Wednesday, 17 September 2014
17.09.2014 - 17.09.2014
An overcast sky greeted the ship as we sailed up the Firth of Clyde to our berth in Greenock the port for Glasgow Scotland. A very busy morning in the Horizon Court and with breakfast behind us we prepared for our Shore Excursion. About half the ship had booked one of the eleven available tours. Ours was scheduled for eight hours and we set off right on time at 09:15. Our guide was a lovely lady who provided lots of appropriate information but didn't prattle on with irrelevant filler. We were driven through the Midlands to the historic city of Stirling where we were left to wander the cobbled streets of the old town as we had decided, based on the queue for tickets, that the tour of the Castle was likely to be very crowded. There are quaint cottages and massive mansions set along crooked streets as well as some grand buildings re-birthed as classy hotels.
At almost every turn there were bronze sculptures and plaques commemorating historic events and famous people. Total overload of history and we only covered a part of it.
The city had a festive air with lots of flags and bunting. There were Union Jacks and St Andrew's Cross in about equal number. They represented either side of a referendum to be held tomorrow, 18 September, to decide on whether Scotland remains in the United Kingdom or becomes an independent country. The polls indicate a close result and voter turn-out is predicted to be up to 80%, well up from a 'normal' 30%.
Shortly after 13:00 we were on the coach and on our way to the Falkirk Wheel. This is the only rotating boat-lift in the world. It lifts or lowers boats between two canals at different levels. The boat in the lower gondola is lifted 35 meters (about 100 feet) as the wheel rotates either clockwise or anticlockwise through 180°. This structure requires very little power to operate as both gondolas weigh the same whether they have a boat or not. The half rotation takes four minutes.
We were all provided with tickets for a boat-ride on the 90 person boat which had been booked for us. The boat sailed into the lower gondola and when secured the two lock-gates were closed and the wheel started to rotate gently lifting us to the upper level. There are gears to ensure the gondolas remain horizontal as the arms of the machine rotate. When we reached the upper level we sailed on the aqueduct which connects the wheel to the canal. The canal runs through a 180 metre tunnel to the upper level basin and further conventional locks. Our boat turned around in the basin and we sailed through the tunnel into the waiting gondola. The wheel turned and we were back where we'd started. The whole process lasting about 30 minutes and definitely the highlight of the excursion for me.
Back on the coach and back to the ship. Given the heavy peak-hour commuter traffic through the outskirts of Glasgow we were back on board by just before the 'All Aboard' time of 17:30. We dumped our gear and headed for the dining room, had a lovely meal again and returned to the cabin. Neither of us having the energy or interest to attend the entertainment in the Theatre.
Belfast, Northern Ireland tomorrow with a much shorter Excursion.
There's an image of The Falkirk Wheel at http://365project.org/tonydebont/365/2014-09-17
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony