Scotland 6: Day 29

03.27.18 | Fort William Hostel | 23:51

The good news: The sleep I got yesterday was just what I needed! My feet and legs are feeling back to 100%, as I’d hoped they would. The bad news: It is raining today. I’m not about to go hiking up the side of a muddy mountain, especially not in the shoes I brought with me. Today might be all about reading and movie watching.

I did walk into town earlier to find some breakfast, and the rain was just starting as I’d arrived back to the hostel. I went back to The Crofter and ordered some french toast with eggs and bacon. They didn’t have syrup though. I’m pretty sure that syrup is not just an American thing.

On the opposite couch, a girl with a sexy Australian accent is eating very loudly. I’m pretty sure they teach manners down-under, in fact I know they do. I am, for the most part, a happy guy and there’s not a lot that gets under my skin. This, however, is one of my few pet peeves. Put the food in your mouth, close your mouth, chew said food silently, swallow the food, do not open your mouth again until it is totally empty. It also doesn’t help that she’s eating a salad- salad is extra loud.

The highlight of my day was being able to eat, once again, at Crannog Restaurant. This is a restaurant that I “discovered” two years ago. The main attraction for me was the cullen skink, which is a soup, much like a chowder. The main difference is that they use smoked haddock instead of clams. Thank goodness they still had it on the menu (come to find out, this restaurant has been around now for 25 years)! My main course was some kind of venison plate. I’ve noticed that a lot more restaurants serve venison in Scotland. I’ve had it plenty of times back home, but it’s not often found in very many restaurants- I wonder why that is.

Cullen Skink

Scotland 6: Day 28

03.26.18 | The Crofter, Fort William, Scotland | 11:17

The bus ride from Portree to Fort William was so beautiful, but if I could have dozed off, I would have. I didn’t fall asleep until after about 23:00 last night and didn’t sleep the best. A deep, recurring dream kept me from falling too deep if that’s a thing that happens. All I know is that when my 06:30 alarm went off to get ready, I wished I could just stay in bed.

My foot still hurts a bit from the 14-mile walk that I went on yesterday. It doesn’t help when you’re carrying a large pack, either. Still, I was outside waiting for the bus early, since I really wanted to get the front seat again. I brought chocolate in the event that a cute little mountain goat tries to board the bus again. I hope chocolate doesn’t make goats sick (or kill them) as it does with dogs.

My bus arrived in Fort William at about 10:30, and I made my way up the hill to the hostel. This is the same place I stayed two years ago, an old and quirky hostel. I loved it so much that I decided to stay there again.

When I walked in, I knew they were going to tell me that it was too early for me to check in, but the guy told me I couldn’t check in until 17:00! I told him that wasn’t the case when I came here two years ago but didn’t want to sound like I was having an argument. I just said, “Really?!” So much for my desire to take a nap after checking in. I’ll just sleep really well tonight.

I walked into town to find a place with free internet, and to get an early lunch. Unfortunately, they don’t serve the lunch menu until the afternoon, so I’m going to chill for a little bit. Later there will be walking and picture taking. I saw two graveyards already, and I’d like to check them out.

Fort William Hostel | 21:13

Lunch ended up being a really good burger that had a barbecue and pulled pork. I remember eating at The Crofter a few years back and remember that the food was good back then, as well. I decided that this called for dessert as well (like I need to make up excuses for eating desserts).

After sitting for a bit, my leg started hurting again. I hope that I didn’t do any damage from my walk yesterday. I decided that I would postpone the hike I’d planned. It’s too cold for a major hike, but there’s an old cow trail, up behind the hostel here that I remember exploring the last time I was here.

Dinner was at an Indian/Thai restaurant. I went in with a sense of adventure, hoping to order something that I had never tried before. I tend to order the same things, once I find something that I like- because that’s usually the whole reason I’m back at a restaurant in the first place. I may be craving that particular dish. This was a new dish, and even though it was good, it wasn’t as good as my go-to. Life is about variety, I guess.

Scotland 5: Day 5

05.05.16 | Fort William, Scotland | 05:49

Since the third leg of my journey begins today, I have been walking around this morning, taking pictures in the hostel. This hostel is very quirky, and there are so many tiny details that I love about it! I was going to turn on some lights to get better pictures but realized that this is how I want to remember this place- the lack of light adds to the quirkiness. I don’t claim to know what I’m talking about, but all I know is this is what I’m feeling this early morning.

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Crianlarich, Scotland | 13:36

Here I sit, at the Crianlarich station, waiting for my connecting train to take me to Oban. The small waiting room is cold, and I almost didn’t want to write this update because my laptop is cold like ice. I just had a great ride from Fort William, and it so happened that two of my hostel mates, Anton and Lukas were on the same train. We had a good chat, took some pictures together, and Lukas and I even drank IRN-BRU together. I think that makes us bonded friends, or I just made that fact up.

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From where I sit, Crianlarich appears to be a tiny town. I need to remember to look it up later and find out precisely what makes it tick. It reminds me of Virden, New Mexico, in size, but it is green and not brown. It looks very peaceful. My next train is supposed to leave here in about half an hour.

The waiting room here is so tiny, and even though there’s a heater on the wall, it doesn’t seem to work. There’s a button on the wall that reads PUSH TO OPERATE HEATER. I push, but nothing happens. I suppose I should be grateful to be out of the moving wind for the moment, at least.

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14:20 | Crianlarich > Oban

I’m only a few days into this trip and I’m already loving all the nice people I’ve been meeting. This is one of my favorite reasons to stay in hostels. All of a sudden, I’m no longer traveling alone but am part of a group of travelers from different parts of the world. Yes, there will be the snorers who keep me up, but I think the benefits greatly outweigh the downside.

Oban, Scotland | 15:41

So far, my only exposure to the city of Oban is walking from the train station to the hostel. I didn’t even know what this place was like- the only reason I chose to come here is that they had hostels listed on the internet and the fact that ScotRail would take me there. I already know that I’ll be back for more visits to this fantastic place! Such a great spot, right on the water! I could live here!

18:47

This hostel is another great one! This used to be a church, but they converted it to this good-sized hostel. I need to see if there’s a story there. Perhaps I’ll ask the reception desk tomorrow what the deal is.
For dinner, I walked down the street and found a restaurant called Cuan Mor. This is Gaelic for “Big Ocean.” The food was very great, and the restaurant sits right across the street from the water. I had some seafood chowder and a steak pie.

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When I walked out of the restaurant, the sun was beginning to set- it was cold! The wind was coming across the water, and it felt like I was in the arctic. On my walk back to the hostel, it started to hail! I had to duck and cover under a few store awnings on my way. It looks like I have two German roommates tonight. They seem nice- I’m sure you’ll get a full report tomorrow.

Scotland 5: Day 4

03.04.16 | Fort William, Scotland | 07:57

Good morning from Scotland! Last night didn’t go very well at all. There was this mad combination of having had that three-hour nap and being jet-lagged still, developing a cough, a snoring roommate, and having far too much on my brain. The result was that I wasn’t able to fall asleep until about 04:00. The only good news is that as I sit here typing this, my cough has seemed to die down, at least for now. I just drank another cup of Emergen-C and got ready to heat up some water for my ginger lemon tea. Or maybe it’s lemon ginger tea.

08:16

I’m wondering what the weather is going to be like today. My weather app on my iPhone is obviously lying to me. It tells me that it’s a sunny day in Fort William. It’s obviously not. My AccuWeather app tells me that it’s overcast and that the rain will start in approximately 18 minutes. And then I have a gal sitting near me on the next couch over telling me that according to blah blah blah, it’s supposed to be sunny soon.
If it ends up cold/windy/rainy today, then I should probably stay put. I was going to hike some trail, and with this cough thingy that I have going on, I don’t think that’s very wise. I think I’ll venture down to the town and find some breakfast and decide from there. It may be a day of hostel chilling.

09:47

One of the hostel mates, a guy named Andrew, from Aberdeen, Scotland, told me that the best place to get breakfast around here was at the train station. It was good but about as good as any full Scottish breakfast I’ve had thus far. However, this one was totally different because it came with half of a tomato and some kind of pancake-ish thingy.

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12:59

It seemed like the weather was going to agree with that gal. The morning clouds had parted, and the sun came out. It was beautiful! Even though it was only 42° outside and very windy, I decided to hike a trail called The Cow Hill Circuit. This is a trail that was made initially by grazing cows on the hillside. It felt so good to breathe the fresh mountain air!

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After walking for about an hour, it started to sprinkle. Looks like the Accuweather app was right, and the dumb girl who told me it wasn’t going to rain today was wrong. She went hiking, so I imagine she’s going to get soaked. On the way back, I stopped to take a look at the small graveyard around St Andrews Church in town. I wanted to see if I recognized any of the surnames from the names I’ve found as part of my Scottish genealogy. I didn’t recognize any, sadly.

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I just sat down to a lovely tea. I’m so “U.K.” now! There’s coal in the fire (yes, they’re burning coal in the house), and I’m going to read.

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19:25

Dinner tonight was at a freaking fantastic lochside restaurant called Crannoc Seafood Restaurant. The restaurant is on a dock, so you’re literally over the water. When I saw the place, I was worried that I wouldn’t get in without a reservation. The greeter told me it wouldn’t be a problem, and they took me to probably the best table in the room. I had a great view of the setting sun and the water!

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I just got back to the hostel and am getting ready to indulge in my nightly chocolate ritual. The chocolate of the day is a Galaxy Ripple. I’m pretty sure I’ve had at least one of these in years passed, but I am looking forward to it.

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Some of the Germans invited me out to have drinks. As much as I would love to go sip on water while they get drunk, I think I’ll have to pass for tonight. I’m already yawning and coughing up a lung-just like I did last night, so I look forward to a great night’s sleep tonight. That is if the snorer has gone.

Scotland 5: Day 3
03.03.16 | 08:05 | Fort William Hostel
I seemed to have developed a little bit of a cough throughout the night. Since I’m in a hostel, staying in a shared room, this could be the human equivalent to kennel cough. It was a bit drafty and rainy when I walked to town last night. Let’s hope that they have an pharmacy in town where I can buy whatever the Scottish version of Emergen-C is. So far today looks like it’s going to be a sunny day! I’ll have to take advantage of this fact!
11:31I left the hostel this morning and found a rather large grocery store called Morrisons and picked up some things. It turns out that the Scottish version of Emergen-C is… Emergen-C. Who knew that this was a global phenomenon?! The stuff seems to work for me back in the states, so I think I’ll take it for the rest of the trip since it is early March and all. I was able to pick up some lemon and ginger tea bags.Let’s discuss a small part of my belief system: I believe in herbal teas- it must be herbal though. No black, green, white or red tea (which all come from the same tea leaf, or this is what I’ve been told) but just the kind that comes from all natural herbs. Many people in Scotland refer to these as herbal infusions, because there is really no tea leaf involved. I know that for something to be considered “organic” in the United Kingdom, it must me a far higher standard than the organic products back in the states. I can’t think of a better place to buy herbal tea than in a country that is filled with tea snobs!
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I walked down high street, which is the main street in town, looking for some breakfast. On my way, I noticed a familiar Scottish jewelry store called Traditions Of Scotland. This is the store where I’d bought a ring from, back in 2011- only in Edinburgh. I remember this was on The Royal Mile. In 2014, while visiting Sydney, Australia, I accidentally gave it to a homeless man. He wanted change and so I pulled out a whole pocket-full and handed it to him. When I’d walked a few blocks away, I rememberd that I’d put my ring from Edinburgh in that pocket. I went back to find the man, but he was long gone. I hope he’s enjoying his ring.

So I walk in to Traditions Of Scotland, and am greeted by a very friendly shop owner named Hugh, and his new worker Joyce, who has been employed there for about a week (shout-out to Hugh and Joyce). When I took a look at their men’s rings, I saw the one I’d lost (well, not the exact one. That one is being worn by a homeless man in Australia now). As luck would have it, it was the same price that it had been 5 years ago (don’t ask me why I remember this fact)! I found the size that fit my finger and voila!

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11:56

Breakfast was another traditional Scottish, but they didn’t have black pudding on the menu, so I didn’t have to turn up my nose at it. This time the restaurant is called The Hot Roast Company. It was so much better than my breakfast experience in Glasgow yesterday morning. In contrast, yesterday’s tasted like it may have been reheated in a microwave.

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After breakfast, I walked around the town and then along Loch Linnhe for a few minutes. Such a scenic area! Now I’m feeling the need for a bit of a cat nap. Sleep last night wasn’t the best, with my coughing and one of my hostel mates snoring a bit. On my walk, I remembered that I should probably purchase a scarf somewhere. I went into one of the shops and unfortunately, they didn’t have at of my surname tartans in stock, but the saleswoman looked in a book about Scottish clans and she told me that ‘Buchanan’, ‘Forbes’, and my ancestors are all adjoined clans. I had to purchase both because I really didn’t want to offend any fellow clansmen.

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18:53

After a walk, I ended up back at the hostel and decided it was time to take a nap. I laid down and slept for about 3 hours! That is horrible! Not sure how are if this will affect my sleep later tonight. Hopefully I’m still tired enough.

Dinner was at a restaurant called Cafe’ Mango. Since I woke up from the nap, I have been craving some good curry. I ordered the lamb tiki. Dessert was this awesome little dish called Gulab Jaman. It tasted like bread and when I cut into it with my fork, it was moist with what tasted like honey. They fry it and put cream on top. It was brilliant!

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It’s cold tonight, but not as cold as it was last night. I walked around the town for a few more minutes and then headed back to the grocery store to find chocolate. I have decided that I need a daily chocolate. The goal is to simply find some kind of chocolate that I’ve never seen in the states. There’s oh so many to choose from here! Tonight’s offering is Milk Chocolate Ovals. I wonder if their marketing department had trouble coming up with his name.

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Back to the beginning of Scotland 5 | Forward to Scotland 5: Day 4

Scotland 5: Day 2

03.02.16 | 08:22 | Glasgow Hostel

Fun fact: Did you know that Irish Spring soap reminds me of Scotland? It has nothing to do with the name of the soap or the Scottish/Irish thing. It’s because when I come to Scotland, I travel with soap in a soap holder, and for some reason this is the brand of soap I’ve always grabbed at the store to travel with. At home I use different kinds of body wash and none of the work hotels I stay in have Irish Spring. So that blessed smell reminds me of trips to Scotland. And now you know. And knowing is half the battle (G.I. Joe)!

11:20 | Damuir Station (map)

On my way to Glasgow Central Station, I stopped to have a “traditional” Scottish breakfast. This includes over-easy eggs, bacon (think Canadian-style bacon, not American style), sausages, hash browns, toast, and baked beans. I wasn’t in the mood for the nasty black pudding. Though I have tried it on at least two different occasions, I wasn’t feeling it. Click here for wiki’s explanation of black pudding. Are you daring enough to try it?

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When I got to Central Station (map), I printed out my ticket at the kiosk and was trying to find the right platform for my train. I was there about 2 ½ hours earlier than I needed to be. One of the employees told me that I had an open ticket so I could just get on any other train that was headed in the right direction. Even though I managed to end up at Dalmuir hours before I’d planned, where I’m transferring to a different train, it doesn’t look like there’s a sooner train from Dalmuir to Fort William, which is my final. Looks like I’m going to hang out here for just over an hour. Too bad I don’t see a vending machine.

11:45

I need to remember to buy another scarf when I see a store. It’s a windy day so far and the sun has been hiding behind the clouds. It’s not raining, but it looks like it may start soon. I’m thankful that the Dalmuir station has some a lobby to keep me out of the wind.

15:05 | Train from Dalmuir to Fort William

This countryside is so beautiful! I have been staring out the window of this train and my only regret is that I didn’t take the train to Fort William (map) before this trip. I have been doing little 10 second videos out the window occasionally and I can’t wait to put them together and put in some music. I’ve written down some of the town names so I can do some research if they’re places I can come stay on future visits.

As I’m looking at the houses by the train, I’m wondering what would make these people move out here. I do understand the draw of country living, but I’m sure there’s little to no industry out here. Maybe they’re sheep farmers who supply meant and wool to Glasgow. Maybe the houses have been in their family for generations. This isn’t too far off from some of the places where my ancestors came from. Now I’m wondering what they did for a living as well.

17:26 | Fort William Hostel

When I decided to come to Fort William, I didn’t pay attention to the fine details of the trip- didn’t realize that it would take over 4 hours for the train to get here. I do have to say, however. That train ride was so beautiful and so worth it!

This hostel is the coolest old house, high on a hill that overlooks the valley. Fort William seems to be a great town! There’s two kinds of towns- towns I’d like to live in, and towns I’d rather not live in. So far, I’m getting the first vibe. Will walk into the downtown area in a few minutes to explore a bit and find some dinner.

When I said “Hi” to my hostelmates and introduced myself, I met 4 people from Germany, a girl from Croatia, a boy from Zimbabwe, and a girl from Logan, Utah (not even joking!)! It’s a small world, after all.

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For tonight’s dinner, I walked into town and found a pub/restaurant. I ordered some lasagna and cheesy garlic bread. It really wasn’t that good. I mean, it was ok- but I’m pretty sure I could do better… if I ever tried to make lasagna, that is. I should try that when I get back.

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I was going to walk around town and take some night pictures, but when I left the pub, the rain had started. I forgot to bring my umbrella, so by the time I got back up the hill to the hostel, I was pretty much soaked!

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Back to the beginning of Scotland 5 | Forward to Scotland 5: Day 3