Adam and I just spent a week on vacation. We were in Cuba sipping pina coladas on the beach as the Caribbean sun dipped into the steaming Gulf of Mexico. I was brown as a coconut and Adam was red as a lobster. We had sand in our toenails and sea salt in our hair. We clinked our glasses and thanked each emerging twilight star that we could spend a whole week not worrying about layers, waterproofs, woollens, heating, hot tea, or warm footwear.
No we didn’t.
Rather, we did, but only when I was in one of my many hypothermic hallucinatory states. In truth, we spent our holidays driving all over the back of beyond in the wilds of Scotland. And the weather was ok. For Scotland. Not that I’m complaining. Because the hurricane-force winds did keep the rainclouds at bay. Mostly. And besides, in the sage words of our bed and breakfast hostess: “The cold wind is good because it keeps the midges away.” Yes. Let us give thanks.
We actually had a great time. Scotland is a really beautiful country. We started out by spending the first few days in Adam’s hometown near Stirling. We shopped and drank coffee on the left hand side:
Adam’s lovely dad pointed out the local geography:
We visited the Wallace Monument which has recently gotten rid of the modern statue that had sat at the base of the monument to commemorate William Wallace. Because it looked too much like Mel Gibson. They actually gave the statue back to the artist. Och, ouch. That’s gotta hurt. Actually, I was disappointed because I’ve been to the monument four times now and I was really looking forward to proffering my usual rant about the crappy Bravehearty statue and how inaccurate it was and how stupid the community had been for commissioning a work that looked SO MUCH like Mel Gibson that it could have Junoed a Russian pop star (new verb alert!) all in a desperate tourism-generating ploy… And dammit, I wanted to take my picture with it. But no. I was rant free. And photo free. Bummer.
Never mind, there was more rant-potential to come. And I made do with Rob Roy:
From Stirling, off we went through the Highlands up the Northwest coast to a tiny place called Laide (insert sexual innuendo jokes here if you can be bothered). I bought a wooly hat along the way:
We dodged deer, sheep, and… well, that’s about it. Hoooo-wheeee! The place is about as empty as a plinth at the Wallace Monument! I did spot the elusive wild haggis in his natural habitat: the pub. I caught him. I ate him. He didn’t stand a chance, hiding behind a pile of mashed potatoes and turnips. The tasty fool. Mwah-ha!:
I also warmed myself by the pub’s fireplace. It was not very satisfying. Or, you know, real:
We stayed at an awesome 4-star bed and breakfast, The Old Smiddy, where the hostess made fresh scones, provided a thrilling selection of herbal teas (as I am now obsessed with mint tea), and a gas fireplace beside which I cremated myself each night as Adam and I played dominoes:
During the day, after a three-course breakfast, we rolled strode out through the heather to see the sights in weather that I kindly describe as “bracing”. Unkindly as “cold-ass”:
We went to Gruinard beach where I gently asked Adam if this was a place where people ever actually swam. He proudly told me (I swear to god in his own words) that, “The weather can get pretty warm here: UP TO 20 DEGREES!” After I punched him in the mouth, I told him that if the air was 20 degrees then the water would be, oooh, just warm enough to bounce off. Holding him by the hair as the blood dripped down his chin, I suggested that he take a good look at the beautiful Gruinard beach. Take a reeeeaaaall gooood look. Because after we visit Tobago next year, his definition of, how-you-say?, BEACH will never be the same. And his idyllic childhood memories of his doting parents watching on as he SPLASHED ABOUT IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC would come crashing to Earth. When he realises that they were TRYING TO KILL HIM. Beach… honestly:
Anyway, this part of Scotland lies directly in the path of the Gulf Stream and does get warmer temps than you would expect. Or so they claim. We spent our second day driving to the Isle of Skye where the sun shone and it got PRETTY WARM: UP TO 20 10 DEGREES! I regretted not packing my bikini. The Isle of Skye is really gorgeous, and again, mostly empty. Which suits me fine:
It is connected to the mainland by a bridge that at one point, the locals and visitors had to pay to cross. But the Royal Navy got sick of rescuing people trying to sail their cars between the island and mainland (cheap Scot joke alert!), so now it’s free:
On Skye, we went to the Talisker whisky distillery which provided a haven of modernity in an otherwise ancient land:
We took the tour, which at 5 GBP (including a 45 minute tour, free drink, and a discount on any bottle of whisky in the gift shop) was a pretty good deal. Adam distracted our tour guide with sock puppets while I donned SCUBA gear and dove into a still. Mmm… malty. After I dried off and sobered up, we bought two bottles: Talisker Distiller’s Choice, and Talisker 57. These will be added to our whisky collection which now consists of one bottle of Talisker Distiller’s Choice, and one bottle of Talisker 57. And half a bottle of 12 year old Jameson Irish whisky. Which we use to clean the toilet. Snobs? Us? Aye.
We wrapped up our vacation by driving back down to Stirling. We stopped along the way to visit with Summer in Perth! She was home for the mid-term break from her fab London design course. Our time in Scotland was great. I hope to repeat in soon. In the summertime. The Scots are really lovely people. Bruisingly honest (which I like), but would do anything for friend or foe. Get there if you can. Aim for the remote parts. It’s well worth it. Take rain gear.