31.05.2016 - 04.06.2016
Tuesday morning was tinged with sadness, because we woke up in a Lois-and-Tony-less caravan park. It was also considerably less full than it had been over the weekend, and a new mob of non-folkie related travellers began to arrive.
We spent the day at non-Historic Scotland venues (gasp! shock! horror!) and also avoided Kirkwall on account of the commemoration of the Battle of Jutland which involved road closures and David Cameron (and some royals, too, if you believed the rumours). We drove across the causeways built by Italian prisoners of war in WW2 and got to the Italian Chapel - made for the prison camp out of two Nissen huts, but painted and decorated to give the feel of your more traditional tiled and pillared church.
We stopped for lunch at a scenic lookout (baked beans always taste better with a view) and then continued to the Tomb of the Eagles, where you could actually handle Neolithic artefacts (because they were privately owned and apparently that makes it okay). It was a cool (as in temperature, not street cred) walk along the coast to get to the actual tomb and then it was a simple matter of sliding in on a trolley. Easy! The tomb itself was ruined slightly by the presence of fake skulls, and any rune-like scratchings on the walls seemed to be the work of hoodlums rather than Vikings, but still, it was an interesting day out.
For our final morning in Stromness we were given a gloriously drab grey sky, which made leaving only somewhat bearable. We packed up Bruce, bid the manager Stewballs a mental farewell, and checked in to the ferry queue with time for one last coffee (chai latte for me, of course) from Julia's. There were plenty of BBC types on board, and discussion around how smashingly the ceremony had gone the day before. Soon enough we were back on The Mainland, and soon after that we found ourselves shopping in Lidl and then having lunch in the Lidl carpark. Peanut butter sandwich AND a cup of soup - living the dream. We meandered down south and watched the temperature double, accompanied by the sound of all our newly acquired CDs. We couldn't find a butcher that was open on a Wednesday afternoon, but we did find a lady who gave us her £1 discount voucher at The Co-op. Win.
Eventually we arrived at Faskally Caravan Park in Pitlochry - somehow John and Elaine managed to spot us coming almost literally a mile off! Bruce and Holi got to know each other and the rest of us got down to the serious business of enjoying a few beverages in the sun while comparing campervans. Tough gig.
The next morning was absolutely braw - so much sunshine that we had to apply sunscreen and Simon even wore shorts! We went for a walk by the river in the general direction of Killiecrankie (oh) before resuming our places by Holi and Bruce. Hazel and Jim arrived with Bella, so there was more comparing of campervans and swapping of holiday stories over lunch of oatcakes and cheese.
We spent the afternoon at Edradour (rhymes with flower) Distillery, and Roy the charismatic man in the kilt took us for a tour of Scotland's smallest traditional farm style distillery. As the tour started, a woman tapped me on the shoulder and said "do you remember?", at which point I had to concede that I didn't. "You are Australian?" And then it fell into place - the Swiss couple that we had met in pretty much every pub in Orkney! Seemed fitting to run into them in a distillery, really...
Jim and Hazel headed home after the tour, and we went home via the butcher to buy 'nice sausages' (thankfully he was all out of shite sausages). Gus and Vikki arrived bearing vegetables and kebabs and salsa, so we got on with preparing a multi-course meal cooked in Holi and a couple of instant barbecues. I'd never encountered the instant barbecue phenomenon before, but I am pleased to report that the food tasted just as good as if it had been cooked on a large, unwieldy and difficult to clean barbecue. After our hearty dinner, Gus and Vikki headed back to Dundee and the rest of us enjoyed a wee dram of Edradour's cream liqueur before bed.
Friday was sunny AGAIN - anyone would think it was summer. Elaine and John treated us to a second consecutive cooked breakfast (square sausage and egg rolls), and then it was time to go our separate ways. Our way took us to Lochleven Castle, which involved a ten minute boat trip to the island. To give you an idea of the stress levels associated with this journey, the skipper was steering with his foot on the wheel. Lochleven is famous for being the place where Mary Queen of Scots was forced to abdicate on account of her Catholicism. On this particular day, it was the place with stunning views across the largest lowland loch in Scotland, so we had a much more pleasant experience than Mary.
After this adventure we set about finding somewhere to stay for our final night with Bruce. We needed to return him early, so picked the closest site we could find to his home. Unfortunately this turned out to be the least appealing site - we entered past a factory guarded with extreme barbed wire, which should have been an omen. Once inside the Holiday Park (their capitals, not mine) it became apparent that the high ratio of static caravans to mobile campervans attracts a certain sort of clientele. Land of the Jezzas. Boganville. Leopard print shorts with knee high ugboots - you know the type. Meanwhile the Park itself was almost like being on some terrible tacky cruise ship with Fun Passes and Discount Meals and Amazing Memories and other such capitalised and unneccessarily cheerful atrocities. Give me the simplicity of Stromness any day! Despite our less than ideal surroundings, we enjoyed our last supper with Bruce - especially the choc chip icecream and cream liqueur dessert, a most suitably indulgent way to mark the final night of our career as campervanners.
Today gave us the opportunity to explore many modes of transport. Firstly, we drove Bruce back to his home, where the remains of our lettuce was to be donated to Jackson the guinea pig. Secondly, we caught the train from Glengarnock to Glasgow. Thirdly, we caught the train from Glasgow to Edinburgh. Fourthly, we ran from one platform to another at Edinburgh, before being helped onto the train and then congratulated for making it over the loudspeaker. Hooray for friendly train staff! Fifthly (is that even a word?) we caught the bus from Newcastle to the ferry terminal where the signs told us we weren't allowed to ride the conveyor belt, which made us assume it had been attempted before. Sixthly and finally, we caught the ferry! And now we are settled in for a night of gentle rockin' and rollin' before we arrive in Amsterdam tomorrow.