Juneau resident describes London trip

Harris tours Inveraray Jail, admires Inveraray Castle and drives to Auchindrain Museum

Posted: Sunday, March 01, 2009

On our second day in London, I woke up at 8:30 a.m. and spent time working on my travel journal. Our teacher friend, Alison, left for school at 7 a.m. My husband, Don, slept until noon.

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Courtesy Of Don Harris
Courtesy Of Don Harris

After lunch, Don and I wandered into an area that houses the poor. We walked through Paddington Park. Alison's husband, Laurence, arrived in the late afternoon from their home 60 miles south of London. Alison returned to the flat after she attended an award presentation for the architects that designed her new school building.

The next morning, we took an hour's taxi drive to City Airport. Our flight to Glasgow took 55 minutes. Don and I were surprised that the passengers were served sandwiches, juices and water. The car rental office was some distance from the airport.

From the Glasgow airport area, we drove northwest to Inveraray. The scenery in April is stunning: mountain peaks with light snow, high rugged mountains, valleys and lochs (lakes). The clans used to hide from other clans in this area. We admired the waterfalls and streams and carefully watched out for sheep and lambs on narrow roads. After several hours, we stopped at the Tarbet Hotel for tea.

We traveled around lochs, through forests and hills to Inveraray. Alison and Laurence, Don and I visited Inveraray before we knew each other. Inveraray is sited on Loch Fyne. We stayed at the Argyll Hotel. Our rooms looked out to the loch, the rock bridge, the castle and the watchtower on the summit of a low mountain.

We wandered around the village. Our package at the hotel included dinner and breakfast as well as our rooms. That evening, we began our dinner with a starter (appetizer) and ate roast pork and enjoyed chocolate cake. The four of us shared a bottle of wine.

Don and I were still dealing with jet lag. Both of us had trouble sleeping. However, we enjoyed visiting Inveraray again.

The showers in the hotel were quite confusing. Alison and Laurence also had trouble. Since 1981, when we first visited Britain, British showers have confused us. We went down to the dining room for our breakfast buffet that had a variety of breakfast foods.

Don and I toured the Inveraray Jail. The guides were dressed in period clothing. Placards described the different kinds of crimes that put a man or a woman or a child in jail in the 19th century. We also learned how prisoners were treated. Judges decided who would spend time in jail and for how long. The trials were loud, included an audience and a variety of punishments.

In later years, prisoners were treated better. They had three meals a day. Prisoners had individual cells. Men, women and children were separated. They were allowed to read the "right" books. They washed up each morning and evening and even had a bath every two weeks. Obviously, jail reforms came earlier to Scotland than to England and the U.S.

Later in the morning, the four of us walked less than half a mile to Inveraray Castle. An ancient standing stone is on the grounds of the castle. Recently, the castle survived a serious fire. The villagers helped save the furnishings and treasures of the castle. The 11th Duke of Argyll was so appreciative that he opened the castle to the public. The young 12th Duke of Argyll and his wife and two children live in London. The 12th Duke and his family inherited Inveraray Castle.

The entrance to the castle is dramatic. The entry room, the Armoury Hall, is three stories high and yellow walls highlight the arms. I was surprised to see a written message from Rob Roy. Rob Roy's belt and sporran are also on display.

The beautiful dining room has a long table, several fireplaces, family portraits and fine porcelain dinner sets. Two golden silver gilt sailing ships decorate the dining table. We also visited the massive kitchen in the basement. We ate our lunch in the castle's café and bought a few postcards.

At mid-afternoon, we drove south and found the Auchindrain Museum. The first building I saw was a thatched roofed cottage. Alison was the first to see the museum signs. The museum "is an extraordinary attraction, which brings a historic farming village back to life." The museum is rather sparse but clothing, china, kitchen implements and farming tools are on display.

We visited the cottages, the longhouses, the barns and the byres (cow sheds). The cottages and the longhouses are furnished with box beds and rush lamps. Most of the barns and byres were attached to the cottages and the houses. What a great unexpected find!

We returned to the Argyll Hotel and had drinks in the hotel's bar. At dinner I actually ate roasted chicken with blood pudding. The sticky toffee pudding was really good.

• Alma Harris is a retired Juneau-Douglas High School English teacher who loves to travel and write.

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