We picked up the car at the airport in Glasgow, Scotland, and immediately took stock of the fact that my driver’s seat was on the right side of the car. We somehow folded ourselves into our tiny 1 liter engine’d car, and my left hand shifted us out onto the wrong side of the road, for that is what it was. Even after 3 days of driving, every time a car would come around a corner towards me, I would have that split second thought that “oh, no, that car is on my side, it’s going to hit me, … crap!”, and a rush of adrenaline would shoot through me. Needless to say, after 850 miles of driving in 3 days, I felt like a limp rag. And since gas cost $6.50 a gallon, it was lucky that we got 37 mpg in our little car!
It rained in heavy spurts our entire first full day in Scotland…..not really a surprise, is it?. We dug out the raingear, and I attempted to make the drive up north to where we knew the famous highlands of Scotland were awaiting. Getting there though, took some major driving concentration. But the rain stopped precipitously just as we made it up to the famous Loch Ness, and we spent a minute looking for the monster. No luck there, probably because we had a camera with us. But the Loch Ness, and indeed all of the Lochs that we visited, were beautiful, even in the rain. We continued on up to Inverness, and visited Culloden Battlefield (the site of the last Scottish uprising against the English in 1745), and also the Clava Cairns. The stone circles, there were three of them at this site, were much smaller than Stonehenge, obviously, but fascinating, and very old, 3000 years old.
When it started raining again, we hightailed it to the rugged western coast of Scotland, driving through even heavier rain and country that looked much like Arctic tundra…until we would come across small patches of green thick forest just a mile later. Of course there were animals typical for the area to be seen also, like Scottish deer, a million grazing sheep, and some very wooly Highland cows. And in one lush damp forest, we found another unexpected surprise….half a dozen redwood trees.
We found a campground on a cliff overlooking the ocean as the sun was setting at 11 p.m. (it doesn’t really get dark very long that far north, this time of year anyway), and waited patiently in our car to set up our tent until the driving rain let up a little, which it did. Then much to our liking, the sun was out in the morning (sunrise at 4:20am) and the rain was gone. Perfect timing for our drive on one of the 10 most scenic roads in Europe, and this one turned out to have great views of the Islands off the coast. I looked at them when I wasn’t focused on driving the twisting one lane road, trying not to hit cows and sheep, and pulling over whenever another car came along.
Our goal for the day was to visit one of those Islands, the Isle of Skye. In the sunshine, it turned out to be absolutely beautiful, with very green barren mountains and boggy lowlands, and very few people. We took a hike around one of the mountains, and even though it had just rained the day before, we could sit in the soft peat grass and listen to sheep “baa” and watch lambs play, and the ground was perfectly dry.
We slept on Skye for the night, at the farmhouse of a very hospitable older couple that had a little pad of grass right there in their yard for camping. We petted the family dog, watched twin lambs chase bunny rabbits in the backyard, and then fell asleep before the sun even came close to setting beyond the small Loch down in the valley below us.
We were awakened the next morning by a bunch of roaming chickens that circled our tent, one being a rooster, that seemingly crowed extremely loud at such close proximity. But, our last day was luckily also beautiful, sunny, and even warmer than the last. We dodged a million more sheep on our way off the Island, and were offered beautiful vistas of the mountains on both the mainland and the other distant Islands, rare treat we were told for Scotland. We also saw a huge castle on a Loch, and a real live Bag-piping Scot playing along the side of the road!
And of course, every time we stopped anywhere, we soaked up the sounds of the great accents of the people there, the Highland brogue that rolls off the tongue. Much more understandable than German, was that type of English, but some of the radio stations we tuned into were speaking Gaelic, which we couldn’t understand in the least. All in all, our journey was a fascinating whirlwind trip deep into the awesome forever desolation of a place that sits on the edge of the world.