Instead of flying, I decided to use ground transport to get from Scotland to Ireland. I wanted to go by bus to the ferry port but those buses were fully booked and ended up going by train. The train journey was less stressful than expected, since it was Sunday morning and rather empty and the two transfers in Glasgow and a town called Ayr were less of a hustle than I had thought. However, arrived at the end point, a place called Stranraer, I faced troubles going the last ten miles or so around the bay to the ferry port in Cairnryan, which has no train access.
Stranraer and Cairnryan are tiny villages with NOTHING there. The ferry is basically made for people with cars. At the station in Stranraer is nothing. Not even a taxi booth. A family had booked a taxi and it came to pick them up and I asked the driver if he could help me to call another cab or whatever. After some back and forth he packed me into the car as well, which I was very grateful for. It was a bit ridiculous. You can see the ferry at the other side of the bay, but how to get there??? I was not aware of the tinyness of Stranraer 😉
I made it to the ferry port all right and was one of the very few people checking in by foot. I had a nice chat with an elderly security guard before they let me into the waiting room. The ferry is fairly big and was booked out to its capacity limit, I suppose. Thanks to a fine day one could see the coasts of Ireland and Scotland and also the Isle of Man and several other Scottish islands during the two and a half hour ride.
Arrived in Belfast things were a bit easier thanks to the size of the town and a public bus came to the port to pick up the few pedestrians without cars. Apart from the hustle to get to the ferry, it was a nice trip and I enjoyed my time on a large boat.
After two days with the family in Germany, I headed on to Scotland. I visited England several times to go to London, Brighton and to Bloodstock heavy metal festival, but so far I had not made it to Scotland yet. Arrived in Edinburgh by plane from Cologne I felt like arriving in Tokyo. The town was packed with people for the Edinburgh international festival that on top of everything celebrated its 70th birthday. Frankly, I had not even known about the festival before I arrived. I went to the Edinburgh castle in the afternoon of the arrival day and thus did everything I had wanted to do in Edinburgh and escaped the crowds into the hotel.
That hotel wasn’t a real hotel but a brand new student dorm vacant over the summer and not lived in yet by students. The rooms and facilities were all brand new and thus it was a pleasant experience. I was to spend four nights in Scotland and had booked two tours with a tourist bus company. A two day tour to Inverness and back and a one day tour visiting Stirling castle and a distillery. The Inverness tour was great. We drove over the highlands, visited some castles and famous Loch Ness. I had deliberately chosen a small bus with only 16 passengers and there was a lovely crowd on board and the guide was great too.
The highlands are very beautiful and at times reminded me a bit of the Great Plains of Mongolia. However, the highlands are more rocky and the mountains are higher too.
In Inverness I stayed in a sweet little bed and breakfast and two American ladies from my bus stayed in the same place. We went out together for food and spent a few minutes in a pub with live music. On the way back to Edinburgh we visited Culloden battlefield and mysterious Neolithic stone circles followed by a whisky distillery. That one delivered mostly to big whisky brands where the stuff gets blended and wasn’t so super interesting to be honest.
The one day tour led me to Stirling Castle, which is where Mary Queen of Scotts was born and it lies beautifully on a hill with 360 degree views and it was well visited but less crowded than the Edinburgh castle.
Over country roads we went to Loch Lomond which is ripe with sailing boats and a holiday destination. Last part of the day was “real” distillery, Glengoyne, still in private ownership and originally Scottish. I still am not a whisky fan, the stuff is too strong for me and I prefer my port wine, but it was interesting to learn how whisky is made.
Apart from the too full Edinburgh, which is a city of 700,000 people and not laid out for double that during festival times, I thoroughly enjoyed the Scotland trip and got what I wanted, some old castles and beautiful landscapes.
A word on politics. Both tour guides were Scottish and greatly in favor of Scotland leaving the U.K. and becoming their own country. The desire for independence from the U.K. was freshly renewed after the Brexit idiocy. The most recent vote for independence was held before Brexit happened and both Scotsman said they are dead sure that if the vote had been held after the Brexit decision, it would have looked different. I don’t know how representative those two guides are of course, but they both said that many of the 52% who voted to remain in the U.K. were scared by propaganda that the U.K. said “you guys cannot survive economically without us”. Now though the sentiment is even worse, since at least those two Scotsman think they cannot survive without the EU but can well survive without the U.K. Both were totally against Brexit and said that Brexit was the stupidest thing the British have ever done. I find myself agreeing with those two guides. Get out of the U.K., Scotland and remain in the EU!
In three days I’ll be on the road again and I’ll have a full program. At first there will be Wacken, baby, Wacken. That’s where the world’s biggest heavy metal festival happens. It’s a tiny town in German’s most northern state of Schleswig-Hollstein, just below Denmark, and once a year the population of the town swells from 5000 people to 85,000 people when the metal heads fly in. It will be my third time at the festival and I’m looking forward to it mightily.
I just hope the weather will be better than the incredible rain and mud battle from two years ago.
On I’ll go to visit my sister and my Dad for two days and then I will fly to Scotland, since I’ve never been to Scotland yet. I’ll go on two bus tours in Scotland visiting lochs and castles and whisky distilleries 😉
Then on goes the journey via ferry to Ireland. Two nights in Belfast and two nights in Dublin with more bus tours and castles and scenery.
I have decided on this trip rather than going to the World Science Fiction Convention in Finland, because frankly, the convention would only frustrate me. I’ve had enough of aloof agents and publishers and more or less frustrated authors running around begging for attention between a few established authors who get all the attention that the newcomers and nobodies would need. I still want more people to read my books, but I’ve had it with having to do things I don’t like doing for that.
My time is too precious to waste it with crap I don’t wanna do. I love going to places I haven’t been to yet. I wanted to go to Scotland since kinda forever and that seems to be a much much better thing to do than hanging around on a convention that will bring me zero joy.
The weather will be a challenge though! It’s been over thirty degrees for nearly every day in July in Yokohama and now I’m going to places where it’s barely twenty during the day. It feels weird to be packing warm clothing tomorrow 😉
So, beautiful cliffs, green meadows and whiskey, here I’ll come and relax my neck from the highly welcomed headbanging in Wacken before that. It will be a great pleasure to see Amon Amarth for the very first time! (Yeah, I know, unbelievable, but I’ve never seen them yet!) And I’ll see Grave Digger again and Alice Cooper and Powerwolf and and and. Raise your horns, metal heads and rejoice in the holy land of Wacken!