Wednesday 25 July 2012

A Scottish Birthday

My sister's 30th birthday was looming and her awesome husband Matt had already got a surprise party planned. He had successfully managed to keep Layla none-the-wiser for two whole months, an amazing feat that those who know her would appreciate, complete with cleverly disguised "fake plan" to keep her from interfering with the "real plan", when Layla decided last minute to uproot all planning with her own ideas for her birthday. The only way Matt could convince Layla to stop planning was to confess to the surprise party and admit that yes, everyone was heading to Glen Coe to celebrate her birthday in bonny Scotland.

So once again we packed four adults, Jude and everything we needed for a Scottish summer birthday (including very large presents and lots of rainwear) into the little Audi A3 and spent most of the journey trying to get comfortable. The route north just happened to take us past the picturesque Lake District, Cumbria. So we had no choice but to do some serious detours to at least glimpse at what the area had to offer. Pausing just outside of Ambleside near Cote How Organic Tearoom, we went for a lengthy walk along the small creek which had these lovely stepping stones to aid in crossing it.

A nice stream by Cote How Organic Tearoom - Ambleside
On the Stepping Stones - Ambleside
A nice place to live - Ambleside
Driving the whole way in a day would have taken its toll and although Jude had the most comfy seat in the car, she advised us in her five-month-old wail, I mean, way, that she much prefers to break up a journey to see more things along the way rather than just rush past them in the car. So for the first night we stayed at a B&B in the town of Dumfries, just over the Scottish the border. It was an easygoing place to start a couple of weeks of haggis, neeps and tatties. It did have one quirk however, being its host, a fellow with distinctly American origins, who wore his kilt with so much pride that there were at least fifty photographs of himself wearing it scattered on walls throughout the building. The town itself was worth a stroll; while looking for a nice spot for dinner we stumbled upon a crowd of patriotic locals (including our kilted host) enjoying a play about Robert Burns, with scenes staged at some of the town's key landmarks.

We took a meandering coastal route via Ayr to eventually find ourselves looking at Buachaille Etive Mòr, The Guardian of Glen Coe. This mountain was special to me. Several years ago I was going through a book by Joe Cornish called First Light and one of his amazing images was that of Buachaille Etive Mòr. A few weeks later I had my first DSLR in hand. It was the spark that had ignited my photography passion. I was so excited to finally be here and I was looking forward to taking my own shot of this famous mountain. Unfortunately the weather and light were not as excited as I was, but over the years I have learned that this is usually the case and no longer get disappointed, well not that much.

Buachaille Etive Mor - The gardian of Glen Coe
The gardians of Glen Coe
Finally arriving at our humble holiday house, we all settled down with a few beers, with a couple of us logging onto to the web to settle issues with our Chinese, Russian and Mongolian visas, as you do on Scottish holidays.

Old Ropes
The next day was the big day for Layla, and despite her efforts, Matt had managed to maintain a few surprises. First there was the puppy that she never got (its a long story), followed by a train journey that she did get. It was a trip on the West Highland Rail, voted as one of the best rail journeys in the world and featured several times in the Harry Potter films. We scouted out some curious seals after fish and chips in Mallaig, prior to heading to the Oban Distillery for a cheeky scotch.

Oban Distillery - Oban
It was late afternoon when made our way to The Seafood Temple in Oban, taking in the beautiful seaside surrounds on the picnic tables outside the restaurant while presents were opened and another surprise materialised. Long before today, Matt had asked for Layla's friends and family from all over the world to send him a happy birthday message for Layla. The overwhelming response of amazing creativity, side-splitting hilarity and beautiful heartfelt messages were cleverly compiled into a video production that was so entertaining that we were all torn between laughing stitches and tears by the end of it.

This, and possibly the champagne, put us in a great mood as we entered the restaurant to enjoy the ultimate fresh seafood feast, where there was no such thing as too much of a good thing.

Seafood!!!!!An amazing meal at the The Seafood Temple - Oban
Thats what you call surf and turf - The Seafood Temple, Oban
The seafood was extremely tasty with plenty of wow-factor, but it was Matt's final surprise that (shall I say it?) took the cake. Before you cringe, let me just tell you that this was no ordinary cake. It was an amazing masterpiece of fragrant vanilla sponge and blue/green icing taking the form of none other than entire world itself, with little red dots all the places on the planet that they had travelled to, and flags highlighting the places they called home. Impressive don’t you think?

Layla's 30th birthday cake, easily the best cake I have ever seen. Those red dots are where she has travelled since meeting her husband. The Seafood Temple - Oban
Happy Birthday Layla!

Layla on here 30th birthday - Oban
After a couple of days chilling around the beautiful Glen Coe, we split up with Layla and Matt who had to head back to England. Meanwhile Jimmy, Tia and myself continued our holiday by hiring a car for another week to explore a little more of Scotland.

No comments:

Post a Comment