We have set off from our South coast home in Dorset in the UK to go up country to the farthest North on this [or these] islands, which is to say, to Shetland. In doing this we are leaving behind the best spell of warm weather we’ve experienced this year and will be swapping it for coldish temperatures and probable rain and gales. We’ll be taking a series of ferries to get to what is, in fact a series of islands, first Orkney, then the Shetland Isles.
We’ve made it almost to Preston [northern England, Lancashire] for our first night, in a pub car park. Our willingness to commit to buying meals in the pub gets us a night’s stay, although it’s no hardship! Already the weather has cooled, the sun gone. The day’s travel has been all on motorways, motoring to get the miles done on frantically congested roads clogged with huge lorries belching fumes; most routes mired in roadworks which slow the flow. The lorry drivers, dogged by rigid schedules, drive aggressively and angrily and are horribly intimidating!
Our second day of travel takes us far up into Scotland and while it’s still motorway to begin with, it’s quieter and less fraught. We whisk through the Lake District, treated to beautiful views there and beyond, the landscape widening out, hills dotted with sheep, homes few and far between, although it’s hard to find a place to park for lunch after we leave the motorway.
We skirt Edinburgh and cross the uber-modern Forth Bridge then forge on to Perth, where there’s time for a look around. It’s elegant, with fine Georgian terraces of grey granite and a pleasant centre, cafes and bars with outside seating. There’s an extensive park and the River Tay flows along the side of the town. Then we’re off to our site just on the outskirts.
The third day’s driving is the most spectacular, with a journey through the Highlands towards Inverness then onwards North. It’s a long day but we drive through wild landscapes dotted with tiny, stone, bothy homes and rushing, boulder strewn streams; many of the highest mountains still have pockets of snow, even now in mid-June. We pass Pitlochry, famous for its theatre and Aviemore, famous for skiing then we’re crossing the Moray Firth and futher on, the Cromerty Firth, where a forest of oil rigs can be seen, ant-like in the distant estuary.
We are heading for Thurso but opt for a detour to John O Groats due to its status as furthest North on the mainland. The road narrows and the hillsides are a mass of golden gorse as we follow the coastline, until at last we turn towards John O Groats and join a throng of others enjoying the late afternoon sun at the edge of the UK.
Then we must head off to our site, at Thurso, where our pitch faces out across the bay with a grand view of the Orkney Islands and a cracking sunset. and tomorrow there’s a ferry to catch…
Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook
I loved the snowy white beach at John O’Groats, crushed shells if I remember correctly. I think we stayed at a bed and breakfast at Thurso or nearby. The owner greeted us with a broken leg and an apology, but not to worry as the lady across the road had a vacancy. The lady across the road was pretty ancient, but fully capable of having us to stay in her very floral bungalow. The next morning at breakfast it turned out all her other guests were family staying for a funeral; it was very good of her to put us up and we were more than a little concerned that it may well have been her husband’s funeral taking place!
Eeeeek!! That’s a very good description of the reasons I eschew all B&Bs!!