Scotland: Touring Taylor Bowls

I’m still sharing adventures from our Scotland vacation this July. While our final stop was Edinburgh, we still had to get back to Glasgow to catch our flight and had one last adventure planned.

The day before our flight we caught a morning train to Glasgow and then the airport shuttle bus out to the airport. I’d booked us a room at the Holiday Inn Express (and got a very good price since I did this months in advance) which was convenient for our early morning flight but not the most fun place to hang out. Which was OK since we’d already made plans for our time in Glasgow  – travel out to the Thomas Taylor Bowls Factory and pick up new lawn bowls!

Taylor Bowls is not near the airport, so making our way there definitely took some planning. I wanted to do it on the cheap since new lawn bowls were enough of a splurge so we opted out of simply catching a cab and instead took advantage of the very nice public transit options (and a good half day of time). Using our shuttle bus passes (£7/person for all day rides) to get back to the train station, we hoped on another train to the Duke St. Station (£4 return, for the both of us) and then walked to Taylor Bowls. It was only about 20 minutes and was kind of nice after riding trains and buses all day.

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Taylor Bowls is worth the trip if you’re interested in lawn bowling. It is a factory and a store so you can stop by and purchase bowls in stock, or pre-order (like we did) to have a custom set ready and waiting when you arrive. There is a little display about the history of the company, and some examples of wooden bowls. As well as shiny new bowls, they also offer a chance to tour the factory if you contact them in advance. It isn’t a super formal tour  – ours was just Jon and I – but that means you get a really close look at how things work. We stopped and chatted with the workers who were making the bowls and they graciously stopped their work to show us every step of the process.

We got a step by step lesson in how the bowls are formed from raw plastic into the different sizes. We got to press buttons on the fancy computer lathes that cut the different biases, and then use the bias testing track to confirm the accuracy. Jon even got to adjust the bias on a set of bowls.

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Showing how the grips are etched into the bowls
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Shopping carts of bowls waiting for the next step
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A bowl ready to go for testing
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Jon uses the official bias testing equipment to check a set of bowls

We stopped by giant polishing bins (that’s what give the bowls their beautiful shine) and then we saw how the different emblems were engraved into the bowls. All the emblems are finished by hand – and we got a few tips on touching up the paint on our sets as they wear.

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Sets of bowls, waiting to be shipped out

Finally, we hit the indoor green to test out our very own sets.

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It wasn’t as easy walking back to the station carrying our lawn bowls, and we probably got some sideways looks on the train, but we were both pretty excited about our purchases. It seemed a very fitting way to end our Scotland trip – and we picked up souvenirs that will remind us of our vacation every time we hit the greens back here in Canada.

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