Spend a Few Days on the Isle of Arran

Due to the fact we live an unpredictable climate – with frequent rain and dull weather – we often choose to holiday abroad.  However, we’re saving for a mortgage this year, and spent the last 2 years living in England.  So we decided to have a ‘stay-cation’ to Arran!

I live on the west coast of Scotland, very near to Loch Lomond and not too far from some popular Scottish islands.  Marks aunt and uncle have a beautiful holiday home on the Isle of Arran, and were kind enough to have us to stay for 2 nights.

We took the ferry from Ardrossan to Brodick which only takes around an hour.  Then drove around to the house – taking in the incredible views along the way.  The weather was incredible both days we were there, which is just so lucky for anywhere in Scotland!

Beautiful Water
Beautiful Water

After a quick catch up with family, we decided to head out and see some of the island.  Driving from Blackwaterfoot to Lochranza, Mark made the mistake of telling me we could stop anywhere for photos.  So we probably stopped 4 times in the space of 40 minutes, but the photos were so worth it.  Like many of the Scottish islands, the coasts have white sand and pebbles, creating that beautiful blue/green hue that you see in tropical locations.  I previously found it so hard to trust the images online – does Scotland seriously look like that?  Yes!

Lochranza Castle

Once we finally arrived in Lochranza, we visited the ruins of the castle on the waters edge.  The castle dates from the 13th century and is small in comparison to others I’ve seen, but anything that old and still standing deserves a visit.  It has signs on the inside showing what each room was used for when it was functional.  I personally thought the tiny little room they used as a jail was black and terrifying, naturally Mark tried to put me in there.

Lochranza Castle
Lochranza Castle

A little further along the road, sits Arran Distillery.  Being a big whisky fan, the plan was always to drink a lot of whisky.  The tours were fully booked but we were able to book up for 4pm the next day.  So back along the pretty road we drove, to have dinner with our hosts.

Goat Fell

We had decided on a whim (or rather – I loosely agreed) to climb Goat Fell at a decent time on the Wednesday morning.  Packing ourselves into the car around 9am, we headed out in comfortable 16c sunshine to buy Mark a hat.  Can’t have him burning his wee heed and ruining my holiday!

Goat Fell is approx 2,866ft, and it was pointed out to me that the car park is at sea level, which means you really hike that 2,866ft!  It’s a fairly easy walk to start with, and there was plenty of people of all ages.  The further we walked the rockier it became, the last hour is up some very large rocks, and there isn’t a clear path.

Halfway up Goat Fell
Halfway up Goat Fell
Goat Fell
Goat Fell

Possibly due to the weather, but it was the busiest hill walk I’ve ever been on.  I hadn’t planned on going all the way to the top, as I start to get the fear when there’s steep drops.  Though the more children I seen managing it, I felt like I had to.  Plus there was dogs everywhere running back and forth – they must climb twice the distance people do.

Goat Fell Summit
Goat Fell Summit

The views from the top were worth the 2.5 hour walk up.  Perfect weather and clear skies allowed us to see the surrounding islands and other hills.  I went overkill with taking photographs, but I was trying so hard to capture the breathtaking views and colours.

View from Goat Fell
View from Goat Fell

We spent around 30 minutes at the top, and it took us 2 hours to climb back down.  The down part was HARD on the legs.  I was extremely grumpy and ready to be down, but I would do it all over again for those views.

Arran Distillery

At 4pm we were booked in for a stiff whisky in the form of a distillery tour.  Much needed by the time we finished our 5 hours up Goat Fell.

I love a distillery tour.  Every whisky is made differently and I enjoy hearing about the history of each distillery.  There’s something about the feel of the brick and wood interior, that makes me relax into the tour… or maybe it’s the free whisky.

Arran Distillery
Arran Distillery

We were shown a short film on the history whilst enjoying an Arran 12 year old.  Arran distillery is still fairly new, opening in 1995.  We then headed over to the still room which I always enjoy as the big copper stills are so impressive.

To finish off the tour, we were taken to the visitor bar and tasted an Arran Gold whisky liqueur.  I’m not usually a fan of drinks like that, but it is made with Arran 10 year old whisky and it was delicious.  I picked up a bottle in the gift shop for sharing out at Christmas or Hogmanay.

Our short 2 days in Arran was only a taster of what it has to offer.  We’re hoping to go back in a few weeks and do some cycling and see more of the island.  I highly recommend a visit to Arran if you’ve never been, and I hope you are as lucky as us with the weather!

Sunset in Blackwaterfoot
Sunset in Blackwaterfoot
Sunset
Sunset
Isle of Arran - Like many of the Scottish islands, the coasts have white sand and pebbles, creating that beautiful blue/green hue that you see in tropical locations.  I previously found it so hard to trust the images online - does Scotland seriously look like that?  Yes!
Isle of Arran
Isle of Arran - Our short 2 days in Arran was only a taster of what it has to offer.  We're hoping to go back in a few weeks and do some cycling and see more of the island.  I highly recommend a visit to Arran if you've never been, and I hope you are as lucky as us with the weather!
Isle of Arran

Written by Laura McLuskey

Date Night in Glasgow West End

Despite living so close to the city, I hardly ever have nights out here anymore.  After showing my lovely American friends around a few weeks ago, I decided our next date night had to be a nice trip up Glasgow West End.

Since we moved back to Scotland 8 months ago, we’ve been living with my parents.  As much as they are a good laugh and we all get along, it’s nice to have time by ourselves.  So we’ve been trying to make time for date nights.  As I’m hungry most of the time, so we don’t ‘do’ late dinner, so at 6pm our lovely date night started!

Date Night in Glasgow's West End. Ashton Lane, Balbirs, Hillhead Bookclub.

Dinner

One of our favourite meals is curry.  I gather if you are from the USA that Indian cuisine isn’t as popular as it is here.  We LOVE a good curry in Glasgow.  Tonight we opted for Balbirs in the West End.

Balbirs is a really beautiful restaurant inside.  It was recently refurbished, though I couldn’t have faulted it before then either.  The food is delicious and reasonably priced, with the feel of a much more expensive restaurant.  We had tandoori salmon to start, I had chicken jaipuri and Mark had lamb bhoona, all of which was really tasty.

Glasgow West End

Ashton Lane

It’s been a while since our last night out together so I was keen to go somewhere a bit different and my thinking was that Glasgow West End has some brilliant and really unusual pubs.  Ashton Lane is a short cobbled street behind popular Byres Road, and it looks so cool.

I’m a massive fan of fairy lights, or any kind of lit up outdoor (or indoor) area.  So the sheet of fairy lights above Ashton Lane is my favourite!

Ubiquitous Chip

The first bar we went into was Ubiquitous Chip, which has been around since 1971.  Past the bar and up the stairs, there’s a beautiful seating area for dinner.  It has an open plan dining, with lots of greenery, making it feel as though you’re outside.  We took the stairs another level up to sit outside on the roof terrace with a whisky.

Ashton Lane
Ashton Lane

Brel

Down the other end of the lane, sits Brel.  A Belgian themed bar, it has a huge variety of beers on offer, but we were on the whisky!  Stopping at the bar for another whisky, we walked straight through and out to the amazing beer garden.

Brel has a huge seating area out the back.  It’s all lit with fairy lights (my favourite) and is on a hill, so there’s lots of little benches and picnic tables.  Luckily it wasn’t too cold and we didn’t even need to sit under the heat lamps.

The atmosphere in Ashton Lane is wonderful.  There’s several bars we never went in to, and there’s a small cinema too.  In summer, if the weather is nice, Ashton Lane is the place to be.  You can go between all the little pubs and most have outdoor seating to make the most of rare nice Scottish weather.

Hillhead Bookclub

Around 9:30pm we ventured out Ashton Lane and down Byres Road to Hillhead Bookclub.  This is one of my favourite pubs in Glasgow.  The building has been around since the early 1900’s, and was a cinema until 1992.  It’s interior is completely ‘hipster’, the furniture is mis-matched, and the booths back rests are made from belts!  The ceiling looks like it might be the original, with fancy cornicing and carvings.

The upstairs area has small sections set aside with TV and retro games, and I think there’s a fussball table up there too.  We had another whisky here, people watched for a while, then headed for the train home.

Hillhead Bookclub
Hillhead Bookclub

On the way home, I made Mark run up the side street to Ashton Lane again to get a nice photo of the fairy lights.  Walking on cobbled streets in wedges or heels just doesn’t happen for me.  So the featured photo at the top of the page is courtesy of my other half.

Glasgow West End has so much to offer.  I bought a new camera so I’m hoping to venture out soon to get some better pictures and sample some more pubs… and whisky of course!

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Online Dating – Why I’m Glad We Met Online

With the internet having an every day presence in most of our lives.  Its’ not surprising that more and more people are meeting their partners online.  I personally know couples who met on dating sites that are in long term relationships, and even my dad has friends who met online.

After being single for several years, I was encouraged by a work colleague to try a dating app.  I checked it out and decided it wasn’t for me, but instead signed up for a few dating sites.  Roughly a month passed with no promising responses – in fact, I had some very questionable emails from complete weirdos.

Then in January 2014 I gave the dating app another try.  A few strange matches later and I started chatting to a man who seemed relatively normal, and made me laugh out loud reading his messages.  I became a detective and – with only his first name and workplace – managed to find him on Facebook.  All clear.  No worrying photos or overly private page to make me suspicious.  Another 3 weeks passed and I agreed to meet him for a date.  So on the 31st January 2014, I met my now wonderful partner at a lovely Thai restaurant in Glasgow.

I had so many doubts about meeting him, I nearly got off the train on my way there.  His profile photo was him and 2 beautiful women – who turned out to be his sisters – and how did I know he was safe to meet?  I reluctantly told my family and 1 of my best friends, so they could find him on Facebook if he tried to kill me.  Joking aside, these are real fears!

Luckily, at the time of posting we’ve been together 3.5 years.  It’s been an adventure so far!  We spent 2 years living in Bristol, moving in together after only 9 months knowing each other.  Now we are living at my parents while we save for a mortgage.

Me and Mark
Me and Mark

Why I’m Glad We Met Online

When we first started chatting, we really got to know about each other.  I learned all about his family, hobbies, likes and dislikes, what movies he loved and got an insight into his day to day life.  We moved from the dating app onto texting quickly, and I felt like he was honest and uncomplicated.  I was right.  He is one of the most laid back people I’ve ever known, he doesn’t get hung up on silly things that don’t matter, and is so easy to be friends with.

In the past, I found I was attracted to the wrong kind of people for me.  Often dating people who weren’t interested in a relationship to see if I could change their mind.  Or the ‘bad boys’ because… well, we just do, don’t we?  Yes, online dating is superficial.  We look at someone and decide if we like them based on that, but that’s how real life works too.

The difference with finding a partner online, is you can connect with them via messaging first.  Finding out how good a match you are before using up precious time dating someone who isn’t right for you.  I personally feel that if someone puts in the effort to message/text you every day, all day for 3 weeks then they must be genuinely interested.  We never ran out of things to talk about and he made me laugh all the time – and still does.

As my other half is a kind and respectful person, I don’t know that we would have met in a bar.  I wouldn’t have approached him, and I doubt he would’ve approached me.  He’s not the type to hound and annoy a group of girls, or single one out.  So, every day I am thankful that we met online.  He’s my best friend, my life partner, my rock and all the other cheesy titles you can think of.

Giving Online Dating a Try

If you are thinking of trying out online dating, I recommend it.  There’s no obligation to talk to or meet up with anyone.  Just put yourself out there and see what happens.  If you do decide to meet up with someone, tell a friend or family member where you are going and when you expect to be home.  Also, the persons name and any information you have on them.  Better safe than sorry.

Although I’ve not named the site throughout this post, I have to be honest – we met on Tinder.  Which doesn’t have the best reputation for successful dating and I think everyone has heard stories of how some people use it.  However, there are genuine people out there, it’s not all players and cheaters.  I spent the last 30 minute downloading Tinder again to find our old conversations.  It has changed so much!  You can ‘super like’ people now, what does that even mean?

Online Dating Tinder
Tinder Conversation

Good luck if you are trying it out, or if you’ve already met your partner then I’d love to hear any unusual stories or online dating successes.  Send them my way.