The Limit Does Not Exist
Scotland is limitless, endless. I mean, obviously that’s not true in the literal sense but it really does feel like the discoveries just continue. After years of touring, even just to the same old places, I find myself uncovering new places, ideas and memories. Glenfinnan just looks so great every time we go and yet I’ve never really paid attention to the river that runs under the bridge.
The River Finnan passes under the Glenfinnan Viaduct near the spot where tourists gather to watch for the magic, the train. Of course the train doesn’t always come but that doesn’t stop the hearts and minds racing and imaginations running wild. Yet few notice the stream of water that flows by.
Under the bridge is this wonderful wee spot where you can feel so small compared to the structure looming above. You can watch the water rush along and listen as the bubbling and flowing creates a musical harmony that is just wonderful to hear.
Look out for your own unique spots in the places you go to every day. You might just get surprised.
The Problems Facing the Tour Industry in Scotland
The tourism industry in Scotland is booming. From Outlander and Harry Potter to a general interest in our history, the day trip mentality will only increase. I’ve travelled to my fair share of other nations and done the whole ‘tourist’ thing. In Italy recently I was impressed with how the ancient Roman sites handled increased tourism demands. In Slovenia I was amazed at the roads and how there always seemed to be a place to pull in and park for a view or a stop. Even in far-flung Brazil I enjoyed pit stops, cafes, toilet breaks and more as we travelled between states.
What I have noticed sadly, is that Scotland is failing itself in terms of the tourism trade. Invermoriston, just outside Fort Augustus at Loch Ness has permanently closed their public toilets. For The Keltic Ginger, that means no more toilet stop for the fifty people we have on our coach. So that means no more Invermoriston as it’s just not time effective to find somewhere else to stop. That means the convenience store doesn’t get our clients buying their Postcards (the only place to get Invermoriston ones), the craft shop doesn’t get an extra fifty bodies through it’s door every fortnight and Cafe Rowan doesn’t get the desperate rush for a caffeine fix. I love Invermoriston. I will be sad to stop going but the sad fact is that travelling with fifty people means we need these toilet breaks. We have travelled almost two hours by this point. Unless serious kidney and bladder problems are now standard in our tours then I don’t see an alternative.
Recently Pucks Glen in Benmore, just north of Dunoon was closed (it is now partially reopen). The best walk was shut for months and still is. There is no sign of it opening anytime soon. This was our best tour. I’ve had to pull it. It’s a tour that has already suffered greatly from the council, planners and builders trying to stop it from running. We also visit Toward to the south of Dunoon. Modern Castle Toward is being renovated to become houses. That’s great, it was a sad old building that needed help. However the old ruin of Toward Castle and the woodland around it was the reason I visited there. As a descendant of the Lamont Clan it means a lot to me to offer this tour. Sadly I can’t. The two lay bys on the main road are full of pot holes and the bus can’t really cope with them anymore. A huge area perfect for a coach remains blocked off and there are no plans to allow coaches or cars to park there. The woodland is flooded and the paths are damaged. Despite the pleas of developers to get my backing by promising path improvements, signage and more, nothing is being done.
I only need three things to tour somewhere in Scotland: a cafe (not the most important at each stop), a toilet (essential at some stops, but not all), and somewhere to park the coach (this is the problem one). The Falls of Leny recently got improved parking but not for coaches. The Lodge at Aberfoyle charges TWELVE POUNDS for a coach to park (don’t expect us to be stopping by anytime soon), the new parking at Glenfinnan refuses to work with the team at the visitor centre and listen to their pleas for help with coach parking. Consistently Scotland is failing itself.
We can be better than this.
Coffee, Donuts and Inverness
Our tours are not all sightseeing. Sometimes the urge gets too strong. A need, a desire, overcomes all other things. The primal desire for caffeine leads me through a city until I find what I am looking for.
This weekend, in the City of Inverness, my nose for a good coffee session took me to Academy Street near the train station. I could sense it, I could feel it. Coffee was near but something else was overwhelming my usual caffeine-dar. There was the sugary, sweet taste of donuts in the air. Suddenly it unfolded before me, as Coyote Coffee and Donuts was thrust into my sense of smell.
From the minute I entered i was in heaven. Donuts, more donuts and even donut-like things were everywhere. The jam donut, the most basic of the fancy kinds of ringed pastries, was a treat to look at, with that pesky gooey centre contained and easy to access. No fear of it dripping down my shirt today!
The staff were wonderful, the coffee hit the spot and the donuts, well let’s just say the donuts were to die for. Touring in Inverness will not be the same without a visit to this awesome wee place now. Get your butts down Academy Street and into Coyote Coffee and Donuts if you’re up there. You won’t regret (unless you go too late in the day and all the donuts have been taken by this ginger).
Always Learning, Always Growing
A Traveller Is Always Learning
It’s never a good idea to assume you are done. We are never done learning in life. You can have a PhD, a badge that declares you know everything or just be well read. You’ll never be the expert. An expert yes, but not the expert. You need to always keep your mind open, learn to admit when you don’t fully understand something and ensure you consider when you are wrong. This weekend I’ve embarked on improving the tours offered by The Keltic Ginger and Student Tours Scotland. I travelled to Falkland in Fife and failed to achieve what I wanted with our new Outlander tour. However I did discover (thanks to help from a woman in Campbells Cafe) exciting new paths and trails that might be the saving grace for our St. Andrews tours makeover. So watch this space.
I’m also one of the first to admit that I rely more on the story telling side of Scotland and less on the history. So over the last few weeks I’ve been taking part in a Future Learn, free course from the University of Glasgow about the Highland Clans. It’s been a great and fun insight into aspects and points of view I would never have considered. It’s sparked a desire for wanting more and I think I’ll be spending a great amount of time over the next few months working my way through the many books I’ve written down to check out on the subject.
Don’t stop learning folks. Get out and get into the things you enjoy and open your mind to some more.
All Systems Go
Student Tours Scotland is now operated and run by The Keltic Ginger Scotland Tours. It’s been just over a year of planning but it has all finally come together. It’s very exciting to relaunch in a new way from what we offered before. Nothing changes though. Everything remains the same. You’ll still get great tours around Scotland, you’ll still find most of our clients are international students based in Glasgow and you’ll still get all the great stories. Do not worry, Bus Bingo is not going anywhere either. It will be back at the end of September in time for our Loch Ness tours. So join the fun, add yourself to our madness and get yourself on a tour. See you soon.