Edinburgh, a rather expensive journey on a cramped and uncomfortable Virgin train that was littered with rubbish and charged £10 for a minimum 5 hours wifi access. I have visited Edinburgh before and know it to be a vibrant city, with some incredible architecture set on some horrendously steep hills. I recommend all visitors to walk up the Royal Mile to the castle for an intense cultural experience, for art I would The Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the botanical gardens are a delight for all plant lovers.

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However, it was my Dad’s hair-brained scheme to hire a barge for a week which meant we had little time to enjoy the city, instead we had to set off at 8am the next day to cruise along the delights of the Scottish canal network (highlights include; muddy water and some duck reeds). The boat was called the “Orange Weaver” and was a charmingly idyllic model with floral designs on the curtains and interior panelling. The beds, however were less appealing, back-ache inducing and about half the width of a standard single. Alba usually sleeps on my double bed at home and she spent half the night jumping on top of me, seemingly forgetting each time that there simple wasn’t room for both of us. It was also freezing cold, as you can’t keep the generator running during the night in residential moorings and my Dad was snoring constantly in the bed next to me. It will suffice to say, I didn’t sleep a wink and resolved to escape the barge at the first opportunity.

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The weather was good so the canal journey itself was fairly pleasant, if you’re into countryside views of muddy water and duck reeds and that sort of thing. It was very cold in the wind though, and I can imagine that driving in poor weather conditions would be a thoroughly unpleasant experience. I also managed to crash the boat, the one attempt I made at steering it, so after we spent 30 minutes trying to free the barge from the muddy bank I was banned from touching the tiller again. I don’t think I was forgiven for this misdemeanour, especially after my dad had to clear all the duck reeds from the engine at the next available stop. Travelling by barge is, nonetheless, a brilliant way to experience a place and we stopped off at moorings along the way and discovered quaint little villages and Marinas. You are also guaranteed lovely walks along the tow path which me and the dog thoroughly enjoyed. Although she kept drinking the canal water and then throwing up once we were back on the boat. She also seemed distressed by the rocking and the continually changing environments and when she refused to eat anything, I decided to get both of us back to civilised dry land and booked a hotel in Glasgow.

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We stayed on the barge just long enough to experience the magnificence of the Falkirk Wheel, a marvel of modern engineering that cuts out the need for 10 locks by conveying boats in troughs of water around a huge mechanical wheel. I was equally impressed by the standard of the Scottish public transport systems, which included; super friendly staff, an excellent standard of cleanliness, brand new fittings, free wifi on board buses and trains, punctual and frequent running times, all for an extremely low fare. A far cry from the Virgin East-Coast mainline or public transport below the border.

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I decided to walk to the hotel from the station, which may have been a mistake given the number of bags I was carrying, mainly full of the dog food Alba hadn’t eaten. We stopped by the river and it wasn’t long before Alba had attracted the attention of a deaf German photography student who spent half an hour photographing us for her college project. The hotel staff at the Campanille were equally smitten with Alba who relished all the fuss she was getting.

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We stayed three nights in Glasgow and made the most of the time; visiting the Parks, the Glasgow Botanical Gardens and the university; walking along the river and exploring the incredible modern and old architecture. It was a shame I couldn’t visit any of of the art exhibitions because of the dog, but the Kelvingrove museum and modern art gallery are renowned for their excellence. There was so much to see outdoors as well, and we especially enjoyed the Glasgow Green which hosts the Nelson Monument, the People’s Palace and the world’s largest terracotta fountain, amongst other features.

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I was very taken with Glasgow, a multicultural, down-to-Earth and developing city that is proud to celebrate its history and heritage alongside its modern culture. I did stumble across a few of the stereotypical “addict on a bench” types who Alba could smell and would bark at ferociously, usually waking them from their drugged slumber. Nonetheless, the majority of people who we met were incredibly friendly and helpful and it was an absolute pleasure to visit their city. If we fail in our attempts to quash Brexit, I can only hope that Scotland will go ahead with its vote for independence and re-join the EU so I can move to Glasgow and enjoy the stunning architecture and friendly folk.

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