Scotland: Highlands and Edinburgh

This is how I’ll do it:

  • Us in Scotland, plus random trip fragments
  • How good it is, nonetheless, to be home


Was fabulous.

Jed was designated driver (well, more like only licensed driver), and went through periodic hell for our sakes on narrow single-laned roads (and one single-laned tunnel) with only the occasional lay-by and Jed on the edge of his seat muttering “The Scots are crazy” through gritted teeth to save us from collisions with oncoming traffic.

Luke was surprisingly successful navigator, champion of cheesy music (we burned some CDs to play. Some of Luke’s choices: Another Night, Eternal Love, When You Say Nothing At All. The pain, the pain.) on the car stereo, and incorrigible explorer of all things forested or clamberable.

I, er, researched stuff and snoozed in the back seat when I felt like it. And will fully acknowledge here and now that the collective efforts of Jed and Luke played a far more significant role in the success of our trip than my guidebook-thumbings did. Thanks, guys. :)

Day One: Started out from Durham, elevenish. Drove through Newcastle, shivered in fog at the border, couldn’t resist stopping for lunch and inane kicks in Jedburgh, which included places called Jedwater, Jedforest and Bonjedward, drove through Edinburgh and Stirling and spent the night on the…<resist…using…”bonnie bonnie banks”…Resist…Resist… >…shores of Loch Lomond. Had a humble and bloody awful dinner of miscellaneous Heinz canned concoctions, although Luke’s surreptitious inclusion of grapes in the chicken soup arguably provided a gourmet touch.

Day Two: Loved Glencoe. Hated Fort William. Got very stressed driving through Kyle of Lochalsh and Stomeferry, due to the earlier described road conditions; creep up to Jed and whisper “Passing Places” in his ear, and you might well meet a violent death. Photographed Eileen Donan Castle. Between here and Inverness I was asleep, but, er, I’m sure it was great.

Day Three: Lots of little stops to see Cullendon (I liked it. Newcastle John’s opinion, bestowed yesterday over the phone: “Michelle. It’s a field.”), Clava Cairns, the Bridge of Doulsie (where I fondled my first nettle while trying not to fall down a slope), Carrbridge, Glen More, Loch an Eileen and Dunkeld before reaching Edinburgh, where we said goodbye to Jed, who had to head back to Durham.

Day Four: I’m tired just thinking about it. Climbed Calton Hill. Little shopping stops along Princes Street on the way to lunch, which was Thai and excellent on Dalry Road. Walked the Royal Mile, popping in to St Giles’ Cathedral. And finally, the unleashing of Luke on the Salisbury Crags. I was perfectly happy with the idea of climbing, oh, a couple million metres, to Arthur’s Seat. I was less happy with struggling along the bloody Attempt Only With Sherpa route behind a gambolling Luke, along which my apparent fetish for thorny hillside plants was confirmed by my second nettle grope. Despite this, the view from the top definitely was worth the climb, and my fears about ending up as a pile of human haggis at the foot of the hills proved unfounded.

Random trip fragments:

Along the way, Luke managed to:

  • topple a stack of Kaifeng’s video tapes (Cambridge)
  • break the glass in Terence’s beloved sheep photo frame (Nottingham)
  • break Jed’s cassette tape cover (somewhere in Scotland)
  • get chocolate ice cream on the sheets and in the bedside table drawer in our B & B (Inverness)
  • break an L-torch while demonstrating how (not) to use it (a shop in Edinburgh)

Memorable exclamations:

  • Wunderbar! (Luke, uttered frequently)
  • LUKE TAY!!! (An exasperated Jed, also uttered frequently)
  • You are obviously drawn to mediocrity. (Me, on Luke’s taste in music. Also uttered frequently, usually in abject aural misery.)
  • Oooooookaaaae (Luke, attempting to sound Scottish)
  • This would all look so much better if not for the CHEE-BAI sky! (Jed, when the weather wasn’t great. I should explain for those unfamiliar with the Chinese dialect of Hokkien, that the above adjective refers to female genitalia, and is generally used as a swear word rather than an attempt at description or simile.)
  • Do you really have to wear that garish jacket? (Me, on Luke’s jacket, which is white with bits of red and black, and I think it’s awful)

Home at last:

We got back to London early Sunday morning, after a rather unpleasant 9 hour coach trip. I’d intended to have a relaxing and solitary Sunday: unpack, have breakfast, get some of the sleep that eluded me on the bus, and then go for evening mass, which always tends to be more peaceful than morning mass. Food would hopefully be avoided, after far too many Scottish meals involving chips with everything.

I certainly hadn’t planned on going a bit mad with the rest of the hall choir singing I Will Follow Him (complete with “I love him! I love him! I love him! And where he goes I’ll follow! I’ll follow! I’ll follow!”) after morning mass, playing football in Regent’s Park (I now sport a massive bruise on my shin, thanks to Father John’s knee), cooking dinner for some hallmates (tricolore fusilli with chicken, bacon, capsicum, onions, and sweetcorn, in sun dried tomato and herb sauce. Canned peaches and pears for dessert. Father John drank all the syrup.), joining the usual TV room rabble for Have I Got News For You and People Like Us, having a characteristically whimsical phone conversation with Newcastle John, finally deciding to go to bed, wandering downstairs to have some peppermint tea, finding Interview With The Vampire on in the TV room, and enthusing about Sympathy For The Devil and then the beauty of Axl Rose with Noelia and Emma.

I got to bed some time around two. I had other plans for the day, but my hall got in the way.