Glasgow is definitely a town for the young, and it supports a thriving community of artists and musicians.
From Glasgow, we also took a day trip to the New Lanark Mills. In the 18th century, planners built a model village there with the mill powered by the water from the River Clyde. Along with a nature preserve, the area is a World Heritage Site. We hiked along a trail that gives great view of a series of waterfalls on the Clyde as we climbed.
We made it to the top, where some volunteers provided a peregrine falcon watching post. We felt triumphant that we could spot, through the telescope, the poor female. She was waiting for her mate to return, like all women for the men in their lives.
Later when my husband, David Hartung, wandered out on his own, he enjoyed a visit to the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow, a place that combines science and art. The museum contains a World War II Spitfire airplane, as well as snakes and paintings.
He was taken with Edward Bourne-Jones' "Danae or the Tower of Brass," a beautiful example of pre-Raphaelite art. He also thought Salvador Dali's "Christ of St. John of the Cross" well deserved its own alcove in the museum.
He said this museum "is mandatory for kids and old farts."
Reluctantly we left Glasgow, but the islands were calling. Because Staffa is uninhabited, we chose to stay on the island of Iona, a place with its own rich history. Iona is probably where The Book of the Kells was begun.
We took a combination of buses and ferries. I was amazed at how smoothly and quickly each link in our travel chain knitted up. In fact, we were off our first boat before I got to enjoy it properly.
Our bus driver had amazing skills. He navigated the bus on a single-track road. The bus was usually the biggest vehicle on the road. Smaller vehicles had to back up and give way. The countryside was beautiful, with streams of water pouring off the mountains.
As we disembarked from our last and extremely short boat ride, we could see our hotel, The Argyll, coming into view. It is a pretty place with a great view of the water, the Sound of Iona. A glass-enclosed porch is part of the dining room, so you can look out onto the water during meals. The Argyll is tastefully decorated, and the food was great.
Several companies offer tours to Staffa, and most will promise you one hour on the island. Our captain and his first mate were both kind and knowledgeable. A fellow passenger from California was a birder, and he was thrilled to be able to check off some rare birds on his lifetime list after we landed on Staffa.
The great English writer Samuel Johnson and his Scottish acolyte James Boswell traveled to the same islands, and they wrote about it in "A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland & the Journal of a Tour of the Hebrides." I like to study up for any trip, and I enjoyed reading about their visit to Fingal's Cave by candlelight.
As soon as I set foot on Staffa, I knew one hour would not be enough. We walked immediately to the side that led to the cave. Our birder friends explored the top of the island.
Before leaving home, I had listened to Felix Mendelssohn's Hebrides overture. He wrote this music after visiting Fingal's Cave in 1829. I know you can think of the waves making music. But what a thrill to hear those waves making their booming crash inside the cave. I sang inside the cave, too, just to hear the effect against the cave walls.
The sides of the cave were pink and black with splashes of a vibrant yellow in the ceiling. I could have stayed watching the colors and listening to the waves for more than an hour, but we wanted to see some of its top side too.
The island is covered in moss, grass and wildflowers, and it is home to many birds. We hiked around a bit -- we would have loved to have walked more, but our hour was waning.
At various points on the island, you can look out to see the velvet green of Staffa, the blue of the sky and the endless roll of the water.
To make a wonderful day even better, we saw a school of bottlenose dolphins on our return trip. They were having a great time and breached the water to show off. At one point, five breached at once.
I did not want to leave Staffa and Iona, but we came to another beautiful Scottish town, Oban. If we get to return to Scotland, I would like to stay longer in each place. We only spent one day and night in Oban, and its attractiveness deserves more time.
Oban is a port town, famous for its fishing. We enjoyed a beautiful day hiking up to McCaig's Tower. This gave us views of water and other islands in the distance as we gained height. Like West Virginia, the area is covered in beautiful rhododendron, and Oban has some elegant stone houses.
We stayed in a small bed and breakfast. The woman who opened her home to us shares the same name, MacFarland, as the street that runs down one side of the Charleston Newspapers building. When I told her that, she said, "So, you will remember me."
We know we want to return to Scotland. It offers islands of beauty, music at any hour of the day, and art that reverberates through the centuries. What more could one want? Simply more.
Williams is a retired Gazette-Mail reporter.