Friday, May 29, 2009

Notes from Kilmartin and the Kintyre Peninsula

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The weather was terrible - sheets of rain - and we were in a hurry to make it to Kilmartin at a time somewhat resembling what I'd told the B&B proprieter, but the scenery on the way there was amazing. We arrived slightly late in Kilmartin at the Rosebank Argyll B&B. After making it clear that she thought we were insane for taking our friends to Glasgow instead of telling them to get a bus (!?) because Oban is only a few miles from Kilmartin, the proprieter told us where to find the only supper in town and we were on our way. Kilmartin Hotel has quite possibly the coziest pub in all of existence, and we enjoyed dinner there with a fireplace, lots of locals, and a pile of worn atlases and world record books (pub quiz? settling bets?) next to our table. Kilmartin had pretty much already won us over at this point, only an hour after arriving!

Our B&B was really something to behold. Our room was all pink and full of stuffed animals, figurines, and other things an expat can easily forget the existence of (who could move all that stuff!?). But, we did have to remove the batteries from the Disney princess alarm clock overnight so the ticking didn't drive us crazy. I was happy to see the room had a tub!! That's something I really miss not having in my little German apartment.

Breakfast the next morning was just huge, plus there was a great cereal selection! (Another thing I miss in Germany - many types of cereal just don't exist here.) We poked around Kilmartin for a hour or so waiting for the local museum's shop to open, hoping it would have an area Ordinance Survey map we wanted. They didn't have it, so we just went on our way with a free map we got in a brochure at the B&B.

Our goal was to visit Glenbarr Abbey on the Kintyre peninsula south of Kilmartin. The Abbey is now the center for Clan MacAlister, which is the only Scottish ancestry I have that I know about. It's located next to the teeny tiny town of Glenbarr. The peninsula had lovely views out over the sea to some of the Hebrides, but appeared to be pretty much devoid of much tourism industry. When we arrived at the Abbey, we discovered its hours had changed since the printing of my guidebook, and it was closed all day!! Doh!! I should have checked the website, eh? Since the book was written the head of the clan, who was the one who gave tours, actually passed away, so I imagine that affected the schedule. We walked around it a bit then went into Glenbarr itself to stop for a drink and of course a Rice Krispie-based snack, something I probably could have just lived on for the whole trip. Glenbarr was tiny and unassuming. It reminded me a lot of some of the tiniest towns in the part of Iowa that I'm from. There was a tiny grocery and convenience store which led to a courtyard, where there was a coffee shop/community hall/gallery/gift shop sort of place. On our way into the courtyard we ran into a guy and Damon asked him if the coffee shop was open (I suppose feeling he had to say something, the guy looked really friendly). He said yes, "it's open because we need the money!!" When we went to pay for our stuff Damon realized he'd left his wallet at the B&B!! Ah, scientists.

Kilmartin, Kintyre, and more May 2009


We headed back north from Glenbarr, stopping in Tarbet at Lite Bites for lunch. It was so cheap!! I had a turkey and cranberry wrap which was delicious and only 2 GBP or something, and they had a huge variety of home-baked goodies to choose from, so we stocked up for later. (Later being about five minutes, despite better intentions.)

When we got back to Kilmartin Glen, we spent the afternoon checking out ancient sites - forts, standing stones, stone circles, cairns, cists, rock art - the glen is full of all kinds of these remnants of previous civilizations. Many of them are publicly accessible and there are free maps in Kilmartin to help find out how to get to those ones. Many more are on private land. We got to hang out with the sheep maybe a little more than we wanted to when we found out the path we were supposed to take to see a few different sites, a narrow lane between two fences, was being used by a herd of sheep moving from one field to another. There was no other way, so we took the path, but inadvertently separated three sheep from the rest of the herd. Most of the sheep were ahead of us, but the other three were behind, and they were not happy about this situation at all. With no way out we just kept going, turning around to try to scare them back when they started running at us - we didn't want to get run over by some crazy ass sheep!! Poor things. At the end there was a little corner we could back into to let them pass, and then all was well again. By the way, sheep make grass look so totally delicious, don't they? They eat it like it's soooo good. The field with the standing stones had a fresh, mutilated sheep carcass in it...this was seriously disturbing. I don't want to know what that was all about.

After all the tromping with sheep we got dinner at the Kilmartin Hotel again. The owner was working and was really helpful with various beer and local questions.

Back at the B&B I decided to have a bath since there was a tub!! This is when I discovered something on my knee. I remembered seeing it earlier, but I couldn't remember when. I thought it was a tiny scab and when I brushed at it earlier it hadn't come off, and so I left it alone. Now that I was in the bath I figured it was ok to try to get rid of it, but when I picked at it, I thought I saw a leg. Yeah, you read that right. I tried to remain calm. "Damon? Could you come in here?" He came in. "Can you look at this thing? Is it a tick?" He looked at it and poked at it. "No, I think it's just a scab." Poke, poke. "Wait, no....it is a tick." EW! I usually have good luck. This is the first tick I remember ever having. We had no tweezers or tick-removing devices so Damon decided to try pulling it out with his fingernails, which worked. Whew. Now to wait and see if I get any funny rashes. Normally I am so paranoid about ticks, but on this trip I had just completely forgotten. I didn't think about it at all. I wasn't wearing any bug/tick spray and I hadn't tucked my pants into my socks when we were out in the fields. How could I not think about it? Again with the ah, scientists. Unfortunately it could have been there for quite awhile since I knew I'd seen it before and couldn't remember when.

The next morning we started our journey to Edinburgh, first stopping for gas in Lochgilphead.
On our way to Kilmartin two days earlier we'd noticed that a town we came through, Inveraray, looked really cute, so we decided to stop there on our way to Edinburgh.

Inveraray + Road to Edinburgh May 2009

When we arrived we were surprised to discover that it was full of tourists and tourist shops! This was the first place on the whole trip that actually felt touristy. Even on Mull, where we did meet plenty of fellow tourists, Tobermory didn't feel touristy at all relative to Inveraray. Still, Inveraray was very cute and friendly. The main street is symmetrically laid out and all in black and white, with a courthouse-like building at the end of the street right in the center of the road. There's also a cutesy castle with big cone turrets which is the center for Clan Campbell. We stopped for coffee and Krispie treats again, then headed onward toward Edinburgh.

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