Monday, 30 September 2013

Oban, Argyll

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After leaving Hill House in Helensburgh, I had the pleasure of travelling on two of my favourite roads in the UK. The A82 alongside Loch Lomond would be one of them, not quite for the scenic value as there are a lot of tree restricted views initially but also for the concentration factor on the road. It may be surprising to some but I love the scenic variety, peace and relaxation of the A85 from Tyndrum to Oban. In fact I was so relaxed at this point that I compiled a top 10 favourite road list in my head !!

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Oban Bay, the Island of Kerrera (foreground) and Isle of Mull (background)
On reaching the destination of Oban, the seasoned visitor knows that it is not the end of the journey but the beginning of so much more as the town has been branded as The Gateway to the Isles. Standing on the promenade or up on the hillside entices the traveller to sample a boat trip or two...

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On that note, it is advisable to bring a moneytree with you to plant in the Guest House garden in order that you might get some return later in the week :-)

Regular readers may not know that I have already visited here on a very long day out by charter train. Post number 3, the Oban blog, was a bit simplistic and primitive as I began my blog journey but provided a taster to the town but more importantly the magnificent scenery of the West Highland (railway) line.

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Two things dominate the town and indeed the skyline. Chronologically, the first thing is the distillery that can be seen with the chimney behind the promenade. It's fair to say that apart from the occasional castle or two, nothing much happened in Oban before the building of the distillery in 1794.

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The town subsequently grew as a result of the port by having sea trading links to Glasgow and Liverpool.

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Secondly, McCaig's Tower or Folly on the hillside is a unique structure that always provides a bit of mystery, intrigue and gossip.

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John Stuart McCaig wanted to provide some winter work for stonemasons, so he came up with a plan to design a 200 metre circumference building based on the Colosseum in Rome.

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The £5000 cost wasn't a problem to him but his health was as he died of a heart problem 5 years into the construction in 1902.

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The finished concept complete with an art gallery and museum with a central tower would have been bizarre with statues depicting himself and all generations of his family. There always seems to be a bit of doubt to that story as the outer shell is complete with no progress on the next phase.

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It seems that Oban has been saved from that and gained an unusual park with a great viewpoint.

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It would seem that the Oban war memorial of 1923 was a development of a sculpture that additionally may have been a modern standing stone developed from other monuments such as the one at Killin.

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A rare sighting of the MV Clansman arriving in Oban Bay ... 10 pm

The image above reminds me that in Oban there is a standard level of adventure where people opt to do the same routine day tours. Some of these as I'll show you in the next few posts are top class, but once completed, people want to move on to either somewhere else or in my case something else. I managed to sample two out of the ordinary travel things that I look forward to sharing with you later in this batch of posts. With regards to the Caledonian Macbrayne Ferries, I wanted to sample the MV Clansman and MV Lord of the Isles but this proved difficult by both staying in serviced accommodation and wanting to catch up with so many wonderful things for the first time in digital. Most of the sailings on these two vessels were advertised as cruises with no time to get off the ship and explore, some of which departed or returned at unearthly hours. On a long routine tourist day out, it was difficult to arrange travel for the next day as the office was closed on returning to base. However I spent some time throughout the week researching how I can do this on specific days of the week that link with the unbelievable variations in the ferry service. With this in mind, I managed to purchase an island walking book in the MV Isle of Mull gift shop which gives you a clue that I was very rarely in Oban during shop opening hours ! ... hence the mainly night photography.

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A rare moment of two ferries in Oban Bay at the same time ... The MV Clansman coming to join the MV Isle of Mull (already rested for the night by over 2 hours)

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I'll leave you with a few peaceful shots from the North Pier as the the town settles down for the night ...

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Unless of course you buy a bag of Fish and Chips ......

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Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Hill House (CR Mackintosh), Helensburgh

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I had a week off work back in May this year that I had no idea what to do with it. I did think about going to Venice for a few days to repeat some poorly developed 35mm film photographs back in 2007, but due to a very short notice change of circumstances, I decided against it as it was not affordable at three months notice. As a reserve, Instead of a walking holiday or something to North Wales again, I made up my mind to do a memorable solo trip to Scotland. The weather I left behind at home was grim although it did me no favours on the outward travelling day as is depicted here. I stopped for lunch and a car break at Moffat but it was more of a lesson trying to dodge the rain rather than a photographic architectural one. A teashop in the main street was filled with hungry customers experiencing slow service, so I had to opt for the delights of fighting my way through the hordes of tartans and coach tour visitors in the Woollen mill to reach their coffee shop to prevent delaying my journey.

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It was an afterthought as I was passing Helensburgh on the road north, I decided to call in and catch up with The Hill House of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

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Although Helensburgh was once a village that became popular as a result of a ferry service across The Firth of Clyde, it grew in modern times as a commuter town for the wealthy businessmen of Glasgow. It's most famous son was the inventor of the television, John Logie Baird.

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As a teenager I recall stopping at Helensburgh next to the River Clyde on the journey to a westerly holiday location. My parents didn't seem to know about this house as it was in the upper part of town.

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My fascination with the Glasgow School of Art mentioned in my initial Glasgow post followed by the post of the Mackintosh house in Bellahouston Park continued with this property.

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In itself, Helensburgh is not considered a routine destination these days so unless one makes a specific day trip from somewhere local, it's not an obvious choice for distant travelling people like myself. It was unfortunate that I arrived about 4:30 in the afternoon so there wasn't enough time to take the tour that some visitors seem to think is a little overpriced... so just a few sneaky garden pictures.

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Hill house was built for a mainly childrens and educational publisher called Walter Blackie between 1902 & 1904. Charles Rennie Mackintosh spent some time in the Blackies former house getting the feel for how they lived in order to create a better design.

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Like The Glasgow school of Art, Mackintosh used opposites to enhance his work as the heavy but minimalist exterior is contrasted with the warm, exotically designed interior.

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The elements once again reflect the architectural mix of Art Nouveau, Arts and Crafts with the nod towards Scottish Baronial with his unusual Japanese influence that was common to the wealthy architectural travellers of the day. Mrs Macintosh assisted him with some of the internal fabrics. The house was eventually given to the National Trust for Scotland in 1982 with the Landmark trust acquiring the top floor for self catering holiday rental purposes.

My destination for the week was calling as the weather was only bearable for so long ...

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Imposing Garden Gate

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Looking down the hill towards The River Clyde ... if you can see it !!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Manchester 2 ( Central and West )

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I return with a second set of Manchester images which is more of a supplement to the last post taken two months later when I returned for the Dinner Ball. With the passage of time and hindsight, it's strange how I am currently trying to overcome a difficulty similar to the one I was thrown on this visit (that terminated with my Leeds blog post). I've nearly completed this particular roller coaster ride that I'm on at the moment as I can just about see the exit sign ! My next move will be a bit of faith but on a parallel theme and hidden message, the next post will be the start of a new series from a completely different part of the country that excites me taken during the summer.

Looking through this set of images, it seems to be like a bits and pieces post that concentrate more on my camera art style.

In the midst of the busy shopping centre of Manchester is a green space called Piccadilly Gardens. In the long line of trees along the edge of the square is a metal one erected in 2005 to commemorate those who died in World War II.

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Urban jungle perhaps ?!!
Unfortunately on the two occasions I was there, the area wasn't as peaceful and tranquil as what I expected due to temporary metal barriers preventing people from using the grass and mounted policemen waiting to pounce on any trouble that may arise.


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In the early part of the 20th century it was thought that the first Chinese people to come to Manchester were involved in the laundry business ...

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...but it wasn't until after World War II that the community began to increase with the post war labour shortage problem.

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Following the passing of the British Nationality Act to enhance this in 1948 and problems of space in Hong Kong ...

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... the restaurant business was the first to take off followed by many other industries later to supplement it.

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Back in the day, Manchester as I knew it had a transport problem in that you could arrive from the south by train into Manchester Piccadilly, then have to cross a busy town centre by shuttle bus to Manchester Victoria in the North. A proposed underground system was scrapped in favour of a Light Rail network during the 1960s - 1980s period with Government approval in 1988 and the first tram running to Bury in 1992.

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In a previous generation, trams went out of favour and were replaced by trolley buses using the overhead cables which were in turn later dismantled and replaced with buses.

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No cars allowed street
The only system in Britain to survive that change was the classic seafront Blackpool tram network which was popular with holidaymakers. Other than that Manchester set a president by becoming the first city in the UK to return to the street tram. Expansion of the network is an on going process with the current projected phases due to be completed by 2016.

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Change of transport at St Peters Square !!

Although inspired by the Pantheon in Rome, Manchester Central Library was built as late as the 1930s but unfortunately it was closed for a 3 year renovation period when I was there.

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The Upper floor enjoys the full benefits of the Great Hall with a Dome shaped roof and central window light. At one time noise resonated around the room with ease so sound absorption had to be installed.

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Testing the sound barrier in the ... errr .... Library Car park !!

                         
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Decided to have a quick in the Art Gallery on the way to the next location but didn't take many photos for obvious reasons. The Gallery was opened in 1824 with extensions in 1826 and 2002. Two of the more famous artists who have their work on display are Thomas Gainsborough and local industrial artist L.S. Lowry.

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The Town Hall was difficult to photograph due to some construction around the back and a drinks marquee in the adjacent square. There was a reasonable amount of interest from passers by when the bride and groom exited the function room for their wedding car.

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The Receptionist :-)
It was quite scary trying to get past the reception desk as I needed a good reason for entering the building !!

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The Architecture inside this 1877 Gothic Revival building was quality and I could have stayed there for much longer.

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When researching Manchester, I came across a blue post box from an internet photo album from a friend of a friend. The person I met for lunch in the previous post had only lived in the City for a few years and didn't know it existed so I was more determined to find it on my second visit. It included a long walk to the North West area of Castlegate. The colour may seem a bit pale but it is unusual to see anything other than red. The colour denotes a special airmail box which were found in specific sites during the 1930's. However due to expansion of the service, they were no longer needed but this one was repainted in the original colours in 1983 to commemorate the link between the Post Office and the aviation industry.

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On the walk to the location, I had to walk past the very futuristic looking Hilton Hotel. Love it or hate it, you can't help but look up at ... hope I did it justice !

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The odd couple !
                         
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As a little aside, as I'm talking about buildings, The 15th century Ordsall Hall was the last image I took as I left my Hotel in Salford Quays the following morning on a grim weather day. Unfortunately it wasn't open, maybe another time.

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Back in Castlegate, the Museum of Science and Industry which opened in 1969 covers a large site split into different zones and built around the worlds first railway station in 1830. Aircraft from the World Wars feature heavily as do railway locomotives, one of which albeit the small one operates rides down a section of track in the yard from the station platform. There is a current proposal to close some of Government funded museums to cut costs. The MOSI is one of those under consideration along with other famous establishments such as The National Railway Museum in York.
                       
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Lastly, a couple of grotesque things I came across, the first was a fountain in Albert Square just outside the Town Hall built to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria ....

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... and secondly the location of the Jeremy Kyle show at Granada studios where a certain section of society consider it famous to go on TV and argue over the parentage of child or try to defeat a lie detector test and have an embarrassing argument in the process !! On that note, the clock on the GMEX arena (now called the Manchester Central Convention Complex ... nothing's simple here !! ) reminds me where I started in this post ... it's time to move on to other things !! ....

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