Thursday, November 22, 2012

Scottish Hols–St Andrews and home

I’ve lost track of quite what we visited when over the weekend, but one morning we did take a trip out to Scotland’s Secret Bunker but couldn’t find it. This proved to be quite an education. An education in how our government had plans to do away with us in the event of a nuclear war. On top the bunker was entered through a mock Scottish Farmhouse which led to a 40m deep hole with shock-absorbing gravel at the bottom. The bunker was made up of 3m thick concrete reinforced with tungsten rods along with netting and a brick lining.

I don’t think that the missiles were stationed here when it was secret though that would have given the game away. In any case the Russians tended not to lend us missiles that would have been a bit strange during the Cold War.

Russian Missile at Scotland’s Secret Bunker

This is the pastoral scene that greeted as we drove up to the gate (taxi – no trains.)

The field next to Scotland’s Secret Bunker

Although the the razor wire topped fencing gave the game away (next picture).

There is a surprising amount to see and we used their audio guides to tells us more as we went around. The bunker was built in 1951 and operational until 1933.  It is surprising how old-fashioned the kit looks. It was also a reminder of  how the Cold War drove strange levels of paranoia.

The canteen had a dividing line and the men and women had to sit separately – there was to be no fraternising – so much for the future of the human race then.

They had information videos that showed the public what to do in the event of a nuclear strike. Basically the advice was to construct a den in your house and stay there for two weeks – and then die. Apparently it was not a whole lot of use – but it did keep people off the streets for two week. They also indicated suggested that cyanide was kept in the bunker in the event that a near strike meant that the inhabitants couldn’t get out – they would not have been discovered (as it was secret) hence the cyanide.

Also it was suggested that the sick and dying general public would be “dispatched” rather than waste valuable food and drugs on keeping them alive for a bit longer. It was a visit that we enjoyed but were glad to get back up in the sunshine and leave it behind us.

Razor-topped Wire Scotland's Secret Bunker

We stayed in a hotel on the Scores with views of the sea and beaches. It seemed to be a popular Golfers Hotel. After breakfast they would be out front and having a smoke waiting for their transport to the links.

Although it was a little dated in appearance our room was really good with armchairs in front of the large screen TV so that after a bit of sight-seeing we could all come back and have a cup of coffee/tea and watch TV, before selecting what sort of cuisine we wanted to eat. They also knew how to distribute digital TV through the hotel (well our room certainly) without any chirps and blotches.

The horizon was barely visible, the sea and the sky all sort of blurred together.  We went to a Thai and Japanese restaurant on the Sunday – Nahm-Jim & The L’Orient Lounge – so good they named it twice and added a bit of French as well – The the Orient Lounge! The first challenge was which cuisine to choose – we settled for Japanese and it was remarkably good (katsu kare, tempura and miso soup – although we had chicken rather than pork in breadcrumbs with the curry).

The Horizon is “thataway” – a vanishing horizon out to sea – St Andrews

We headed for home on the Monday – retracing our steps to Leuchars, then Edinburgh, Peterborough and back to Cambridge. The weather was still nice in Leuchars with the sun burning away the early morning sea mist.

The view from Leuchars Railway Station

As often happened in the early days of railway planning the station is outside of Leuchars and in the countryside. Here is the signal box.

Leuchars Signal box

That is the way to Edinburgh, the station has been squeezed in between the up and down tracks. I am not sure what the (semaphore) signal means. There are a few spare bits of rail around as well. Which reminds me of when I used to play with my train set as a boy – there were always a few spare pieces of track. I didn't realise that real railways had the same problem.

This web site indicates that the signal is off.

An Upper Quadrant Semaphore Stop Signal (‘off’) – Leuchars

An earlier train heading for Edinburgh – we had booked seats so waited for the direct train.  Slightly worryingly there were announcements of problems somewhere on the line – but the information board didn’t show delays any for our train, other were showing 30-40 minute delays – enough to miss our train in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh-bound train from Leuchars

The platform at Leuchars is remarkably long – is it for all those students or the nearby RAF Leuchars – or are all the trains long around here?

The journey back to Cambridge was tedious – after the first scenic bit along the coast to Newcastle upon Tyne. We had a gentlemen with long legs who thought it was reasonable to stick his bag under the table between us instead of in the rack above his head, designed for such things (the rack, not the head). Being British, rather than complain we maintained a stiff upper lip and I kicked his bag regularly and humphed until he got the idea.

The other thing we noticed was that as we got closer and closer to Cambridge the weather got greyer and greyer and greyer. It was as if Scotland had colour TV and Cambridge was in black and white.  What’s worse is the greyness lasted for a few days. Also within two weeks we have had problems with our gas central heating, our telephone line stopped working and the exhaust on my wife’s car broke – making her sound like a boy girl-racer. (Although for a 12+ year old car I can’t complain it has been remarkably reliable really.)

Leuchars Railway Station

One last glimpse of Scotland – well the tree in the first Leuchars picture actually.

The view from Leuchars Railway Station

I think I need another holiday.  I would certainly recommend Scotland in the Autumn in fine weather  - the mountains, moors, coasts and islands are just beautiful. Oh yes that makes the third time this year that the weather in the part of the world has been glorious for us.

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