Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Return to Scotland, still in a United Kingdom

My fourth business trip to Scotland this year - and so good to return to a part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, rather than to a place that wishes to be yet another little European statelet of marginal importance. Scotland is integral to what 'Britain' means. Anyway, the referendum is behind us; it's now down to the politicians in Westminster to ensure that Scottish aspirations for greater self-determination are met and that we don't get ourselves into the same pickle again several years down the road.

I left the office in Warsaw at four pm, and seven hours later I was in my hotel room in Ayr, on Scotland's Atlantic coast, having flown from Okęcie to Glasgow. And what an unexpected sight befell me this morning as I drew open the curtains!

Behold - the Firth of Clyde opening up to the Atlantic, the Isle of Arran, lying beyond. A beautiful day, I'd been led to believe that Ayr would be storm-lashed this day, but not a bit of it. After breakfast (somewhat lacking in haggis, but otherwise 'full British') I set off for a morning stroll before my afternoon presentation at Ayrshire Business Week at the Ayr Racecourse.

Below: two of the bridges over the River Ayr. The old part of Ayr has charm, the rest - somewhat spoilt by the soulless architecture of 1960s housing schemes.

Left: along Ayr's High Street, signs point the way down alleys to numerous businesses and institutions, the typefaces giving a clue as to the length of time they've been around.

The uncharacteristic blue sky cheered up the town, which does not look too prosperous - many Cash Converter shops, closing down sales, empty premises. Solid stone buildings from the late 18th and early 19th Century suggest that Ayr - a town of 45,000 - has seen better days.

Right: statue to James George Smith Neill, born in Scotland, died in Lucknow, India, during the Indian Mutiny on 25 September 1857. The Scots made a significant contribution to the creation of the British Empire - something that numerous memorials across Scotland make clear.

The statue stands on the lawn in front of the Ayr Sheriff Court, a dour building symbolising the power of the authorities - quite at odds with the seaside pleasure-gardens surroundings running down to the promenade on the sea front. Ayr has been a popular holiday destination for Glasgow's population for 170 years since the railway arrived here in 1840.

Below: Making my way to the seashore, I  enjoy a few solitary moments watching the waves lapping on the beach in the morning sunlight. That connection with the Eternal; the Oceanic memory shared by all mankind.

The town of Ayr and the county of Ayrshire is closely connected with Robbie Burns; one of his Most famous poems, Tam O'Shanter, is commemorated in this Inn on the High Street. A large oil painting on the main staircase at Ayr Racecourse portrays poor Tam on his mare, pursued by demons and witches, one in a cutty sark - the item of clothing after which Britain's most famous clipper was named.

After the conference, I returned to my hotel room and espied the sun sinking over the Firth of Clyde. Time to grab my camera and head for the beach! Compare photo below with one at the top. Same place, taken eight hours later.

So then - down to the beach to catch the last rays of sunlight falling on this part of Bonnie Scotland. Several other photographers had the same idea, so there was much snapping going on. On the horizon to the right - Arran.

As the sun's disc kisses the horizon, it is worth noting that there will still be daylight in the Western Isles - Barra, Uist, Benbecula, for another ten minutes. Click to enlarge and contemplate a while the wonder of life on this earth.

This time last year:
Warsaw's Plac Unii opens - and changes colours

This time two years ago:
Tatra time (worth another watch and listen!)

This time three years ago:
The passing of Old Poland

This time four years ago:
A glorious week

This time five years ago:
Trampled underfoot: Sobieski and the Turks at Vienna

This time six years ago:
The first, spontaneous signs, of a Park + Ride at Jeziorki

This time seven years ago:
Early autumn atmospheres, Jeziorki


Anonymous said...

Some great little towns around Ayr - Prestwick, Troon - if you get a chance head down to Culzean Castle - a National Trust property with outstanding gardens and views

Michael Dembinski said...

Aye, Prestwick - I was there in early February this year, staying the night in a B&B over an Indian restaurant. It was decorated with Victorian and Edwardian photos of maharajahs playing golf at Troon! Out of season, Prestwick was a quiet, charming resort.

Richard - Woodworks said...

Hello Mike, welcome back to Scotland! Would you like to come down and see us on the Ross of Mull, for a couple of days . . . Or a week?