As we left Keswick in the Lake District, we were feeling pretty smug. We were only four days in and confident we’d seen the most beautiful scenes the UK had to offer. We’d been up a mountain, we’d taken pretty pictures of ducks on lakes. What more could one ask?
Then we crossed the border to bonnie Scotland.
I have never really paid much attention to Scotland. It’s just a bit too close to home to feel it’s applicable for holiday destination consideration. Thanks to the life choices various family members have made, whereby they go and live in hot countries and I go visit, I’ve become accustomed to holidays in climes so swelteringly hot your tongue sweats when you alight the plane, so I’ve never really considered Scotland for a holiday.
When Gaz and I first started courting, we used to go for long walks in the countryside and discuss what our life together could be like. We agreed we wanted a life full of outdoor activities and that the best place to do that was New Zealand, so we started to seriously consider emigrating. Well, we never actually got any paperwork but we certainly banged on about it for a bit.
During our time in Scotland, I’ve realised everything we craved about the New Zealand lifestyle is right here at home. I’ve felt like I was in New Zealand, Australia, America, Malaysia – all the far off places I’ve been that have felt remote, exotic, their architecture just a bit different to that at home, their backdrops just that little bit more wow, fetch the camera. But I wasn’t in those other far-flung places. I WAS IN SCOTLAND.
Scotland has been flirting outrageously with us. We were told to go in August was a fool’s game as it rains all the time. I see no such rain.
Each new campsite was more beautiful and stunning than the last. We arrived in Loch Lomond and thought we’d peaked. We moved onto Glencoe and usurped Loch Lomond. We stopped off at Loch Linnhe and had a moment of perfection, the stillness of the lake reflecting the mountains beyond.
Okay, it can’t get any better than this. But it did. It kept getting better.
You know that guy who saw the double rainbow and crumbles and cries at the beauty of it? That’s what we’ve been doing a lot. Staggered by the beauty of Scotland. It has metaphoric double rainbows all over the place.
We had some time off in Glencoe so scaled a giant breast. It’s called the Pap of Glencoe but we thought it looked like a nipple so made lots of damn right hilarious jokes about climbing abreast and steep tits and such like.
When researching spelling for this piece I discovered that we’re not alone. The Gaelic name for the Pap of Glencoe is Sgorr na Ciche which translates as boobies, would you believe. Or more exact: the rocky peak of the breast. Our forefathers, as they were deciding what would be named what, must have had a good old chuckle about the nipple hill, just as we did, before we started climbing the damn thing and stopped laughing and started crying tears of exhaustion.
Just like Helvellyn a few days ago, Glencoe Boob was ridiculously steep. Getting to the top was no mean feat, rambling turned to scrambling as we reached the summit, having taken lots of ‘Jesus H. Christ I’m going to faint’ breaks.
But we bloody did it and just look at the views from the top:
And the view without our mugs obstructing it:
I know, it’s a wonder we ever descended again. Could have stayed up there forever.
Scotland even delivered a celebrity to our campsite in Loch Ness. Scotland knows how much I love celebrities. Drum roll:
That’s right, it’s Warwick Davies, on site for a Céilidh for some travel show he’s making. I would have loved to get my picture taken with Willow, but as the entire campsite turned out to film him on their smart phones I felt too awkward so my picture of Warwick was taken from within our motorhome. So respectful of celebrities, me. He’s just lucky he wasn’t Jennifer Aniston, I’d have joined in the Céilidh if it was her.
While in Loch Ness, I really wanted to do some wild swimming. For this I blame a friend of ours, Joe, who is mega-keen on wild swimming and strips to his pants at the mere sighting of a puddle. I did some wild swimming with him last summer and blogged about the icy waters here. I wanted to make the little Joe in my head proud that I could bravely swim in a Loch renowned for homing an actual monster.
However, it was freezing so we chickened out.
The little Joe in my head was awfully disappointed. When we got to Loch Morlich, I knew I was running out of lochs on our tour and it was now or never. Sink or swim. Strip off or regret it.
Somewhere to plunge straight in would have been handy. Then you can’t think about it too much, you’re in 100% and it’s freezing, you bob about a bit, make the little Joe in your head proud, then get out. But all we had was the lapping shores of the loch, where the only way in was wading.
I hate wading into freezing cold water. Every inch deeper takes a mustering of more courage. Especially if you wade in like the pansies that we are. We inched in up to our midriffs and squealed a bit then got out. But the little Joe in my head wasn’t satisfied with that. So while Gaz dried off I boldly charged back into the water and did a proper dunking that lasted a good three seconds and went right up to my neck, arms and all. After that, I declared myself the winner at wild swimming in freezing cold lochs, the little Joe in my head gave me a medal and we all got on with our lives.
Because we’re lugging a few tonnes with our little motorhome, we don’t really get up speeds beyond 50MPH, so every so often Gaz pulls over and lets the traffic we’ve built up behind us pass. Only in Scotland do the first few drivers give a little hoot or a hazard light flash, to say thank you. Isn’t that lovely? Scotland, full of thankful drivers. The sat nav gets you about three miles from where you want to go and there are no road signs, but that’s all part of the charm.
It’s all been so magical and wonderful that naturally, we can never come back. Gaz can’t return to the scene of a happy memory, it makes him feel weird. One of the best memories we ever made was cycling around the Isle of Wight when we first got together. For our honeymoon we tried to do it again. This time torrential rain saw us abandon the trip half way though. We tried to recreate the magic and it was shit the second time. Never return to the scene of a good time – that’s our motto.
So, Scotland, this might be the only time we ever come here, but that’s a compliment – it’s because you’ve given us the most magnificent time, the most ridiculously beautiful scenery and a thank you on the road. I hope that everyone reading this takes my advice and comes to see for themselves just what a stunner you are.