2019 tour travel blog


13 June – Thursday

We arrive in Holyhead soon after midnight, three and a half hours after departing Dublin, and have to wait some time to disembark. A bus is down on the vehicle deck for us, to take us to the ferry station, which is next door to the railway station. It is quite a long drive to the station, and there is not many on the bus. We expect to be collecting our luggage from the carousel, but they just left them all in a pile inside the entrance. Obviously not worth cranking the machine up for just a few. Immigration is very casual, a quick glance at our passports and we are waved through.

Tony goes next door to see how far to the platforms, but the waiting rooms are all locked up. It is not a long walk, so as long as we give ourselves plenty of time we will be fine. We wait in the ferry terminal, it is warm enough as long as some idiot doesn’t keep standing in front of the automatic door. The seats are metal - cold, hard and bloody uncomfortable. Armrests prevent anyone from lying down, anyone would think they didn’t want travellers camping out here? Tony tries to lie down across a pair of seats, but that is as uncomfortable as it sounds. So we doze sitting up, rugged up in our blankets (the light travel ones from the train in Queensland). If we get really cold, Tony has the silver emergency blanket that was buried in the depths of his backpack. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

A few people in the waiting room are here for the early morning sailings, a couple of ferries heading back to Dublin around 2.30am. It is not the most comfortable wait, some here are lying on the floor. We have about 4 hours until our train at 4.48, taking the London train as far as Crewe, where we will get the train to Edinburgh. There has been a lot of rain, and there are notices up advising that services out of Chester are delayed or cancelled due to flooding. Tony checks the trainline app for delays as we are passing through there on the way to Crewe. So far it is all good, no delays to our train. There is not a lot of noise during the night, though we are woken by the sounds of the ferry offices locking up after sailing.

Our alarms go off around 4.20am, and we head off to freshen up in the loo. But there is nowhere suitable, so we give it a miss for now. An older chap sitting next to us says that the train should be at the platform by now, so we head off. We are unable to book, so we want first pick of luggage racks and available seats. Tony tries the door to the platform waiting room, and it is still locked, so we have to go a lot further than expected, out of the station itself, and then walk back down the platform. Tony takes a moment to take a photo or two, and then rushes to the train. We pick the closest carriage, plenty of spare seats in there, stow our luggage, and then the chap who was next to us realises he has left his walking stick behind. We have five minutes until the train is due to leave, and Tony decides he has time to go and get it for him. But the platform is still locked up, and he has to go the long way around. Back where we were sitting Tony cannot see the walking stick, and it is not until he is standing at the seats that he sees it tucked in behind the rubbish tin. He runs back to the train, and makes it with a minute to spare. Cynthea was hovering in the doorway of the carriage, ready to try and stop the train leaving if necessary. The train leaves right on time, and Tony heads of to shave in the loo. As the door closes, he hears a cheery voice say Hello, but it is just the toilet talking, haha. Each time the door shuts “the voice” tells us that we are not to try and flush stuff that shouldn’t go down, like nappies. “She” sounds a bit like Alice, from Vicar of Dibley, haha. We are also told she used to be a public toilet, haha, gold.

While Tony is in the loo we pass by Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, that happened a lot quicker than he thought and Tony missed it. With the train app it is a lot easier to manage trips, we can see if the trains are on time, what platform we arrive at and leave from, if there are spare seats on the next one, and which carriages the spare seats are in. We are going to be a few minutes late into Crewe, but that is ok, there is still plenty of time to catch the train to Edinburgh.

We are lucky too, in that we don’t even have to change platforms. The app tells us that there are spare seats in the back of the train, and seeing as we got off from the back of the train, we figure we would just stay put. But the Edinburgh train comes in from the other direction, and we are at the front, we get ready to hoof it to the other end, but see that there are plenty of seats in these carriages so just get on here. We play tetris to store the bags, and the train is off to Edinburgh just after 7am. It will take about three hours to get there, but there is a lot of water about. It must have fair poured down around here recently.

As we near Edinburgh, Tony checks the train app, and is concerned to see that the train to Inverness is full, standing room only. Bugger. Then the train manager tells us that if we are going to Inverness we should get off at Haymarket, as it is a smaller station – if we go through to Waverley we will have to go from Platform 1 to number 18. No brainer really, the only worry being that it is standing room only. Tony tries to book a few tickets on the train to Inverness, and the booking will accept, so he figures there must be seats available, and we get off at Haymarket. We only have to go to the other side of the Platform to wait for the train. Tony goes upstairs to the train office to ask what the story is with the app, and is told that because the train has not left yet, that the app shows standing room only. That is because the other passengers on the train can interact with the app, and let other travellers know if there are spare seats. There will be plenty of seats we are told, and not to worry.

We park up in the waiting room where it is a lot warmer, a group of older ladies are there ready to head off on a day out. Looks like trouble, haha. When we board there are a couple of empty seats, but they are tagged as reserved from Edinburgh to Inverness, there is another stop by the airport before we leave Edinburgh, so the seats may still be claimed. The group of ladies we had been talking to are only on until Perth, and they are in unreserved seats, so they tell us they will hold them for us until then.

The train turns out to be quite full, but no one comes to claim the reserved seats, so they either missed the train or changed seats. At Perth we move to the other seats, there is much more room and a table. We arrive at Inverness just after 2pm, and it is a short walk to the hostel. Well, it was a short walk, but the map sent us around the block first, for whatever reason. Black Isle is a fairly new hostel, just a few metres from the railway station, and across the road from the bus depot, close to the main centre. Reception is on the top floor, but we pass rooms on the second floor, so Tony leaves Cynthea with the bags and heads on up. No point dragging them all the way up there if we have to bring them back down again. As it turns out there are no rooms on the top floor, just reception, a (tiny) kitchen and a lounge. We are in a six bunk room, $200 for two nights, so it is quite expensive, breakfast is included. There are a couple of bars cross the road, so it might be a bit noisy tomorrow night. Good sturdy bunks again, with the cages underneath.

Tony heads out to look for a barber, there was one across from the railway station that charged a tenner for a cut. He calls in to the Victoria Marketplace on the way, and spots a couple of barbers in there, the first one takes walk-ins and only charges £8, sorted then. After the haircut he heads off to the shops and to find the bank (we can’t access our HSBC UK accounts), but he finds Poundland first… A bargain hunters paradise, and there are a few things in here that we “need”. Tony stocks up on the essentials, and heads off to find the bank, but spots a Superdrug store on the way, and calls in there to get contact lens supplies. He heads off to the bank, and gets there a minute after it closes… oops.

After dropping the shopping off at the hostel, we head out to get something for tea. There is a Co-operative close by and we call in there to raid the reduced to clear bins for our dinner. We also stock up on a few bits to take up north, and head back. We try for an early night, and sleep for a solid 12 hours.

14th Jun – Friday

We wake up late, and the others in the room ask if we heard the racket from the pub last night, but we never heard a thing. After brunch we head out for a wander around town, stopping in at the bank. No sure if this is how banks operate here these days, but everything is automated. Deposited and withdrawals all done by ATM, and cheque transactions have a digital photograph taken, and then electronically processed. There are no tellers in the branch. One of the staff takes our old secure cards from us (the battery was flat on both), and issues us with new ones, but no instructions on what to do to replace them. Another staff member checks our cards are activated. We struggle to get on line, Tony finally manages, but cannot set up his new secure key. Cynthea gets locked out, not only from on line banking, but also from using her debit card as she has forgotten the pin. The manager suggests we stop trying, and make an appointment to see someone. We are lucky that there is a spot left for this afternoon.

We go down to Primark and get Tony some cheap t-shirts and undies, then call in at Superdrug to see if they have Gran’s remedy (Tony remembers that last time we had to order it on Amazon). At M&S Cynthea gets some underwear too, and then it is time to head back for our appointment. It takes a while to get it sorted, but by the time we leave only have to wait on a new pin for Cynthea. They have to post this, so our address is temporarily changed to Torty’s.

We call into M&S food hall and are just in time for their reduced to clear to come out. We grab a heap of salads, and a pizza, and head back to the hostel. A kiwi couple are staying here tonight, they are cockies from Te Awamutu, over here on three weeks holiday.

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