Day 17–July 3–Train from Glasgow to London and London to Brussels

Our last day in the UK was a train trip from Glasgow Central to London Euston station, a walk to London St. Pancras station, and the Eurostar train to Brussels. Flying would have been cheaper, but we both wanted to see more countryside and I wanted to take the train under the channel. We were happy with our choice. We got up early to get to Glasgow Central in time for the 8:05 Virgin Trains express service to London; we arrive early and had time for coffee and people watching of morning commuters while waiting.

The high speed train to London uses an old right-of-way that has been upgraded for high-speed trains; since the radius of the curves was designed for much slower trains, the new trains lean in to the corners like you do on a bicycle or motorcycle. We did not know to expect this and were a little surprised the first time. There were a couple of points with S-curves that were really pretty cool.

The Virgin Trains staff clearly have seen it all and still have a sense of humor, as shown by the label on top of the toilets:

Please don’t flush Nappies, santitary towels, paper towels, gum, old phones, unpaid bills, junk mail, your ex’s sweater, hopes, dreams or goldfish down this toilet.
Glasgow to London Train

The walk from London Euston to St. Pancras was easy with wheeled luggage, but if it is raining or you have kids in tow, get a taxi. St. Pancras is not in Scotland and thus does not have natural air conditioning. It does not have artificial air conditioning, and was quite warm.

The Eurostar was fun if a bit of a let down. I thought going through the tunnel would be a big deal, but it is like a twenty-minute flight at night with no turbulence. Once in Brussels, we took a taxi from the station to our hotel and the official end of the genealogy portion of the trip; and the beginning of the statistics conference portion.

Day 16–July 2–Paisley Abbey

On our last full day in Scotland, we deliberately took a day off from tourist stuff and went to church–the church where Kristin’s great-great grandfather and mother were married. The pews do not have hymnals; you are given one as you enter the sanctuary. We did not know to ask for the version with music; the standard version only has words. We will remember this the next time as we would have loved to sing; we have long been fans of John Rutter and other modern British composers, and attending a service made it very clear from which traditions their melodies and harmonies derive.

After church, we went to the parish hall for coffee and had some very interesting conversations. All of them started out with a few minutes of delicate questions and discussion that could be summarized as “did you vote for the idiot Donald Trump?” followed by a frank series of questions that can be summarized as “how on earth did elect an idiot like Donald Trump?”

When coffee time was over, we walked through town and visited the high church on the top of the hill in town to walk the cemetery. Like the Greyfriar’s cemetery, the monuments were very interesting; you could tell when money flowed freely and when times were tough. We had a late lunch/early dinner at a pub before heading home to pack for an early train to London and then the Eurostar to Brussels.

When you attend a service in the Church of Scotland (and probably England too), make sure to ask for the big hymnal with music, as the standard hymnals only have words.
The high church cemetery has some beautiful rose bushes–a welcome spot of bright color in what is otherwise a relatively harsh landscape.
Paisley--High Church

Day 15–July 1–Isle of Bute

We had planned a day trip to the Isle of Bute based upon the weather forecast, and were rewarded with a generally good day. Because of high winds, the ferries were running late so we had about an hour in the Wemyss Bay train station waiting for the ferry. It was actually kind of nice as the Victorian-era station is an architectural delight. We both took a lot of photos. The castle on the island is historically significant to the viking era, but only took an hour or so to tour the ruins. The highlight of the island was lunch at the cafe/pub Brechin’s on Bridge Street. The food was great. It was raining and we were the only customers, so we ended up having a long and enjoyable talk with the owners about island life, life in the UK, and life in general.

After lunch, we walked through town and along the beach to the Royal Bute Yacht Club. There were some sights that would could have seen, but we had already overdosed on castles and estates.

By the time we got back to Paisley, the weather cleared and we had both the time and energy to explore the wonderful Victorian-era fountain that was recently renovated.

This was another day when we appreciated good rain gear.

The Victorian-era train station in Wemyss Bay is beautifully maintained and offers many interesting photos.
Isle of Bute--Victorian Train Station and Ferry Terminal
We were castled out and opted to walk down to the Royal Bute Yacht Club instead of take a bus to another estate. The water is fairly shallow and has a lot of seaweed, so the keelboat class sailed here has heavily swept blades.
Isle of Bute--Sailing Club
On the ferry back to Rothesay, we were treated with a closeup view of the last surviving ocean-going paddle-wheel ship, the Waverley, which does escursion service from the Isle of Bute. The Waverley was built in 1946 by a preservation society.
Isle of Bute--Oceangoing Paddle Wheeler
The Paisley fountain is worth a visit, even if you are not necessarily visiting Paisley. It park and fountain were originally constructed by a thread mill owner to make the working-class neighborhood a little less oppressive.
Paisley--Victorian Fountain

Day 14–June 30–Bus Tour of Ayreshire

We had planned for an all-day bus tour of Ayreshire, the county where both of our ancestors had started out. The two major stops on the tour were Culzean Castle and the various museums and monuments to the poet Robert Burns. Culzean Castle provides an excellent history of the late years of the monarchy and the landed gentry in England and Scotland. The tour’s time budget of about two and a half hours was enough time to tour the castle, the grounds and enjoy a reasonably leisurely lunch in the cafe.

We understood that summer in Scotland is about like a winter in Texas, and had packed for day-time temperatures as low as the high 40s. For the walks around the Culzean Castle grounds, I used the fleece pullover, wind breaker, wool hat, and fleece gloves that I had brought for cold days and I was not overly warm.

The grand entry to Culzean Castle is not as grand as some other estates; like most castles, it grew over time and the original site did not have room for the grand entry that would be built by a later generation.
Ayreshire Tour--Culzean Castle
The sandstone used in the castle and walls has weathered at dramatically different rates, giveing some visually interesting details to otherwise dull walls.
Ayreshire Tour--Culzean Castle
The entry path at Culzean Castle is the most interesting feature by far.
Ayreshire Tour--Culzean Castle
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