Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Turn Around When Possible 5

We knew we were heading in the right direction (North) when we came across a large angel and arrived in Northumberland. The drive was spectacular and Big Al thought he was on a scalextric track with hairpin bends and hidden dips and sudden reduction from long straights to single cart tracks - all the better for playing chicken ! Arrived in Bellingham and walked on a long wall built by some guy called Hadrian apparently to keep the Scotts out. Too many gaps to be effective but apparently some guy called Salmond is going to try and build it from the other side. After a long walk it was time to get back in the saddle and we cycled 26 miles around Kielder Lake (the largest man made lake in Europe). Lots of thought evoking sculptures dotted around as a test to make sure you went all around and didn't cheat. The red squirrels were all in hiding - no change there. We went to Bellingham's annual show - a bit like a mini Bath & West. Best bit was when the falconry expert sent off his 1st bird. It failed to return so he sent of his 2nd to keep the show going. It failed to return. Suddenly both birds came in from opposite directions and crashed into each other at 30 feet. Feathers flying everywhere and the loud speaker announced "show is over". We move on to Berwick Upon Tweed along more scalextric track and went to Lindisfarne on Holy Island. Had to plan the drive along the causeway so that Big Al did not get his toes wet. Very quiet and managed to spot a couple of seals not playing hide and seek. Drove to Seahouses and took a boat out to the Farne Islands and got close up to lots of seals and birds - felt just like Attenborough. Decided some culture was necessary so took the Lowrie trail to see how many paintings we could spot. It was a lot easier than hunting wildlife. Continuing the culture theme we drove the castles and coastline route and clocked up far more castles than I can recall. Northumberland was obviously a very busy place in the dark ages with every tribe seeking to invade without a thought or any immigration policy. Weather was good so we took lots of bike rides and on one ride we accidentally crossed the border into Scotland along a back road so we had to celebrate - I had haggis and gravy and Maggs had fish and chips. After 12 weeks of alternative lifestyle we were ready to take Big Al over the border and into Scotland. The moment we did the weather changed and we couldn't read the "Welcome to Scotland" sign due to the heavy mist. We camped just outside Edinburgh and took the park and ride in - just in case there any silly car park barriers as I believe escaping from car parks is still a capital offence in Scotland. We did the usual touristy things including having a whiskey on board the Royal Yacht Britannia. Maggs smuggled the glass into her handbag and now I do not know if the lipstick is hers or Queenies. As weather was changing we decided to head North and stopped at Pitlochry to see the salmon jumping up the series of damns. No salmon today. We camped at Nairn and Maggs saw a couple of red squirrels and we both saw 3 golden eagles. Our wildlife spotting luck had arrived. We had a quick look at Inverness and then pushed North to John O'Groats and arrived on a rubbish campsite. The usual ferry to the Orkneys stopped the day we arrived and the commercial ferry wanted a fortune so we battled through the hurricane and went West along the top road then turned down the West coast to Poolewe where we saw some more seals and camped on a lovely site overlooking loch Ewe. More adventures driving took us along a very narrow track to a place called Cove which surprisingly was a cove. The road suddenly ran out and Mavis announced "Turn around when possible" so we did and went to Isle of Skye. Fantastic mountains and lochs all around but extremely wet and windy as as there was no tv / phone / internet it was soon time to move on again especially as our little beach tent had been overwhelmed by the storms and now resembled a body bag. As our wildlife spotting had improved we went to Loch Ness and took a boat out equipped with sonar. We saw lots of shadows and ripples which, with all the whiskey drinking that goes on up here, probably accounts for 100% of the sightings. As Nessie was not coming out to play we headed for Aviemore and took Big AL up as far as we could go in 2nd gear. We left him having a rest at the mountain railway and went to the top where we had to hire a guide (compulsory)if you wanted to get out and go walkies in the snow to the summit. Well worth it at 3609 foot. On the way down we actually saw Scandinavian deer. A quick trip into Aviemore to get supplies and new poles for the tent and another Big Al escape from the car park and we were on the whiskey trail heading for Aberdeen. After a couple of distilleries (Glenfarclass and Glenfiddich) we went for the park and ride to take us into Aberdeen. However more stupid height barriers so we drove into Aberdeen and squeezed Big Al into a little car park. Aberdeen was very grey due to the weather and the fact that it is built entirely out of granite. A leaflet suggested we should head for Stonehaven and seek out a famous eatery for a world famous delicacy. It was closed on arrival but the anticipation was too good to miss so I went for a haircut to kill time until it opened. Two hours later the deep fried Mars bar was mine. Yuk !! Exiting Aberdeen we came across Balmoral but no sign of a haggis or a Royal so we motored on. Mavis wanted some more fun so she took us up the mountain to the Glenshee ski resort. Big Al puffed up in 1st gear but no time to rest as the trip down was just like a black run. We go back later to collect the gold medal. Having got the taste for heights we headed for Ben Nevis and left Big Al having a rest while we hiked up. We made it half way in good time but would have needed another 3 hours to summit and get back safely in daylight so turned around when possible and headed back down. We moved on to Oban on a lovely site overlooking Loch Linnhee and took the ferry to Mull. More fantastic scenery but more wind and rain. On our way out of Oban we visited Cruachen Power Station which is actually inside a hollowed out mountain. A bit James Bondish but very interesting and very simple use of nature to generate electricity. I will explain the workings to anyone interested on our return ! We are now back in Big Al listening to the rain as get ready to go and see Glasgow. TTFN B & M

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