Agony in Ardrossan

We have a new ferry service for the summer months, from Campbeltown to Ardrossan on the mainland, operating from Thursday to Sunday. The schedule makes it completely impractical for real life, and not very useful for the tourist trade either. Weirdly, it’s more efficient at taking people away from Campbeltown than it is in bringing visitors here.

The only day return offered is on Fridays, so I went out on the inaugural voyage last Friday, planning to make a day of it and take lots of pictures.

I’d forgotten about the sunburn. After this long, wet, windy winter, I’d forgotten that I crisp in the sun like a vampire, going from white to lobster red in a couple of hours. And I was there for 8 hours, trying to keep out of the sun, but hampered by the lack of shady places in which to legitimately loiter. There weren’t even any trees.

These photos reflect an unwillingness to explore while my head is on fire. In other circumstances I might have liked the place. I’m also less than enthused about the gallery and slideshow options in WordPress, but thought I’d try the slideshow since there are so many photos. Ease of access means less width than I prefer – 640 pixels for everything, landscape and portrait.

By the way, I’m peeling well now, thanks for asking.

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PS Waverley Docking at Campbeltown

PS Waverley is the last seagoing paddle steamer built on the Clyde. Beautiful ship. If you get a chance to go on one of the Waverley excursions, jump at it. Sailing ships are beyond the reach of most of us, but you can still experience a real paddle steamer. Get it while you can – they won’t be with us much longer.

I took these photos on an excursion from Campbeltown to Oban in 2010.

Irish Days in Akranes

St. Patrick’s Day is long past for the rest of the world, but in the Icelandic seaport of Akranes this weekend, they get a second bite at the shamrock.  The festivities celebrate the founding of Akranes by Irish brothers, Þormóður and Ketill Bresasons shortly after 880 CE.  Actually, it’s not quite as simple as that.  There was already a farmer on the land, but since the Brothers Bresasaons were originally Norse, the man was, erm, asked to leave.

Take a look at the festivities link – the event looks like a proper full-throttled celebration, literally, since the Motorcycle Club of Iceland will be there.  In March this year, they were going to be inducted into the Hell’s Angels.  That’s what I like about the Icelandic way of doing things, you’ve got beaches, bouncy castles, motorbikes, bands, dancing, and all-night entertainment, rolled up into one festival.  There’s also a contest to find the most redheaded Icelander, the winner of which gets a trip to Dublin.  Gingers may get made fun of on South Park, but they’re extremely popular in Akranes.


Are you bored with politics as usual?  Disgusted by the way politicians clamour for your vote and then behave like pigs at a trough till the next time they need to get elected?  Well, there is another way.  A year ago, the thoroughly sensible people of Reykjavik booted out the suits and elected a party of punk musicians and artists, headed by a professional comedian, to control the City Council.  You can read about The Best Party in this Observer article, but their campaign video really says it all.

I only became aware of this after watching The Night Shift on BBC4, a month or so ago.  It’s an Icelandic comedy about 3 misfits working the night shift at a petrol station on the outskirts of Reykjavik.  Think The Office (British version, please), with subtitles.  This led down the Google rabbit hole in a search for all things Icelandic, in which there was much to like about the country.  To the point where I began to fantasize about moving there.

In my wanderings I came across the Best Party and discovered that Jon Gnarr, who leads the party, plays Georg, a wonderful monster in the The Night Shift. So I was pleased to see the Observer pushing the boat out for what seems like a proper grass roots response to governments being conjoined twins with the financial corporatocracy.  Most people who commented in the cif thread below the article were supportive, with an Icelandic journalist, Alda Sigmundsdottir, providing the main dissenting voice.  Her post is worth quoting:

The Best Party having brought Iceland in from the cold? Ridiculous. Sure, they were initially a breath of fresh air, but unfortunately they’re great at talking the talk, terrible at walking the walk. Their coalition partners (Social Democratic Party) are effectively running the show in Reykjavík while the Best Party members flit about, talking up their “irreverent” image to anyone who will listen. Most of us Reykjavík denizens saw through them ages ago – and no, I am not a member of the “infuriated” traditional parties, or even traditional voters – just someone who doesn’t pander to the Emperor’s new clothes. The Best Party have always been all show and very little substance — and unfortunately the foreign media seem to REALLY like the show.

Ouch! I suppose that means me as well.  Alda has a blog, The Iceland Weather Report, and a Facebook page.  Of the English language newspapers, the Icelandic Review Online is  a bit dull and worthy, while the Reykjavik Grapevine is a very entertaining read.

I’m drooling at the thought of visiting this strange place. Circumstances make it impossible at the moment, but perhaps I could get there in time for the Northern Lights…

Atlas Obscura

Atlas Obscura is a website for people who regard travel brochures as negative recommendations.  It’s full of rabbit holes, places where you can disappear for hours on end, following the trail from one weird place to another.  It took a major effort to disengage long enough to write this post.

Navigation is clear and logical.  You can explore by region (including Antarctica) or a wide range of categories, and each location has photos, maps and directions, sources, websites as well as information about the place.  I was particularly taken by the discovery huts of Antarctica, from the Heroic Age of Polar Exploration (1897-1922), frozen time capsules that look as if the heroes had just left the room.

That effect is often due to careful conservation, as the video below shows.  Atlas Obscura is the perfect site for dreamers and armchair travelers, drooling at the chance of visiting these places.