A.J. Walker


Glasgow '23

Had a week booked off from work but I had no significant plans for the bulk of the week. The first weekend was to be taken up by a few days for the annual Bishop’s Castle camping trip of course. I ended up going to Lytham and St.Annes on the Monday for a little ale trip to places I haven’t been to for many years. It was a nice day out.


On the Tuesday I decided I would plan a few days away. I spent a couple of hours surfing the net and the AirBnB App and went through all sorts of scenarios in my head. At various points I was going to London, St. Ives, Ilfracombe, Torbay, London, Arran, the Isle of Mann, well everywhere really. I basically was just going away anywhere for a few days.

In the end I saw a few options in Glasgow and decided that I’d go there. The price on the train to Glasgow and London were okay, but the costs to Devon & Cornwall were double those rates. In any case whilst I would love to have been on the south west coast or in the Lakes etc the main things to do there involve a fair bit of walking and not many other options. If my newly arthritic knees were to play up I may have been a bit confined to barracks. At least if I went to London or Glasgow I’d have plenty of options of things to do without the stress of walking up and down hills - and some pub options too of course.




I booked a Britannia Hotel in Glasgow. With some knowledge of a few of the hotels (like the Adelphi, Scarisbrick and the Manchester Midland) I did a few checks first. As it happened it turned out to be really quite good. The room was big, the bed was comfortable with nice clean sheets etc, there was a TV & a kettle with coffee, it was en-suite, and there was a fab view over west Glasgow. I was very happy with it. In reality a hotel for me only ever need be a nice bed and clean sheets.



Anyways, it was a good base for a few days up there. On the arrival day it was just a wander with some reading in some pubs and bars. And a Too Good To Go burrito! The following day started with a massive Scottish Breakfast at the Crazy Chefs before walking to the brilliant Kelvingrove Museum. Went on to the Riverside Museum (transport museum) by the Clyde afterwards and then there were some more pub visits across the city including a trip on the subway (apparently the third oldest underground in Europe behind London and Budapest).

The following day I went to Dumbarton. I can’t remember when I last visited the town, but it can be measured in decades not years. My dad was from Dumbarton and was working in Denny’s shipyard up until its closure in 1963. He came down to England looking for engineering work after the closure and apparently it was quite an exodus south looking for work following the shipyard closures. He made it down to Preston and found a job there for a while, before then moving on to Southport and joining the police. And the rest is history.

In the 1970s (and maybe the very early 80s) we went up to Scotland to Dumbarton and Loch Lomond & the environs from time to time. But after that Scotland for me was more likely to be due to geological mapping when I was at University. Denny’s though is a very famous shipyard and dad was proud to have worked there: the Cutty Sark was mainly built and finished there (it was started in a different yard, which went out of business); several well known paddle steamers (even ones which found their way to the Yangtze); the first hovercraft; and a very early helicopter (prior to WWI).

There is a Maritime Museum in Dumbarton which I thought I’d go to. It is on the site of the Denny Experimental Ship Tank which was the first of such sites in the world. So I had to go there. I also had to go to the castle (on the famous volcanic plug) and to see the new Dumbarton FC stadium next door to it. I only went to one of the Son’s games (‘the Sons of the Rock) back in the day. It was at the brilliantly named ‘Bog Head Park’. The match was against Ayr United and it finished 0-0 (which sounds better than it was). The only thing I remember about the match was the half time Scotch Pie. I held it by the sides and the bottom fell out on to the floor. I ended up just eating some pastry, which I remember as being okay. Ho hum. I wonder if the pies have improved since.





So it was a morning train from Charing Cross to Dumbarton in the rain showers (and a lovely breakfast BLT in Miller & Cook in Dumbarton). I largely dodged the rain when I was out and about. The Maritime Museum was only small (if incredibly long) but was an interesting place. I walked slowly from there (my knees!) to the castle. Unfortunately most of the Rock was closed off as they were working on the buildings and the rock itself, so I wasn’t able to climb to the top (given my knees that may have been a blessing).

On my last day I took my bag to a storage place near the station (the costs at Central Station were astronomical) then headed on another train, this time to Pollockshaw West, to go to the famous Burrell Collection. A lovely building in a beautiful setting - and of course an outstanding collection. It was a fab choice and I’d recommend anyone who gets the chance to go, to do so; and it’s only a ten minute ride or so from Glasgow.




All in all I had quite a busy and cultural stay in Glasgow. I did get to a few pubs too of course (and have a couple of Too Good to Gos). But that will go in a separate blog in the Real Ale section. Suffice to say though that I went to some famous, and some not so famous, hostelries. Unfortunately I found that Glasgow is quite short of ale options. Very short really. But like I say, that is for a different blog.


Flash Travel Solo Style

Tomorrow I am helping judge this week's Flash Friday Fiction so I don't need to worry about getting a story written myself for it in the early hours again. Thought I'd put some words on something up though, as I have written very little this last week or so - and it's good to keep the blog a little live. Sassy Lia on Twitter asked a question earlier today about whether any of her followers 'had never travelled solo before, and if so why.' Needless to say I first misread it as 'ever' but I thought I'd write something anyway - because an affirmative answer is as useful as a negative one I'm sure.

I'd never travelled properly on my own - as a holiday - until 1996. It was a big year for me. I went to work on a project in Tabasco and Chiapas in southern Mexico. The proposal written by my elders and betters had the project timed as a 5 week one - and on the infamous first day the MD said we'd get it done in four and all have a week on the beach. As it happened I ended up being there for five and half months - and only had about 7 days off. It was a crazy time. Being young we worked hard and played hard. And didn't sleep much at all. When we did get days off we made the most of it in terms of sight seeing - like going to the amazing Palenque, Tuxla & the Sumidero canyon, or the Atlantic coast - and best of all climbing up (and into) El Chichon volcano.

We didn't get the opportunity to do much on our own there. But I loved everything about Mexico. Once the project finished I made it so that I travelled back a few days late so I could take a look around Mexico city and get up to see the Teotihuacan pyramids. After the initial nervous few days traveling around Mexico City by myself I began to relax and go with the flow. The feeling of freedom was the thing that made it for me I could truly go anywhere, in my own time. Don't get me wrong I was genuinely quite apprehensive for the first couple of days - especially on public transport - clutching my bag hard against my side. But once I got into it I soon realised it was fine; be aware of what's going on and whatnot, but don't be paranoid. Enjoy it.

Back in England I wondered about getting back over there. It was cheap once you were there so it was all about the flight over. And I found an unbelievable flight to Mexico (less than £200) for two weeks later in the year. It was a package flight and everyone bar me and one other girl were holidaying in Cancun. It was back in the day when flights were smoking at the back and I was sandwiched in the middle of a smoking family. It wasn't the nicest start to my first solo trip. But boy it got wonderful. One night in Cancun due to a late afternoon arrival then I was off around the Yucatan, down to Belize and then into Guatemala for Tikal. I did so much in that two weeks, but at the same just enough so I could smell the coffee and taste the cerveza. Just getting to Chichen Itza and Tikal was worth the trip alone. But the main thing I found was I totally comfortable with traveling on my own. I saw some wonderful sights, got up/went to bed when I wanted, stayed a day or two longer whenever I wanted, ate and drank what I wanted, met some lovely people. Well, basically I paced myself exactly how I wanted and did just enough each day to make me inordinately happy.

In subsequent years I've had wonderful trips around the world by myself from city breaks in the Baltics, to road trips on the west coast of the US and a whirlwind trip to Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, I've never had a trip away that has been disappointing - even just 60 miles from home. Going with the flow is nice at home and it can be even better away from it. I'd recommend anyone giving it a go, if your nervous about it why not give it a go in the UK first? Get yourself to Bristol, York, Glasgow or wherever.