The Old Fogies go to Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands

 

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On the day of our arrival into Orkney waters, there was a mist over the hills but it quickly became clear that the various islands that make up the Orkneys are sparsely populated with small areas of buildings and large areas given over to farming.

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Our destination was the Orkney capital, Kirkwall which is by far the largest town in the islands. The Kirkwall’s skyline is dominated by the St Magnus Cathedral known as ‘The Light of the North’. Orkney’s ancient capital can be traced back to Norse times in the 11th century when it was called Kirkjuvagr. For centuries, Orkney was under Norwegian jurisdiction, before becoming part of Scotland in the 15th century.

Although Orkney may seem remote to the rest of Europe, people have been living here for at least 10,000 years. In recent times, archaeologists have found ceremonial stone circles, tombs, prehistoric villages and many other ancient monuments.

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 A shuttle bus took us on a short ride from the Liner terminal to Kirkwall and we began to explore some of the narrow streets in the town. One of the streets took us to the harbour which is still very much a working harbour with fishing boats, small boats and ferries.

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The waterfront has a small number of hotels, bars and restaurants, behind the waterfront is a number of small shopping streets. Orkney’s shopping streets are refreshingly free from the usual high street names and celebrates the island’s creative community with local jewellery, arts, crafts and contemporary fashion shops.

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 It was still relatively early with most of the shops and attractions closed, so we decided to take a small detour out of town to an area that is famous with its scenery and its part in British and German Naval history.

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Taking the road out of town, we then joined the Crantit Trail which took us through some of the scenic countryside full of sheep, cows, horses and wildlife. After around 40 minutes walking we found ourselves at Scapa beach overlooking the famous Scapa Flow.

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Scapa Flow is a wonderful large natural harbour surrounded by islands, it was from here in 1916 that  Admiral Sir John Jellicoe led the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet to the Battle of Jutland, the largest naval engagement of the First World War. Scapa Flow was home to the British Home Fleet during both World Wars, it was also here in 1918 that the German High Seas Fleet was interned after the Armistice and then was scuttled in 1919.

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Not far from the beach was where a German U-boat in 1939 launched a torpedo attack on HMS Royal Oak with the loss of 833 crew. Near the beach there are a number of memorials to this tragedy and are a grim reminder that the idyllic scene in front of us was not always so.

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Also near to the beach is the Scapa Distillery which produces a single malt whisky, less known than the nearby Highland Park Distillery, the Scapa Distillery was founded in 1885.

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After a very short stay, we decided to take the local bus back into Kirkwall. A trip on the local bus is always a good way to see areas a bit off the tourist trail and an opportunity to chat with the locals.

Back in town, the quiet morning had given way to a bustling town centre as locals and visitors were mingling in the shopping streets and at the attractions.

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St Magnus Cathedral is probably  Kirkwall’s ‘must see’ attraction. It is the most northerly cathedral in Britain and was started in 1137 at a time when Orkney was ruled by the Vikings. A stone minster was founded by Earl Rognvald in memory of his uncle St Magnus who was martyred on the island of Egilsay. Inside it is a fascinating mix of museum and cathedral with a leaflet that points out some of the key artefacts.

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Equally interesting is the Orkney museum which is set in an large old building called Tankerness House, it tells the story of the Orkney’s from Neolithic times up to the present day.

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In the town centre is the large stone Earl’s and Bishop’s palaces which provide a reminder of Orkney’s importance in the medieval times.

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In many ways Kirkwall for centuries has been an important transport hub and still is, bus routes go across mainland Orkney and the port for ferries to Aberdeen, Shetland and the North Isles. Kirkwall Airport, with links to Scotland, Shetland and in the summer months Norway, is only three miles from the town.

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In the short time we were in Kirkwall, we managed to enjoy some of its fascinating history and could understand that it was an important place in many ways because of its unique landscape. Even the shops were quite quirky which made a change from the often sterile high streets in the UK.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

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The Old Fogies go to Glasgow

Like many grandparents, we have our grandchildren for a period over the summer holidays. Generally we try to take them on a traditional British seaside holiday, however the eldest granddaughter who is ten has decided that beach holidays are ‘boring’.

Looking for places to visit with plenty of variety led us to decide on Glasgow. Although for many, this may not be an obvious choice, we have previous experiences in the city that led us to believe that Glasgow is a family friendly city with plenty of attractive options. Flying from London to Glasgow takes around an hour which provided an easy travel option for the children and reduces our stress levels. A short coach ride from Glasgow delivered us to our hotel with the room that had a pleasant view overlooking the Clyde.

The weather forecast for the week was not too encouraging; however we had plans that included both indoor and outside attractions. One of the great attractions of visiting Glasgow is the large number of options in Glasgow and in the surrounding area. The long sandy beaches of Ayrshire, Edinburgh and Loch Lomond are relatively short train rides away.

Our first day was centred on one of the most popular green spaces in the city, Glasgow Green was given to the people of the 15th century and its wide open expanses have been much-loved by the population of the city since. With a number of parks with Glasgow Green it is well attended by families with children. One of the main buildings on Glasgow Green is the People’s Place which was built as a cultural centre for workers in 1898 and now is a museum which tells the history of the city. Attached to the back of the palace is the Winter Gardens which is a huge conservatory where you can enjoy a food and drink break in very pleasant surroundings.

The next day we decided to take the train to Balloch which is situated near to Loch Lomond, the inexpensive train fare called Kids Go Free illustrated the family friendly ethos of the city where children are often allowed in a number of attractions free if you produce your ticket.

The local boat runs a one hour cruise around the south part of Loch Lomond which allows visitors to enjoy the stunning scenery in relative comfort. The loch is not the only attraction, there is a small area with children rides, a shopping area, cafés and a large Sea Life Aquarium.

The threatened rain finally appeared on our third day but we were prepared to use the day to visit some of the Glasgow’s museums and attractions. Before the rain started in earnest, we walked along the riverside and explained to the children the importance of shipbuilding and trade to the city. Across the river from the BBC Scotland building is the iconic Clyde Auditorium which is locally known as the Armadillo.

Our first stop was at the Glasgow Science Centre which is not a museum but features a large number of exhibits that explain the science of the body and other scientific principles. The centre caters for all age groups with plenty of interactive displays that keep entertained for hours. Near to the centre is a planetarium, an IMAX cinema and Glasgow Tower.

Around a half hour walk away from the Science Centre is the new Riverside Museum in a stunning building designed by Zaha Hadid. Although the museum building is ultra-modern, the exhibits are transport relics of the past.

To finish our museum day, we made our way to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and its eclectic collection.

Our final major visit was to Pollock Country Park which situated around ten minutes by train from the City Centre. The Park is built around the 18th century Pollock House and its attractive gardens, however the park offers a wide range of outside delights with woodland walks, cycle paths, heavy horses and Highland cattle.

Glasgow has a number of interesting locations dotted around the city including Merchant City, West End and the area around the Cathedral.

One of the major pleasures of visiting Glasgow is the people themselves, they create a friendly and genuine atmosphere which permeates all aspects of the city. If you are looking for a family holiday with a difference, Glasgow can offer plenty of options which should appeal to kids of all ages.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

 

A Trip to Pollok Country Park

Pollok Country Park is Glasgow’s largest park and the only Country Park within Glasgow. You can take a train from Glasgow Central Station and arrive at Pollokstown West in around 10 minutes, from the station it is a short walk to the Country Park.

This magnificent park was once part of the Old Pollok estate and was the ancestral home of the Maxwell Family for seven centuries. The parkland and house was gifted to the City of Glasgow in 1966 by the Maxwell Family and since then has become a firm favourite with the people of Glasgow and visitors.

Walking along the main path to Pollok House, visitors can admire the Highland cattle grazing in the fields or enter into the extensive woodland walks.

Behind the house and across the attractive bridge is a field that is home to a number of Shire or Heavy horses.

The Park has been the site of castles dating back to 1160 which have been destroyed over the centuries. The main building in the Park is now Pollok House which was built in 1752 and became the Maxwell family’s main residence. Pollok House is considered one of Glasgow’s most elegant family homes and is surrounded by Walled and Woodland Gardens.

The Walled Garden features mature yew hedges which section the garden into compartments containing seasonal bedding, collections of plants such as Hosta’s, Fuschia’s and herbaceous displays.

The Woodland garden contains many Rhododendron species collected by Sir John Stirling Maxwell who was a Rhododendron breeder and expert.

The Country Park also has a play park, a Countryside Ranger Centre, woodland walks, riverside walks, picnic areas and cycling paths.

Also within the parks grounds you can find the world famous Burrell Art Collection, although it is currently closed for refurbishment.

If you have had enough of Glasgow’s urban delights, in ten minutes you can be in the country with a trip to Pollok Country Park which attracts walkers, joggers, cyclists and families. The numerous attractions provide plenty of interest but most people come to the park to enjoy the peace and quiet of the countryside setting.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

A Trip to the People’s Palace in Glasgow

The People’s Palace is situated in Glasgow Green, the large park in the east end of Glasgow. The Green is the oldest park in the city being established in the 15th century and has often been the place of demonstrations over the last two hundred years.

It was in the park that the People’s Palace was opened in 1898 by the Earl of Rosebery, the Palace was originally designed as a cultural centre for working people but since the 1940s the building has been used as a museum dedicated to the history of Glasgow.

The museum presents the social history for the city of Glasgow from 1750 to the present day. The collections and displays show how the city has changed over time and how the character of the city has been developed by its industrial past.

The Single End is special gallery that tells the story of housing in Glasgow especially the tenements and how they changed from the 18th to the 20th century. There is a reconstruction which shows a typical single-roomed house that a 1930s working class family would have lived in.

Even if the living conditions were basic, Glaswegians knew how to have a good time with dancing at the Barrowlands Ballroom. The display about the venue shows although music and dancing have changed, it still remains one of Glasgow’s iconic buildings.

In the early 20th Century Public Baths and Wash Houses opened across the where women would bring the weekly washing to clean by hand. It was also a place where women could catch up with friends and gossip. The display shows the small stall space, and shows some of the rudimentary equipment used.

There is also displays about some of the prisons in the city, shopping and some famous Glaswegians including Billy Connolly with his Banana Boots.

At the rear of the People’s Palace is the Winter Gardens which is a huge conservatory full of exotic palms and plants, inside the gardens visitors can enjoy a coffee or lunch at the café.

Just outside of the front of the People’s Palace is the Doulton Fountain which is the 46 feet high and 70 feet across at its base and is the largest terracotta fountain in the world. It was originally gifted to the city in 1888 after the International Exhibition of Science, Art and Industry by Sir Henry Doulton to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.

A trip to Glasgow Green and the People’s Palace will give visitors some insights into how the city’s social history has moulded the character of its population. The displays in the palace provide plenty of evidence of the importance of humour for Glaswegians to deal with some hard and difficult times.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

A Cruise on Loch Lomond

One of the benefits of staying in Glasgow is that you have easy access to a number of Scotland’s most famous attractions including Loch Lomond. Visitors can take a 50 minute train ride from the middle of Glasgow to Balloch.

Balloch is on the southern shores of Loch Lomond and considered an important gateway for boats entering Loch Lomond. When you arrive at Balloch station, there is a VisitScotland iCentre (opposite the railway station) and boats for loch cruises leave from the nearby bridge to take the short trip on the River Leven before you enter the loch. If you are waiting for a cruise, you can take the short walk to Loch Lomond Stores which is a large visitor and shopping complex.

When you board the small cruise ship, the loch stretches ahead and you quickly become aware of the stunning scenery in the distance. Dotted around the loch is around thirty islands, one of the largest is Inchmurrin, which is the largest island in a body of freshwater in the British Isles. It is suggested that many of the smaller islands are crannogs, artificial islands built in prehistoric periods.

Just before you enter the loch, visitors see The Maid of the Loch which was the last paddle steamer built in Britain. Built on the Clyde in 1953, she operated on Loch Lomond for 29 years and is now being restored.

Loch Lomond has always been an important place in Scottish history and the old castles were gradually replaced by large well built houses for wealthy industrialists and landowners in the 19th century. More recent additions are two world famous golf courses namely the Loch Lomond Golf Club and The Carrick Golf Club.

Loch Lomond is one of Scotland’s premier boating and watersports venues and the loch includes many kinds of watercraft including kayaks, canoes, windsurfers, jet skis, speedboats, cruisers and there is also a sea plane service that operates from the loch.

When you get back to land, a walk to the nearby Loch Lomond Shores offers wonderful views, shopping and lots of children’s entertainment including a large Sea Life Aquarium.

If your time is limited a trip to Loch Lomond gives you a taste of Scotland’s breathtaking scenery within easy reach of Glasgow. If you want to spend more time around the loch, there are plenty of walking and cycling tours or water based activities.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.