Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Highlands

Ms THC and I spent some time in the Scottish Highlands in July 1978.  We'd rented a car in central London.  This was a mistake as driving on the wrong side of the road out of London as your first experience in England is not a good idea.  We made it without mishap, though the roundabouts were a real challenge as getting through them challenged my every natural driving instinct.  After stops in England, we ended up in Edinburgh, camping in its outskirts.  I remember encountering a waitress in a restaurant downtown and not being able to understand a word she said.  She was speaking English with a Scottish accent.

From there we headed first north, into the Highlands and Inverness and then west to the wild Atlantic Coast of the highlands.  Once we got to the coast the main roads were only one lane wide, with turnouts every half mile so that cars could pass each other, in the rare instance you encountered someone driving in the opposite direction.   We ended up that day in Gairloch, where we took a little side road (B8021) along the coast.  Finding a cottage/farmhouse near Carn Dearg we knocked on the door and asked if we could camp in their yard (a really big yard).  The occupants said it was fine with them so we set our tent with spectacular views south over the ocean to the Isle of Skye.  This video is of an area within a few hundred yards of which we camped (we were on the other side of the road close to the water).

It was a beautiful sunny late afternoon.  That time of the year, dawn is at 3am, and we awoke in a blanket of fog which began to break up 4 or 5 hours later.

Highlands. from Joren de Jager on Vimeo.

The next day we headed south on the A832 taking us a bit inland.  This part of Scotland is like "Wyoming by the sea".  Treeless, small mountains and tablelands, occasional glens and all with the ocean nearby.  We stopped at a large tract of parkland, and while Ms THC read her book near our car, I hiked into a valley.  Unfortunately while jumping from rock to rock, I fell and badly twisted my ankle (and thought I might have broken it).  It being the Highlands, no one was around, and Ms was out of shouting distance.  I crawled for the next two hours until I finally got the attention of Ms.

I needed some medical attention but a further complicating factor was I'd done all the driving so far but obviously could do no more.  So Ms THC took over driving a stick shift on the wrong side of the road.  We eventually found a doctor, practicing out of a trailer by the side of the highway.  He bandaged me up, informed us that he did not think I'd broken my ankle but advised going to the hospital on Skye for an x-ray.  By that time it was pretty late and we weren't getting to Skye that day.

Instead, Ms had the challenge of driving us over the highest paved road in the United Kingdom, through a pass with cliffs on one side and a sheer drop on the other, to the little town of Applecross where we camped by the sea that night.

The next day, we put our car on the ferry to Skye, made it to the hospital, which confirmed there was no break, and decided to splurge and stay at a Bed & Breakfast in Portree, the main town on the island.

I walked with a cane for the next 2-3 weeks but we both fondly remember our time in the Highlands.  It'd be nice to visit again.  We do hope the food will be better; it was terrible in '78, unless you liked oat cakes.

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