I’m a huge fan of driving. It’s just enjoyable, you have music, wind in your hair and you get to go places sitting down while little explosions blast you over vast distances. You can eat chips, hold a conversation and look at stuff, all the while enjoying a form of locomotion that would literally blow the minds of 99% of the humans to ever have existed on this planet since we started throwing sharp sticks at things and swapped branches for grasslands.
Human’s are pretty awesome sometimes. Go on; pat yourself on the back for being part of the smartest species ever to have lived on earth (as much as we all know a few ‘people’ we’re pretty sure took a wrong turn somewhere around the last ice-age who seem to be closer to our ancestors than the rest of us) we are undoubtedly awesome at inventing cool stuff.
Think about this: we’ve invented a way to recline in luxury (even an old Nissan Micra is luxury compared to: wagons, walking, horses, donkey’s, elephants, sleds, rollerblades, jogging, cycling, being pushed down a hill etc…) while covering great distances in what’s really a blink of an eye.
Maybe i’m just nostalgic about driving since I’m now living in a city where you’re average car costs more than a house does in most countries.. which means that my interactions with cars these days are basically limited to trying to avoid being killed by them as I run across the road.
Anyway what I’m trying to get at is driving in a car is probably my favorite way to get around (except for snow boarding but apart from being largely impossible in warmer climates snow boarding requires at the very least, a big hill). Which is why as often as it’s financially feasible I travel by car as much as I can when overseas.
In keeping to the theme of my last post, I thought I would write a bit about my experiences driving around Scotland. From the rugged beauty of the highlands to the castles and lochs that dot the landscape, Scotland has so much to offer those travellers brave enough to face the inevitable multi-kilo weight increase guaranteed by the infamous Scottish diet.
If you intend to drive around Scotland like we did, you need wheels; and given that price is generally my primary concern while abroad, I found that when it came to cheap car rentals, Edinburgh airport was the best bet. All the majors are there and it’s easy to find which saves you minutes of embarrassing “what’s?, I’m sorry’s? and excuse me’s?” when asking a local for directions… Actually no; I’ll be honest, trying to discern what people were saying to me in Scotland was some of the most fun I’ve had in ages:
Me: “Hi, I’m looking for the closest grocery store?”
Local: “Och aye, it’s easy, jist tak’ th’ second left efter th’ kirk an’ ‘en it’s jist oan th’ reit hain side”
Me: “Oh okay… great… that sounds lovely, thanks very much!”
Girlfriend: “What the hell did he say!?”
Me: “No bloody idea! I though they spoke English in Scotland… ??”
Anyway, once you’ve got your (now inevitably greasy) hands on the pristine steering wheel of your new chariot, what next? Well here was my process for driving Scotland: Start by going in a roughly Northerly direction with a rough destination in mind (mine was The Isle of Skye), turn up the stereo to the most authentic Scottish tune you can find (the lack of bagpipes on commercial radio in Scotland was perplexing) and keep your eyes peeled for castles, lochs and everything else in between.
That’s basically it really…
My journey started in Edinburgh then moved up through Perth, then right across the country stopping frequently here and there all the way up to Skye and its most Northerly village called Uig. After doing a circuit of Skye we left the island and headed back down south towards Glasgow through Loch Lomond then back East to conclude in Edinburgh once again. I think all up the journey lasted around 10 days.
My girlfriend and I did the ‘tight arse’ thing and actually spent our nights camping in our van (we hired a van so we could sleep in it). It turned out to be a way better idea in our heads.. vans are not conducive for a good nights sleep, especially given Scotland’s environmental conditions which generally range somewhere between cold/wet and really-cold/really-wet… But it did allow us the flexibility of simply finding a good looking spot to park: ‘Vanny Devito’ (as it affectionately became known due to it’s roof being too short; which was literally, a headache) to spend each night.
Scotland is a stunning country, it’s rugged yet lush and is packed full of interesting history and people. The lowlands are green and burst with lochs and verdant forests, full of colour and life while the highlands are interesting in a whole different sort of way. The greens give way to browns as the trees become shrubs and then basically just grass and stone. I just found the landscape of the Scottish highlands as thoroughly interesting as it was desolate.
Scotland was such a nice change from England (dont get me wrong I really love England) but there are so many people crowded into a pretty small space. Especially if you’re visiting people heavy places like the best London markets and all the other great stuff in the English cities. It’s so nice to escape on the open road and have a bit of freedom.
Anyway the freedom of Vanny Devito gave us the flexibility to go where we liked and when we liked. We got to see Scotland at our own leisure and in the timeframe we wanted. Plus I did it all with the wind in my hair, while sitting down and eating chips…