#25 The road to Scotland

September 5, 2012

It has been two weeks since we arrived home yet it is oh so easy to slip into an easy reverie, recalling views across the Pentland Firth to the Orkneys, breakfasts with red squirrels and a stroll down the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.
I was cutting up mushrooms for dinner tonight and reminded Graham of our mushroom hunt with Bonnie through damp woodlands near Perth. Robbie Burns wrote poems about the waterfalls there.

We set out for Scotland from Liz and Ed’s in Yorkshire, after a few days back in Ashbourne with Al and a joyous family reunion/farewell at Zandra and John’s on Sunday.
The day before (Saturday) we went with Andrew to Burnley to watch his football team play Bristol. Great atmosphere even though Burnley didn’t play particularly well and lost. We still have loads of fun, listening to the fans behind and beside us discuss the failings of the manager, the club and various players. Every second word was swearing haha.
Andrew took us for a brief walking history tour of the old Burnley textile mills, now part of a civic rejuvenation project.
At Zandra’s on Sunday it is sad to say goodbye to everyone. All Janice’s family is down from Leeds and we meet Steven’s wife Jenny, who has recently discovered she’s pregnant with their second child. Liz and Ed join us as well. It is so lovely to realise we are part of such a big family, as here in Australia we’ve always been a small family group.
We will especially miss Andrew and Al. And I would love to spend more time with Zandra and Sallyanne and Nicola … Next visit to Ashbourne.

From Outlane, Liz and I go shopping for a day. I have missed this sort of girly time with her. And there’s a visit to her midwife as well. Graham arrives and we have the bike serviced at Jordans ready for our trip north. We still have three weeks holiday left … At any other time if someone said “you have three weeks holiday in Scotland” we’d be cheering. We are cheering but trying not to be blasé. This has gone beyond a holiday, travelling has just become our life.

It is funny how living out of the bike’s panniers hasn’t worried me but living out of suitcases for a few days is annoying. We are both looking forward to stopping for a full week at Canisbay. We have had the cottage booked since well before we left home. And now we’re on our way.

We head up the west coast first, taking the opportunity to call in on cousin Hugh Crawford (dad’s cousin) and wife Catherine at Lochmaben. We stay in a farmhouse B&B outside Lockerbie where we have a discussion about all sorts of things (how did we get on to time travel?) with our host. Hugh and Catherine are of course much older since we last saw them – well, aren’t we all. Hugh has recently had a fall while out walking the dog and his ankle has not healed as it should, which is affecting his mobility. Nevertheless they are in fine spirits and Graham and I are pleased we’ve made the time to see them.

We head further west and north, up and around Glasgow, on a mission to find Graham’s “castle”. Liz bought him a square foot of the estate of Dunan’s castle (a restoration fundraiser) when she came on her first holiday. It’s way out in Argyll and we had no idea our satnav would put us on a ferry. Still, we have learned to expect the unexpected. And up a single-lane road with passing bays. Not sure whether we missed one but we are forced off the road by oncoming cars. “We’re gone, we’re gone.” Graham’s internal commentary spills into my helmet. “We’re gone” as we fall off the tarmac and paddle through the mud and slush and wet grass. “No, we’re not” as Graham wrestles the bike to a halt. A kindly couple stop and check we’re ok. Yes, just rattled and wet. Of course it’s raining again. And the bike’s instruments have stopped working.
Our B&B is in an old mill house on the edge of forest only a few kilometres from Dunan’s. It has a homey feel, thanks to the warm welcome of Michael (a boatbuilder) and Sandra (a seamstress). And their two cats. We stay in the Janet Crawford room and eat our breakfast while we watch the antics of red squirrels who come to feed in the glen of the garden.
The next morning we find the castle and its owner Charles Dixon-Spain, who’s driving a small bobcat when we arrive. He gives us a brief history of the estate (* must google the Jacobites v Hanoverians). But my favourite part of the story is hearing how he and his wife Sadie were driving past one day, saw the for sale sign and just decided to buy the place. Not many men can say they’ve bought their wife a castle, he tells us. Even though she reminds him it’s a ruin.
It is a ruin but they have plans to create guest accommodation and a function centre in the main part of the building. They and their kids have moved into the renovated servants quarters.
From Dunan’s we pass through Fort William and the magnificent mountains around Ben Nevis. Then along Loch Ness, so much more commercial than when we were last here. Can’t believe the monster is still doing such a roaring trade. And into Inverness, another revitalized city with attractive walkways along the river.
This is as far north as we came on our last visit. People are telling us how wild and isolated it is further into the highlands. We can’t wait.



About grahamandjo

Graham (aka husband aka Harry to some) and Jo are fulfilling a long-held dream to revisit Europe; retrace some old paths from our mid-20s youth and forge some new ones. And nothing, not a daughter's pregnancy or mass redundancies at work, will stop us having the most awesome time. Friends, family and anyone else who's interested are welcome to drop by. Our trip is for 4 months; can't promise I'll maintain the blog that long. Photos can be found on Facebook if you know us there.
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