Temperature gauge struggled to get past 20 degrees, but this was no obstacle to a great time
01.08.2013 - 13.08.2013 18 °C
After spending a busy week in London, catching up with Wills, Kate, and baby George, we then sought refuge in nearby Newbury with Lisa's friend Michelle. A few quiet days were spent reviving tired legs and wallets, and we were ready for our foray north.
We spread the trip up from the south of England over 2 days, so we were feeling fairly fresh as we crossed the impressive Forth Road Bridge, and turned right for the fishing villages of East Neuk. I'd memorised the B&B we were staying at in Lower Lago, but hadn't bothered to write down the name and address.
As we cruised through this sleepy town, none of the names along the road were ringing any bells, so I turned around and tried again. Same result ... so plan B was to stop at the main hotel in town, and ask to use their wi-fi. No dice - they were too busy! Frustration was building now (not to mention some increasingly fidgety children), so I drove to the villages on either side ... still no joy. Finally I stopped at a little B&B and asked the very nice lady (Evelyn) if I could use her wi-fi, explaining my predicament. Just as I called up the reservation email, she said "you're not the family of 4 coming tonight are you? I would have said something earlier, but you don't sound Italian!" Another one for the travel memoirs ...
Anyway, the main purpose of our brief stop here was to show Lisa and the girls St Andrews, which happily enough was hosting the Women's
British Open that week. Gabi and Nat were underwhelmed at the chance to watch the best players in the world on the world's most famous course - the highlight was getting a golf ball each from the nice South African pro Ashleigh Simon - whilst Lisa enjoyed herself, and thought it was a much better spectacle in the flesh than on TV. I returned again on the last day of the tournament by myself, and witnessed an exciting finale with Na Yeon Choi coughing up a three shot lead, and allowing the charging Stacey Lewis to claim the prize [photos posted shortly].
Following on from Fife, we spent a week on the north coast of Aberdeenshire near the charming town of Banff. This was a chance to explore the nearby fishing villages in an unhurried fashion, which included Cullen (home of the famous Cullen Skink - a haddock based soup); Pennan (location for the filming of Local Hero); and Crovie (pronounced 'Crivie', and Europe's best preserved fishing village). Many of the villages along this coastline are absolutely gorgeous, and one suspects it is only their remoteness and less-than-warm climate which keeps them under the tourist radar.
Aberdeenshire is also the home to many of Scotland's famous distilleries, so we squeezed in a trip to Glenfiddich along the way, which was surprisingly interesting and good fun.
The largest national park in Britain, the Cairngorms didn't disappoint despite the drizzly weather throughout the day. Our main mission was to visit the Cairngorm Reindeer Herd (reintroduced to Scotland in 1952), but we also enjoyed canoeing on Loch Insh, and a drive up to the funicular base station of Cairn Gorm (the mountain). The station is at 635 metres, and the peak - the 6th highest in the UK - is 1245 metres and provides reasonable skiing in winter.
Isle Of Mull
A visit to Scotland wouldn't be complete without seeing one of the famous islands, so after some careful consideration we opted for Mull. Like most visitors, we caught a 50-minute ferry ride from the 'mainland' town of Oban, then continued on foot to our campground. Now, before anyone thinks that we actually got down & dirty with tents, campfires, and drop dunnies, please refer to the photos below! Glamping, as I think it is now referred to, would be a more accurate description, and these 'shielings' (originally a shepherd's summer dwelling high in the hills) provided all the creature comforts.
The weather in Mull was extraordinary to behold. Think of Melbourne in early Spring or Autumn, and multiply the effect tenfold. In a thirty minute period we would experience drizzle, then sunny calm, then the clouds would roll in with a breeze, and finally either solid rain or a sun shower. Sounds like a trial for the traveller, but watching it unfold inside our tent was actually quite enjoyable.
Gabi and Nat loved our campground, as it was car free, and had plenty of other Scottish and English kids to play with, along with a playground and a communal campfire (monopolised by the young French group of around twenty uni students ... how did they find cold, bleak Mull I wonder??). We made the short trip to Duart Castle - home of Clan Maclean - and also caught the local bus around to picturesque Tobermory where we lunched on some fine fish & chips.
After three nights on Mull our Scottish trip came to an end, so to finish with a flourish we drove back through the magnificent Glen Coe region (see photo at the start of the blog) on our way to the Lake District in Cumbria, England.