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Trip report - Glasgow & Islay, September 2016

At long last I have written up my trip report for our September trip to Belgium, Scotland and Iceland. I'm posting in 3 parts.
Belgium - here
Scotland - this post
Iceland - here

Stop 2: Glasgow
September 14 Wednesday – We arrived at London St. Pancras around 9am and walked from there to Euston. 4 easy blocks without encumbrances feels more like 2 miles with even small suitcases on an unseasonably warm morning! And in the thick of the pedestrian morning rush! We arrived slightly sweaty, found a place out of the sun (All Bar One) and had second breakfast. Croissant & jam, Poached egg with avocado & grilled tomato. Our breakfasts came with shot glasses full of Smarties. We wandered around a bit after breakfast – explored the station a little, bought fruit and olives at M+S Food. We had settled into a corner of the station when the alarms went off and there was an announcement to evacuate the station. So we did, though I am positive we were the only people to do so. The alarms stopped but rather than go back in we said “screw it” and went back to All Bar One for beers. At 11am. We were on vacation, dammit! All Bar One had a departures screen with train and track listings, but I got a little nervous about getting back into the station and onto the train in time after hearing about how short the window is between boarding announcement and departure, so we went inside the station and watched the big board. In about 5 minutes we got a boarding announcement and went to our train. Boarded, stowed luggage at the end of the car, found our seats and settled in for the 4 1/2 hour ride to Glasgow.
On the train we read, played cards, watched the scenery. When we got hungry we busted out the cheese and bread and fruit and olives and discovered how “fragrant” one of the cheeses was now that it had warmed up to room temp. We ate that one as quickly as we could. Ben went to the bar car to pick up beers – Tilting Ale by Virgin Trains – is there anything Richard Branson doesn’t have a hand in? It was sunny for the entire ride to Glasgow except the last 20 minutes when it became cloudy and gloomy. Exited the train and there at the end of the platform was our good friend Connie waiting for us. She had already been in Glasgow for a few days to conduct some genealogy research and had checked into our HomeAway flat* that morning (and picked up milk and coffee and other necessities). We walked 3 or so blocks to the flat, which was 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, kitchen, living room, washer & dryer, right on the river, with a balcony and a view of the river. We stashed our stuff, and headed out to a pub. Connie had taken the Glasgow HOHO tour a day or so earlier and heard of a pub a couple blocks away where Billy Connelly used to hang out. Or got his start. Or something. In any case, we headed to Scotia Bar and had a pint, hopped on the wifi and discussed what to do about dinner. We settled on Jamie’s Italian (Jamie Oliver) because 1) none of us had ever been to a Jamie Oliver restaurant 2) Italian sounded nice since we were facing an entire week of Scottish food. Food was good. Not a transcendent dining experience but my crespelle were tasty.

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September 15 Thursday – overcast, low-mid 60s
Up bright and early. Ish. Is 8 early? Walked about a mile to the Piper’s Tryst for breakfast. Our main goal was the National Piping Centre because Ben wanted to try out playing the bagpipes. Secondary was getting a full Scottish breakfast at the Piper’s Tryst hotel – eggs, tattie scone, lorne sausage, bacon, black pudding, haggis, mushrooms, tomato. Why yes, it was too much food. Gloriously too much food! Then next door to the museum. We poked around a bit and – because it was Doors Open Days – a piper gave us a tour, talked about the various competitions she travels to (Japan, US, all over the UK, etc) and gave pipe lessons. This shaped up to be even better than Ben just trying the pipes on his own! She led several in the group through a short lesson on practice chanters and then whoever was game could try the whole kit & caboodle. Ben was game of course and I must say did a better job than most of the group keeping the bag inflated, using the right amount of pressure, playing actual notes. I’m biased though. Connie also tried the practice chanter but didn’t try the whole kit.
Then we headed along Cowcaddens and Cathedral St to get to Glasgow Cathedral. Holy college students, Batman!!! It seemed like there were thousands of them all headed the opposite direction to us and we were swimming upstream. Finally we broke through to the other side, stopped in at the Buchanan bus station to try to find a system map (no lick), and then visited the cathedral and necropolis. Really great views of the city from atop the Necropolis. Well worth the climb. After the climb we were in serious need of refreshment so we continued along John Knox St and poked our heads in at Drygate Brewery. We really liked this place. Plenty of good beers (we had Ax Man RyePA, Gladeye IPA, and a pilsner) and a nice seating outdoors with ingeniously leveled picnic tables (the area has a moderate slope to it). We were driven inside by some very thirsty bees and the tables inside were very comfortable too. Many people were eating, and the food looked and smelled good but we were all still full from breakfast. Next we walked a little further to the Tennents “Training Academy” but they didn’t have a tap room – you could only have a beer if you went on a tour. So we walked back to visit Provand’s Lordship, then walked some more, exploring the area. Glasgow has quite a lot of good street art. Back at the Golden Zed area we stopped in at Blackfriars for beers and an antipasto board at the outdoor tabes. We walked around the area looking for good dinner candidates, stopped in to The Piper’s Whisky Bar for a dram. The place was !packed! or we would have stayed longer, then headed to http://citymerchant.co.uk/ for dinner. I can’t give City Merchant a great review. The food was more expensive than its only average quality warranted. Plus I finally encountered a variety of oyster that I hate – Cumbrae. Please note that this is not the fault of City Merchant. Whatever other shortcomings there were with our meal, the oysters were very fresh, well shucked and well presented. I just didn’t like them. Walk home, wine, TV.

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September 16 Friday – Sunny, mid-60s
We had a simple breakfast at the flat – fruit, toast, coffee, then hopped on the #4 bus to the Hunterian Museum. A delightful old-school museum covering a variety of subjects. Then we visited the Hunterian Art Gallery, the University of Glasgow book store. For lunch we walked down to Argyle St and visited a couple of what Rick termed “old school Gaelic pubs” – Ben Nevis and Park Bar – pints at Ben Nevis and pints + lunch at Park Bar (fish + chips!). Staff in both were friendly and chatty and delightful. Then off to the Kelvingrove. I’ve heard this referred to as the Scottish Smithsonian (by Rick?) and that is accurate. Connie, Ben & I split up here, with Connie favoring the art side of the museum and me the natural history side. Ben wandered between the halves. They were setting up for a concert and closing early, so we walked back to Argyle St and had pints at the Islay Inn. The after-work Friday crowd seemed to be filtering in. We got a bus back toward our neighborhood – possibly the #4 again – and it was fun being stuffed in with all the commuters on their way home. Same complaints I hear in Boston: bus too crowded, had to wait too long between buses., bus driver reminding people to move all the way back, people not moving all the way back. We felt a kinship with these commuters! :-) We popped in to the Horseshoe Bar for a drink. Purported to be the oldest bar in Glasgow. Busy with the after work crowd. It’s close to Central station so I wouldn’t be surprised if many of the people in suits were on their way to catch a train home. Good atmosphere. Busy but big enough that it wasn’t a challenge to find a couple of seats and get served. I had a Brewdog Punk IPA but I don’t remember what Connie & Ben had. Connie goes with cider most of the time. It took me a few tries to find the ladies toilets though (they’re upstairs). For dinner we walked to The Dhabba. We didn’t have a reservation but were there early enough they could accommodate us. The food was fantastic! I’ve never seen biryani sealed with a lid of dough before. Then back to the flat for wine and cookies.

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September 17 Saturday
Another early rising day. Ben and I were off to Glasgow airport by taxi at 6am, Connie was catching a noon train home to Bristol. We parted with much sadness. Our taxi driver got us to the airport quickly, despite several construction-related detours. We checked in for our flight. This was our first time on Flybe, so I was a little nervous about the weight of our bags – carryon and checked bags were all weighed and all 4 came in at about half the maximum weight. Hooray for packing light!! Then through security and into the terminal. The Glasgow airport craftily makes you walk through an extensive duty-free store to get to the gates. We had some free time so we browsed, but didn’t buy anything. I was surprised to find them giving out Scotch samples at 6:30am, though I shouldn’t have been because it’s a non-US airport and they’d like to sell stuff! Pretty sure no alcohol is allowed at the Boston airport before 9am, though. We had breakfast at Caledonia – porridge and a Lorne sausage roll, lattes. Once our gate information appeared on the monitor we walked to the farthest gate possible to board the frighteningly small plane to Islay. While walking out onto the tarmac to board I decided to try to photograph the tiny purple plane and walked into a metal post and had a nice bruise on my stomach for the rest of vacation. The photo wasn’t even any good.

  • Our original HomeAway apartment rental was canceled by the owner 5 days before we left for the trip. The owner claimed that a software problem had caused the availability calendar to not be up-to-date and so she had an accidental overbooking. I was pretty annoyed by this for a variety of reasons. 1) I saw the flat listed on multiple services (HomeAway, Airbnb, and at least one other UK-specific site I can’t remember the name of) and I assume (perhaps uncharitably) that the problem was human error in not keeping up with all the listing locations, NOT software – I’ve been in the software industry for 20 years and yes software can have all sorts of problems, but I get super irritated when people blame software for their own mistakes. 2) I booked the flat in March – she had almost 6 months to spot the problem and do something about it 3) She offered us another flat owned by a friend that was more expensive, smaller (1 bedroom + pull-out couch instead of 2 bedrooms) and less well located 4) The exchange rate was better when I booked in March so my refund was smaller than what I’d paid. I only lost $24 but it was just another irritating thing about the whole transaction. 5) When I called HomeaAway to ask about how the refund would work, they wanted to know why I canceled it. I said NO the owner canceled because she was claiming a double booking. I could hear skepticism in the support rep’s voice over the double-booking claim so even Homeaway thought the incident seemed “off.” In any case, I found another HomeAway listing, on the river instead of George Square, the flat was lovely and the owners super helpful when the water heater made weird noises, so although the neighborhood was spookily empty of people after dark we had a very nice stay.
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Stop 3: Islay

September 17 Saturday – Sunny, low-60s, windy
We don’t feel comfortable driving in the UK (yet – on our next Islay visit we might possibly rent a car but we are not sure yet) We had booked a taxi for all day from Islay Taxis (8 hours for £150). Our driver Freddie picked us up at the airport and we were off for our first day of Islay adventures. We had only 3 specific things on our itinerary for the day and planned to fill in the rest of the hours along the way. Freddie had some really good ideas for stops to make in between and we were glad we followed his lead. First stop was unplanned. Freddie took us to Islay House Square. Islay House used to be a large estate but the house is now becoming a hotel. The estate’s old kitchen garden is now a community garden with a gardener – it’s big and planned though, rather than the small independent plots I usually associate with community gardens. The place was deserted at 10am. We chose a bunch of vegetables to cook during the week at our cottage. As we were painstakingly weighing our produce and adding up the amount to pay into the honor box the gardener came by and helped us. He was very nice and seemed to appreciate how much we loved the garden. Freddie needed to gas up the van, so Ben and I wandered into the Islay House Square shops (the ones that were open – it was still early and the Islay Ales tasting room didn’t open for another hour – so sad). Our next destination was planned - we drove to Caol Ila, one of the most remote of the distilleries and one we didn’t get a chance to visit in 2013. On the drive out we stopped by the Port Askaig ferry dock for a view of Jura. Freddie told a few interesting stories about the owners of the shooting estates on Jura and recommended we go over someday to look around. Freddie recommended the “breakfast whisky” at Caol Ila which he said was a great way to start the day. When we arrived at Caol Ila he walked us in and introduced us to the staff – he did this at all the distilleries that day, he seemed to know everyone! – and let the woman know we wanted to try the “breakfast whisky.” We tasted that one and another, neither of which I recall the names of. Caol Ila whiskies are very mild, not very smoky at all. Next up was Bunnahabhain where we were booked for the Warehouse 9 Tour. We and 6 other whisky lovers (all men except me) had a private tasting inside warehouse 9 of three whiskies finished in Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez casks. I fully expected to prefer the Pedro Ximénez because it’s sweeter but liked the Oloroso much more. Then Ben filled his own bottle from the Oloroso cask (using a valinch is surprisingly tricky). Our guide also let us taste “white spirit” which is the young whisky before it is put into any aging casks. Gah. Horrible. Ben didn’t seem to mind it but I found it dreadful. Pretty sure that stuff will make you go blind. The whole experience was really fun. We were in the lower floor of the warehouse, a bit dank and cold, surrounded by racks of full casks. They had us sitting on what were clearly old church pews. Our host was hilarious and told some stories of his hijinks as a young man growing up on Islay and starting out in the whisky business.

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September 17 Saturday (part 2)

That got us to lunch time – and we could use some food after 3 or 4 drams of whisky! Freddie suggested taking us to Kilchoman for lunch, because it’s another of the distilleries that’s not possible to get to via the bus, and they have a decent café. We had eaten lunch at Kilchoman in 2013, so we knew it would be good. We didn’t do any tasting at Kilchoman but ordered a bowl of Cullen skink and half a toasty each. On the way to Kilchoman, on to road out of Bridgend, we saw a long line of cows walking down the beach. I took photos – it’s probably a normal occurrence but I was fascinated by it. Apparently they like some of the seaweed and other shore plants. Oh! And except at farm borders cattle and sheep are often not confined by fences, so they are in the road a LOT. If you drive on Islay remember that all livestock have right of way and if you hit one you’ll owe the farmer the value of the animal.
Last distillery of the day was Bruichladdich, which is possible to get to on the bus but it’s out of the way and since we had more time to kill before we could go to the cottage, Freddie thought it was a good idea, and he was right. We had a tasting of two of their Port Charlotte expressions, an Octomore and “Bere Barley.” I bought an umbrella because the Bruichladdich blue is so cheerful on a gloomy rainy day.
Our final stop for the day was the Co-operative Food grocery store in Bowmore (the biggest grocery store on the island). Freddie waited in a bus stop while we shopped (he seemed confident there were no buses due and he stayed with the van, so I tried not to feel too awful about it). We picked up milk, coffee, bread, eggs, chicken, various snacks, chips, cheese, Cumberland sausages, jam, butter, beer, etc. All the essentials to feed ourselves for the next few days AND a copy of The Ileach – the Islay newspaper, “published fortnightly” and it had just come out that day. It had many interesting articles but most importantly it had the schedule for the “Screen Machine” which Freddie had told us about. It’s an 18-wheeler whose trailer opens out into a 80 seat movie theater. It was due to arrive on the Monday morning ferry and stay for 3 days, with two or three shows per day.
We arrived at the cottage around 4:00 and “checked in” – basically the place was unlocked and the key was on the dining table. We arranged with Freddie to have him pick us up Saturday morning for a ride to the airport. He made sure we had his contact information in case we ever needed a ride, we should call him and he’d make sure we got where we needed to be!
We explored the cottage – three bedrooms, 1 bath, “real fuel” fireplace, laundry in the outbuilding. Two bedrooms had single beds, and one had a queen so we chose the queen. Put our groceries away, started a load of laundry, went outside to gaze at Lagavulin which was right across Lagavulin Bay, and Dùn Naomhaig castle. Dinner that night was cheese, bread, salumi, olives, plus from the community garden radishes and odd little cucumbers that looked like tiny watermelons. We played one of the board games in the cottage. Pro tip – Cadoo is not very challenging for grownups. We had to make up some new rules to make the game last longer than 10 minutes. We read for a bit after dinner and then turned in for the night.

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September 18 Sunday – sunny in the morning, rainy afternoon and evening, mid 50s.
Sunday dawned sunny and cold. There are no bus services on Sundays so we had made sure we wouldn’t need anything from a store. We had eggs and toast for late breakfast. Delicious Scottish butter. Then some jam. Ben took a walk over to the castle with the binoculars we found in the cottage. After breakfast it started to rain. Nothing too dramatic so we decided it was a perfectly good time to walk the two miles to Port Ellen and try to get the cash we’d need for our Monday excursion. It look us about 40 minutes to walk to Port Ellen, and we were fairly damp by the time we got there from the mostly misty rain, but it was a really nice walk along the Distilleries Path We stopped in at the Port Ellen Co-operative Food (much smaller than the Bowmore store) to pick up a couple of things we had forgotten the day before, and asked where to find a cash machine. The staff said the only one in Port Ellen was in the SPAR shop next to the Islay hotel. We trekked the block or so to SPAR and found out that yes they had an ATM but that it was out of money. Ha! We started the walk back to the cottage, picking brambles along the way. We easily picked a quart of brambles AND found out that snails and slugs both love brambles (so we washed them well when we got home) We stopped in at Laphroaig for a dram because by this time we were well soaked and feeling very chilled. It is astonishing how quickly a dram of whisky will warm you up after a long walk in the rain. We used the wifi to upload photos to social media to satisfy our fans back home (did I mention there was no wifi at the cottage?, and the cell signal was too weak most of the time to use the internet - voice and text only. It was a really peaceful week). We stopped next at Lagavulin for a quick taste, and picked up a small bottle of the 16 year old to drink at the cottage, plus a bottle of the 2016 Jazz Fest and a 200th Anniversary bottle to take home. Back at the cottage we changed into dry clothes (yes, it was our pajamas) and I made a chicken stew for dinner and sugared the brambles. Dinner in a couple of hours, then dessert of brambles and cookies, then bed.

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September 19 Monday – sunny and high 50s
On Monday we started the day with eggs and Cumberland sausages. And toast. And butter and jam We had booked an outing with Donald McPhee of Islay Outdoors which sounds like a big company but is really just Donald and his wife. Donald is retired from being the head gamekeeper of the Kildalton estate. He and his wife now provide guided wildlife tours and run a B&B. We didn’t have a very detailed itinerary in mind but had told Donald that we were interested in standing stones, neolithic and bronze age sites, history, some bird watching, trying out winkling or something similar. Donald took us all over the island to several standing stones, a chambered cairn, Finlaggan, remnants of old round houses, Kilchoman church and the Kilchoman cross.We ate our lunch on a beach at low tide and raked cockles and looked at the ruins of a medieval fish trap. At Finlaggan we ran into a guy dressed as a Viking. He talked to us a lot inside the visitor center, so I assumed he worked there. Nope. After we returned from the ruins Donald was talking with David Caldwell, the chief archaeologist at the site, and the Viking came around and joined the conversation. Neither David nor Donald knew him. He talked to us for a bit and it turns out he dresses up as a Viking and just shows up at places where he thinks people might “need a Viking.” Like fairs and archaeological sites and… strangers’ weddings. Around 3:30 Donald dropped us off outside Port Ellen and we hiked to the singing sands and Carraig Fhada lighthouse. Donald had pointed out a shortcut to us from the beach back up to the road, and it looked a lot shorter, so we gave it a go. We had to cross Cornabus burn to get to the shortcut so we took off our shoes and waded across. OMG so cold! Then we walked up through Fangorn Forest to get to the road. (It was really called Cairnmore Woods, but Fangorn is funnier). Since we were already in Port Ellen, we decided to stay for a bit. We had a pint at the Ardview Inn – very “local” – and then inquired at Sea Salt Bistro about dinner. They were fully booked but said that if we could promise to finish dinner by 8 they could seat us at a reserved table. We said absolutely! And each had a pint (Islay Ales Finlaggan and Ardnave), a starter (Cullen skink; goat cheese & black pudding salad) and a main (the fish special which was Islay scallops ; roast chicken). No dessert because there was no time! We vacated at 7:45 so they could prep the table. The food was quite good. We walked the 2 miles home, ate a couple of cookies and went to bed.

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September 20 Tuesday – sunny, low 60s
Tuesday was our Walk Day. We started the day with toast and shared a Scotch egg. Spent some time planning our walk northward to Ardbeg and the Kildalton area, seeing a few standing stones and walking paths on our OS Explorer map. We set off a little before noon with our binoculars, map, compass, water. Walked the 1/2 mile or so to Ardbeg where we had lunch in their café. I had a haggis panini and salad, Ben had the roasted tomato soup. Elderflower soda, Islay Ale Saligo and a dram of Uigedail. After lunch we walked out on their pier for the obligatory photo with the distillery name. Our map showed a “road” leading away from Ardbeg along the water, so we followed it. It crossed a farm with some curious cows, then went through a barn. Even with Scotland’s “right to roam” principle it didn’t feel right to walk through the barn, so we went around the barn, encountered some curious sheep, then got back out onto the “real” road and continued our walk northward. We couldn’t find the trail heads for either of the paths we wanted to walk to find the standing stones and iron age fort. We found very overgrown rusty gates that were probably the paths but there was no sign of a path in the woods beyond the gates, and we didn’t feel like bushwhacking. Vegetation grows so quickly on Islay that just a few weeks of a path not being used could hide it from inexperienced walkers like ourselves. We walked a few miles, found a beach where seals were purported to congregate. No seals but we did watch a heron fish for a while. We explored a wooded area, saw some deer, then walked home. All told, we walked about 10 miles. We gathered a lot of brambles along the lane to our cottage. Back at the cottage we sat in the front garden with a snack of Doritos and the Lagavulin 16 and enjoyed the lovely weather. We chatted with a few people walking by to visit the ruined castle. I phoned Freddie, after we realized we’d told him we needed to go to the airport on Saturday but our flight was actually on Friday. He was already booked for Friday morning (the taxis on Islay serve as school buses for some of the more remote farms). We called another taxi company but they too were unavailable Friday morning, so we decided to just take our chances with the bus. For dinner we heated the leftover chicken stew from Sunday night, watched a little TV, ate brambles for dessert, then bed.

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September 21 Wednesday – rainy, low 50s, windy
Looking at the forecast earlier in the week we had declared Wednesday our “bus day.” The day we tried out Islay’s bus system. They have two and only two routes, both of which pass through Bowmore. Over breakfast of eggs and toast (and butter and jam) we took an inventory of the food we had on hand, with the goal of getting to Friday morning with very little wasted food. We decided we needed to replenish: bread, 1 meal worth of meat, and toilet paper. We walked up the lane and down the road to Lagavulin to the bus stop. The bus arrived, we bought day passes (£10 each) and off we went. The bus seemed to be serving primarily as a school bus at 8am. The bus would stop at the various farms to pick up one or two children. In Port Ellen we picked up about 20 kids. The kids were talking amongst themselves but not loudly and they were all very well behaved. They seemed to range in age from about 6 to 14. We even picked up 2 kids at the airport - I assume they live on a farm nearby. By the time we reached Bowmore the bus was pretty much completely full. Everyone exited at Bowmore. Ben and I picked up our few supplemental groceries at the Co-operative Food (they had half loaves of bread, perfect!) and some lamb stew meat at the butcher shop and then had coffee at the Harbour Inn while waiting for the 10:05 bus to Port Charlotte. The driver was the same driver who had brought us from Lagavulin. When he dropped us in Port Charlotte he asked which bus we planned to take back. We told him and he said that he’d be the driver (he had a layover in Portnahaven to eat his lunch) so he’d “watch out for yous” on his way back. We spent a while at the Museum of Islay Life. Small but interesting and worth a visit. Then we walked around Port Charlotte for a bit but it was super cold – crazy windy and rainy – so we had coffee at the Port Charlotte Hotel, then got the bus back to Port Ellen. True to his word the driver looked for us and picked us up. :-) We arrived in Port Ellen with just enough time to buy a snack of pork pies and crisps from the Co-operative Food and report to The Screen Machine!! for the 2:00 showing of Star Trek Beyond. Ben pointed out that we were watching a movie INSIDE OPTIMUS PRIME! Once you were inside it really seemed like a normal though small movie theater. On Monday Donald McPhee had told us a story of being inside the Screen Machine during a hail storm. Apparently they stopped the movie until the storm passed, because people couldn’t hear the movie over the hail. They park the truck in a lot at the shore, so as to take advantage of the public toilets at the “beach.” As we were coming out of the movie, in the rain, we ran into Freddie who was dropping someone off at The Trout Fly B&B. We chatted, I asked to get a photo of him & Ben since I hadn’t remembered on Saturday. He apologized again for not being able to take us to the airport on Friday and said he’d stopped by our cottage and left us a small token by way of apology.
After the movie we stopped at the Islay Inn to fortify ourselves with a dram before our rainy walk home. I tried the Ardbeg Supernova (way too peaty for my palate) and Ben tried a dram of 1983 Port Ellen (2009 bottling). Suitably braced against the cold we walked home 2 miles in a light rain. By our front steps we found a bottle of Laphroaig Triple Wood with a few drams left in it, from Freddie. We were very touched. We lit a fire because the evening really seemed to call for it, made grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for dinner, read and then bed.

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September 22 Thursday – sunny and high 50s
Our last day on Islay. We had decided our last day would be spent completely at the cottage, with a walk over to the castle. We ate the rest of the eggs and Cumberland sausages for breakfast. Washed all of our clothes. Walked over to the castle to explore and have a dram while watching the seals. We went early enough that we had the place all to ourselves. Not that there were more than 3 or 4 sets of people a day who ventured past our cottage to the castle while we’d been around that week, but it was nice being there solo. Sat in the front garden for a bit, enjoying the sunshine. We noticed that the work on Lagavulin’s big chimney was finally finished. All week we’d used the binoculars to watch 2 men working on the smoke stack, hoisting up baskets of tools, climbing up the side, climbing down inside. (September is Lagavulin’s “quiet month” when they don’t do any distilling so they can do cleaning and repairs). For lunch we finished up the ham and cheese and a can of soup. I made a lamb stew and roasted zucchini for dinner. Packed. Read by the fire. Bed. Throughout the day we had a dram here or there to finish up the Laphroaig Triple Wood and Lagavulin 16. The only food we left behind was an unopened bottle of tonic water which we had bought by mistake thinking it was seltzer.

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September 23 Friday – overcast, mid-40s in the morning
We caught the 8:10 bus at the top of our lane – we decided not to walk down to Lagavulin with our suitcases because we’d seen the bus driver pick up people anywhere they flagged him. And it was the same bus driver we’d had for our 3 rides on Wednesday! Rode to the airport. Checked in for our flight. Flew to Glasgow. In Glasgow, we had to perform the maneuver I’d been dreading the whole trip: retrieve our checked bags from Flybe, check in with Icelandair and go back through security. I was convinced we were going to miss our Icelandair flight, especially after we had a 30 minute delay leaving Islay. I needn’t have worried. 3 hours was plenty for getting through the process, and there was not much of a line at any point. Even if there had been lines, I suspect 3 hours would have been enough, but I was stressed about it. Though we were focused on making the transfer, we did notice the Tesco right as you’re exiting the secure area, and remarked on how smart it was to have a small supermarket where people could pick up things to take home after a trip. We made it through checkin and security by around 11:30 and had time for lunch. We looked at all our options, then saw that the Caledonia table we’d sat at on our way to Islay was open, so we had lunch there. I had the full Scottish breakfast, Ben had smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. They gave us a gate number and we boarded our flight to Iceland.

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Euston 11 am Wednesday

the alarms went off and there was an announcement to evacuate the station. So we did, though I am positive we were the only people to do so.

Yup, every Wednesday at 11 is the alarm test. There would have been an announcement 5 minutes earlier that there would be a test and not to worry. Sorry you missed the warning.

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Enjoyed the report. Very much like how you travel with beer time! We're going to Scotland next summah and looking forward to cask ale.

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Thanks for posting this report. I was in Glasgow about a week before you, and saw and did completely different things. (We both did the Hunterian Gallery, but I think that's the only point of overlap). It sounds like we both had a great time!

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@Nigel - You all use such a soothing voice in announcements we probably didn't register the announcement as important. The alarms, on the other hand... :-D

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@Troxstar - one of my favorite things about the UK is the availability of half pints. Just enough to try out an unfamiliar brew and rest your feet but not enough to be inebriated. Unless you drink multiples, which is necessary sometimes.