Day 1: Glasgow to Oban
Haggis-flavoured crisps actually exist. And what’s more, they don’t taste too bad – though taste is relative in a country famous for deep-fried Mars Bars and that toilet bowl diving scene from Trainspotting.
This was the first of several startling revelations I was to learn on an 8-day bike trip through the Outer Hebrides with my mum.
First though, we were taking the West Highland railway from Glasgow to Oban where the real adventure would begin.
With its slow chug through beech forests (so close that small branches regularly fall in through the windows), and vistas of distant snow-capped mountains, pastures and lochs, the West Highland railway is one of the most magical™ train rides in the world.
Latter parts of the route were even used to depict the Hogwarts Express scene in the Harry Potter movies. Now, if they could just conjure up some better on-board snacks…
Disembarking at Oban, we found ourselves by the water’s edge, with a panoramic view across the small bay and the city’s high street, full of discount outdoor clothing shops, whisky boutiques, and inexplicable groups of Swedish middle-aged men – they were too old for a stag weekend, and being May it was too soon for a stag hunt weekend.
By the ferry terminal, tour operators had left rudimentary signs advertising trips to see marine life.
“See the seals by boat,” said one sign. Additional information was added in shaky marker hand-writing: “book now – only 40 seals available”. Someone had neglected to cross the ‘l’.
We ate at definitely okay seafood restaurant EE-Usk on the other side of the harbor. Everything here was locally sourced, except for the staff.
Most of them came from the Continent: the unique opportunity to spend three months in an English-speaking country and leave with a worse accent than when you arrived.