21.05.2016 - 25.05.2016
Saturday brought sunshine in Glasgow - again! We definitely found it easier to appreciate the city in these pleasant weather conditions, compared to previous visits when the weather had been a little more... inclement. The morning's mission was a museum of the free variety - the Riverside Museum, aka the Scottish Transport Museum. It was better than expected, and I found it to be excellent value for (no) money.
We then engaged in some self-transportation of the two-legged variety, which got us to the Station of Transportation by Train. We missed the 1348 train by a matter of seconds, but at 1404 we were being efficiently transported to Glengarnock. And there, ladies and gentleman, was Bruce. Bruce! Bruce was truly a sight to behold, in his garish red tartan, but he was to be our Abode and Primary Form of Transport for the next two weeks, for Bruce was the name of our very own tartan campervan. Andy introduced us to Bruce, and showed us all the tricks and hidey holes, and I couldn't help noticing that Andy's voice was much higher than you would expect from a person of his age and gender. And I couldn't help noticing that when he laughed, he was able to achieve a more socially appropriate pitch which made me think there may not have been an organic cause for his voice disorder and that made me think that even though I was not working I was still a speech pathologist. But I digress...
We set off with Bruce through beautiful countryside and intermittent buckets of rain, and made our way to the outskirts of Edinburgh. We had been recommended a caravan and camping park (Morton Hall) and when we pulled into the vast green landscape, it seemed a very good recommendation indeed. We set Bruce up in his little corner by the playground, and set ourselves up with tinned soup and break for dinner. Oh the thriftiness of it all! We rewarded ourselves after that with a pint at the on-site pub (glamping the way I like it) and settled into our booth with the old faithful deck of cards. Simon had a stellar game, and took the total score to 5-1. I had a tasty beer though, so we were both winners. Then it was off to bed with Bruce. What fun!
We survived Night 1 in the campervan, and had a celebratory breakfast of cereal to mark the occasion. Bus 11 took us into Edinburgh in the sun, and then we discovered that a) it was hailing and b) Simon had lost his bus ticket. Fortunately, there was a bus supervisor sheltering from the hail at our bus stop, and he called the bus driver who found Simon's ticket and agreed to meet us back on Lothian Road in 45 minutes, when the bus returned on its loop. Lucky Simon! We walked to where we thought a market was supposed to be, only to discover that it wasn't. Disappointing as that was, it filled in the time and soon enough Simon was reunited with his daily bus pass. Huzzah!
In this time, the sunshine had returned, and we set off for Edinburgh castle. At which point, it started raining again. Gah. Upon arrival at the castle, the sunshine resumed and we were able to explore the castle in rather pleasant weather indeed.
While the views, the whisky tasting, the guided tour and the changing of the guards were all rather good, it was the other tourists that were the real highlight. I could've spent hours watching people in large groups trying to jump at the same time, and we thoroughly enjoyed re-enacting the 'point at the clock' photos.
After the castle, we thought we'd head to the ocean but apparently the football trophy was being paraded by the ocean in front of bazillions of Hibernian fans so no buses were going there. Change of plans - and we found the elusive market instead! Had an amazing serve of paella, because why not?
We met up again with Tony & Lois and gave them the Buccheri guided tour of Edinburgh, which took us to the Rabbie Burns Whisky Inn, a fitting location for people absent from Camperdown's Burns Festival. We jumped on a bus (because it was bucketing down again) and received some words of warning from our new friend (a Rangers supporter) against entering any pubs tonight, especially on Duke Street, on account of the Hiberian supporters who were celebrating a little too hard at this point. We heeded the advice and went straight past Duke Street to The Vaults - home of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. We pretended to know stuff about whisky thanks to Tony's membership and enjoyed some pretty darn good meals. Unfortunately the staff all disappeared at the end of the night and may or may not have been indulging in something more potent than whisky... Profuse sweating and the complete inability to process spoken language were not characteristics we had expected from staff of that prestigious establishment!
We walked away from Duke Street to catch our bus home, through a semi-official gate and along a building with sensor lights illuminating our every step. We felt quite sure the police would be after us on account of our gate opening but we made it to the bus stop without sirens blazing. The bus driver shut the door in my face and looked as if he was going to pretend we weren't there... but just as I was about to make a scene, he opened the door and begrudgingly let us on.
We sat right at the top at the front, because that's what tourists do. Our night tour of Edinburgh included the games 'which way are we about to turn?' and 'how close can we get to that cyclist without running them over?' Great entertainment, and we all made it home safe and sound (cyclist included).
On Monday, we took Bruce and Bruno on their first joint outing, to the Falkirk Wheel, which they enjoyed thoroughly. We also enjoyed watching the boats elevated and lowered between canals, and Simon and Tony found people to talk to (surprise, surprise). Picnic lunch was had in the carpark, and it was almost hot! Almost...
We carried on driving through the picturesque Cairngorms, stopping for supplies in Aviemore. Our destination was Bunchrew, a caravan park located just west of Inverness that had stunning views of the water and the city. We went for a pre-dinner stroll around what turned out to be a former POW camp, and then settled in for a scrummy meal of pork and black pudding sausages with couscous. The rest of the night was less enjoyable, as Simon and I had little sleep and several trips to use the camp bathrooms. Urgh.
Tuesday arrived with Simon and I still feeling quite sub-standard, so we had a very slow start to the day. Thankfully, Lois and Tony had no such problem and so were able to head off to the Glenmorangie distillery. Instead, we headed to the nearest servo and stocked up on Lucosade and Powerade (which was actually quite hard to find amongst all the Irn Bru). We slowly made our way north - very north - to John O'Groats, the northern most village on mainland UK. And although we both felt rubbish, the drive was incredibly beautiful and we managed to muster up the energy to Appreciate the Beauty and Excellence of the situation. If you have to feel unwell, at least you can do it in a pleasant location.
We caught the ferry from Scrabster to Stromness, with our two vans (Bruce and Bruno) the first to board, and the last to get off. It was a peaceful crossing, about which I have no complaints, and soon enough we were getting ourselves hooked up to power at the Ness campsite. Excellent views, right on the water - and I'm sure glad we weren't staying in a tent! Tony and Lois quickly made friends and discovered that onsite were a doctor, two vicars and an undertaker, so we were well prepared should our health deteriorate significantly...
After a good sleep we woke up today feeling much improved and ready to resume the rigours of touristing. We weaved our way through the narrow roads of Stromness and found decent coffee and soup, then saw the standing stones of Stenness. Once the wind had whipped its way through us, we went to Kirkwall and checked out St Magnus' cathedral with its weeping window of poppies. The Orkney Museum was across the road, and it was free, so in we went! After a quick look around there we headed to Highland Park distillery and joined a tour with Jack the English/Australian/Orcadian tour guide. We scored some new glassware to add to the collection and then returned home to relax and enjoy a steak and ale pie in good company. And also there is free wifi. Campervanning life is suiting us so far!