Monday, September 04, 2006

How not to tour Scotland

You are 12th in line behind the caravan at the front. A slow right hand bend comes up and you drift out to see if cars are coming, but you notice the car in front has edged up to make it difficult for you to overtake.
"Look at that castle over there, Dad,"
"In a minute, son,"
Then your concentration slips and disaster strikes. You took your eye off the car behind and now he has whipped in front of you. The speedo tells you you are doing no more than 45mph. They shouldn't allow caravans really, on these roads. You do this from Edinburgh to Inverness and back down to Glasgow.

Back at the office, "How did you like Scotland, would you go there again?"
"It was very nice, but we might do something different next year." Yes, well, next year you could always spend a week driving around the M25. Great fun.

To-day Gillian and I toured Scotland the correct way. We started out as usual with little idea of where we were heading.
"Stalker Castle for soup and a roll?"
"Why not?"

A ride along the edge of Loch Linnhe, with the mountains of Morven across the water. No traffic. Yesterday's cold front had passed over leaving a cool, clear and sunny day. The air was fresh and you could see for miles down the Sound towards Mull.

"How about taking our little North Shian road the wrong way round?"

Single track road, with hardly any passing places. If you meet a car coming the other way the chances are that one of you will have to reverse, but you'll exchange a wave. Didn't matter, didn't pass any other cars. No one goes there. Except us, of course.

Sun came through the trees from South Shian across the water. Low tide made it look soft and wonderful against the light. "Wonder where the old slipway is, we found it before remember?"

This is where the people, and cattle, used to cross in a big rowing boat ferry 200 years ago when they travelled the down the coast from North to South. Cuts off a days walk round the coast, and many famous people in history have used it. It is about a mile across and the Spring tide flows strongly. Took a bit of rowing in the old days with a crowd aboard. They used heavy, caulked, wooden boats then. No glass fibre.

So we stopped to ask Charlie Moore who was planting some larch trees in his garden. The answer lasted for an hour as we swapped stories of the roe deer in his garden, the old ferry, the new pier restaurant owners in the village, and the evening when he froze in his garden as an otter walked by his feet. The answer included his early days in the Orkney Isles. He might have to go back there because the authorities have stopped his licence because of his diabetes. His neighbours get some groceries for him, but he walks three miles to the nearest bus. Lovely man, didn't sound Scottish at all, but that's the Orcadians for you.

Back to the cottage half an hour later taking in little Port Appin and its small passenger ferry to Lismore on the way. Total distance travelled? About 25 miles.

That's the way you tour Scotland properly. You don't go past it in a car. You go into it with the people.

Lochside cottage near Glencoe in the Highlands of Scotland
  • Short Breaks Glencoe
  • Stories about Appin villages blog