Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Over-commercialisation, surly service, annoying neds - Welcome to Scotland

Like most people I don't pay attention to the tourist attractions near where I live and work. I walk along the Embankment at 5.30 every night and get grumpy with the tourists stopping to look at the big building across the river. Why are so many people interested in the Houses of Parliament? It was the same when I lived in Glasgow. A view of the Campsies from the living room window? Unimpressive. Less than an hour to Loch Lomond? Dull. When I was home for a few days last week we decided to be a bit touristy and go for a day out to Loch Lomond and Luss.

And we were faced with somewhere we wouldn't want to go back to. We got to Balloch and were faced by a hideous over-commercialisation of one of the most beautiful sites in Scotland. Noisy buskers, fairground rides, hot dog stands, a "petting zoo" (why show your children the nature in front of them when an animal in a cage will do?) and buildings along the shore spoiling the bloody view. We endured the spectacle of a sheepdog chasing a group of ducks around squealing children and a forest of mirrors.

The loch itself had rubbish floating in it and there were no walks signposted around the shore. I accept that there has to be some degree of commercialisation with gift shops/tea shops etc but it seems that the Loch has become the backdrop to a funfair rather than the main focus of the area.

So from a disappointing Balloch we moved onto Luss. Which was much nicer. Kind of. We went into the only pub in the village for lunch. Messy tables, scowling waitress, being told they couldn't make a cappuccino for us yet the people at the next table getting theirs and a half hour wait for a sandwich all made this a less than welcoming establishment. Although the food was really nice.

Then to a little walk along the pier, where a gang of neds were throwing each other around, drinking cheap lager, swearing loudly and slagging off the area. They weren't being aggressive to other pier users but their presence did make others feel uncomfortable and several people turned on their heels and left the pier. Couple this with the abuse that (another) gang of neds were shouting at a group of young asians Luss wasn't really that appealing either.

The tourism industry should be alive and vibrant in Scotland, but from what I saw our natural resources just aren't being cared for and developed properly. I hope that the powers that be aren't just relying on a good reputation. It won't last long.

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