Hebridean Island Cruises

Scotland and Northern Ireland 2017, Part three…

We checked into the Carlton George Hotel in the early evening.  I booked three nights, even though we’ve been to Glasgow several times thanks to Hebridean Princess.  Although Glasgow is probably not as popular or tourist friendly as Edinburgh is, it remains a very nice place to visit with plenty of things to do and places to eat.  We made good use of our time there this visit.  The first order of business was to enjoy a cheeseburger, but not before we listened to an impressive array of hits played by a bagpiper who stationed himself near our hotel room.

This video admittedly sucks, but you get the idea…  Glad he wasn’t around all night.

I made a video of Bill’s reaction when he heard him play the Army song… you know, “The Army Goes Rolling Along”.  The guy knew all of the U.S. military “hits” and proceeded to play them all, everything from “Anchors Aweigh” to the “Marine’s Hymn”.  After that, he played a few Scottish hits and delved into pieces like the “Star Wars” theme.  He really had an impressive repertoire, although we’ve heard better bagpipers.  Fortunately, he didn’t stick around too long.  We passed him on our way to Five Guys and he was gone by the time we came back to the hotel.

Speaking of Five Guys… yes, it was the very same burger restaurant that has exploded in the United States.  Thanks to my status as a Virginia native and Bill’s time in the Army, which pretty much guarantees a stint living in northern Virginia, we have been familiar with Five Guys for years… even before they started franchising and went national.  I always shake my head when I see Five Guys outside of northern Virginia, since the family that founded it swore they would never expand into franchising.  And yet, there are plans to open Five Guys locations in Germany!  I hate to say it, but Germany could use a Five Guys.  It’s not easy finding really good American style burgers here, although we have found some places that offer somewhat decent facsimiles.

Anyway, Glasgow has a couple of Five Guys locations, as well as several other burger restaurants.  We decided to go to Five Guys for dinner on our first night, since we wanted something quick and painless.  The experience was very much like it is in the United States, as was the taste of the burger.  My only complaint was that when I got my cheeseburger, the cheese was not melted.  I am pretty grossed out by cold cheese, especially when it’s American cheese.  They put a ton of it on there, too.  I would say that if you are coming to Glasgow from the United States, you could probably skip the Five Guys experience and not miss it.  However, since we haven’t been to the States since 2014, we were glad to stop there.  Actually, since we ate nothing but fancy food on the ship, it was kind of nice to have a cheeseburger.

Very good… except for the excessive and unmelted cheese!!!

One goal met!  

This was the view from our table at breakfast in the hotel’s rooftop restaurant.

I had some rather extreme Eggs Benedict that I couldn’t finish.  The hotel offers a pretty nice breakfast which includes dishes made to order.  It does cost extra to get breakfast included, though.  I think we paid 75 GBP for three mornings of breakfasts for two.  We probably got ripped off, but it was sure convenient.

The next day was Sunday.  I had decided ahead of time that I wanted to visit the city of Stirling, which is a charming town about halfway between Glasgow and Edinburgh.  I was aware of the castle there, but also learned of a whisky distillery and a couple of other attractions.  It was raining on the day of our visit, which dampened things a little bit, but our hotel was located right next to the Queen Street train station, which made it easy to get to Stirling by rail.  It took about forty-five minutes.  Naturally, we were seated near fellow Americans.  Glasgow was positively rife with them.  😉


I get a kick out of British nannyism signs.  I have an album full of them on Facebook, which I will add to after I’ve written up this trip.

A memorial in Glasgow’s busy’s Central Railway Station.

A Glasgow pic.

To get to Stirling, we had to use the Queen Street Station, which was right next to our hotel.

Bill is excited.

This is a Baptist church in Stirling, which was one of the first things we saw there.  We don’t see too many Baptist churches like this one in the United States.

A couple of other shots as we made our way up a hill toward Stirling Castle.  Before we got there, we ran into the Stirling Old Town Jail


We didn’t know it, but we happened to be in Stirling on the last day of the season for the Old Town Jail.  I love visiting jails because I’m kinky that way, so Bill and I bought tickets and took the tour.  We were there with three other visitors, led by an actor who repeatedly changed costumes as he told us about the jail’s history in character.  He treated us like new inmates at one point, which was more annoying than scary.  Kids probably appreciate it, though.

Prior to the jail’s opening in 1847, people who crossed the law in Stirling were thrown into the Tolbooth Gaol, which was a horrible place to be punished.  Compared to the Tolbooth, Stirling’s old jail was visionary.  Prisoners were fed, kept in cells by themselves, and paid to work, although they were all addressed by number rather than name.

The attraction itself is interesting, if not kind of corny in the way it’s presented.  I would say it’s probably a fun place for older kids to see.  An added bonus is that you get to climb the tower and see lovely views of Stirling, although it was pretty cloudy and rainy when we visited.

One of a few cells we visited.

This sign has a typo.  I couldn’t help but notice.

This was one shot I got.  We were told prisoners were not allowed to take in this view when they were in the tiny courtyard for exercise.

This was an interesting form of punishment.  Basically, prisoners worked hard all day at nothing.

For once, I didn’t make Bill pose for a shot.


A couple more foggy shots.

Bill poses by the tower before we finished the tour of the jail.

Mind the steps.

These four shots are of spots around Stirling, taken before and after we visited the castle.

A gate to the cemetery, I think.  I thought it looked artsy.

The entrance to Stirling Castle.


To be honest, I don’t have a whole lot of patience for visiting houses and castles.  For some reason, I tend to get bored quickly in them.  I also don’t like crowds, and Stirling Castle was pretty crowded, even on a rainy Sunday.  Nevertheless, we did stay awhile I got some photos.  I think my enthusiasm was dampened by the misty weather.  It made me want to find a nice pub and drink.  I did enjoy the Queen Anne Garden pictured below, despite the rain.  The flowers smelled so good!

As a musical person, this exhibit was interesting to me…  

The Great Hall, I believe…

I don’t know how, but it took this visit to find out how significant unicorns are to Scots…  They were all over Stirling Castle and elsewhere in Scotland.  I am a horse lover, yet somehow never noticed all the fantastic unicorns in the land of much of my ancestry.  The above photos were taken in the King’s and Queen’s bedrooms.  Unicorns are Scotland’s national animal.

Once we’d had enough of the crowds, we headed back down the hill and visited a pub we’d passed on the way in.  It happened to be packed with people, though we did manage to score the last table.  The guy over my shoulder felt a little like the Grim Reaper.  He was standing right behind me for most of our stay.  It kind of gave me the willies.

I am sporting the drowned rat look, thanks to the wet weather.

Scottish style macaroni and cheese.  It was good, but the cheese was fairly strong.  Bill probably would have liked it better than I did.

I liked his spicy pasta dish.  We probably should have traded!

After lunch, we headed back to the train station.  We were a little too late for the 2:45pm train back to Glasgow, so we stopped in the Coffee House pictured below.

I didn’t take note of the opening hours when we walked in…

Bill got a cup of coffee and I had a mocha.  We had been sitting there for about ten minutes when the barista abruptly kicked everyone out.  We hadn’t realized that she was closing at 3:00.  There was another American couple there and the male half made me laugh when he mimicked the barista with a flat, “Get out!”  We saw a few other hapless folks unaware of the hours walking in and getting kicked out promptly and very bluntly.  Having worked in the service industry, I completely understand the sentiment, although it was a little off putting.  Oh well.  At least I got my mocha.

On the way back to Glasgow, the train was pretty packed.  Some very kind gentleman offered me his seat until the conductor found two for Bill and me to sit together.  I was heartened by how genuinely kind the guy was to me.  In America or even in Germany, I would have expected total indifference.


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