In order to escape the heat and madness of the Med during July and August, our plan was to head to Scotland for a three week road trip around the country. On route we thought it would be nice to visit Per and Cherri in their new home outside of Nice in France, then to see Graham and Beatrix at their home on the Isle of Man.
Consistent with the rest of the summer, as we tried to board our flight from Athens to Nice, we were informed that France would not accept Dan’s temporary passport…scratch that visit and head to Barcelona. We stayed for a few days there and had dinner with the Barcelona Boys who will be returning again for New Years.
Isle of Man is a self-governing British Crown Dependency in the Irish Sea. In the winter it gets 50 hours of sunshine per MONTH, but it’s a great tax haven. It is about one quarter the size of Rhode Island. The Boltons have a lovely home there with a wonderful group of friends. We were fortunate enough to be included in one of their dinner parties and spent our days touring the island.
Starting in Edinburgh we walked the city from end to end and found a wonderful bar on Rose Street. The Queens Gallery, Holyrood Palace, the Museum of Edinburgh, St Giles, the National Museum with it’s wonderful ‘Little Black Dress’ exhibit, and finally Royal Yacht Britannia. It was then on to some castles, Down and Sterling, and The National Wallace Monument.
Headed north, we stopped at St Andrews for lunch on the golf course and on to Dundee, this is clearly golf country. There is a new Victoria and Albert branch museum in Dundee featuring a great exhibit on Tartan. More Castles and fishing ports as we continued up to Aberdeen. The towns up here are really hurting with dismal main streets, then one finds a place like Pennan that had once been a wealthy resort. Crathes Castle was a real standout with magnificent wood works and hand lettered beams. We are now in distillery country. And of course Loch Ness, pretty boring lake.
At Inverness we discovered that there is a lake and canal system, the Caledonian Canal, that cuts across Scotland, this was the northern end. Getting a little tired of fish and chips and mushy peas…also the needs and tattoos. We did love the ‘non residents welcome’, the ‘haste ye back’ and the ‘we beasties’. Amazingly we did not encounter the midges. Dan got very good at the single lane roads with their ‘maybes’. We will not miss the ‘cattery’, yes that’s for cats, and the ‘holiday parks’, yes that for parking RV’s. Did I mention sheep?
Headed further north on the single lane roads we decided to pass on the Orkney Islands and instead headed over to Tonge where we spent a couple of days exploring the countryside and found the amazing Durness Beach…very Caribbean with cold water. Moving down the south west coast we stumbled across the Russian Arctic Convoy Museum. Another part of WWII we knew nothing about. In Kodiak we learned about the war in the Aleutians, in Narvik we learned about the was on the northern front. There were 78 convoys with a total of over 1,200 merchant ships taking supplies to Russia. The assembly point for these convoys was Loch Ewe in Scotland, a very large and easily protected bay.
We kept seeing lobster traps, fishing boats and transport trucks, but no lobsters…everything is exported. We saw lots of fish farms, but no salmon on the menus. Our favorite garden is Achnasheen in Poolewe, it was built in a microclimate with all imported soil. More castles, beautiful moors and wonderful bays all along the coast. We decided to pass on Isle of Skye due to the crowds and instead went to Isle of Mull and on to Iona Island, not much to see here but interesting ferry rides.
On our way to the next stop, now headed east we stopped at Inverary Castle, one of the gems in Scotland. It was then on to Glascow, a city Dan visited 25 years ago and had no interest in returning. After encouragement from Marcia, we found a rejuvenated Glascow. The city Chambers, the Cathedral, the museums and the Art School along with fine restaurants and shopping. A special treat was the Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre.
This was certainly an escape from the heat of the Med, our high was 75 degrees and a low of 45. We covered the north pretty well enjoying hills and vales, sheep and the Scottish people.