So, we arrived in Scotland refreshed after an overnight trip from London on the Caledonian Sleeper and were met, as promised, by the lady from the rental car place. This was our first visit to the "true highlands" and what better way than to drive slap bang right through the middle up past Loch Ness to the Highland's capital, Inverness. This area had also featured in one of the canal journeys in a series on TV with Timothy West and Prunella Scales. It is a pleasant drive with plenty of great scenery along he way.
Urquart Castle on the shore of Loch Ness
No monsters were encountered along the way unless one counts roadworks and slow drivers.
What we had failed to realise was the fact that this was mid term break for the schools and this increased the road hazards tenfold but it also reduced the available accommodation to almost zero, nothing was showing up on "Bookings.com". Fortunately we encountered an hotel without a "No Vacancies" sign as we drove along and so we were soon sitting in the bar enjoying a pre-dinner drink. The following morning we headed down the coast where it was our intention of catching the ferry across to Mull, but "oh noo ye canna doo that we are fully booked for the weekend, sorry". Never mind the west coast of Scotland offers plenty of other sights for us tourists so off we went in search of them. Well we had a brilliant time and didn't regret a moment of it.
I just couldn't resist these reflections
An Ex Scotland Yard Flying Squad car. It's roof was made six inches higher to accommodate the policemen's helmets...It's a Lagonda.
The highlight, though was the drive to Mallaig and our driver's guide to scenic Scotland encouraged us to take the coastal road, which has been superseded by one of those flash new ones with the help of some EU money (I wonder what's going to happen after Brexit, if you listen to the Brits it is them who are paying for other EU roads and don't seem to realise that the reverse is also true.) We were heading north to Fort William and there was a sign showing the way to a ferry and Tom Tom seemed to encourage us to take it so we paid the few pounds ticket price and enjoyed the ten minute ride. Turn right for Mallaig the sign proclaimed, so why was everyone else turning left? Turn right we did however and enjoyed 40 miles of some of the best scenery so far, albeit from a narrow mainly one way road, at breakneck speeds sometimes getting over 30 mph. We met but two other cars along the way, it was marvelous. At the end of the sea loch we crossed a small isthmus back onto the mainland and soon were directed to the famed coastal route that we thought that we had just completed. Oh well never mind.
We were not disappointed with what thew alternative had forced upon us. Mallaig, also, is a great little town but completely devoid of parking spaces for the casual traveler in need of a coffee or cup of tea.
Ma sheep (or is it Pa) keeping
an eye on us.
When we did stop for a cuppa on the way back, at a wee station and we were in time to see the steam excursion coming through.
Quaint wee station.
We were due in London around mid day the next day, but no worries the Caledonian sleeper seemed a particularly reliable, if a wee bit dated, train and was due in around 7 am so gives plenty of time to get from Euston to Paddington by cab and then the Heathrow express for terminal 3 and a leisurely book in with BA for a flight to Warsaw. Sure enough bang on at 18:50 we glided away from the platform and settled back for a quiet night. At 18:50.5 however we came to a graceful stop. 18:52 we were of again. 18:52.5 we stopped again. This went on a couple of more times until there was no more "we were off agains" and we sat there and sat there. We could feel the leeway that we had for our flight t Warsaw evaporating before our very eyes.
Eventually the guard knocks on our cabin door. "The locomotive is faulty and they are sending another""...about another hour " he added in response to out obvious question. He was a little out in this as we were away again within 15 minutes, " That'll be ok, only 1.5 hours late should make it to the plane on time if there are no more hold ups." Of course when a train is running late it misses its allocated slots fro signals etc. and has to take it's turn so this makes for a slower trip.
The Guard turns up again, this time with a form for us to fill in. It seems that if your train is more than one hour late then you gets your money back....in full! Now all we had to do was to get to London in time to catch the train and it could be regarded as a good night's work. We did and so it was. By evening we were in Warsaw with a new group of traveling companions and a new set of expectations for what was ahead, but that's another story.
All the best and take care