Stirling is a underrated wee city. Medieval castle with all the old town trimmings, Stirling Bridge and Wallace: the meeting point of Lowland and Highland. Yet it has its own rough underbelly cheek by jowl with cobbled streets.
The castle dominates the landscape. It’s been looked after well and feels accessible, not preserved. Old skills have been relearned to redo old halls and chapel. Big enough to show coach parties (who need to be diverted to the rest of the city), small enough to appreciate its scale.
We followed the Forth trail to find where Jimmy (my Dad) was born, Abbey Road Place. On the way the information boards broadened horizons. I hadn’t realised Stirling had once been a major port.
The Albert Halls rounded off the day with Blazin Fiddles and Karen Matheson in a grand Victorian pile.
So how do you spend a week on an island some 3 miles long and 1.5 miles wide, with as population of 400 or so? Is this a mindfulness paradise? Well, there is a clue in the 22 miles of coast, no cars, and splendid isolation.
We were in the good company of Andy and Madeline who had invited us to share their lighthouse idyll accomodation. Based onshore, the 150 or so steps to access the still working lighthouse (misty nights activating the fog horn were testament to that), offer a morning heart wake up call to reach the flat plateau above. This journey repeats itself as we explore the coastal inlets: getting to the shore involves a wind down and up.
Most of the land is now left uncultivated: food is brought in. This island has all the amenities: an incinerator which allows you to sample the emissions; a generator (no solar panels in evidence); a couple of shops and pubs (filled with locals who seem to be practiced drinkers); and hotels. 3 of these are mothballed. Half the locals and the Barclay brothers don’t get on. It is difficult to fathom who is right. Did one store close because the recluses upped the rent to force them out? Our was it because locals boycotted it? One local rag is vitriolic about lack of democracy by the ruling (elected) elite. Yet an editorial in the Guernsey paper decries the lack of Sarkees coming forward to stand for the council.
Whatever, most of that passed us by as we explored and adjusted to the pace of life. The Signeurie Gardens were great: a real buzz of insects enjoying the plethora of flowers. The whole island sagged under the weight of the sloe crop. Seaweed of mutivarious colours set off the mainly granite rock strata. Rusting iron edifices hinted at previous defences or trades.
All too soon it is the time to leave our bags for Jimmy’s carter service and heave over the 7 mile crossing back to big brother Guernsey. Great.
17 miles of countryside then straight into outer then inner Copenhagen for the next 25 miles. Of the Danish population of 5.3million, nearly 1.7million live in the Copehagen area.
Like Holland and Germany, everywhere seems litter and graffiti free. Except for the great street art and deliberately chosen areas. Large buildings, especially industrial ones, are built to add to the landscape. An inner city incinerator, power station: both you have to look up to find out what they are.
The train bike storage capacity is great. Shame that doesn’t go for the manners of some of the cyclists. This may be a renound cycling friendy city: not all the cyclists are friend ly. The man who shouted near us (it couldn’t possibly have been at us) “get out the way, you’re going too slow”, clearly wasn’t around on the day the poll found this to be Europe’s friendliest city.
Down to the Little Mermaid and tis done. Great trip, traveling with some lovely characters who knew a lot.
Some immediate contrasts. Language: we should have listened more to Scandinoir cf the sub titles. I think tag, ya, will only get us so far. Prices: expensive. Few wind turbines. Hillier (that’s relative of course), rolling countryside. The electricity pounds are very dainty.
The cycle paths when they exist are good; drivers are not as caring of cyclists. And the return of the moped to cycle lanes. Mainly agricultural arable landscape, well manicured. More small towns, perhaps a bit more dilapidated than Northern Germany.
How do people know we are British even when we haven’t said anything? And why are we so rubbish at languages?
The 2 mile bridge crossing was fun though best not to indirect too closely the rusted bits. Then upwards to the highest point of this trip…. Which is about the same altitude as our house. So downhill tomorrow….
Skirting the Baltic Coast and sampling their clouds, we sampled a sliver of former East Germany before entering Denmark. The U-boat U-995 sat strangely alongside the road to stimulate discussion: is it a sub or a boat?
The meadow flowers were gorgeous, bordering rich arable land with a bountiful harvest. Surprising a hare, watching the swallows and reminding ourselves of our ignorance of most of the bird’s names, punctuated a day along rolling roads. And numerous bumpy bits.