With whatever spare time I had while up in Aberdeen, I tried to get out and see other parts of Scotland. I had already been to Edinburgh, so I focused on other main cities. One of the conservators I was working with gave me a contact list for conservators around Scotland, so I was able to get in touch with a few of them and arrange visits, giving my travels a bit of a purpose to them.
**I have just looked over my pictures from Glasgow and they are pretty uniformly terrible. Sorry, Glasgow! I’ll have to come see you again sometime and remember how unblurry and nice you are. Actually, maybe that’s appropriate for Glasgow? Not really sure. It was pretty rainy most of the time I was there. Either way, sorry about the crap pictures.**
After dropping my stuff off at an Airbnb, I headed over to the Kelvingrove Gallery. The collections really vary, from natural history and armor to Old Masters and interior design. It was a really cool space, fun to walk around for a while. It is also situated in Kelvingrove Park, which I ambled around for a bit as well. One thing I knew about Glasgow in July 2014, that was abundantly clear pretty much everywhere I looked, was that the Commonwealth Games were being held there. The Commonwealth Games are basically like the Olympics, but just for countries that are part of the Commonwealth (so…UK countries, India, Australia, Canada, various African nations). I think they were opening in earnest the week after I was in Glasgow, and there was just…stuff everywhere. Some parks were a little hard to navigate and George Square, the main public square in the middle of Glasgow, was basically Commonwealth Games Central. It also meant that there was a dumb Thistle mascot guy EVERYWHERE and he was a creeper.
I took one day to go visit Loch Lomond, and I lucked out because the weather was perfect. Loch Lomond is a large freshwater lake (I believe it is the largest in Great Britain, at least in surface area), surrounded by cute villages and beautiful mountains. There are a few islands in the loch, and you can boat around the lake to different destinations. I took a train from Glasgow out to Balloch, and from there hopped a boat to Luss. I sort of blindly picked a boating destination. There was nothing specific I wanted to see, I just wanted to go out on the water and get a little bit of a tour of the loch and islands. I was looking for a relaxing water-based day. The boat ride from Balloch took about an hour, and it was beautiful. There was a pre-recorded narration track, which highlighted some of the major sights, like the mountain Ben Lomond and the islands. When we docked at Luss, I wandered around the little town a bit, got some food, and walked along the beach/sat and read until I felt like getting the boat back to Balloch. It was a super nice day.
When I got back from Loch Lomond, I went wandering around the city a bit, because that’s what I do best, really. I walked along the River Clyde for a bit, and through Glasgow Green, where I was legitimately terrified when I rounded a corner and saw that dumb Thistle guy again, in an otherwise pretty empty park. Also stumbled upon Glasgow Cathedral and the creepy Necropolis (just a big old cemetery).
There was a random Monday we had off, so I set up a meeting with a conservator for that morning, which was a pretty cool visit. I got to see the whole Museums Resource Centre, a big purpose-built site for collections and operations for a number of Glasgow’s museums. It’s in a not very nice part of the city that you have to take a train to (reminded me a bit of my old NYPL office), but the public can go there for tours, learn about what they do there, and see lots of things that are not in the museums, which is pretty cool.
After my visit there, I went back into the city centre and had a late breakfast/lunch at one of the Willow Tearooms, notable because the interior was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, pride of Glasgow. Had some very tasty eggs and smoked salmon and sat around sipping tea for a while.
Before getting the bus back home, I poked around in the Gallery of Modern Art, and I’m glad I randomly decided to do that. Sure, it is a nice museum with some interesting art, but more importantly, the Duke of Wellington is outside. I had forgotten about him! It’s just a regular old statue of the Duke of Wellington on a horse, but at some point some drunk (I’m assuming, because come on) Glaswegians decided he’d be better with a traffic cone on his head. The cone gets removed every now and then, but people always seem to put it back. There were plans in the past to raise the statue, or do other things to make it harder/impossible to put his orange hat on, but the public got angry, so nothing ever happened. I like his hat.
At the end of my placement, my friend Charlie came up to Scotland for a visit, and we decided to head over to Inverness and do a little day trip around the area. We spent about half a day in Inverness itself, visiting an archive and touring a conservation studio, then wandering about. We were sure to pay a visit to Leakey’s Bookshop, which was as lovely as I hoped. Back in Aberdeen, we did a pub quiz and WON (there were 2 other teams and one was the bar staff) a gift card for this one chain of pubs, so we had ourselves a nice free dinner at a different location in Inverness.
The next day, we went on a Highlands tour that we had booked in advance. It turned out to be…strange. We went to a really great whisky distillery and saw some dolphins, but our driver/guide was…a bit of a mess. The guy seemed very clearly hungover, had really bad stories, and didn’t seem very interested in his job at all. He also drove like a madman and bypassed Loch Ness because our group had to pick up people from another bus and he had given us too long in some other dumb places. Everyone demanded he at least pull over so we could look at the lake, but sadly we did not find Nessie. Charlie wrote a very strongly worded email afterwards and we got our money back in the end. Even though the tour was sort of a bust, we did see some nice things and had ourselves an experience.
The Queen has herself a lil’ country house up in Aberdeenshire. It’s open to the public for a few months a year, and that window happened to fall while I was up, so I decided to go check it out. I’m not generally one for looking at palaces and castles, and this visit was sort of lackluster. You don’t actually get to see much of the interior of the place itself–there’s a small exhibit room on the ground floor and you go through the stable area to the side, but that’s pretty much it. The grounds are really pretty though, and I was fortunately there on a good weather day. They do give you a pretty decent audio tour with the price of admission, so it was all in all not a bad afternoon spent wandering the grounds. I even saw some sheep.
This trip was notable for me because I had to figure out the intercity buses. To get to Glasgow I took a pretty straightforward Megabus, and other destinations I took a train. When Erin and I went to St. Andrews we took a bus similar to this one, and I remember being confused about it then. We read the website so many times and were worried we weren’t in the right spot for pickup, or didn’t have the right fare. The bus was cash only and you’d do well to have exact change, the driver got pretty grumpy with people who didn’t. These buses are a little nerve-wracking, because if you’re not headed to the final destination (or another major stopping point along the way), you really have to pay attention to where you are. I had to get off the bus at Crathie, but there’s another stop along the way for Crathes Castle, which is confusing, and there aren’t exactly lots of clear announcements about where the bus is stopping. But I made it there and back, and that journey prepped me for another I was planning to take along the same route a couple weeks later. To….
Ok I’m going to get made fun of for this trip but WHATEVER. I was doing some general internet searching about things to do in Aberdeenshire, looking for any interesting local events. I came across mention of the Banchory Show, a yearly agricultural fair in a little town about 20 miles away from Aberdeen. There would be animals, games, highland dancing, competitions. A big fair! Since it wasn’t far or expensive to get to, I thought it’d be an interesting thing to investigate. I convinced my friend, the other intern at the library, to come along with me, and she was a good sport. I LOVED this dumb thing. There were horse shows, bagpipes, sheep–including GINGER SHEEP, highland coos, and general merriment. When it all got a bit too much, we even popped into a really cute cafe for a bite to round off an adorable day.
Pheeeew that’s a lot of adventuring. And a lot of sheep.