After saying goodbye to Joni, we take a trip with our friends Leigh, Muppet and Nicolette around the Scottish countryside, visiting Loch Ness and the picturesque Isle of Skye.
We set off on Sunday morning after dealing with the almost predictable dead battery situation. I left the lights on the previous day so it wasn’t Van Failen’s fault this time. I suppose. Although if I ever get the chance to slap the faces of the people who decided that no indicator light or sound was necessary to let the driver know the lights are on when the engine is off… well, let’s just say that there’ll be a run-up involved.
Due to the many times we’ve had to deal with this in the past, we dealt with it relatively quickly and were on the road around 10am. First stop was the unexpectedly adorable town of Pitlochry. It looked a lot like Kendal in the Lake District… and if you don’t know what that looks like, just picture winding streets, slate houses and add lots of people in shorts and t-shirts because the weather was absolutely beautiful.
We stopped at a bakery which had a stack of 1st class strawberries and raspberries for sale out the front. We ate pastries, stocked up on fruit for snacking on and then headed towards Inverness and Loch Ness. We drove down one side and headed for a castle Leigh had heard of. Unfortunately the price of entry was a bit steep so we headed to Glen Affric, reportedly one of Scotland’s most beautiful glens and not far away at all.
A 5km walk provided a very pleasant break from sitting in the car and we saw waterfalls, a secluded pool and lots of pretty flowers.
On the road again and our next stop was Eilean Donan castle, one of the most picturesque castles in Scotland. We almost inadvertently took part in a wedding that was happening there at the time, Sarah, Nikki and Leigh getting caught between the couple and the photographer as they walked across the bridge.
It was a long day’s drive by the time we reached Skye at about 9pm. We’d talked about wild camping but found a cheap campsite almost immediately. When our camp stove turned out to be lacking fuel we were glad we were able to beg use of the manager’s to make our pasta.
The only downside to camping turned out to be the midges, which I’d heard about but not experienced. They’re tiny, tiny bugs that fly around your face if the air is still. If you walk around they disperse but if you’re still they’re pretty annoying. Bugs around my face usually drive me mental, but strangely it was Luke who freaked out more this time, his nerves probably worn a bit thin by all the driving (we’d done about 4 hours each).
Our mish-mash dinner of pasta mixed with whatever pestos, cheese and vegetables we could find tasted extremely good after all that traveling. We had some wine and chatted… then were told off for talking too loudly (which we were) so we went to bed.
We decided to drive the loop around the top of Skye the next morning and were blown away by the amazing scenery. We stopped in a few places to look at the view. Notably at the Quiraing, a spectacular spot with some outstanding rock formations. Sarah and I had looked up walks in the area and there seemed to be one that started there. We parked at the carpark and started out but I quickly realised this was far too steep and precarious for my liking so Luke and I drove down to the bottom so we could pick up the others and they could walk the whole way down. We did take some great photos before we left though.
We stopped at Kilt Rock to have a look, then into Portree for lunch. Tasty fish and chips then a drink in a pub but by this time I was starting to fade. Hayfever had been driving me crazy for the last week and so Luke kindly offered to do the first stretch of the return drive and I closed my eyes for most of the trip. We stopped at the charming ‘Old Mill’ in Pitlochry for a drink and to swap drivers. Luke got to have a beer then I did the last 90 minutes back to Edinburgh.
Traveling with a group of people was certainly fun but also a different experience to the way Luke and I had been traveling up to this point. We’d had a month with my mum but 3 doesn’t feel like a group. The more people there are the more toilet stops, food breaks and opinions you need to consider. We only did it for two days, but it made me realise that when you’re on the move as a group things take longer than you expect and everyone needs to communicate their expectations frequently – myself most definitely included. We all got on extremely well and there were no issues but I could see that, if a group of 4 or more traveled together for long periods you’d want to have everything really worked out before you left.
So we made it back to Edinburgh just fine and got ourselves set up to sleep by about midnight. Which was when Sarah realised her flight in the morning was substantially earlier than she’d realised – 6am, in fact. She only ended up getting about an hour’s sleep before having to sneak out and catch the bus to the airport. Luke and I immediately fell back to sleep and lay in bed til 10am. It was sad to farewell Nikki and Leigh… but not for long – we’ll be seeing them in Africa within the week!