Saturday 27th July Part 2
The Trossachs, Loch Lomond and home
And so I come to the final entry for this year's holiday. After the wonderful man made spectacle of the Falkirk Wheel we headed for the natural beauty of the Trossachs. We have been to the Trossachs a couple of times and loved it each visit. Our first visit was whilst we were on our first Cycle Speedway tour of the UK. Nigel was, at the time, Irish team manager, and there were events in England, Wales and Scotland over a week and so we all travelled round the UK from place to place. We had visited the Trossachs on one of the free days and ended up staying at Callendar. It had been one of those perfect evenings. We stayed at a small hotel called Dalgair House and it was just perfect. The sad things was we returned two years later and whilst Dalgair House was OK, it wasn’t the perfection we remembered. The Trossachs, however, were just as beautiful.
This trip we were not staying in the Trossachs but carrying on to Langbank at the end of Loch Lomond on the Clyde. Our initial plan had been to go from there to the Lake District, but we had made the decision ac ouple of days previously to head for home from Langbank. The weather forecast was dire (mind you it had been forecast rain for many other days too, and the sun had shone) and to be honest we felt we had seen a lot of things and the Lake District would have involved walking which would not have been good.
Anyway, back to the Trossachs.
We drove the scenic Trossachs trail and stopped numerous times by lakes and Lochs to take pictures. Many of the places we stopped were deserted and we were alone with the beautiful Scottish scenery in the bright sunshine. I love all forms of nature but mountains and lakes are the things that move me most and so it is heaven for me. Although the mountains are small by US standards and the elevations nothing like we are used to, it was beautiful in its simplicity and gentleness and we just loved it.
We stopped at Lake of Menteith, and there was no-one around at all. It was our first experience this trip of beautiful lakes and it was such a lovely one. It was beautiful and calm and sunny. Just perfect.
We made a bried stop at the bustling town of Aberfoyle which was so geared up for tourists. It was manically busy (we just stopped for a loo break) and you had to wonder why there were so many people there, apparently needing to buy Scottish wool, shortbread and so on, when there was such beautiful natural scenery all around which was seemingly empty.
Maybe they were just all building in a loo stop too.
From there we carried on to Loch Ard, keeping pur eyes peeled allt he time as this was also meant to be not just the Trossachs trail but also a bird of prey trail.
We were primed to shout out, in our very best Scottish accent we had been practicing, ‘BIRDIE!’ just as we had been ready to shout ‘BEAR!' in Canada. The difference was we did need to shout bear in Canada and sadly we didn’t see any large Birdies here.
We stopped at Loch Drunkie (what a cool name). Fromthere we drove round Loch Achray and were thrilled to stop for a bit of wildlife. OK so we were maybe not in the true Highlands but how fab to see Highland cattle in the loch at the edge of the water. We drove round Loch Venachar and then we did a brief tour of Callendar but it seems Dalgair House has vanished, and then we headed out again.
We headed through the Strathyre Forest and along the side of Loch Lubnaig and went to see the Kilin falls and Loch Lubhair before heading to the west side of Loch Lomond and driving down the length of it until we reached the Clyde.
Loch Lomond was busy and there was a lot of traffic and so few places to stop. But in a way that suited us as we prefer to see things when they are empty.
Eventually we reached Langbank, our chosen venue for the night. I was also very excited as we were meeting Heather that evening. I have known Heather on line for many years and we have always had so much in common. We ‘almost’ met at a crop where we were scheduled to be roomies but for all sorts of reasons that didn’t happen. So tonight was something I was really looking forward to.
First the Hotel … Gleddoch House and Spa. There hadn’t been a convenient Premier Inn and so we figured we would pick somewhere nice. We looked at a lot of places and went for Gleddoch House as it was pretty much on the route we wanted. It had a golf club and a spa and seemed really nice. It’s amazing just how wrong you can be isn’t it.
Our experience was not good – in fact I have to say it is probably one of the most disappointing hotels I have ever stayed in and the premier Inns were way way better. As we walked up to the door of what looked quite a nice old house, we saw the four star AA award. That boded well. We went in to what was a fairly soulless but nice entrance hall and none of your modern desks here. The receptionist was sat at an old mahogany desk, in keeping with the room. However she was busy on the phone. Not a problem at all – that’s what receptionists do, but we were surprised that we didn’t even get a smile as she looked up. No comforting mouthed sorry etc. Just a glance and an ignore.
However, we checked in and were told we were staying in the leisure complex and the best way was to drive there, so we lugged our cases back and drove round. It was disappointing to drive past beautifully manicured gold greens and end up in a carpark full of weeds, bins ever present and outside what looked like a sort of recreation centre that even externally looked run down.
No security here (we had been used to Premier Inns with someone on the front desk or a key card entry system) so we wandered in. No lift (it was a four star hotel so we expected one) and into our room. It was large and had some nice pieces of furniture in which were very worn, but it was dated and tatty everywhere. Carpets were stained, paintwork was chipped, the bathroom wasn’t very clean, there was a massive chip out of the middle of the bath and even the room booklet detailing services etc was full of torn, dirty and scrappy bits of paper. Just a general lack of care and that persisted throughout the hotel. We had asked if we wanted one or two keys and asked for two. We got one, which stopped working and we had to get a replacement which they dealt with as if that was a pretty regular occurrence. I rang reception for almost 15 minutes to try and get the password for the wifi and when I got through I was told she was busy and would call me back, which she did but that wasn’t the point.
Disappointed by the hotel we never-the-less had a lovely evening to look forward to. We changed quickly and then went to meet Heather at The Wheelhouse. We hadn’t booked and they were very busy, but the manager was great and did find us a table half and hour later. We had been able to sit on the patio and enjoy a drink and catch up. Heather was just as I imagined and we had a wonderful evening chatting and laughing and eating. It was great and she bought me a super friendship cup to take home from Scotland too. I was so pleased we had finally me up.
We were also treated to a fabulous sunset over the Clyde which was beautiful.
Back to our hotel to find the key didn’t work. No staff in evidence soI stopped a waitress who helped us. Whilst waiting we just realised again how shoddy everything was. Trophy cabinets with dead flies in amongst the trophies, stained floors, chipped paintwork, mismatched door handles. Just a complete lack of care and pride in their hotel.
Eventually we had access and went to bed. You’d have thought that was simple wouldn’t you! We already knew they had a wedding reception on as we had heard the speeches and cheering when we checked in. It would appear that many of the wedding guests had adjourned to the room next to ours for a party. It was loud and there were a lot of people. I rang Reception at just after 11 and complained and they did go, only to return at 12.30, presumably when the bar had closed. It was loud until about 2.30 and the just talking, non stop until I got up at 6.00
Not the best of nights we have ever had and we were thrilled we were going home. We had been told breakfast started at 7 and so we were there at 7.10. Well we were there. No-one else was. Breakfast was laid out but no-one in evidence. In the end I went to the kitchens (handy as from the salubrious rooms you had to walk by them) and asked the chef what I should do. He said just go in so we did.
Breakfast was OK, not wonderful but OK. They just seemed short staffed and the staff didn’t seem to engage with the customers.
We lumped our cases down the stairs and went to reception to check out. The same girl was on duty and in fairness, if she had been nicer and even bothered to ask if we had enjoyed our stay or if everything had been OK I probably wouldn’t have gone to town with what I felt they could improve on. However, as she did neither and seemed totally disinterested, I told her anyway. She seemed a little surprised when I added that they could learn a thing or two about service, cleanliness and politeness from the Premier Inn chain.
We set off home – a seven and a half hour trip – in the during rain which continued pretty much to the midlands unabated. We had certainly made the right decision to come home a little early.
It was a shame it ended on a somewhat sour note, but it certainly didn’t spoil what had been a fabulous trip.
It had been a real risk for us to have a stay-cation and not go to America. We know it could have been a disaster and that if the weather had been foul it would have been a pretty grim holiday. But we had had fabulous weather, we had enjoyed every moment, seen so much, learnt so much and enjoyed it all. We had picked great things to see and do and it had been every bit as enjoyable as one of our American road trips …. Very different but just as much fun. It is a trip we both enjoyed and will never forget.
Today has been a very busy work day, but I feel much better for clearing some of the things I need to do.
It is a fallacy that teachers have all summer off you know. We work awfully hard in the holidays.
Anyway - there has been a little scrapping going on as well and so here is a page about two things in one - the Rhino hunt and the falling episode.
It just seemed very apt to use Glint - the gorgeous rhino made of tiny peices of mirror glass - to also capture the fact I was pretty broken as well.
Nigel had taken a picture of me in the little bits of glass that seemed apt to use. Broken Dolly!
The letters are all embossed with silver and look much nicer in real life.
And the good news - no more fall thus far - YEY!
Today I am thankful for
- a wonderful holiday
- great blog readers who have journeyed along side us
- a job well done today