Getting from Kirkwall to Glasgow was probably the most stressful part of the trip for me. A lot was riding on things going kind of perfectly and, spoiler alert, they did!
We were up at 4am or something to catch the first bus from Kirkwall to Stromness on the bus that we had been assured would arrive in time for the ferry back to the mainland. The bus was to arrive in Stromness with about 10 minutes to spare for us to meet the 30 minute before departure deadline for buying tickets for the ferry. We couldn't buy tickets beforehand because we got a discount with our rail pass and we had no printer. If we missed the first ferry, we would have to wait about 5 hours for the next one and then it would throw our train plans all off. Basically, it would have been really bad to miss that ferry. It's also interesting to note that after our trip I noticed a lot of times during the winter when the ferries would be canceled. I had not even thought about that possibility, thank goodness!
(Note: For anyone planning a similar trip, I would actually recommend looking into the overnight bunks on the ferry.)
The ferry ride itself was also kind of rough. We both slept at first and tried to read for a bit, but we were on the verge of getting SO seasick that we both went back to sleep. I caught a few photos, but man, any more and I would've vomited.
We arrived in Scrabster at about 8am-ish and needed to get to the very nearby town of Thurso to catch the train. This was another moment of the travel day that had me very nervous. We needed a cab and had not pre-booked one. So, we run off the ferry to hopefully be first in line when this bald cab driver with a super thick Scottish accent says, "Need a cab?" Wow! Such good luck! We couldn't believe it.
On the way the cabbies phone rings and basically his accent is so thick we can barely understand him. "I'll be there in 5 minutes," we make out. And then he says, "I thought you were the Sweeneys!" Turns our when we heard "Need a cab?" he had said, "Sweeney? Cab?" Ruh roh! He was cool about it and we tipped him well, but man, we were so nervous to run into the Sweeneys later on the train. We kept imagining them pulling up as the train was departing and our cab driver pointing us out. Yikes!
The train for the first long leg was pretty nice. NOTHING like the Hogwarts Express, much to my disappointment.
Train travel can be tough because it is so long, but the first part of this trip was nice and we saw some beautiful sights.
Check out this Gaellic:
In Inverness we had to switch trains to get on the one headed to Perth. This is when the trains got a bit more cramped both is spacing and with people! And we didn't know people could reserve seats, which kinda freaked us out when we first got on. It was super hard to get around while carrying out huge suitcases and trying to find seats. So, not many pictures of this part of the day.
Ali yelled out, "I got a seat!" so I grabbed the first one I saw, which had plastic on it and a "wet" sign. Oy! I actually stayed dry, but then I started thinking, "What if this is urine?" so after we got going I assessed the situation and moved to another row. Ali and I emailed during the trip since we were far away and planned our next move for when we got to Perth.
This switch was fine, but the train seemed to get even smaller and we were basically on a metro-like train to the city. I stood the entire hour trip because it was too much trouble to try to get my suitcase into an overheard compartment. It was also Halloween so a lot of people were getting on in costumes. That was pretty amusing.
I liked traveling by train because we got to see more of Scotland, but it took forever and the parts without comfy seats together were kinda rough. I think I'd travel by train again, but only if I didn't have to switch trains. (I'm a big fan of planes!)
I was a little nervous pulling into Glasgow because so many people had warned us about it. It's way more city-like than Edinburgh, but for a visit, I really liked it. It reminded me of all the great Scottish bands I like. I could just imagine all of them living there and playing music.
Our hotel was the Alexander Thompson Hotel, which was right by the main shopping area. We checked in to our very spacious and comfortable room and then went for dinner across the street at a restaurant that looked over the street and gave us a great view called The Corner Bar.
It had been a LONG, LONG day so after we dinner we watched some TV and went to sleep!