Leaving Shuna

After one of our walks in Shuna, Cath found what looked like a tick on her arm. Ticks can be harmless but also dangerous, causing Lyme Disease. This prompted all of us to inspect ourselves. When Cath looked at the back of my arm, she saw a tick. It was embedded in my skin — and alive! She dug it out with a little disposable scalpel (which she uses for work). I’d never looked for ticks on myself in all my years of hiking. Very quickly, I found two more ticks on me and Cath another three on her. I even found a suspect tick a few days later, when I had reached home. Whilst walking, my legs and arms were both covered but somehow the ticks managed to crawl under my clothes.

Our return journey to London began in Oban, where we said goodbye to Cath. The town, with its ferry port, is known as the “Gateway to the Isles”. We didn’t have time for a ferry trip but we got a flavour of the town in the two hours we had.

Oban is famous for its whisky. Whilst Helene did a tour of the Oban Distillery, I ambled around the town centre, finally walking up the steep hill to reach McCaig’s Tower. As well as being a peaceful spot, this monument to the McCaig family provides a panoramic view of the town and bay. Beyond the bay, you can see Kerrera and the Isle of Mull, both of which are part of the Inner Hebrides.

The train journey from Oban to Glasgow is stunning. The time passes quickly as the train wiggles through the Scottish Highlands, passing Loch Awe and Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park.

Glasgow was vaguely familiar to me after a work trip many years ago. However, it has changed considerably. The significant renewal has livened up the town centre. We had several hours to see the changes before our sleeper train to London.

The first place we visited was the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum before it closed for the day. This is a magnificent building, built around the same time as the Natural History Museum in London, which it reminded me of. There’s a variety of art at the Museum but the highlight for me was the art from the Glasgow School (active around 1900), who were responsible for creating the Glasgow Style, a particular flavour of Art Nouveau.

There are several pieces in the Museum by Margaret Mackintosh, one of the people who came to define the Glasgow School. One of her legacies is the interior of the Willow Tearooms, designed with her husband (the building’s architect). Some of the interior of the Tearooms has moved to the Museum. However, we still wanted to see the Tearooms and have tea whilst enjoying the décor.

We reached the Willow Tea Rooms just before they closed. They were finely decorated; we enjoyed our tea and cake. Upon finishing our tea, however, we learnt that we were not in the Willow Tearooms, which have now been renamed Mackintosh at the Willow! The tea rooms we’d actually gone to gave a misleading impression of being associated with the Mackintosh name although they were completely unrelated!

After tea, we walk around the town centre and sat in George Square, where a stall was set up as a food bank. It was disturbing to see so many “ordinary” people queueing for food — a sight that has become increasingly common in the UK.

We had the relative luxury of being able to buy food. We grabbed a bite before boarding the night train to London, which was just as cramp as the outward journey. It was good to be home.

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