Friday, February 3, 2012

West Kilbride

West Kilbride is a small town on Scotland's west coast. The unmanned train station is just below the castle, but it was still a good walk up the hill with our luggage. From the top of the castle we had a good view of the town and surrounding countryside, including the cemetery and the firth in the evening light. We also had a good view of the one housing development - one of the few places we saw with an American look to it. While we did see several single dwellings, most of them were older. Most of the residences and other town buildings are attached.
View From the Castle

Typical Street Scene

Since we had no tour planned for our first day, I was up early to explore and look for birds. I found several as I walked through the countryside to the firth. Most exciting were the wood pigeon, the great tit, and the woodpecker. It took some rethinking to identify the robin which quite a bit smaller and has a lot more white than the American robin.

I had an interesting conversation with a woman out for her morning walk. We talked a bit about birds and she answered my questions about the sheep. She explained that the burnt orange die was for showing the animals. She also cleared up the discussion we had the night before. Many sheep had colored rumps. The farmers apply paint or die to the belly of the males. When the male mounts the female, the paint rubs off on the female. This way the farmer knows which females have been mounted and can separate them.

The rustic path I took led me past the local links golf course on the way to the beach. Quite a few golfers were out on this cold, clear morning. The course was in good shape and looked like it would be fun to play. At the beach I saw beautiful mute swans on the water in the sun.

I also ran into Linda and some of the others. We walked back through town past the war memorial decorated for Armistice Day. The town had a memorial at the church earlier and a ceremony after at the memorial. We also saw lots of poppies in lapels. We don't see that much in the USA today, but I remember most men wearing them on Veterans Day as I was growing up. Obviously the memories of the world wars are stronger in Britain. I suppose that is partly because the loss was so much greater there and partly because we have our more recent memories of Vietnam and Iraq.

Food was a small challenge. There are really only two restaurants within walking distance. Chuchus, at the train station was quite nice. Linda ate there while I was off somewhere. The other, Romeo and Juliet, had just opened and was still working out the service protocols. We did have good meals there. Then there was the pizza and Indian take-out. We ordered out there one night with plenty of variety, although the aficionados of Indian food were not especially impressed.
Kilbride Tavern
We did enjoy the two pubs. Neither allowed smoking so that movement has crossed the ocean even though we did see a lot more smoking on the street. Darts was the sport of choice on the Telly although we never saw anyone playing. One evening we spent with three retired gentlemen enjoying their specially-ordered Scotch. They claimed it to be the best. The bartender did not agree, but he did stock it for these regulars. They said they would come visit us two nights later, but never showed. Too bad.
Cemetery and Memorial to 17th Century Mathematician Robert Simson

New Housing Development

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