Day 1 – Alarm off. Shower. Dress. Finish packing. Trip over cat. Shove cat into basket. Get into Mercedes with cat. Forgot cat’s bowls. Get back in Mercedes with bowls. Drive to Grandma’s. Drop cat off. Wave goodbye. Bugger, I forgot to empty the bin. Drive to Sainsbury’s. Fill up tank. Grab breakfast. Get on the M6 north. Drive on M6. Continue to drive on M6. Still drive on M6. Keep continuing to drive on the M6 for 236 miles. Up until this moment, it’s all been go go go. With all trips, however much I seem to plan and prepare in advance, the morning of departure always seem to be hectic right up until that moment you hit the long motorway stint and then suddenly, you find yourself ready to begin thinking about the days ahead. And in the short term, the three long hours on the same road, made slightly more interesting with games of I-Spy and the discovery of the automatic map light in the dash.
Just as we begin to enter Yorkshire, thick cloud creeps over the horizon towards us. Well, I guess that’s the north for you. From my experience, it seems to be that as soon as you drive past Sheffield, you enter a new world of drizzle and sunless skies, like a curse over the land that no heroic character has ever quite managed to figure out how to break. The late September weather forecast for the west coast of Scotland predicts heavy showers with patches of sunshine, which is actually better than I expected.
By 7pm that evening, we’re sitting in The Sugar Boat restaurant, not far from Loch Lomond, enjoying talk about the next few days ahead that I’ve meticulously planned. Who needs spontaneity anyway?
Day 2 – After an early breakfast of Scottish smoked salmon and eggs, we say a speedy goodbye to our lovely, albeit slightly odd B&B host, before hitting the A82 towards Glencoe. If you’re never driven this road, you won’t yet quite understand the transition of environment experienced like nowhere else. Once you’ve passed the Green Welly, filling up fuel once more and purchasing an overpriced keyring with your name on it, you begin to notice changes in the environment every mile. Clouds cloak mountaintops. The landscape around you becomes all encompassing. It’s quite something to attempt to absorb and something that always surprises me each time I drive this road. Craig puts his foot down on the 280 SL which is simply joyous, even in the wet. The strain 6 engine sings. There’s this secret end of accelerator where, when you push your toes just that little inch further, the engine sparks into a roar of sound and power, contouring wide smiles on our faces.
The beginnings of autumn are apparent with colours of yellow, orange, green, purple, and certainly plenty of grey blurring past us as we continue to drive towards Glencoe, turning off left towards Durness to meander down the famous James Bond Skyfall road for a while. White scars of streams mark the sides of dark mountains after the heavy rain leading up to today. Photographing the Mercedes down this road, you can imagine what James Bond might look like in a parallel German world, and Bond instead being special agent Double-O-Sieben.
Passing the ghostly outlines of The Three Sisters in the rain, we push on towards our next destination; the Mallaig to Armadale ferry. With a little time to spare in Mallaig, we browse a nearby bookshop and purchase a childhood gem; Favourite Motor Car Stories, by Barbara Hayes, featuring Micky the M.G. and Bertie the Bentley, to name a couple. I notice a more recent Johnny Cash CD which I grab as the Merc has limited media options and I didn’t think to bring my extensive collection of 90s CDs along with me.
The ferry to Armadale, Isle of Skye, is only about an hour, giving us enough time for Craig to lose a game of Scrabble and a wander around the deck. Back on the road, roof down now the rain has passed, we head to the magical Fairy Pools. Deep, blue, swirling pools of mountain water which, had it been earlier in the day, we would have stripped and jumped into. As we return to the car, heavy raindrops begin to plop on our heads whilst the low sun still shone, creating an extraordinarily beautiful rainbow against the backdrop of the mountains and pools, with peach coloured clouds lingering overhead. With the roof still down, we drive to our B&B listening to Johnny Cash’s wonderful cover of We’ll Meet Again.
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