200: Holiday 2009: Scotland I – Welcome to the Scotland I Know

Note: This is my 200th blog post.
A month or so ago Steven and I came back from New York city, having both ventured way out of our comfort zone and heading for the sunny shores of the Americas, having never really set foot much there before. Steven was the expert, having been to the US more recently than me, but his experiences were limited to a few days in LA on the west coast, whilst my experiences were limited to a 13 year ago trip to Walt Disney world, a walled garden version of an American 1960s Utopia; not exactly American life experience.

Steven has lived in Scotland all his life, like me. However, save for a small trip to the tippy top of Scotland and the occasional trip to Govan Asda, he’d never been to Scotland for a holiday. The funny thing is that I am the opposite. Each year for the last 10 or so, I’ve been going on camping weekends and weeks with my Scout troop and more recently, my Scout friends. So Scotland to me is sweeping hills and massive sunny lochs. For Steve it’s terrible football and drunken Union St on a Saturday night.

So after meticulous planning (“You want to go?” “Yeah”) and an almost trip to Tejas (and Rome, heh), we booked four hotels in four towns in four days, with a planned trip to Skye. Onward we went.

Day One: Inverness
Leaving at 10am on the Wednesday Shayan dropped his newly cut keys to his flat off with myself and Steve. We will be taking care of his fish whilst he is in Iran. Once, after a short stop at Shell for our first tank of petrol, and a sandwich, we were on our way to Inverness. The road was boring for most the way, bypassing Inverurie and Kintore, we arrived in Inverness way before we needed to, so we didn’t stop and headed down Loch Ness to the Clansman hotel for lunch. The almost sunny-rain didn’t dampen our spirits but the £7 fee to enter Urquhart Castle stopped us in our tracks.
Me, looking slightly hungover.

Heading back to Inverness we parked the car and found our bed and breakfast which was basically next to the city centre. After a few minutes peace we headed to the pub. Starting drinking at 5pm is something I’ve not done for at least a week, so it was good to get away. Peroni, Tuborg and Highland 80-/ later, we were quite drunk and faced with the longest day of driving the next morning, decided to call it a night after 10 pints at 1am.

Day Two: Skye and Fort William
The next morning was rough. I felt bad at first but a full Scottish and some toast sorted me right out, and Steve took a few hours to come round. The 3 hour drive to Skye would’ve sorted us out at any rate, being up to that point the funniest road I’ve ever driven on. The road was windy and took us right to the tip of the country and beyond, meaning we’d driven across the widest part of Scotland inside 5 hours, which tells you something about the size of the country. Skye was a little wet but nonetheless absolutely amazing. The cuillins are possibly the most dramatic mountain scenery that I’ve ever seen. The massive volcanic out crops were scrapping the skies and the clouds apart and the rain seemed to be apologising for even coming out. It was epic.

The Road to Arisaig was amazing.

Steve paid £7 for a slice of toast and some salmon in Skye.

We visited the Talisker distillery and sampled some of their 10 year old single malt. It’s a hard one for a beginner to start with, that’s sure, but I lapped it up. I like Talisker, but I’m more a Speyside malt man. Then again, I sound like a total twat based on that sentence, so boobs girls and cars. That should sort me out.

Arriving in Fort William after a windy road and a “That’s Ben Nevis” “those other ones look taller” conversation, we plonked into the worst hotel of our trip (but more on that in a different blog post). We decided after finding our hotel was a 15 minute walk down the A82 from the pubs and that we were still a little bushed from last night, we’d take the night off and slept like babies.

Yeah I'm wearing shorts.

Day Three: Arisaig, Glencoe and Pitlochry
This was the best day. It hit at least 23 degrees on the way along the west coast to Arisaig, making it the first place that I’d never been before on this trip. The sun was shining and the road was amazing and I was wearing my Belle and Sebastian “Scotland’s For Me!” t shirt and shorts, and I was loving it. The sun makes any road much nicer to drive on on any given day, so the fun was had stopping every so often to see the water and feel the heat. After an ice cream and some hilarious banter involving a van that looked like an ice cream van but was actually a butchers, we started the long drive to Pitlochry.

Going through Glencoe Steve realised that he couldn’t find his camera. Panic settled in as he scrambled around the car professing his belief that “It’s got to be in the fucking car, I’ve not put it anywhere!”. Pulling into the car park in the middle of Glencoe we inspect the glove box. It turns out by glove box isn’t that much a glove box, but a place where things can fall down behind my dashboard. A quite look and the removal of a panel in the footwell and my car’s dashboard gave birth to stave’s camera. I laughed so much I felt sick. We drove on to Aberfeldy where we sat in a pub that smelled of pish and bleach and had some food that didn’t and then arrived at the wild card.

Glencoe.

I didn’t expect anything more than a little bed and breakfast but what we got was a 4star hotel with a pub built onto it. it was amazing, and it had free wifi. The place stole our hearts and is somewhere I’d love to return to with a pretty girl in tow.

Day Four: Perth and Aviemore
Driving north would’ve lead us to Aviemore 7 hours before Helen was due to meet us there, so a trip south to Perth felt right. Parking in the town for little we explored the only place on the trip Steve and been before. Along the river we walked and onto a small isle in the middle of the river Tay and then into some childish banter. We crossed the river on a Ford and Steve fell in. I’d point out I also fell in, but that’d be stupid of me. But after the falling in incident we explored the town and had an ice cream slush puppy type thing.

My car gives birth to Steve's camera.

The drive North was to be short so we detoured to Crieff and then to Lochearnhead, and then back through Aberfeldy and up the A9 to Aviemore. Meeting Helen at the train station we went out for a massive portion of Burger and beers. Aviemore appears to be the Stag capital of the Uk with the place having more meat on display than a butchers and less woman than a mens jail. The police only had one incident – they’d found two beer glasses on their rounds.

A few drinks later and we left, showing Helen how Shayan runs via the “Shopping Trolley” and Steve kicking over a cone like a lairy Student.

Day Five: The Lecht and Ballater
We left in the morning after a good breakfast, now with Helen in tow. The rain had followed her to Aviemore and the drive over the rather steep Lecht to Balmoral was eventful as my car started to make a groaning noise again under the bonnet. The castle was open but the rain was on and the price was again the magic £7 so we decided to come back when it wasn’t pishing it down.

How WACKY we are.

Stopping in Ballater we talked about several things, and had tea and cake and sandwiches in The Bothy before admitting defeat and returning back to Aberdeen. Steve had finally visited Scotland, Helen had gotten away from Aberdeen for a night and I had added 820miles to my car.

Coming Up:
Part II: The Thing About Scotland as a Holiday Destination
Part III: Hotels, Beds, Showers and Breakfasts