Following our trips to Hartlepool, Darlington and Livingston and with a newfound urge to complete the 42 Scottish grounds instilled in me, we set off for the land of thistle, whiskey and heather once more.
This time, the destination was Dumbarton, to the west of Glasgow and on the River Clyde.
Nature, however, determined otherwise…
Nature Bites Our Plans
Our journey started shortly after 7 am as we took a bus to Newcastle to catch the train. The morning was calm and all still seemed fine when we reached Newcastle train station.
We boarded the Aberdeen train, with the goal of changing at Edinburgh Waverley, but we had been on the train for barely ten minutes when the announcement came over the tannoy that we wouldn’t be getting any further than Edinburgh. This was because Scottish Rail had made the decision to close down all trains due to the impact of Storm Malik on the rail network.
Storm Malik was the first of three high wind storms to batter the UK in a week and it badly affected our journey north on this Saturday morning.
Multiple trees had been blown across railway lines all over the South of Scotland and clearly, passenger safety has to come first in circumstances like that.
After consulting my phone, I saw that both of the two big Edinburgh teams were playing at home. This meant we still had options for the day and the chance to tick off another stadium remained, further disruptions permitting.
River Tweed, Berwick-Upon-Tweed
Plans versus Nature
A further announcement came over the tannoy as we approached Berwick-Upon-Tweed, saying that we couldn’t go any further because there was a tree on the line and we would have to wait until it was cleared.
The chaos was compounded by the fact that the previous train to Edinburgh was also just past Berwick and needed to return to the station. This meant that we had to go back over the town’s picturesque viaduct bridge over the River Tweed and wait while people were allowed to get off the other train. Of course, we still had to wait for the tree to be cleared off the line as well. So now, we had a tree on the line, another train in the station ahead of us and the clock was marching on inexorably… Chaos!
The wife called the hotel we had booked for the night in Dumbarton and told them that due to the travel chaos, we weren’t going to be able to make it. The Abbotsford Hotel staff were incredibly understanding and agreed to cancel our booking without charging us anything and we will definitely go back to them when we eventually make the trip to Dumbarton. I heard at least two people making similar calls to their hotels and they didn’t get the same sort of response that we did, judging by the colourful conversations we were hearing.
So again, a big thank you to the Abbotsford Hotel staff!
I had, in the meantime, registered with Hearts FC for their online ticketing service and discovered that there was still a small number of tickets remaining for their game with Motherwell. I was holding back from purchasing the tickets because of my fear that we wouldn’t get there on time, bearing in mind we should have been getting off the train in Dumbarton East station at 12:27 and it was now later than that and we were still stuck in Berwick.
Eventually, the all-clear came over the tannoy to much whooping and relief and we made our way back into Berwick train station. We picked up a few passengers and set off again, hopeful of arriving with about half an hour to get from the station to Tynecastle. I took the plunge and bought the tickets that had been in and out of my virtual basket for the last couple of hours.
Inexplicably, we halted again on the outskirts of Edinburgh and my fears came rushing back. We finally pulled into Waverley station at 14:40, five hours and fifty minutes after getting on a train that should have got into Edinburgh at 10:23.
Knowing that there was still quite a walk to the stadium, we got in a taxi and of course, the roads were jammed and every traffic light was on red. We got there just about kick-off time and I rushed into the ticket office to collect our tickets while the wife paid the taxi driver. We missed about five minutes of the game before finally getting to our seats.
Heart of Midlothian – The Game
At the time the match took place, Hearts were one place above Motherwell in the Scottish Premier League, although there was a twelve-point gap between them.
The Motherwell fans, who were just to our left in the same stand, were creating most of the noise and a drummer led them in song after song.
Early on, Motherwell seemed to be more creative and had a little more tenacity to their game. Kevin van Veen put the ball narrowly past the post with one particular effort that could easily have crept home had the keeper not got the slightest of touches to it.
Hearts gradually started to ease their way into the game and took the lead in the 38th minute through wing-back Andrew Halliday, who marked his 50th Hearts game in style.
The home team was the better side for most of the rest of the game and they doubled their lead fourteen minutes into the second half when Ellis Simms, on loan from Everton, put the finishing touch to a flowing Hearts move that cut through the Motherwell defence. Hearts also have Ben Woodburn of Liverpool in their squad and he made an appearance in the second half with some neat little touches.
A desperate goal-line clearance looked to have prevented a certain third goal for the hosts before the referee’s whistle deemed the action pointless due to a previous infraction.
As the final whistle blew, the Motherwell drummer had long gone silent along with the rest of the travelling support and it was a fully deserved victory for the Jambos in front of a crowd of 17,699.
You can read the full match report here, courtesy of the BBC website
Attendance – 17,699
Entrance Fee – £28.50
Programme – £4.00 (Double issue for Celtic and Motherwell)
Heart of Midlothian – Stadium Gallery
Heart of Midlothian – Game Highlights
Heart of Midlothian – the Bravest Team
The Bravest Team – A memorial to the Hearts football players who went off to fight in World War One
Heart of Midlothian – After the Game
We decided to make the most of our impromptu visit to Edinburgh, having already planned to be away for the night in Dumbarton. We booked into the Ashgrove House Hotel, which was decent value (£71 including breakfast) given the short notice in a tourist spot like Edinburgh.
Once we had checked in, we left our few belongings and went looking for somewhere to get our breakfast, lunch and dinner all rolled into one. We chose a place called Platform 5, on Clifton Terrace, where I ordered a haggis pie and Mrs Hopper chose the chicken platter. “Haggis pie!?” I hear you cry, “What on earth is haggis pie?” It’s basically a cottage/shepherd’s pie where the mince is replaced by haggis and very nice it was too, with a thick cream of whisky sauce on it. All washed down with the all-important Guinness!
Once we had eaten and quaffed a couple of pints, we decided to move on and find a more traditional-looking pub and we headed further towards the city centre where we saw an Irish bar called Malones. Once we had waited a couple of minutes for the four guys to take their fight away from the front door, we made our way in with a little trepidation but instead of more angry people, we found a bar with a happy atmosphere and one spare table, which we snaffled quickly.
Within five minutes of being sat down, we gestured to another couple that they were welcome to take the two spare seats and sit with us. Ten minutes later (it was actually a few hours!) the lights were flashing and we (and our new Facebook friends Martin and Aneta) were being asked to leave as it was closing time.
Why does the time go so quickly when you’re in good company?
After a good night’s sleep at the B&B and a much-needed breakfast, we started making our way to Edinburgh city centre and the train station.
The journey home, thankfully, was much smoother than the journey north and we made it home on Sunday afternoon by about 4 pm with little of incident to note on the way.
Overall, a great weekend despite Storm Malik’s best efforts.