Yep, me again with another large dollop of soporific drivel guaranteed to send even the most chronic of insomniacs to the deepest of slumbers.
It’s Thursday 10th May and we’ve been away exactly a month, and, just for a change it’s raining. Not that that fact will garner much sympathy with those of you down south as from what we’ve seen and heard it’s been doing much the same non-stop since we left. We was up early today too – 7.30 to be precise, taking down the awning. Oh, the joys of caravanning. We leave here on Saturday for Inverness and the prophets of doom at the weather centre forecast rain pretty much continually. This morning, while it was still dry was likely to be the only chance.
So, lets get caught up again before you nod off. We left Loch Lomond on Sunday morning when it was still sunny. I opted to drive the first bit but soon regretted my enthusiasm as the road hugging the Loch got narrower and bumpier. It was at the most narrowest and bumpiest of parts that an HGV appeared from the other direction approaching somewhat rapidly. Well, ten minutes later when I had opened my eyes again the HGV had passed and we were still roughly on the right side of the road. More importantly Patsy was still in one piece. We pressed on.
The rain came soon but just as quickly went. To be replaced by snow. The windscreen wipers were squealing in protest so we pulled in to a layby to give them a wipe over. Of course it then stopped snowing.
The rest of the journey passed without incident, although we used our common sense – dangerous I know – and ignored the instructions on the ‘SatNav’ app on Trev’s phone which, it appeared was trying to send us to Aberdeen. Shortly after crossing the Connel bridge, five miles to the north of Oban, we were at the site.
And what a view, the site is adjacent to the beach offering the most fantastic of views across the bay and out to the islands. We could see the ferry crossing from Oban to mull in the distance. It is a large site with spacious well kept, largely level pitches with the usual electric hook-up. Fresh water and waste points are nearby. What isn’t nearby is the facilities block. The fact that car parking spaces are provided next too it gives you an idea of how far away it is. You could walk it – if it was a nice day and you weren't in a er, hurry to get there but the car is easier - it saves getting dressed up like an artcic explorer just to go for a – well, you get the idea. Saying that though, once you get there the facilities are excellent – spotlessly clean –and the water for the showers is hot and plentiful. The on-site shop is well stocked, carrying not only the luxuries such as bread and milk but the essential stuff like beer and wine too!
The aforementioned awning has had some use too. It was warm enough to have dinner in Sunday night and actually sit in for a couple of hours as well. More recently though the washing’s been hanging up in it.
Right, sightseeing. On Monday, we let the train take the strain, well at least after the hour’s drive up to Fort William. The ‘Jacobite’ steam train service runs from Fort William up to Mallaig and has been voted ‘The World’s Greatest Railway Journey’ by someone or other. On the same line runs the regular timetabled Scotrail service offering exactly the same views for less than half the price. You can guess which we one we went for, and we weren't the only ones. Being a bank holiday it was packed.
Well, the views, as promised were spectacular. We crossed the Caldeonian Canal and saw ‘Neptune's Staircase’ the series of eight locks.The Glenfinnan viaduct, as seen in a number of the Harry Potter films was next. We passed the deepest loch and the shortest river and glimpsed views of the sea and the inner Hebridean Islands and (checks pamphlet) caught sight of the small isles of Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna.
It was pretty chilly on the train by the time we arrived at Mallaig but I think they had done it to help us acclimatise as it was even colder than earlier. We’d had vague notions of eating lunch – procured earlier in Fort William thanks to a foray in to a certain supermarket chain that reckons ‘every little helps’ – on a bench overlooking the harbour, but the smell from the little chippy, nestled inside the station foyer changed all that.
As we waited, shivering, for our order, one of the locals came in, ordered his lunch and commented to the woman behind the counter what a nice day it was. Nice day! Christ! Now, call me a southern softie or whatever but to me a nice day means a clear blue sky, the merest of breezes and the mercury in the low twenties at least. You risk sunburn on a nice day, not frostbite. It seems, up here a nice day means it’s not raining. Yet!
With cholesterol consumed – and it was very nice by the way – we headed out to explore the town. We had another two hours before the train returned, but to be honest, half an hour would have been sufficient. There was a pretty little harbour from which you could take a ferry to Skye, amongst others and a number of shops with the usual array of tartan and whisky themed gifts and a couple of pubs. I can imagine it would be a great place to mill around in the summer, but not today. We just about resisted the lure of the grog and when for a cuppa instead.
We was back at the station in plenty of time and we were first on to get the seats with the best view on the way back. The line is quite old and the tracks still have gaps between them, leading to that soporific clatter now absent on most trains. I managed to stay awake as I wanted to get some more pictures but Trev succumbed. A good day out though the journey was better than the destination.
Tuesday and the turn of the ferry as the preferred means of transportation. The plan was to have a look around Oban in the morning and catch the ferry to Mull around lunchtime, but we were a little late getting into town so didn’t have long to wait. There was a whisky shop on the quayside which along with all the usual brands we see down south carried hundreds of other more obscure ones too. My eye was drawn to a locked glass cabinet where the expensive stuff was kept. I was standing drooling at a 40yr old Highland Park, a snip at a little under a grand - when a sales assistant appeared, with pound signs in his eyes, asking if he could help with anything. I suggested a mortgage.
The forty five minute ride to Mull was very pleasant and we even managed a full five minutes on the outside deck before frostbite set in. Mull’s main town is Tobermory which has the undoubted distinction of having a Womble named after it. There is also a castle - though to be honest it would have been more of a surprise if there wasn’t a castle here – they are everywhere. Tobermory though, was a very expensive bus ride away. The bus to the castle was free, but getting in to it wasn’t. Deciding that we could manage without seeing either we headed, after a short walk, to the pub.
Remember the film ‘An American Werewolf in London.We had joked before about expecting the sort of welcome the two fellas got, in the early scenes as they walk in the bar. All the locals stop and glare at them whilst a real fires blazes in the corner, and the barman asks them gruffly ‘what’ll it be? Well, there was a real fire here, but the clientele were all fellow tourists who ignored us, and the barman was a young lady, all the way from Finland, who thankfully didn’t.
In fact, a similar thing happened to us many years ago in a pub in New Zealand. It was 1997 and we were travelling around the south Island in a battered old Datsun Sunny. Anyway, the light was starting to go so we stopped at this pub in New Zealand's most inland town and Trev went in to ask about a room. They had one, so Trev came to get me and we walked in to the bar. Well, you could have heard a pin drop. All eyes turned to stare at us. It was a little disconcerting. I was wearing my usual at the time; a singlet and some rather brief shorts along with boots. I guess I looked a bit ‘obvious’ but couldn’t care less. We could still feel eyes boring in to us as we sat down to eat but after, instead of retreating to our room plonked ourselves at the bar and ordered another couple of pints. We got talking and it ended up a good night.
Right, back to the present. Lunch, sarnies, this time from the kitchen of Patsy and created by chef Trev, were consumed quayside as we waited for the return ferry.
Wednesday, and up early for the long drive down to the Mull of Kintyre, known, probably best as the title of a song by the tightest man in pop, one Paul McCartney who bought an old croft down here – not on the isle of Mull as some think. We paused first at Campbeltown for a cuppa before heading on to the minor roads. The Mull of Kintyre lighthouse was clearly signposted and this is one of the most southerly points. From here, you can, apparently, on a clear day, see the Antrim coast of Northern Ireland only twelve miles away. Well, it was the most stunning drive, the road soon becoming a narrow unsealed track. Sheep scattered to the road side as we approached slowly, barely getting out of first gear. We still had two miles to go when we come across a gate across the road with sign on it. The public road had ended, it said, the road beyond was private and motor vehicles prohibited. We contemplated walking if for about a millisecond then turned tail.
We stopped on the way back, this time at Tarbet – another pretty harbour – for tea and a toasted sarnie. The sarnies were good, though not as tasty as those consumed in a certain establishment back home on a Saturday lunchtime. The tea, as everywhere was excellent. It’s so nice to get a proper little teapot rather than a cup of hot water with a teabag floating despondently on top. Tea has been one of the highlights of the trip, particularly here in Scotland.
So, that’s it. Up to date. It’s still raining, but whilst I’ve been typing Trev has done the ‘house’ work. A film and a glass or two of something may be in order later. Oh yeah, and there’s some ironing to do too!
Saturday we drive to Inverness, which will be as far north as Patsy goes. The promised snow up there today is not forecasted to hang around for long. But thank goodness we have heating!