Our third official road trip took place at the beginning of June, which was weeks ago, I know. But I’ve had a good excuse for not writing this post until now. I’ve been in mourning.
It’s sad, but true. We lost our beautiful Molly in May and it quite sapped me of energy to write about joyful things. I still miss her dreadfully, and shed the odd tear, but I’ve pulled on my big-girl pants, put the tissues away and I’m back.
First stop – oh no, wait.
It’s just occured to me I never wrote about our second official road trip either, which was a weekend away in the historic city of Norwich in May. We went to see Barry Humphries perform at the Theatre Royal on his farewell tour, ‘The Man Behind the Mask’. It wasn’t side-splittingly funny (the best bits were the old clips of Dame Edna and Les Patterson), but it was a nostalgic romp through his life, and a fun evening out.
The highlight of the weekend was Norwich itself, and the amazing AirBnB we stayed in, at the end of a secret garden, behind the blue door. We walked the length and breadth of the city, went to pubs, cafes, shops and parks, and promised we’d return another time.
We are but mere mortals
And so, fast forward to the first week in June. We packed up the car, hit the road and drove eight hours north to the Lake District.
Dear God, it’s breathtaking. We all know that of course, but I’d forgotten just how mindblowingly breathtaking the Lake District can be.
We stayed at a pub called The Mortal Man and they put us in the honeymoon suite.
Not so much a suite, as a large room with a 4-poster bed and a view down the valley to die for. The rain cleared, the sun came out and nothing else mattered.
We travelled hopefully
Robert Louis Stevenson, the famous Scottish poet, said “to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive“. I bet he never had to join the M6 Motoway at Penrith heading north on a gloomy wet afternoon to find that petrol had broken the £2 barrier.
Let me tell you, Robbie Stevenson, arriving at my Uncle Tim’s house in the leafy Edinburgh suburb of Barnton, to be greeted by some welcome late afternoon sun and a glass of champagne, was a far better thing than to travel.
We had two cosy nights with Tim and Liz, with the bonus of seeing my gorgeous cousin Sasha, on the first night.
After dinner, Tim encouraged us to join him in a game of golf in his dining room, which he likes to play with imaginary clubs.
And he’s the least eccentric of my Scottish family.
Russell and I spent the next day exploring Edinburgh, which I haven’t done for 40 years, and Tim shouted us drinks at his very swank golf club as the sun set over the Firth of Forth, which was lucky because we’d spent all our money on petrol just getting there.
The Bonnie Bonnie Banks of Loch Fyne
Our next stop was a couple of hours west of Edinburgh to Argyll and the picturesque village of Cairndow – where we happened to get married 23 years ago. We stayed with my fabulous cousin Katie (as in an ‘Ab Fab’ sort of fabulous), and her husband Denzil, who are two of the best hosts I know and have a beautiful house and garden on the banks of Loch Fyne. And the beauty is helped even more when the weather is perfect, which, let me tell you, doesn’t often happen in Scotland.
We walked through their magical woods and garden, down to the lochside where, a mile up the track, we dropped in on another of my cousins, Christina, for a cup of tea. Did I mention I have a lot of cousins in Argyll?
The next day, we went to see another cousin, Tuggy. Tuggy lives on a farm up in Glen Fyne, which, 20 years ago, she turned into a brewery – Fyne Ales. 10 years ago they started Fyne Fest, a beer and music festival which now attracts around 2,000 people a year. By lucky coincidence, we were visiting the weekend of the Festival, so we had an afternoon of beer and music up the glen. Perfect! Thanks, Tuggy.
That evening, we checked into the Cairndow Stagecoach Inn, where they gave us the Honeymoon Suite. Quite apart from being a holiday of honeymoon suites, it happened to be the exact same room we stayed in on our wedding night. Exhausted, but determined to celebrate this happy coincidence, we took our bottle of wine into the pub garden to watch the sun set over the loch. Happy days!
Oban and Inverary
I have wanted to go back to Oban for years. It’s a seaside town on the west coast of Scotland where I used to go as a young teenager to attend the annual Oban Ball where we danced highland reels until the early hours of the morning, then ate platefuls of Kedgeree. Weird, but true.
This time we ate platefuls of seafood in a restaurant on the harbour, overlooking the Isle of Kerrera. And we also went to the beach, where they were swimming. In Scotland!
We drove to Oban via the town of Inveraray with its bright white buildings and the sombre grey Inveraray Castle, (the backdrop to the TV drama ‘A Very British Scandal’).
We stayed in Inverary longer than planned because we got a puncture and had to buy a new tyre and, while we were waiting, we bought a painting of the town. So, all in all, it was quite an expensive day.
Then, as the afternoon drew to a close and we headed back to Cairndow via the Bonnie Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond, we stopped for a beer at the somewhat quirky and apparently haunted Drovers Inn.
And so, our Scottish idyll came to an end. I kissed my wonderful cousins goodbye and we headed for home.
I love Scotland. It’s seared into my childhood memories and my heart, and I will always return, especially to Argyll.
Billy Connelly once said “There are two seasons in Scotland – June and Winter.” Like I said, I love Scotland, but this year I’m glad we came in the June season.