Picture Perfect!

I don’t think I’ve ever had what I would call a bad day on a cruise, but they’re not all created equal. Sometimes a port or an excursion doesn’t meet expectations. Sometimes the weather causes a change in plans. Sometimes a meal isn’t to my liking. (I know, that’s a real problem since there’s definitely a lack of food options on a ship!🙄) But sometimes everything falls in place and I have a perfect day. Greenock was one of those…it was exactly what I hoped for and more!

We woke yet again to bright sunny skies, and watched the sail-in to Greenock while we enjoyed a quick breakfast on our balcony.

I was very excited about our plans for the day…we were taking a tour of the Highlands with Photo Walk Scotland. Our small group was me, Jim, and just one other couple, Marci and Dale from Canada.

I had struggled for a long time with what to do in this port — go into Glasgow? Take one of the standard offerings to Loch Lomond and Sterling Castle? I just couldn’t decide. Thankfully I read a review on Cruise Critic and knew immediately I had found the excursion for me! I contacted Tommy (Tom Docherty) at Photo Walk Scotland right after I read the review, and we had many pleasant e-mail conversations planning our day. We had an ambitious itinerary, but Tommy felt certain we could get to the places he suggested and still make it back to the ship with time to spare.

We disembarked as soon as the ship was cleared, and there at the gate to exit the port was our wonderful guide for the day. Somehow, even though we were together with our cameras for 9 hours I neglected to take a picture of Tom. Google to the rescue…here’s one I found by doing a search:

We were off to see the Highlands! We had a pretty long (but scenic) drive to our first stop at The Green Welly restaurant/gift shop/gas station. We hugged Loch Lomond for most of the drive.

We stopped at The Green Welly for about 30 minutes for a much appreciated bathroom break and breakfast (our meals and beverages were included in the cost of the tour). I had a very filling bacon sandwich and explored the shops for a few minutes before we headed to Kilchurn Castle, our first photo stop.

The ruins of Kilchurn Castle are on the banks of Loch Awe. The main part of the structure dates back to about 1450.

Our second stop was also a castle — an occupied one this time! Castle Stalker is located on a small island in Loch Laich. It is believed that the current structure was built around 1440. Today it is privately owned, and is open to the public by appointment at selected times during the summer.

After getting our fill of castles we were off to Glen Coe. The town of Glencoe lies in the midst of the glacial valley and mountains, and it was there that we made two stops…the first at the church and cemetery and the second for lunch at Crafts and Things. Crafts and Things is a combination café, clothing store, and craft shop with a simple but filling and delicious menu of soups, salads, and sandwiches. I had a toasted sandwich with turkey, Brie, and cranberries. The bread and the cheese in Scotland and Ireland were outstanding. I couldn’t help myself!

These pictures of Crafts and Things are from the Internet:

After a great meal, we headed out to see the scenery in Glen Coe. Tommy was great about allowing us just enough time to feel like we were having a quality experience, but making sure we didn’t run short when it came to getting us back to Greenock. He was also great with crowd avoidance. It was a beautiful summer day, and I’ll let the pictures of Glen Coe speak for themselves.

Our last photo stop of the day was at the Blackrock Cottage near the entrance to the Glencoe Mountain (ski) Resort. When we left there we settled in for the long ride back to Greenock, with another stop at The Green Welly for good measure.

Summary…like photography? Take this tour! Don’t really care about photography? Go anyway! The scenery is phenomenal and Tommy is a delightful guide who clearly loves sharing Scotland with his guests. His company does other tours, including some longer trips to more remote areas. We’re eager to go back and hope to take a Photo Walk Scotland trip to the Isle of Skye in the spring of 2020.

Tommy got us back as promised, and once on board we had all of about an hour to get cleaned up and presentable for our Chef’s Table at 6:00. I actually surprised myself by how fast I can move when it’s necessary (or there’s food involved!).

This was one of, if not the best Chef’s Table we’ve been to. Everything about it was top notch…the setting, the food, the service, and even the souvenirs. We started in the galley for champagne and hors d’oeuvres, and then we were seated at the screened table in the dining room for the rest of the meal. Admittedly, I felt a little conspicuous parading through the dining room in the middle of dinner service to get to the special table, but I soon forgot about it because the whole experience was so exquisite.

Dinner ended a little after 9:00. I was tired but too full to sleep, so I made a donation in the casino before I called it quits. Jim went to The Beatlemaniacs show at 10:00, and thought it was just OK.

Back in our cabin, I surveyed the mess we made running in the door and scrambling to get ready for dinner, decided it could wait until the next day, and quickly fell sound asleep. We finally had a sea day the next day, and I was really looking forward to doing nothing, and then doing nothing again! We were far enough into the trip that the idea of having no place we needed to be and nothing we needed to do (until an afternoon wine tasting) was very appealing!

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