Friday, September 19, 2014

Last minute holiday in Scotland: Not Scotland and Not Holiday

May/June 2014:

For the last few years I have been visiting Manchester once a year to attend a meeting. This was to be the last time and so despite the fact I was on  holiday I felt I ought to go as, especially as I had committed to the date some time ago. 

Fortunately there was a convenient flight from Edinburgh to Manchester so I was able to fly down on the morning of the meeting and then back first thing the next day (Saturday). The alternative would have been to take the train. The nearest station to St Andrews is Leuchars and the train journey would have taken around 5 hours so even with a drive to Edinburgh from St Andrews and getting to the airport with plenty of check-in time it was quicker to fly.  The cost of the plane tickets was also comparable with the cost train tickets.

So I got up early and drove to Edinburgh. The journey was a real pleasure, the roads weren’t busy and the countryside was beautiful.  I parked in the long-term car-parking and found my way to the terminal – somewhat earlier than I needed to be.  I have flown to/from Edinburgh quite a few times and the airport is not large.  I have not flown with Flybe however it was fine. When you are travelling you can’t always print out your boarding pass, but Flybe seems to be a normal airline and I could check-in at a terminal without paying some ridiculous fee.  Even the security queue wasn’t too bad.  Although they seem to change their care-abouts every time. I had to take off my shoes, belt and trousers and leave my phone out. If I had taken a computer/iPad then that would have had to appear as well. This time I was traveling light with no luggage to check in (because it would have been at extra cost and delayed me).

The plane in the picture was not my plane – that one is a CityJet flight.


Edinburgh Airport

We boarded pretty much on time and arrived early. I wasn’t in a window seat so no in-flight pictures.  I got a taxi at the airport to the meeting venue – The Chancellors Hotel (owned by the University – but operated as a hotel/conference centre for all).  It was on the same side of the city as the airport and only about five miles away so very convenient.

Despite my concerns about flight delays and the like I was one of the first participants to arrive.  We started with lunch then had the meeting and then met for dinner – job done. The weather down in Manchester was actually pretty good, almost as good as the weather we had been enjoying in Scotland.

The Chancellors Hotel has a rather nice outside seating area where we sat before dinner talking about the research activity.

Chancellors Hotel - Garden

I did metalwork at School and if you have ever worked on mechanical things that need bolting together then you will know that screw threads come in various types (as well as sizes). Well BSW or British Standard Whitworth gets its name from this gentlemen – Sir Joseph Whitworth.

The Chancellors Hotel was built in 1850 as a house (The Firs) for Sir Joseph Whitworth, surrounded by 52 acres. At one point it was the University Vice-Chancellor’s residence. My grandmother’s house was called the Firs – but wasn’t this one!

Sir Joseph Whitworth Lived here

The outside seating area.


Chancellors Hotel

There was only one flight on Saturday at 8.40am which suited me. It arrived in Edinburgh at 9.45 so I would be back in St Andrews for lunch.  This trip was my first time as a passenger to Manchester airport and I hadn’t realised when I arrived that it has three terminals.  I was travelling so light I hadn’t got any details about my flights apart from the flight numbers. But fortunately I had remembered which terminal I flew into (more by luck than judgement).  Manchester Airport was a little more chaotic and larger than Edinburgh and the Departure Screens were fairly sparse. However it ain’t that big. Flybe seem to have a few flights using the airport and when they finally announced the departure gate I got to see their planes.

It turned out that this time my allocated seat was a window seat and we boarded more or less on time. However bad weather was moving through and all take-offs had been delayed because there was a thunderstorm somewhere nearby.  So we waited somewhere between the terminal and the runway. By the time take-offs resumed there were quite a few planes queuing for take-off we had been delayed by nearly an hour.

Flybe at Manchester Airport

So you can probably guess that as I had a window seat the inevitable happened I took loads of pictures. Although I didn’t video the flight like the lad in front of me you will be pleased to know.

As I was travelling light I also relied on my Samsung Galaxy S4 to take pictures. A little less flexible (zoomable)– but very convenient.  One of the things that I have noticed since we have been travelling up to Scotland in the last few years is that there has been a huge push in Scotland on generating power from renewable sources. You can’t help but notice the huge number of wind turbines that have been deployed.  The Scottish Government has set a target of 50% of electricity being generated by renewable sources.

It was certainly evident from the air as we flew over the Scottish border.

Wind farms Galore – Scotland

When rivers run fast they tend to run straight, when they run slow they meander all over the place. They run fast when there is a steep gradient and slow when there isn’t.  (The jet stream obeys the same sort of principles as it happens.)

Now if I had time I could probably find this river on a Satellite map. As it turns out it is so distinctive even without much time I can find it. It is the River Clyde near Carnwath.

River Clyde – Near Carnwath

Another Scottish Wind Farm 60-odd Turbines
(I couldn’t track this one down on Google Earth)

This viaduct is the longest structure on the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway – it is the Almond Valley Viaduct or Ratho Viaduct.  Here it is on Google Maps, with the Edinburgh-Glasgow railway line below (trains) the A89 road at the top of the picture (Automobiles) and the plane’s landing gear on the right (Planes).

Trains, Planes and Automobiles – Almond Valley Viaduct

On my way out of the airport to the place where you catch a bus to the long-term parking I was so busy taking pictures and texting that I missed some obscure sign and had to turn around head back towards the right bus stop.  I hope that the Airport is still a work in progress. It seemed rather higgledy-piggledy.

Some of the works has been to introduce the much-vaunted, way over-budget and yet cut-down Edinburgh Tram service.  It makes the cost of the Cambridge Guided Busway look like chicken feed.  The tram is 8.7miles long, stretches from the airport to York Place and cost £776m plus £200m in interest on the 30-year loan. As a cyclist I do find tram tracks to be dangerous.

The Edinburgh Tram is Running – Photographic Evidence

This picture(or the taking of it)  is one of the reasons I got slightly lost – a giant pepper pot. This new Control Tower  was built in 2005, a 57m tall air traffic control tower – a snip at £10m although more expensive per metre than the tram.

Edinburgh Airport – Control Tower

Somewhat delayed I arrived back in St Andrews.

We passed the bakery in St Andrews – Fisher & Donaldson, a 5th generation bakery based in Fife.  We couldn’t resist buying some cakes. I had one of those coffee things with chocolate disks on it.

Fisher & Donaldson Bakery – St Andrews

They also make Scotch pies of various flavours as well as bridies.


Fisher & Donaldson Bakery – St Andrews

One of the roads between the long-term car park and the hotel. A Wynd is a narrow lane between houses and derives from the Old Norse – Venda.


Grannie Clarks Wynd

Next: I actually ride my bike – to Pickletillum


  1. Hi Jamie,
    your aerial photos remind me of my first ever flight (in a real aircraft -- I had flown the Fairey Delta 2 in my imagination long before). This was from Wick to Glasgow in a Vickers Viscount. There was an intermediate stop at Inverness, and with such short legs the cruising height was 4000 feet. The air was clear, and over the hills we were close enough to be able to count the sheep. Glorious!

    My second ever flight was continuing from Glasgow to Elmdon (now Birmingham International). in a BAC-111, This went through a storm and was a very sporty landing with the pilot juggling the throttles as if in an F1 car. I was much impressed.

    The return trip was in a new diesel Landrover with 1 ton of welding-rods in the back. Defines the word "slow".

    This was in 1970, but despite searches cannot find the names of the airlines that flew those routes at the time.



    1. Hi Mike, sorry about your comment went into the Spam bucket. My first flight was to Brussels with Sabena, the second to New York with TWA. The company I worked for got cheap tourist tickets, although I was travelling for business. We were given shoulder bags and free champagne vouchers. I was travelling with two older hands and they didn't make use of their champagne vouchers so I did. I learnt then that alcohol and flying don't mix well, for me anyway. Fortunately we flew over on a Saturday which gave me the Sunday to recover before meetings on the Monday.

    2. On the Wick-Glasgow flight the man in the next seat was from the same company; a foreman on the Dounreay PFR construction site. He had a bottle of whisky which he wouldn't give to the cabin staff, and kept handing to me with "Have a drink, Jimmy!". When I next saw him (it took 2 13-hour days to drive the Landrover north) he'd forgotten completely and I'm not sure he remembered being on an aircraft.

      The best airline for choice of drink was Laker's Skytrain -- you took your own bottle of wine and the CC would uncork it for you at no charge. Just the thing for the 11pm departure from New York ;-) I didn't do the same on the 11am flight from Gatwick though.

    3. Hi Mike,

      Sorry about that, another comment caught in the Google spam filter. I have also turned off the "word verification" as Google calls it before comments are submitted.

      I never flew on the Skytrain, mind you I never flew on Concorde either!

    4. Similarly I never managed Concorde, and Skytrain was the cheapest trans-Atlantic flight by a big margin at the time. The timing worked very well to minimise jet-lag too! My first across The Pond was Air Canada on a DC8 which offered a choice of smoking or non-smoking. The DC8 was single-aisle and the smoking seats were on the port side and non-smoking on the starboard. Very unsatisfactory for a non-smoker. Ah well, I suppose we've all got "I hate all airlines" stories.

      Sometimes you get lucky though, and one was climbing onto a commuter plane to find I was the only passenger, and the pilot (only one, it was a small aircraft by most standards) was my Flying Instructor. So not only could I sit right at the front but )&*^*$*

      No Carrier