Anyway...the weekend that has just passed was very good, and started off on Friday night with drinks with an old work colleague who has been doing some travelling. Now she's back in Scotland (at least for a while) it was good to catch up with her adventures, and have a laugh about some of the silly things going on in my silly workplace. Good company is a very good thing.
On Saturday morning, I loaded up the Clown Car with children, bags and fuel and headed off towards Callander for an overnight adventure. It was a nice drive on a gorgeous day. When we got to Callander, we had some lunch and set off for a walk. On the way, we came across a really quite excellent Toy Museum. This turned out to be the Hamilton Toy Collection, which is very well described in Bollocks To Alton Towers, and we had a good nose around. It's all in a converted house on the high street - the lower floor is mainly a shop with some pretty cool old toys in it, but the upper floor is absolutely festooned with old toys on display, and it was a vast collection of really cool stuff. Here's a few examples.
Action Man giving off a whiff of testosterone.
Trains, boats, planes, automobiles etc. With a few random soldiers thrown in.
I remember Matchbox cars! I had loads of 'em. They'd appear on my model railway, bringing some terrible clashes of scale.
Every toy museum has a room with creepy doll heads in it, that stare at you as you walk around. Arrrgh! Less said about the gollies the better.
This was easily the best toy museum I've visited, as it was fantastically chaotic. If you're ever in Callander, give it a visit. I felt envious of the guy staffing the place - I would kill to work somewhere like that! I almost came away with a load of Triang TT Gauge models from the shop, but managed to resist the temptation.
We moved on to Bracklinn Falls. I went there last year for the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park photography competition, and thought the kids would like it - they did, although Edmund whined like a stuck pig because it involved a bit of hill-climbing. He calmed down when we got there, though.
It's pretty spectacular...view from the equally spectacular bridge.
A long(ish) exposure. Bit of a waterfall image cliche, but I couldn't resist.
Top of the falls.
As you can see, the weather was pretty amazing for October in Scotland - it was warm and sunny all day, and the kids found plenty to do while I took loads of photos. After we'd explored around here, I made a return visit to the Callander Royal Observer Corps Bunker. These little underground concrete boxes are very common - there's hundreds of them hidden around the country in various states of (dis)repair. I'd heard the hatch of this one might be open so I was keen to have a look. Anyway, they were supposed to be used to monitor nuclear explosions if the Cold War ever turned into World War 3, and the poor sods stuck inside them had various bits of equipment to measure blast, fallout etc. and communicate it to regional bunkers like the one we went to a few weeks ago. At least from the surface, the Callander one is quite well-preserved.
The big green block on the left is the entrance hatch. The little vent on the right shows you how big the thing was - the two surface structures are at each end of the very small space three people were supposed to live in.
The hatch opened, but only by a foot or so - there was some sort of mechanism on it I couldn't fathom. I stuck my camera in to get this shot of the access shaft, but as you can see from the reflection there's a lot of water at the bottom, so I doubt going in would have been too sensible.
After all of this, we headed back to the car and drove to Strathyre, a very small village about 8 miles away where we were staying in a guest house. It turned out to be a rather fine guest house too, with really comfortable rooms and lots of nice facilities - it's called Rosebank House and if you're ever in the area, it's lovely. The kids picked out a DVD to watch and I had a very relaxing and tranquil evening recovering from the driving and exercise, enjoying a novel I picked up in Callander.
Strathyre is a very small place, with only one place open (a pub) to get anything to eat. It turned out to be quite entertainingly bad, and we had quite a laugh about it. Because I had kids, they weren't too keen on us eating in the bar, so we ended up in a separate restaurant area which was quite spectacularly charmless and devoid of atmosphere, not helped by the fact that we were the only people in there. We had to wait about an hour in there for our food, which was OK when it arrived, but I regret my choice a little. I had some roast pigeon, which I've never tried before. I was expecting something like chicken, but it's a much darker meat with a flavour much more like liver, and it's pretty tough. It was OK but I won't bother trying it again.
The lights in the toilets didn't work which made using them quite a challenge.
Sunday kicked off with as much food as you can shake a stick at - I love a nice big cooked breakfast. After that, we went to Loch Katrine and walked around for a bit before going on a boat trip. It's a lovely place, but the tourism industry has rather gone overboard, and it's marketed as the Loch Katrine Experience. Basically the place is full of things that seemed designed to suck as much money out of your pocket as possible and it's all a bit pricey, but we did get 10% off the boat trip because we'd stayed in a local hotel.
The views are pretty stunning and I want to post a lot of pictures to show them off - I'll do that in a future entry as I'm getting tired now and I want to picspam you with the awesomeness of the place. Anyway, the boat trip was an hour-long cruise around the loch on a steamship that dates back to the Victorian era. It clanks and puffs along in a very pleasing manner and the trip was pretty cool.
There was one final stop on the way home...
Again, this place comes highly recommended.
It was a great weekend away - just what I needed, really, as I love getting out and about with a camera and enjoying the outdoors. All of this stuff is less than fifty miles from home and very easy to reach - I need to make the most of what a beautiful country I live in, and enjoy the last bits of autumn before the weather gets a bit rubbish.
Back to earth with bit of a bump today - I had a dentist appointment this morning which wasn't very nice as I had a filling which hurt like hell and required enough local anaesthetic to knock out an elephant, so I was drooling and couldn't talk or eat properly for ages afterwards. I've had to have loads of dental treatment recently, including root canal stuff, so I seem to be living at my local dentist at the moment, but thankfully that's my last appointment until I get a crown put on in January. Thankfully my dentist is not only competent, but she's very nice as well, which makes a change because all the dentists I've had in the past have been miserable buggers.
Work was...well, work. Spectacularly and utterly boring, but hey, there's not much I can do about that, besides attempt to have as much fun as I can when I'm not there. Which I did.
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