Scotland's a lovely country. But mainly when it isn't raining. As an intrepid group of Moravians from the Uherske Hradiste region found out when they boarded our minibus at a sunny Stansted Airport last week for the long trek Northwards which seemed to have grey clouds attached to it like barrage of party balloons from which there was no escape.
But that's Britain...more often than not...and they weren't going to let it ruin their holiday....and in response the sun eventually did come out anyway.
Well, it's a long way from Stansted to Scotland, but a drive up the Great North Road allowed us to have an overnight stop at the ancient capital of North Britain (thats York). Always a great place to spend some time with it's intact medeaval walls, Viking aspects, Roman cellars and a bloody big Minster. Plus the cheapest diesel enroute at £1.31...
|a rainy York Minster|
But we didn't stay there long and struck out towards the North East, passing by Newcastle and across the rolling hills of Northumbria past Otterburn camp and up into the Cheviots where the Scottish border (and most subsequent tourist attractions) greeted us with a piper in a kilt and a suitcase full of his CD's. Although for much of the day he seemed to be sitting in his car waiting for enough border crossing tourists to turn up to make it worthwhile getting his knees out and making a parping noise.
lovely car park
Dropping down into lowland Scotland task one was avoiding the bloody Olympic torch which seemed to be passing near almost every village on our route. So we stopped in Jedburgh for a bit. Now that's quite a nice place. Lovely car park with a view of the riverside abbey there and a sign saying 'free wifi'...so i got a coffee in the cafe only to be told 'noo, the wifi's just in the car park.' So there's a tip.
Edinburgh is well worth a night out. So we didn't do that. We had a quick late afternoon visit and then pressed on to Stirling. Which is a miniature version but with 2 famous battlefields to view from it;s splendid hilltop castle (that's Stirling Bridge 1297 and Bannockburn 1314) ( 2.Nil to the Scots...). And Stirling's a good place to start your journey into the Highlands from.
North of Stirling we passed by Perth and stopped at Pitlochry-gateway to the Highlands- where they have a fish ladder and a distillery. Blair Atholl. Bells basically. So the Czechs opted to have a break from the drizzle and go for a whisky tour...much of which turned out to be outdoor...never mind.
on the positive side
On the positive side, our next stop was the battlefield of Culloden-where the conditions were just right to recreate the mood of that miserable day in April 1746 when Bonnie Prince Charlie left the Highlanders to their fate and Jacobite hopes thereafter resided in the gin bars of Paris and Rome.
|things are looking up|
Things brightened up on reaching Inverness when former Czech Society Chairperson Marilyn Wallace-who has now become Scottish, turned up and cooked a meal for everybody using solely Scottish ingredients - much of which seemed to be oats,cream and whisky...plus some haggis, raspberries, salmon , a few more oats, and a whisky sauce. In cream. This was what they needed!! And even better, Marilyn knew a pub where a ceilidh was going on...well, they say a ceilidh..they basically meant a rock band with a piper on an Inverness friday night...but the Czechs loved it and danced their legs off. Meanwhile in the pub next door England were beating Sweden 3.2 but you'd have thought they were playing Scotland given the raucous cheers everytime the Swedes scored...
Loch Ness is a big lake with a monster in it. Which is lucky as all the shops nearby are full of toy monsters!! We didn't see it mind, although there's no guarantee it wasn't hiding on one of the shelves waiting for the right moment to bite someone's face off.
|no shortage of monsters....|
So we took the 'road to the isles'....thats where you turn off from Loch Monster and follow the only road to Skye. Which leads you right to the Eilean Doonan castle situated on a spectacular sea loch and then over the humpbacked Skye bridge to Skye. The actual 'sky' remained a drizzly grey .
In search of even worse weather the group decided to climb Ben Nevis. Which they did. Right on top was snow. So that was cold. However, they all made it and even came back down again.
As we headed to Glencoe the bloody sun came bloody out!! Which actually meant the next few days were great..so the Czechs took full advantage of the weatherly upturn and went on numerous walks around the Glen, across Rannoch Moor, into the forests of the Bridge of Orchy and around Loch Lomond.
The next day was sunny too...what better time to go shopping in Glasgow....I parked the bus in the Gorbals hoping to be murdered, but no such luck.
Down to the borders again we had a sunny break at Gretna Green. No one would marry me..although there was a very friendly look from a 'heeland coo' -which i resisted.
wheelclamped in Haworth
And then it was back to England-so I thought i'd take them to Yorkshire. God's own chosen county....or so I thought until I reached the Bronte town of Haworth..little did I know that the local wheelclamper was the worlds biggest bastard and had appeared on numerous TV shows to prove it. £90 to have a wheel clamp removed is a serious deterent to ever wanting to visit the town again - and even though every shopkeeper there will tell you how unpleasant the clamper is.."He once booked Betty Boothroyd tha knows!" , "There were a 1940s vintage car rally here and he booked 80 of 'em", "It's a racket tha knows". So if anyone reading this learns anything it's not actually 'don't go to Haworth' it's -if you do DON'T park in the convenient top of the hill Changegate' private car park where you're very very likely to get ripped off by a smug git, it's park in the free car park at the bottom of the hill or in the 2 hour on road spaces. And if you don't believe me check out the Haworth Wheel Clamper sites on the web.