When you’re packing, for the first time in well over a year, for a trip away from home, what’s the best possible interruption? Why, a visit from a grandson of course, with his Mummy. And if he were to put on a puppet show as well, that would be terrific!
This passed a few minutes in our little car park, which is a good venue too for a quick game of ‘tag’ (without actually touching, of course) and hide & seek, even though the only places to hide really are behind the big oak tree and behind a couple of parked vehicles. The visit was prompted by the fact that Sunday is Fathers’ Day, which had totally escaped my attention this year. The card that Jenny gave me was designed and hand-drawn by William, so it is now taking pride of place on our book shelves.
We don’t think we’ve forgotten anything important. So far. The car was packed, mostly with food that we’ll eat over the next few days. Liesel said she’d packed more stuff for this couple of weeks than she did when we went travelling for ten months!
You may be wondering where we were going. Well, the title of this post is a clue. But the first picture I took, from the car, was of a hill close to the Lake District.
We’re off to sunny Scotland for a bit of a tour. It was good to be on a motorway again. We haven’t been on one since yesterday. We stopped at Tebay Services on the M6 as we always do when this far north, because their selection of vegetarian scotch eggs is lovely. That was the basis for our evening meal on this, the first evening away from home since March 1st last year.
On this day, England were playing Scotland in the first round of a European football competition. I know there’s a lot of rivalry between supporters of these two national teams, so I told Liesel to do all the talking: her American accent is perfectly neutral.
Our first stop on this trip was Dumbarton. The local council is West Dunbartonshire. Dum and Dun. That could be confusing. I went for a quick walk in the evening, and yes, many houses were flying the flag of St Andrew. The views were great: climbing up the hill was worth it: a novelty after the flatlands of home.
The view from the cemetery was especially nice. In fact, the cemetery itself, well laid-out and tidy, was a joy to walk around.
Premier Inn will probably send a questionnaire soon asking how was our stay? Did we sleep alright? Well, I had a nightmare, but I can’t really blame them for that. But the loud man next door who turned up in the middle of the night didn’t have to shout into his phone: that sort of thing went out of fashion a long time ago when mobile phones became ubiquitous, and you no longer had to announce to everyone in the same town or train carriage that you were in possession of such a modern device. Also, I’d advise the good people of Premier Inn to give this particular guest a bigger bucket the next time he checks in, in case he needs to chunder as much as he did first thing this morning. It wouldn’t surprise me if his entrails were all over the floor.
Those sound effects didn’t put us off a nice big breakfast though, before setting off for Geilston Garden, not too far from where we stayed. Geilston, pronounced like the end of ‘congeals’, not the same as The J Geils Band, whose big hit was Centerfold, a long time ago. And, Geilston wasn’t named after the Mr Geils who once owned the place. On the contrary, he bought it because it very nearly shared his name. And we agreed that we’d probably do the same too, if we could afford it. Mick and Liesel’s Big House? Yep, we’ll have that.
The garden was nice and peaceful, the flowers were gorgeous, there’s a walled garden too, a burn to walk beside, and a house that is no longer occupied except by wee beasties, spiders and mice.
We were close to the magnificent River Clyde, and yes, I sang the song, but Liesel wasn’t impressed. Oh the river Clyde, the wonderful Clyde, the name of it thrills me and fills me with pride.
We had the pleasure of driving beside Loch Lomond and already, we’re planning our next visit. We’ll spend more time by this loch and around The Trossachs.
The drive to Inverness was long and interesting. Mostly, the road surface was a delight to drive on. But there were patches that could have been imported from Surrey County Council. And some of the potholes were of Mancunian proportions. Some of the roads were narrow, with passing places, but that’s what makes Scotland so fantastic.
We passed through one small village and were greeted by a life-size cardboard cut-out policeman holding a camera. If this encourages people to slow down a bit, then that’s fine by us! We saw a sign warning of the presence of red squirrels, but we would much rather have seen an actual red squirrel.
Every day is a learning experience. The gorse is out in force right now, the yellow colour is almost day-glo. It’s known as Scotch broom in Oregon. But it’s still not the bush to fall into when you come off your bicycle.
We passed by numerous places today that we could have visited. We were within 33 miles of Stirling Castle, probably my favourite castle in the whole world. I tried not to feel guilty about missing it out on this trip. The sign to Perth caused me to recall that that was the very first town I ever bed-and-breakfasted in, in Scotland, thank you, Mrs Gourlay.
We also drove by Loch Tay, which reminded me of a Geography lesson at school for some reason.
We listened to Nation Radio. One thing I’ve noticed recently is that I often announce to Liesel that ‘I played this song last week on my show’ or ‘I played this one recently’ or ‘I’m playing this one soon’. In the old days, I would tell Liesel ‘I’ve cycled here’ when appropriate. Well, there was a bit of that today too. As we drove north along the A9 towards Inverness, we were close to the cycle path on which I incurred my most serious cycle related injury. I fell off on the approach to Newtonmore, on a cycle path that could only be described as rubbish. I never managed to complete my second Lands End to John o’Groats bike ride because of that incident, very nearly 20 years ago now, and it still upsets me.
It’s funny how your perception changes in a short amount of time. Even a couple of days ago, a drive of 100 miles would have seemed enormous. Today, when we were still 100 miles from Inverness, I was thinking, ‘we’re nearly there, then’.
We followed these two in their really, really old Sunbeam for a while. But at least here the road was wide enough to paint white lines in the middle.
Here’s Liesel on the old Tummel Bridge, built in 1730. You can walk over it, but vehicles have to use the new, ugly bridge right next to it. Here, we were close to Loch Rannoch and Kinloch Rannoch, where we’d stayed in about 1997. Again, close, but we didn’t make the detour.
One place we did re-visit though was Dalwhinnie Distillery, which we’d taken Liesel’s Mom and Dad to on their visit all those years ago. Yes, maybe one reason it appealed was that it would have clean toilets, but we did buy a nice bottle of the hard stuff.
The sight of snow was unexpected, although we knew we were getting high . In altitude, that is, not on drugs, that would be irresponsible while driving such long distances. Only small patches of snow, but still.
Something else that we saw wasn’t so pleasant. Plumes of smoke ahead on the road, and traffic at a standstill. We hoped it was just a case of a car catching fire, but later we saw ambulances rushing to the scene.
Fortunately, it was easy enough for us to turn round and make a detour. But this incident wasn’t mentioned on traffic reports on Radio 2, nor at any of the online traffic reporting sites.
We found our accommodation in Inverness easily enough, a nice flat and the host, Dorothy, has left us so many treats: crisps, fudge, shortbread, fruit, yogurts, and this is all on top of what we’d brought with us! Sorry to report, the fudge was all gone by the time I’d finished writing this.
After dinner, rice and beans since you ask, we went for a quick walk down by the River Ness. We felt a few spots of rain but it was really pleasant.