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Glasgow and the West Highland Rail


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The wife and I have tickets to Glasgow over the August Bank holiday. We are currently planning to spend the Friday evening in Glasgow and then Saturday morning take the West Highland Rail to either Fort William or Mallaig (the Fort William-Mallaig leg is supposed to be the best bit). From there we will rent a car and drive.....somewhere.

Am very interested in ideas of places to go, stay and eat in this area of the West Highlands and any recommendations on what we should do (in our very brief three and a half day weekend). I have re-read the February thread on Scotland in general. Thoughts at the moment are the Old Pines (near Fort William), one of the many Wolsey Lodges B&Bs (as suggested by Mogsob and by the way Mogsob, are there any in particular you might suggest?), the Isle of Mull and the Isle of Skye (although Skye seems quite large and maybe a bit too much for such a short time period). We are particularly interested in accomodations that are less than 125 pounds or so, areas that have nice coastal views, opportunities to taste and drink single malts (recognizing that the Malt Whiskey Trail is not in the areas I have described above) and real ales, and of course eating well whereever possible.

I am also interested in pub, hotel and casual dining suggestions in Glasgow (so far the Ubiquitous Chip bistro is in the lead for restaurants). In addition, if anyone thinks we should scrap the West Highland Rail and go somewhere different, I would be interested in suggestions (keeping in mind that our tickets to Glasgow are fixed and we definitely want to get out into the countryside).

Sorry for the long-windedness and thanks much in advance.

Thomas Secor

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Have you thought about Amaryllis for Glasgow? Might be slightly more formal than you've planned but has to be a good bet. You can get a look at an example menu through www.gordonramsay.com. Although prices aren't listed I believe 3 courses are around £30.

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Think your plan a great one. I managed to get posted to Glasgow for work for 6 months, and its vastly underestimated by many. You're in a city of culture that's got the best seafood in the UK and fantastic mountains on its doorstep.

First, eating in Glasgow. I'd recommend Stravaigin (http://www.stravaigin.com/). The food is splendid, especially the seafood. It's not the most formal restaurant, but the menu is bound to catch your attention and it's very definitely pleasant. I'd choose this over Ammarylis (excuse spelling). Why go to Glasgow for a copy of Gordon Ramsey's London sites?

Can also say that the Chip comes very highly recommended, although I never actually got round to eating there. See: http://www.ubiquitouschip.co.uk/

In terms of places to go.... To my mind the West Coast of scotland really becomes majestic near the coast. The railway up to Fort William is spectacular - of course it is - but not as stunning as the sea lochs of Argyll and the North West. The railyway journey after Fort William will probably be grandest.

If you wanted somewhere near Glasgow, the area around Loch Fyne and Arrochar is amazing. It's also home to the restaurant of the Loch Fyne Oyster company. To see where I mean, see:

http://www.streetmap.co.uk/newmap.srf?x=20...p=newsearch.srf

You're right, btw, to put a bulletin out on the web looking for advice on accomodation. It's hit and miss in the highlands, sadly, as is food. The best guidebook is "Scotland: The Best" by Peter Irvine. It's basically the top ten beaches, top ten restaurants, ten things you must see, ten great things to do, etc, etc. Really works as a guidebook. See:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0...7450801-2027818

North of Fort William I know of a brilliant B&B that also does dinner. It's in stunning scenery, the owner is full of enthusiasm for the hills, the bedrooms are great, all pine floors but in a traditional Scottish house. And the breakfasts... wonderful. It's probably too far north, in Torridon. But if you want to stay in perhaps the most beautiful bit of Scotland accessible by road, and in accomdation that is wonderfully relaxing and friendly, see: http://www.cromasaig.com/

Hope this is helpful. Have a good time.

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I spent nearly a month in Scotland several years ago. I traveled by rail, and the scenery is truly spectacular, especially, as you mentioned, the Fort William to Mallaig leg. I was traveling on the cheap and wouldn’t recommend any of the places I stayed or ate. The scenery and the people more than made up for it.

I adored Glasgow. One of my favorite pubs in the world (after the Wenlock) is Uisge Beatha in the West End. Funky décor with loads of dead animals heads on the walls and kilt-wearing bartenders. Not touristy at all, it draws a very friendly local crowd and is said to have an amazing whiskey selection. (242 Woodlands Rd. (0141) 564 1596).

If you decide to stay in Glasgow, Loch Lomond is fairly close and a nice day trip.

If you head west by rail you can get the ferry from Mallaig to Armadale on Skye. We only spent a few days on Skye, but felt like we’d only scratched the surface. It’s the first place I’ll go on my return. This is the place for amazing coastal views and pure magic.

My Mull experience is limited to a day trip from Oban that included Iona, but it may be more suitable for your shorter time frame. I would have liked to take a boat trip to Staffa (a spectacular island formed from columnar basalt).

Although I found Fort William itself a bit grim, a day there for some walking would be nice. There’s a beautiful walk to the Upper Falls at Glen Nevis that was a highlight of my visit. We took a picnic lunch and lounged on the grass below the falls. The Ben Nevis distillery is just outside Fort William itself.

Have a wonderful holiday :smile:

Edit: The Scotia is another great pub in Glasgow.

Edited by Blondie (log)

Sometimes When You Are Right, You Can Still Be Wrong. ~De La Vega

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go to arisaig, on the road to moror and mallaig and stay at any cheap bed and breakfast of which there are many (for awhile there was a government grant/subsidy programme if you opened your home to b and b, so everyone did). you might try the arisiag hotel but it is very expensive (the big fancy one, the one in the village is funky).

there is a little boat that goes to the island of eigg. its wild. pretty empty. wild horses frolic on the beaches. don't know how many ferries a week. there is also a little boat that comes back from the island that serves nothing but whiskey, a zillion kinds of it. you just sit on deck and drink...its just a little boat but it is one of the regular ferries.

its quirky up there, my inlaws come from up there. there are a lot of sheep there and well, i love sheep (check out my website tomorrow for an article wrote on my love of sheep if you like, are we allowed to post this stuff? here goes: http://marlenaspieler.com or go to san francisco chronicle website.

in mallaig there are so many sheep that the villagers had to start locking their doors so that sheep wouldn't just walk in and eat their house plants. i think there aren't so many sheep around now. there is a big fish packing place, though. moror is a beautiful beach, the beach that was used in the movie Local Hero.

Marlena the spieler

www.marlenaspieler.com

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I have no idea when the August Bank Holiday is, so hope this post isn't too late for you. I've lived in Glasgow for 12 years now - and I love my food! First of all, I wouldn't touch Amaryllis with a very long pole. I found the food dull, the staff condescending and slow and there are lots of better places. In the city centre, Rogano is THE alternative to Amaryllis. The food's immaculate, specialising in seafood, the staff are truly professional but unstuffy and the surroundings are beautiful. Think 1930s art deco cruise liner. The restaurant's not cheap but the downstairs bar is less. Strata in Queen Street does reliable and interesting food. Head for the Merchant City for a range of reliable and interesting restaurants. I love the tapas at Cuba Norte (failry cheap in the bar) and there's a restaurant downstairs which turns in to a salsa club at night!

In terms of bars, you could do a very interesting pub crawl around the Saltmarket, which is down near the river. Someone's already suggested the Scotia which has something going on most nights. Saturday afternoons and early evening, the Scotia, the Clutha Vaults across the street both have music (blues, jazz or folk) and McSorley's bar in Jamaica street absolutely rocks! The crowds in all of these are mixed so no matter what your age, you'll feel comfortable. These are all traditional Scottish pubs frequented by friendly natives.

The city centre has had an explosion of trendy "poser" bars in recent years and most of them have cocktail menus. I won't give you a list, because there are so many, and they're not really my scene. Trying to travel north for any distance will be difficult in a couple of days. As someone else said, if you were based in the city, there's some beautiful countryside around within an hour's drive.

I hope this info is in time to help. If not, I hope you had agreat visit and that you'll come back again.

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Thanks everyone for the suggestions. So far the plan seems to be to spend Friday night in Glasgow at the Malmaison Hotel, eat at the Ubiquitous Chip Bistro or Stravaigin and then do a pub crawl as Teuchter suggests, with the Scotia as the pub crawl anchor, i.e. we will start there and may finish there if the vibe suits (Teuchter, the August bank holiday is 8/22-8/25 so your suggestions are just in time). Thought about Amaryllis as Scott F suggested but it didnt fit the desire for an informal meal and I concurred with Gus (or at least his implication) that I should do something in Glasgow I could not do here in London.

We have generally decided against the train, as it was almost 40 pounds return (Glasgow to Mallaig) each, and we would need to rent a car on the other end, whereas a car from Glascow is about 70 pounds for the three days. This way we can also stop off around Loch Fyne (as suggested below) and Glencoe.

We are still looking for dining and accomodation suggestions around Loch Fyne/Glencoe/Fort William area, and perhaps a bit farther north up towards Inverness. I have tentative reservations at the Skeabost Country House Hotel on the Isle of Skye and am still thinking about the Old Pines Hotel. We may also stay an evening at The George, a pub in Inverary, which is recommended in the Good Pub Guide. If anyone has any thoughts on these that would be great.

Thomas Secor

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The most atmospheric way to do the West Highland Line is to take the Fort William sleeper from Euston, so I think you're probably right to drive if you're going from Glasgow.

Skye is perhaps my favourite place on earth so I am biased. But for a day or two, it is a hell of a drive. At the top end, the Three Chimneys is very much worth it. I suspect staying there would be wonderful, but they were full when we last went, and the rooms are very expensive.

The Talisker distillery tour is fun; it's not essentially different to any other distillery tour, but the setting is better than any other I've visited.

Coruisk House in Elgol is good for local seafood (esp. squat lobsters) in a communal-table kinda way. Best to stay the night if you can; if you are not going to walk in the Cuillin then the boat trip from Elgol across the bay to Loch Coruisk is a must. Elgol itself is a beautiful, magical setting - it's only about ten houses, mind: if you haven't spent much time in the Highlands, and especially the Islands, you have to realise that things are different up there.

How are you planning to get to Skye? From Glasgow, better to drive to Mallaig and get the Armadale ferry than trying to hack all the way to Kyle and the bridge. They have improved the Fort William-Mallaig road in the last few years, but it is still single track in places. You won't be going that fast. Mallaig is unattractive but has a couple of good cafes that look like your typical seaside chippy but serve great langoustines. Next time I go to Skye it will be via the small, summer only, Glenelg to Kylerhea ferry. But again, it's a bit out of the way.

Fort William is pretty grim but the Crannog seafood restaurant on the lochfront is good. Shame there's a dual carriageway outside. I've never been to Old Pines but quite fancy it for some future visit.

If you abandon Skye (and it is a long, long way for a day or two), I'd recommend Mull. Easier to get to, not so big, Tobermory is nice. Good wildlife to see - there's a guy called Richard Atkinson runs an operation called Island Encounter: he takes you around in a minibus, and you can expect to see white-tailed and golden eagles, maybe otters and dolphins and loads of other stuff. Google would find his details. There is a little caff on top of the ferry terminal in Tobermory that serves scallops straight out of the water, depp fried of course (this is Scotland after all). If you stick with Skye and want to see an otter under your own steam, go to the Kylerhea Otter Haven: this is a hide about a mile from the road-end, and there are several resident otters. Take binoculars and allow a couple of hours: you have a good chance of seeing something.

Oh, and take midge repellent. August is the height of the season, and they are the most evil beasties in existence.

Glencoe is somewhere you pass through rather than stop for long, unless you are a climber (I am). There's no great eating there, but the beer in the Clachaig is terrific. Food alright in a pubby kind of way - I had a decent venison burger in there one time, but it's nothing you'd go out of your way for.

I'd probably avoid Loch Fyne myself. I have a preference for stuff further north and Argyll doesn't really do it for me. YMMV.

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Re: Glasgow

You really ought to take Gus's advice and get yourself a copy of Pete Irvine's Scotland the Best, it is the definitive guide to all the best things in Scotland from best chippies, to best beaches, best rivers, romantic walks, castles, highland hotels etc.

I would reconsider Malmaison, it is a chain, though the Glasgow one is the original, but it has been bought out by larger conglomerate and I think the service shabby. My friend had her wedding there and it was pretty poor. there are more characterful places, like the Babbity Bowster, or Lang's hotel which is a Glasgow take on a trendy hotel but has suites at a good price where you can lie in bed and control the blinds with a remote control, opening up or closing down the view of the city beyond. Other friends swear by the Art House, though i found the rooms a little small.

at least have a glass of champagne in the beautiful Rogano and don't opt for the downstairs cafe because it's cheaper than the upstairs restaurant, the food isn't anywhere near as good.

and if you want to see the really rough side of life, a pint of shammy [a toxic cidery/rocket fuel type of beverage] in the Saracen Head would help you on your way, an the various singing drunks gathered there will tell you of more good haunts.

the cafe gandolfi is always wonderful for scottish specialities as well as other dishes. smoked venison, redcurrant jelly with pommes dauphinoise [a glance back to the auld alliance] is wonderful and worth returning for!

some of the previously recommended places you can take a peek at on www.bestglasgowrestaurants.com though not all of these are the best.

awra best

[from someone who has been away too long]

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