Once again it’s an early day only this time it starts at 6 AM.  Up for a shower and down we go to the International Cafe.  The breakfast sandwich and Cappuccino once again work their magic and it is now time to leave the ship.

WOWScotland Tours is our host today and in no time the bus is found and introductions made to Rob our guide.  Departure is on time at 7:30 and it’s a testament to the others in our group that we had to wait for no-one.  It’s a full bus today with 50 odd people onboard.

There is a ways to go before our first stop so we take in the countryside once more.  True enough a new country, but the landscape is similar to what has already been seen.  Pasture land, sheep, cattle and history.  The weather is now more what was expected all along as the day has begun with both a drop in temperature and water.  The clouds have decided to lighten their load.  Inside the bus that presents no problem and happily, by the time Loch Lomond appears, the rain is no more.

A completely different type of boat is now met and boarded for our jaunt across the Loch.  The lines are cast off and the shoreline begins to fade away.  Loch Lomond starts to show her expanse and her beauty.  This Loch, of which there are literally thousands, is the largest in Great Britain by surface area.  (Possibly a slightly more famous one, Loch Ness is the biggest by volume and it also has a certain reputation.)  Loch Lomond covers some 27.5 square miles and is used as a controlled water reservoir since 1971.  It supplies about 100 million gallons of fresh water each day to boost water supplies in Central Scotland.  One would almost think that rate would be a serious hazard to the Loch.  Actually it doesn’t really affect it at all.  One foot of depth in the Loch contains about 5 billion gallons of water and the average yearly rainfall is about 80 inches.  No shortage is likely.  Fortunately the rain that followed us from the ship has let off allowing some to stand in the prow of the boat to take better pictures than through the windows on the inside.

The Loch is also steeped in history with the Vikings invading in 1263.  As much as they plundered and pillaged the numerous islands and villages along the Loch, they were eventually stopped at the Battle of Largs.

Illicit distillation was also running rampant along the Loch from the late 1600’s to 1781 when it was finally banned.  Needless to say that didn’t necessarily stop the illicit smuggling.

Most people are familiar with the song of Loch Lomond – “You’ll tak the hi road and I’ll tak the low road and I’ll be in Scotland afore ye…”.  If this blog gives you nothing else, you’re likely to always find some trivia within.  The song, which many of you might think is a love song, is in fact, a tragedy.  It’s about two brothers captured during a war and offered a choice – the low road, death or the high road, life in prison without parole.  The soul of the one will be back to Scotland before the other, and never seeing his loved-one again on the banks of Loch Lomond.

At the far side of our journey, the passage is over and the boat emptied, waiting to fill with people going the other way.  The walk up the dockside leads directly into the village of Luss.  Reputed to be one of the prettiest villages in Scotland it’s easy to see why.  Modern day buildings are very few and far between as personal homes line the streets.  They aren’t large by our standards, but many have a front and backyard and most display their ability to grow beautiful flowers.  Like a fine Grand Dame from the early Hollywood era, this lady hides her age well.

The bus has made its way around the Loch and is waiting for us and once again, there are no stragglers.  And now it’s off to Stirling Castle.

The castle was built in the 1400’s by King James V.  Throughout many tumultuous times, 17 sieges and numerous successions, it has held up surprisingly well.  True enough there has also been a fair amount of restoration over time, but the character and feel remain intact.  We did no formal tour here either so once again, pictures will hopefully add a bit of volume to this text.

The rain has once again graced us with its presence, but it really is just a slight drizzle – enough to wet the hat, but not enough to dampen the day.  The size and complexity of getting around this establishment almost makes you wonder how they did it without a GPS.  There simply is not enough time to take everything in but I can understand why a King would want a home such as this.  After all, appearances must be maintained.

Our last stop, in Glasgow proper (as our ship is docked in the port of Greenock), is right outside of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.  The building is simply amazing to look at but it’s felt there is not nearly enough time to do it justice.  However right across the street is a fascinating looking local pub.  Let’s go there, enjoy a pint and look at the museum through the window.  Ok…I get it…not exactly the same thing, but it was calling for us.  What would YOU do?

Having just missed the lunch crowd, there was a plethora of empty tables and a very relieved looking barmaid.  Just after bringing our pints to the table I glanced up and had to smile.  The name of the pub was the Brewdog, aptly named after both our type of pet and today’s beverage of choice.  The smile was brought on by the sign immediately beside the washroom doors – Dog Pawties.  I get that it was referencing having a party at the Brewdog, but its placement couldn’t have been better.

Inside the museum is a painting by Salvadore Dali.  In the 1960s, the Scottish parliament voted in favor of buying the painting for the princely sum of 6,400 pounds.  This was met with much derision by the general public as a complete waste of taxpayers’ money and much too exorbitant a price.  In 2013 the Spanish government offered to buy it from Scotland for 50 million pounds.  Their offer was politely declined.

The return trip to the ship was uneventful.  Just before we pulled away from the dock we were serenaded by a local troop of bagpipers.  Really…it just wouldn’t have seemed proper without them and they were quite good even if you don’t appreciate the instrument.

Dinner was great and we were waiting for dessert to arrive when one of those little delights come along that you’re just completely unprepared for.  It was done perfectly by our waiter, Jomel.  You should all try this at home.  I’ll post a picture in a day or two to give you time to figure it out.

Push the cork from a wine bottle, part way back into the wine bottle.  Take a regular toothpick and push it firmly into the middle of the cork about 1/3rd the way up the toothpick.  Now it’s sticking straight up from the middle of the cork.  Here’s the fun part.  Take another toothpick and 2 regular forks.  Balance all 3 off the tip of the first toothpick.  The only thing allowed to touch the tip of the first toothpick, is the tip of the second toothpick.

Just remember, I get half of everything you make betting on this in the bar. J

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