Matt and I recently went on holiday to Scotland.
On Saturday, we got up super early and were at Brixton for the first tube up to Euston. We’d booked first class for the journey up to Glasgow, as it was only £2 more each – well worth it, considering you get much more space, wifi, tea/coffee and snacks. We both did some sleeping, reading and knitting (okay, just me), and ate our breakfast panettone. Just after 11 we pulled into Glasgow Central, ready for our adventure.
We went to a nice quirky little cafe and the first soup of the holiday. Then we picked up our car and hit the road!
We’d planned to take the ferry from Oban over to Mull, but when I’d tried to book the ferry the day before I’d discovered it was fully booked! Instead we had to drive to Lochaline, about 100 miles further, and take the ferry from there. It was a long old drive and quite stressful as we had to be at Lochaline for 17.15, and had another ferry to catch before then. It was a relief to get a cup of tea at Lochaline and drink it in the queue, Mull finally in sight. From there it was still a long drive across Mull to Fionnphort, in the west, and I was exhausted.
In Fionnphort we had dinner at the pub before going to the campsite. The campsite was on a farm and next to the sea. We pitched in a little hollow (to the disappointment of the people camping about 25m away, who wanted the whole place to themselves) and settled in for the night.
The next morning was glorious. We thought we might get up early to take the boat to Staffa, but when my alarm went off early, I turned it off and went back to sleep. We finally emerged into beautiful sunshine – what a day!
At Fionnphort there were lots of tourists waiting to take the boat to Staffa, some of whom had arrived by coach. I was glad we were taking the less touristy ferry to Iona! I had a great vibe as soon as we stepped off the ferry – the sunshine helped and it was such a pretty place. We looked at the old nunnery, then wandered up the monastery and visited the oldest building still standing on Iona.
After some soup in the sunshine we set off on a walk across the island, ending up at a beach on the west of the island. With nothing but sea stretching off into the distance, we scanned the horizon for whales.
We ate at the pub in Fionnphort again, and I ran back to the campsite afterwards. It was a good run, despite a few drivers trying to push me off the road. Matt was waiting in the car when I got back, but I didn’t spot him and went directly to the tent, leaving us both wondering where the other was.
I also found it hilarious that the people in the tent near us who hadn’t wanted us to camp so close to them now had to deal with rap music from the tent on the other side. Ha.
We packed up and set off across Mull, stopping at Loch Frisa to look for sea eagles, as well as briefly stopping whenever a flock of sheep decided to wander in the road.
After Loch Frisa, it was a short drive to Tobermory, a ridiculously pretty little town (and setting for the kids TV show Balamory). We ate soup at a jetty side cafe and admired the brightly coloured houses.
We were staying in a B&B rather than camping, and were excited to sleep in a bed and have an ensuite shower! Matt was so excited that he had a two hour nap, while I went for a little run around the (extremely hilly) town. We went out for dinner at a restaurant by the distillery, and Matt ate a lot of mussels and sampled the local whisky.
We had a ferry to catch at 9.30, which felt like it would be a rush, but we managed to fit in a run (just me), showers, cooked breakfast and a trip to the Co-Op before boarding the ferry. I couldn’t get into the car once it was on board as it was surrounded by bikes, so I stood on the decking and pulled faces at Matt, who ate biscuits quite happily in the car.
Back on the mainland we got stuck behind some cyclists wobbling all over the road. They were really struggling not long after leaving the ferry. One guy was gunning it and we didn’t pass him for quite some time. I was extremely jealous of everyone cycling!!
We got stuck behind a few selfish drivers – the roads were single track with passing places and it’s safer to let faster cars past, rather than causing a snake of cars, as it’s impossible to use the passing places properly as too many cars try to fit in them at once. Some drivers did not get this, even when we started using indicators to try to force them to pull in.
At Mallaig we took the ferry over to Skye, a big ferry this time, where we had to leave the car and go up onto the deck. It smelled of old chips. We were tired by the time we got to Skye and I kept my eyes peeled for somewhere to get some soup and a cup of tea.
We stopped at a nice looking cafe but they’d sold out of soup, so we got back in the car. Immediately we saw another sign for a cafe, so pulled in there – and what a great decision. The Bread Shed is an offshoot of the Isle of Skye Baking Company, and we had delicious soup with two types of bread.
Refreshed, we drove to our campsite at Sligachan. The campsite was at the head of a loch, on what seemed to be a bog. We pitched our tent facing a mountain – a mountain I then found out people had run up and then down in under an hour.
The next day was rainy and grey, and we set off for the Fairy Pools. We needed a cup of tea first and saw a sign to the Wee Tea Room, so decided to follow it. We drove on and on. Just as we were about to turn back, there was another sign, so we carried on. And on. And as we were about to give up, there it was – and we had the best scones of our lives.
After popping into Carbost, we went to the Fairy Pools. It was chucking it down on the drive but luckily by the time we ventured out of the car it had cleared a little. The pools were busy but very pretty. No one was swimming.
That night, we settled into bed. At around 11.30, two cars arrived and a bunch of lads of got out and pitched up. They were incredibly loud, slamming the car doors repeatedly, shouting, having a barbeque inside one of the tents. At around 1 I got up to go to the loo and shone my torch directly at them, thinking they might realise how close they were to other tents, but they didn’t notice. I didn’t really want to go over as there were around 8 of them, all pretty drunk by now. They didn’t seem to have any spacial awareness – none of the group were trying to keep the noise down (as far as I could tell, as they weren’t speaking English). It went on until 3.30am when finally, FINALLY, they went to sleep. I was fuming.
The next morning I felt broken, I’d had so little sleep and I was so cross with those boys. I opened and slammed the car boot several times and loudly called them pricks, but they were snoring their heads off.
Matt and I set off for a walk, heading to Marsco, one of the mountains in the Red Cuillins. Matt had wanted to tackle one of the Black Cuillins but the weather looked too changeable for that. We walked down the Sligachan glen, and were shocked out of our skins when a fighter jet passed on our right, darting out from between the Black Cuillins range. Incredible sight.
We walked away from the glen and up towards Marsco, along a boggy path up the side of a burn. It wasn’t particularly enjoyable and I was so tired. Marsco never seemed to get any closer, and after a couple of hours I decided I didn’t want to go on any further. The summit was still some way away and our guide book warned that the summit wasn’t pleasant or easy to walk along. We thought about alternate routes back but in the end retraced our steps back to Sligachan, where we had a cup of tea at the hotel and went back to the tent for a restorative nap – the noisy guys from the night before having thankfully left.
I looked over to the campsite entrance and sure enough, the two cars of guys had pulled in. After a little while, one car drove off while the other started driving slowly around the campsite, clearly looking for somewhere to pitch up for the night. They came towards us and we stood up, ready to guard the ground around us.
As they turned towards the space near us I walked over to them. “No way. No. You’re not camping here. You’re completely outrageous” I said, remembering how noisy they’d been. They asked if we could hear them last night. I told them they’d kept us up all night. Matt pointed out that one of them, sitting in the front, looked wrecked from the night before. He looked sheepish.
They asked why we didn’t tell them to quieten down and I told them that they were intimidating and drunk, and that they shouldn’t camp near any other human beings – or possibly only deaf ones. They took great offence and told me I was rude.
“You can’t just tell us we can’t camp here when you’re so rude! If you asked nicely then we would listen!” one of them said.
“Okay, please do not not camp here” I said.
“Erm… okay…” they said, and drove off, back to the campsite office, where after dithering for a minute they asked for a refund and left the campsite.
I WAS SO HAPPY.
When we spoke to the campsite owner later he seemed annoyed that he hadn’t been able to get involved in an argument the night before but didn’t seem bothered that I’d just kicked people out of his campsite.
That evening we watched the Mountain Rescue helicopter take off and land, went to a gig at the Sligachan Hotel and watched two border collies playing – one with four legs and one with three legs – and then had a lovely quiet night’s sleep.
In the morning we packed up our tent and drove up to Portree, where once again we went to the Isle of Skye Baking Co, before walking up the Old Man of Storr. There was a man flying a drone, which Matt was happy about, and a man with two labrador puppies, which made my day.
We set off back for the mainland, and I told Matt of my plan to run across the Skye bridge. The bridge was built a few years ago and used to have a toll, but so many people refused to pay that it got dropped. Unfortunately there was nowhere to pull in before the bridge and we were on it before we knew, so on the mainland side we stopped at a Co-Op and I got changed into running kit and ran back over to Skye, with Matt following in the car (luckily no heckling when he passed me!). On the other side he picked me up and drove back over the bridge AGAIN (definitely glad there’s no toll) and we had lunch looking over the water to Skye, with some otters keeping an eye on us.
It was a long drive from here, with no fixed destination – we hadn’t booked anywhere to stay, thinking that we might stay in Glencoe. We listened to Radio 2 drivetime and sang/danced along. We stopped for a cup of tea in Glencoe but decided to carry on.
After having our hopes dashed by a sign promising hot tub cabins “available tonight” (they weren’t), we wound up staying in Arrochar, at the top of Loch Long. We’d had our eyes open for B&Bs with a sign proclaiming “vacancies” and one did, so in we went. The host was a retired chap, dog sitting his daughter’s labradoodle for the weekend and enjoying his wife being away with a sneaky mid-afternoon trip to the pub, and he had two rooms available. We chose the one with the loch view, then went to the pub ourselves!
The final morning heralded a great breakfast (including porridge), cooked by our host who asked us how we’d voted in Brexit. We drove down to Glasgow, where we got caught in some traffic and had a terrible time trying to find a petrol station in the city (spoiler alert: Glasgow doesn’t have many petrol stations) in order to return the car with a full tank.
We’d thought we might go and do something cultural in Glasgow before getting the train, but our bags were really heavy, so we went back to Cafe Wander and I had my second bowl of porridge of the day.
If I was to plan the same holiday again I would spend less time in the car (we drove around 650 miles, which was quite tiring (although it only cost £60 in petrol!)); I would encourage Matt to pack his own thermals so he didn’t steal my leggings to sleep in; I would probably spend more time on Mull and in Tobermory; I would go to the Wee Tea Room again; and I would eat even more soup.