Part 18: Tobermory & Belfast First Look


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The Trip

We finished our stay at Glengorm Castle and we had to start our day early to make the ferry to the main island and drive to Glasgow to catch our plane to Belfast.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

We drove from Tobermory to Craignure to catch the ferry.  Most of the road was 2 lane, but there were a number of narrow stretches that were only one land with pull-outs.  There was plenty of traffic, so great attention was required.  Most of the area was farms but once we hit the area around Craignure we came upon this logging operation where locally cut timber was loaded onto ships for transport.

We got into the ferry queue and then hiked around to see what was going on.  We spotted this Morgan in line.

Our ferry was a different type that I had seen before.  The whole bow of the ship opened to provide access.

When the bow is elevated, it is locked into place with a huge hydraulically-actuated finger hooking on a large square pin.

The bow is being lowered and the locking hooks can be seen.

The ferry passage was calm and less than an hour.  Our destination was Oban.  As we were coming into Oban's port, we could see a number of nice houses right on the harbor.

McCaig's Tower was visible on the hill above the harbor.  Started in 1897 by John McCaig a wealthy Scottish banker, it was intended to be a lasting monument to his family.  Mission accomplished.

St. Columbia's cathedral was also visible from the harbor.

Once we were on the shore, we headed out of Oban toward Glasgow to make our flight to Belfast.  Just outside of Oban, we passed this modern bridge crossing one of the local rivers.  A large portion of the road to Glasgow was quite narrow and there was lots of weekend traffic coming from Glasgow heading north into the Highlands.  But, aside from hitting a large pot hole which pinched our front left tire, the trip was uneventful.  The rental car company did not change me for the tire and we got on our plane on schedule.

A short cab ride from the Belfast City Airport got us to our hotel.  The Gregory is a guest house that is in a residential area near the University.  That night we went to the city center and found a great place called Deane's which had seafood.  They had fresh oysters and lobster and it was excellent.

Next morning, we headed out to explore Belfast.  Steve decided that we would take the "Black Taxi Tour" which is a political history of "The Troubles" in Belfast.

The taxi was punctual and drove us to spots that were significant in the Troubles.  Along the way, we passed this nice sculpture.

During his narration, the driver took us to a series of murals that were persistent reminders that the issues are far from over.  We got the download on each one, but after the second one, the details blurred.  This one shows the issues surrounding the murder of a set of kids by the SAS.  The details have been classified and never released.  I will leave the reader to research the history of the Troubles for Ireland, but suffice it to say, it is convoluted and fuzzy from obfuscation by both sides.

Since the Black Taxi Tour is touted in a mural, I have to assume that it is part of the "information dissemination" (AKA propaganda) effort to get folks on their side.

The driver claimed that prisoners at the Long Kesh prison were gassed during a riot in 1974.  I looked up CR gas and it is rather nasty stuff.  The U.S. uses CS gas, a close neighbor, but CR is much more toxic.

Names and faces of fallen IRA members.

Father Alec is the person credited with brokering a lasting peace.

Bobby Sands is considered a hero of the PIRA.  He died in prison as a result of a hunger strike.

I was shocked to find that there is a fence and gates between the warring sides of the city.  The gates are closed on Friday at about 6pm and remain closed until Monday morning.

The fellow on the left was our taxi driver/narrator for the tour.

One of the stops that we made was at a Catholic cathedral that had recently been refurbished.

The interior of the cathedral was pristine.

From the cathedral, he took us on the other side of the wall to see some of the adornments that were applied to the wall built by the British Army during it's time in Northern Ireland.

We were encouraged to sign the wall; he came equipped with magic markers.

An interesting piece of art on the wall.  There were hundreds of individual pieces of metal cut into shapes that were "locally significant" welded onto the basic under-structure.

A Loyalist Bar named "Rex" (Latin for King) which was claimed to be the source of the initial problem.

A mural of the queen next to the loyalist bar.

As if on cue, there was a loyalist protest in the Belfast Center area.

A crummy photos shot through the dirty side window of the cab, but the idea is clear: Northern Ireland is still not truly at peace.  It very well may never be given the deep divisions in the country.

We had the cabbie drop is near the city center and we had an awesome lunch.  From there, we walked to our lodging.  One of the nice buildings in the city center.

The Belfast Library.

The "Black Taxi" tour was interesting, but to me seemed very one-sided.  But, an interesting marketing idea - having tourists pay for a brief indoctrination process without much rebuttal.  I was told by a buddy that is from Belfast that we should believe only half of what we were told.  But, my take away is that the root cause of the "troubles" are the perceived occupation of Ireland by Britain.  At some level it sounds very similar to what America went through in the late 1700s.  Of course, our outcome was quite different and what was hostility is now friendship.  But, the wounds in Northern Ireland are real and fresh and the wall that separates neighborhoods still stands.  If the taxi driver is to be fully believed, one side does not trust the other.  Assuming that statement is really true, that is a heavy burden to bear for the city's people.

But, to be fully fair, it is necessary to realize that each of the "British Occupied" areas has had issues over the years.  Scotland wants to become independent and Ireland is no exception.  America is independent and most of Britain's colonies have been freed.

Tomorrow, we continue to look around Belfast.

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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2015, all rights reserved.
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