Piel Island – a tiny island in Cumbria off the coast of Barrow-in-Furness – is looking for a new ruler. For reasons that have become slightly hazy, the licensee of the Ship Inn, Piel’s only pub, is crowned the King or Queen of Piel.
The ‘coronation’ ceremony involves sitting on a throne and having beer poured over their head.
Piel is a tidal island, and can be reached by ferry from Roa (at times).
At low tide, it’s possible to walk across the sands (careful now).
For a small island, it punches above its weight with one substantial ruined castle, one thriving pub and one row of very solid-looking houses.
When we visited, there was a great display in the Ship Inn, full of historical artefacts.
If you like to get away from it all, it might be worth a shot.
I took advantage of the sunny weather to go somewhere I haven’t been before – a trip on the Renfrew-Yoker Ferry. This is the only regular ferry that I know of still running in Glasgow, since the Govan Ferry has been off for the last couple of years.
This crossing has been in operation over a hundred years, in one form or another. The old Renfrew Ferry is now an entertainment venue in Glasgow city centre. The current ferry is for foot passengers and cycles only, and runs on demand between Renfrew and Yoker. The ferry is operated by ClydeLink – check for updates on Twitter @RenfrewFerry.
The ferryman said they have lost 90% of their business over the festive season and have had to implement the first price rise in 10 years. A single journey now costs £2.50 (was £2) – cash only.
The crossing only takes a few minutes. Not the most scenic, it has to be said, but there is a great moment in the middle where you can look right up and down the Clyde. For a city that’s so connected to its river, it’s actually quite hard to get on it (unless you join a rowing club).
Any trip to Yoker is accompanied by the spirit of Limmy’s DeeDee, who now has a cafe named after him on Dumbarton Road.
It was built around the same time as St Bride’s in East Kilbride, another huge brick box designed by GKC. St Patrick’s is not quite as ornate as St Bride’s (although it’s strange to describe either building as ornate) but it is still striking.
The use of windows and roof lights to let in the light in interesting ways is one of its best features.
There is a very good paper on the history of St Patrick’s and development of other Gillespie, Kidd and Coia buildings on the St Patrick’s website (PDF).
The church and GKC buildings are feted in the architectural world. The paper (PDF) balances this with tales of leaky roofs and drafts that would knock old ladies off their feet.
Thankfully St Patrick’s has been carefully looked after and is a remarkable church to visit.
Thought I would squeeze in another island while the weather is still decent. Off to Rothesay we go.
Rothesay is the main town on the Isle of Bute. It is easy to get there from Glasgow by train and as a bonus, you get to go through Wemyss* Bay Station, one of the most beautiful railway stations in the UK.
Get off the train and go down the adjoining walkway to get the ferry (operated by CalMac). The scenic crossing through the First of Clyde takes around 35 minutes.
Bute is one of the easiest islands to visit, because it’s so accessible. Get off the ferry and you’re right in the centre of Rothesay. The Esplanade has a lovely vintage seaside feel.
There are all kinds of shops and odd things to look at. Sadly, Zavaroni’s, home of the Top Hat (an ice cream cone with a Tunnock’s snowball squashed into it), and the Victorian toilets were both closed.
This little gem was still open – I was taking a picture of the shopfront, thinking it had long closed, when the owner came back from lunch and gave me a wee look inside. He said he’ll be closing up at the end of the year.
How can you compete with young guns like Wesley Snips?
After that it was time to head home again, with a beautiful view of all the Victorian villas along the shore and a plan to see more of Bute on my next visit.
They were a while ago now, but what I did on my summer holidays was go to Oban (a town on the west coast of Scotland) with the goal of getting to as many Scottish islands as possible. Getting to, and staying on the islands has been pretty challenging this year – getting to the big islands was pretty much out of the question, but there are lots of small ones that are easily reachable from Oban or nearby.
Number 1: Easdale Island
Easdale is one of my favourite places on Earth. Home to the World Stone Skimming Championships, it is relatively easy to get to, and can be walked round in a day, or an afternoon depending on how much you want to see.
It is one of the Slate Islands – a chain of small islands in the Inner Hebrides, and is pitted with deep pools made from disused slate quarries.
The island is car-free – residents have wheelbarrows instead.
The small 10-people ferry runs regularly from Ellanabeich, which is also a pretty wee place.
The crossing takes about 5 minutes, and it is not possible to book it (there’s usually no need).