Written by Drever on 25 Aug, 2008
OIR is open to any retired person over 50. Altogether its 1,500 members have 76 activities on offer from brain food such as computing or languages to the keep active categories such as tennis, horse riding or walking. Members can either join a group or…Read More
OIR is open to any retired person over 50. Altogether its 1,500 members have 76 activities on offer from brain food such as computing or languages to the keep active categories such as tennis, horse riding or walking. Members can either join a group or if they have talents in that area they can lead it - can be a bit daunting and time consuming. Within OIR there is a vast range of talent and knowledge and the organisation allows us all to benefit.Perhaps not surprisingly I was through their door as soon as I had manipulated retirement. I had been after early release for some time though I was also fond of getting funded travel through presenting research papers at conferences. On a memorably day a request came through from Atlanta, Georgia to give a paper there. I sent an e-mail to my boss seeking permission. He asked to see me. A choice had come up. I could present the paper in Georgia but would have to stay on until the normal retirement age of 60 or take another offer - a generous retirement package - that had just come in because of the College’s financial crisis. I didn’t need thinking time for that decision and I headed straight for OIR. I am a member of the photography group, horse riding and walking group and I will join the Beginner’s Spanish class in October. My contribution to OIR is that I serve on the OIR Main Committee as Webmaster among other duties.Like every organisation OIR has its pet projects. One is supporting the Waverley, the only seagoing paddle steamer left in the world. In summer she spends time at different ports around Britain from London to Glasgow running pleasure trips. In August she reaches Ayr. We mass book an annual trip day across to the Island of Arran which helps keep her funded. This year I went along with the walking group. It is an experience being on a paddle steamer for the movement is different. The twin paddle wheels give extra breadth that makes the boat steadier but unfortunately she doesn’t cope well in rough weather so only sails in wind speeds not exceeding Force 4. Her triple expansion engines still raises gasps of surprise when standing on the viewing platform. She sails to a triple beat.The 20 miles to Brodick took about one and a half hours. Coming in to harbour is always a thrill for she only has steerageway if she is going at a fair speed. It is therefore a fast run in to the pier and then a shuddering halt as the paddles go into reverse. Bow and stern lines fastened ashore pulled in by steam winches do the rest. Arran itself looks like Scotland in miniature as it has all the details, Highland and Lowland. Our walk varied from across green fields to fairly steep hillsides and along narrow paths, which widened to forestry roads where people could walk abreast. At times the view were stunning. Being a harder than usual walk we had several stops to allow stragglers to catch up.In about three hours we had completed a loop, which took us back to Brodick with time to spare before the return trip. A fish and chip shop did a roaring trade as we waited and a long sea wall provided seating while the meal was consumes.Altogether we had a fine day out and a good cause supported. Close
Written by Drever on 26 Jun, 2003
The blustery southerly winds had freshened further by the time I reached the clubhouse. Dark clouds hung in the sky as if an omen - not at all like June weather! Timidly I knocked at the door. A spry grey-haired smartly dressed gentleman opened it.…Read More
The blustery southerly winds had freshened further by the time I reached the clubhouse. Dark clouds hung in the sky as if an omen - not at all like June weather! Timidly I knocked at the door. A spry grey-haired smartly dressed gentleman opened it. "Is there an instructor here called John?" I asked. "I’m here for a trial flying lesson." "I’m John he said . . . you’ll be David." Thank goodness, I reflected, no aerobatics likely today! Part of my birthday present was a trial flying lesson at Prestwick Flying Club and I wanted to see my next birthday as well.
The plane was a Piper Cherokee of 140 horsepower and uncertain vintage. In need of a thorough check over, I thought privately. Turned out it is part of the pre-flight procedure. As John carried out his checks he explained how the bits and pieces connected. A wiggle of the tail flaps and the control column moved up and down. Made it easy to see that putting the control column up made the plane climb and putting it down put it into a dive – sorry slow careful descent! Everything seemed OK and the fuel tanks were full. Seemed the red light on the tail fin replaced by tinfoil was an optional extra?
I moved into the cockpit through the small single door and manoeuvred myself over the controls to the port seat, tightened the seat belt securely and donned headphones. Now we were on to the cockpit checks. Once again John explained the controls as he checked each dial and knob. Some duplication here for safety, I thought. If one compass fails we can use another. Brilliant idea – shouldn’t we have a spare engine?
A pre-recorded blurb from the control tower gave us air pressure, visibility, wind speed and direction. Contacting the control tower with our flight plan, we had permission to taxi to the runway and await take off clearance. Two fighter planes roared overhead.
John allowed me to taxi the Piper. Simple – kick on the right or left rudder pedals, the nose wheel and tailfin respond and we follow an erratic straight path. Engine tests were carried out as we awaited clearance.
As we picked up speed going down the runway, John proved there was no need to pull back the control column for the plane lifted off smoothly when she was ready -phew! The ground fell away below. At 500 feet John informed me, David she’s all yours.
Now let see – right-hand up plane banks to the left, control column back and claw for the skies! Now where is that dial that says altitude? Wasn’t there something about an artificial horizon? Didn’t I read somewhere that a pilot flies through the seat of his pants? Seems a good idea! I fly by looking where I am going. Great – just like sailing a boat!
John relaxes as I head for Troon Marina. I have a boat down there and I am in photo pursuit. I hand the controls back to John and he banks steeply to port as I fix a camera lens on the spot where I know my boat is. Controls back to me and we follow the coast northwards. We pass Androssan - the Arran Ferry is just leaving. The Isles of the Cumbraes are visible ahead. Time to return, John announces over the mike. I bank the plane steeply and round she comes - no need for the rudder. A breeze this! You are doing well David, comments John.
Just time for two more photo opportunities. First we buzz the Scottish Agricultural College where I used to work and then on to Coylton where I live. Rather annoyingly I failed to identify my house but I hope it is in the photo. Now back to base for my half-hour is nearly up.
John lands smoothly and we manually push the plane back into its bay and replace its protective blue covers. John gives me my performance report. You will have no trouble getting a pilots licence if you care to crank up 40 hours flying, John encouraged. Well I will think about that. I am now 60 years old and with so many other challenges I have still to try – parachute jump, moon landing! Come to think of it – learning to sail a dingy took 40 hours!
Cost for half and hour £63.50.
Written by Drever on 04 Dec, 2002
Curling is a sport that probably originated in Scotland and is practically nonexistent in England and Wales. It is played on ice and was known as the Roaring Game. Not because the players or spectators roared, but rather that the stones roared. It used to…Read More
Curling is a sport that probably originated in Scotland and is practically nonexistent in England and Wales. It is played on ice and was known as the Roaring Game. Not because the players or spectators roared, but rather that the stones roared. It used to be played outdoors on frozen lochs during the winter and both the stones and the ice were rough, so the result was a lot of friction and a lot of noise. So popular was the sport that entire trainloads would turn up to play, or just to watch. Now with the change of climate lochs tend not to freeze over very often and the sport has moved indoors.
To describe what is happening, imagine the target used for archery. Curling has a similar target marked out on the ice. Instead of an arrow flying straight and true a curling stone is used instead, but it slides along the ice in a manner that is anything but straight and true. The player slides down the ice for a short distance holding a handle attached to the top of the stone. When the stone is released the player turns the handle slightly to make the stone revolve. The revolving motion of the stone will make the stone take a slightly curved path. Each rink consists of four players and each player throws two stones.
The hopefully winning strategy is worked out by the skip. The winning rink will be the rink that has the most stones nearest the centre of the target. To achieve this our skip may ask for a take out shot to take out an opponent’s stone, or possibly a guard to prevent the opposition from taking out our stone, or maybe he will seek to draw a shot in behind another stone to shelter the shot. One of the peculiarities of ice is that it is seldom true. A stone might not draw at all or it might draw all the way across the rink. The skip has to be able to read the ice and also know the strengths of the players. An additional burden on the skip is that he throws the final two stones guides by the deputy skip. A skillfully thrown final stone can often win or save the match.
Sweepers can alter the speed and direction of the stone by sweeping the ice in front of the stone. This reduces the friction between stone and ice and can increase the distance traveled quite markedly. To add to the fun or confusion, the opposite skip can attempt to sweep a stone through the target area once it has passed the centre line.
In days gone by it was customary to wheel out a wee warmer just to keep things going. I used to work at a college. In one match the governors of the college took part. Sure enough at half time a tray containing glasses of whisky appeared. Oh for bye gone days, ye cinna whack them (you can’t beat them). I must say that my pre-match warm up consists of a whiskey. It relaxes my muscles and it makes the bad shots seem not quite so bad. I still play for my former college and at the Ayr Curling Rink. A game lasts for two and a quarter hours and the charge varies according to the time of day, but will be between five and eight pounds sterling.
It is not a game you need to be at champion standard to play. There tends to be a shortage of players and most curling clubs will be glad to give you a game. If you want you can just watch. Oh, I almost forgot – Scotland is currently the Olympic and World champions.
Address of Curling Rink:
Ayrshire Curlers PLC, 9 Limekiln Road, Ayr, Scotland. KA8 8DG
Telephone: 01292 263024
Written by Drever on 06 Dec, 2002
Driving along we cross a river. Upstream is an old arched bridge. To our left appears an auld-haunted kirk followed by a whitewashed cottage. On our right is the Tam o‘ Shanter theme park. We are in Alloway, the birth-place of Ayrshire’s famous son, Robert…Read More
Driving along we cross a river. Upstream is an old arched bridge. To our left appears an auld-haunted kirk followed by a whitewashed cottage. On our right is the Tam o‘ Shanter theme park. We are in Alloway, the birth-place of Ayrshire’s famous son, Robert Burns. Few have not sung Auld Lang Syne . In his poem Tam o’ Shanter the misfortunes that befell the hero, bold from imbibing too much of the bold John Barleycorn, starts one dark, windy and rainy night as he nears the auld haunted kirk.
Three hundred yards further on we turned left down the driveway of the Ivy House Hotel. It is a whitewashed two-storey house with recent extensions that until recently was a private house. It is my wife’s birthday and I am taking her out for lunch. A hotel with the motto "Working Hard to Help You Relax" seemed a good choice - let them work hard and let us relax. The car park is full but I manage to squeeze the car in close to a tree. The location is quiet and overlooks a golf course.
Slightly surprised we find there is still a spare table. Little touches such as having our chairs pulled out for us gives us a good first impression. We are in an area that has been a courtyard. The walls are still roughcast but the floor is tiled. A glass roof with some imitation birds on the crossbeams gives the impression of still being in a courtyard. The room is "L" shaped and narrow which gives an intimate atmosphere without the chatter of the other guests making conversation difficult. Around the walls are pictures of seaside and country scenes. Next door is a restaurant in a conservatory and a bar.
I like to read the praise that restaurants give themselves to see if they are as good as they claim. This one had it on the front of the menu. Usually the truly great restaurants in Scotland have a French influence in their preparation of the food. The Ivy house has a team of Scottish and French chefs who have combined their talents. This restaurant has achieved a 5-star, 97% rating from "Taste of Scotland," a 4-star Scottish Tourist Board Rating, and the accolade of 2 AA rosettes. It has now been crowned Hotel of the Year at the celebrity-studded annual Thistle Awards in Edinburgh. Seems as though it is not the hotel that is blowing its trumpet but those organisations that know a good meal and service when they come across it.
Burns would have approved. His Address to a Haggis is one of the features in the annual Burns Supper and shows Burns idea of a good meal and his ability to describe it. His father was a market gardener and knew the value of good ingredients.
Scotland abounds with good ingredients such as its Aberdeen Angus beef, salmon, Scottish lamb and Scotch whisky - for the visitor we sometimes kid on that the haggis is a beast that roams the hills as well. This restaurant claims to pride itself in the quality of the ingredients and its herbs are often grown in its own garden. It produces simple high quality dishes - the Scottish style – but with the flair needed to be the best.
Being in Burns country I started off with ‘Wee Haggis, Neeps and Tatties’ followed by ‘Casserole of Braised Beef’, ‘Glazed Lemon Tart’ and Coffee. Every dish was superbly prepared and delivered. It is unusual that there isn’t anything that can be faulted, but I couldn’t find one. As Business A.M. say "There is a limit to how often you can use the word ‘perfection’ without sounding boring". The meal for two cost £33.80, which for a special occasion was well worth it.
While visiting Scotland it would be a pity not to learn more about the national bard and to finish the day off with having a meal in the best little restaurant in Scotland at:
As we drove back past the auld-haunted kirk it was still daylight and all was quiet!
The Ivy House Hotel
Tel: 01292 442336
Fax: 01292 445572
For information on menus and other services check out:
The Ivy House Hotel
Written by Drever on 27 Oct, 2002
The County town of Ayr dates from a medieval castle, long gone. Today Ayr retains the look of a market town. It has a river, cathedral and a university. The attributes of a city in fact, but its hopes of becoming one was dashed twice…Read More
The County town of Ayr dates from a medieval castle, long gone. Today Ayr retains the look of a market town. It has a river, cathedral and a university. The attributes of a city in fact, but its hopes of becoming one was dashed twice – once at the millennium celebrations and also at the Queens golden jubilee celebrations. However, Ayr is one of the most popular holiday towns in Scotland. Standing on the seaside it has a long sandy beach, which was crowded when I came to the area in 1973. Although the beach now proudly flies the blue flag to signify that it is up to EU hygiene standards, people nowadays seem to be a bunch of softies for the beach is usually quiet. At the heart of Ayr is a modern, busy shopping centre, attracting many visitors throughout the year. Ayr Racecourse runs many Flat and National Hunt meetings. It is famous as the setting for the Scottish Grand National, the Ayrshire Handicap and the Ayr Gold Cup.
Numbered among Scottish kings and heroes born in Ayrshire are the great freedom fighter Robert the Bruce and - legend has it - William Wallace (Braveheart). King Coilus (possibly "Old King Cole") lived here too. You would never know it though.
The national bard Robert Burns (1759-96) spent his early years in the village of Alloway near Ayr and his memory is preserved.
No visit to Ayrshire is complete without a pilgrimage to his birthplace in Alloway. There are Burns societies worldwide – even Russia. Celebrated in verse and song at the annual Burns Suppers, his message, A man’s a man for a’ that strikes a chord with humanity the world over.
Burns birthplace, a thatched cottage built in 1757 by his father, contains many relics. Towards the River Doon you can visit The Tam o' Shanter Experience and learn more about Burns life and work. Visit Kirk Alloway and think of Tam o'Shanter as he watched the Warlocks and witches in a dance. Look for the grave of Burns father. From the Kirk you will see Burns Monument and the road leading to the famous Brig o'Doon. Tam o'Shanter managed to flee from the witches over the Brig, for A running stream they dare na cross. About a dozen miles from Ayr is Tam o' Shanter’s home, the small village of Kirkoswald. The Tam o'Shanter cottage is open for you to view. His grave is in the local cemetery.
Ayrshire has a tremendous golfing history. Prestwick in Ayrshire is the birthplace of Open Golf. Present-day Royal Troon has hosted many Opens. The youngest of Scotland’s Open Championship settings is Turnberry. It had its first Open in 1977. Built in 1906 it was the first hotel and golf complex in the world. Often when the rest of Britain is shivering in a freezing winter, the temperature at Turnberry is mild.
I am not a golfer and therefore do not understand the fascination of the sport. A friend of mine said he had tried it three times and each time concluded that having to hit the silly little ball got in the way of a good walk. I will simply let those who know brag about the courses. I refer you to:
There are numerous stately homes and castles in Ayrshire. Foremost among them is Culzean.
It is a romantic eighteenth century Castle built by Robert Adam for David Kennedy, 10th Earl of Cassillis. It perches on the cliff edge above the Firth of Clyde with ever changing views of the Isle of Arran and of the looming bulk of Ailsa Craig. Sometimes they seem so close that you feel you could reach out and touch them! Curling stones fashioned in Mauchline from granite from Ailsa Craig supply the world. Curling is a sport at which Scotland excels at and is currently the world champion.
Culzean Country Park of over 500 acres offers something for everyone with its wooded walks, the Swan Pond, Adventure Playground, Walled Gardens, shoreline, Visitor Centre, shops and restaurants.
For those interested in the Vikings in Scotland from their invasion to defeat at the battle of Largs in 1263 a visit to Largs up the coast is called for. It is all presented at the Vikingar visitors centre.
Scotland has a proud maritime and shipbuilding tradition. The River Clyde was the most famous shipbuilding river in the world. Visit the Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine to see some of the former glory. Nowadays many of the harbours on the Clyde contain marinas. There are six in the Clyde that give permanent berthing and more that give overnight berthing.
Ayrshire used to have a thriving steel industry. It has all gone now. One of the sites was at Waterside in the Doon Valley. Following the demise of the blast furnaces a brick works was set up. This has now also gone but the site is being preserved. I always marvel as I drive through how like the site is to those found where model trains travel through make believe landscapes. There is actually a steam train that will still take you for a short run down the track.
Ayrshire is on top of a huge coalfield but little of the coal industry remains. The forerunner of the railways, however, was the waggonways transporting coal from the mines. Evidence of their routes and bridges are all over Ayrshire. The first true railway in Ayrshire was from coalmines at Kilmarnock to Troon Harbour.
Written by Drever on 04 Dec, 2005
With a street plan dating back to the 1200s and many fine buildings from the centuries since, Ayr is an attractive town. When you add a river first bridged 800 years ago, a harbour that for centuries was the most important on the west coast…Read More
With a street plan dating back to the 1200s and many fine buildings from the centuries since, Ayr is an attractive town. When you add a river first bridged 800 years ago, a harbour that for centuries was the most important on the west coast of Scotland, a racecourse dating from 1770 and all the trappings of a seaside resort, you have a town that has something for everyone.Originally the area was wild border country with Galloway to the south only brought under control in 1234 during Alexander II's reign. It sprang up around a castle built in 1197 by William I to protect the surrounding country. Cromwell in 1654 demolished the castle and instead built a huge citadel. From it he governed a large part of Scotland. Much of the Citadel's outer wall remains but the interior areas since 1700s has contained residential housing.Ayr's origins were as an L-shaped settlement, with Sandgate marking the western line beyond which the sand dunes threatened to engulf the town, and High Street running inland, parallel to the River Ayr. Today the junction between these two main streets is home to Ayr's most prominent landmark, the spire of the Town Hall, built in the years to 1832. In the High Street itself stands the Wallace Tower, which dates from 1833.The oldest bridge still standing is the ‘Auld Brig’ built in stone in 1470 and still open to pedestrians. For many the Auld Brig is one of Ayr's most distinctive features. In 1788 a "New Bridge" opened on the line of the original ford. Flooding washed this bridge away in the 1870s. A replacement New Bridge opened in 1878.Ayr's wharves and quays originally lined the river. By 1300, it was Scotland's main west coast port, a role it kept until overtaken by Glasgow centuries later. It traded with Ireland, Europe, and the Americas, importing commodities like tobacco from America, slate from Easdale, earthenware and bottles from England, salt from Spain and wine from France. These arrived in bulk and then shipped to all parts of Scotland's western seaboard. Today Ayr still has a large harbour, to the north of the mouth of the river. The old harbour area to the south of the river has recently seen high-quality residential development.A long stretch of beach allowed Ayr to become a fashionable resort from the early 1800s. Its popularity initially based on steamer services boomed when from 1840 the railway linked Ayr with Glasgow.Close to the river and just west of Sandgate is Loudoun Hall, a restoration of Scotland's oldest merchant's house, built in 1513 and St John's Tower part of a church that once stood within the Citadel still stands. Nearby is the classical frontage of the County Buildings dating from 1822.All the above help to make Ayr the attractive town it is. Close
Written by Teddy1111 on 04 Dec, 2008
We stayed in Ayr at the Silver Link Caravan Park on the eastern side of the town.Our first thoughts of the town is that it was compact nicel layed out and busy, but we were soon to find out what the demon sugar industry was…Read More
We stayed in Ayr at the Silver Link Caravan Park on the eastern side of the town.Our first thoughts of the town is that it was compact nicel layed out and busy, but we were soon to find out what the demon sugar industry was doing to this town. So many 4 wheel drive vehicles, infact they dominated the main street of the town creating dangerous situations for people in cars center parked as you could not see pass them if they were parked beside you on the traffic side of the street. The council has been neglient in stopping this from happening and we were shocked.They are so far behind with sugar processing prepared to Mackay and other sugar areas. The Burdekin farmers still burn their cane.This has caused many complaints from residences placing write ups in the local papers on many occasions but it seems big Industry gets away with it. Burning happens anytime throught the day and night so prepare to lose many nights sleep as the trash smoke will almost choke you.On many occasions my wife hung cloths out on the line to dry only to be showered by black trash caused by so called cane fires.There is so much dust and dirt across the bitumin roads that you may as well drive on the dusty headlands. Again council is slack in making the hauling out people clean the roads up.If you are planning on staying in the burdekin district DONT! keep driving through. Close