After excellent breakfast fuel I left the bothy where Kate was staying with her brother Tris (and Fraser – the best of luck and I do hope the weather improves / you’re not standing in a bog for too long..)
As I drove North through Crianlairch I was pretty certain something was wrong.
I pulled over, realising of course that I now had no phone signal, to check the front tyres. They were fine. The back tyre was not fine. Being double axle the inner wheel had basically been keeping the van off the ground as the hole torn through the outer tyre was enormous. I couldn’t call for help and there wasn’t far to go before the next small town, where I might at least be able to change for the spare. So I limped the van down the road until my mobile bleeped and I was able to get a faint signal. I managed to find a local garage and they, brilliantly, had both the tyres and the time to sort out the van. Being 6 minutes down the road we limped on until we reached our haven. The van was whisked off, tyre changed and pressures checked and I was back on route in under an hour.
Soon after this I found myself driving through the first (of many) places I will be heading back to when I return; the beautiful Glen Ogle. Here I sat in the van, watching the rain and clouds whilst gazing longingly at my bouldering book and the vast range of crags around.
At the very end of Loch Lubnaig, opposite the remains of an old chapel and watched over by two beautiful highland cattle is St. Brides Wall. The sun came out for just long enough for me to run over and play for 30mins hunting for bouldering routes and blackberries. It was so wet I had bothered with neither shoes or bouldering mat so enjoyed trying out my balance on low moves in my very solid hiking boots – all good fun.
I took the long road out through the Trossachs via Loch Katrine. The Loch Pier is somewhat touristy but other than that I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful drive. The Queen Elizabeth road is a delight and gentle driving in a wonderful landscape.
Then, after a brief stop at the Glen Goyne Distillery (I literally stuck my head in and out – whiskey distilleries will have to be for a return trip), I headed to Glasgow.
Driving through the metropolis was an interesting experience. Glasgow is built to impress and even the areas which should be more suburban feel like they have an air of industry. I was here to see family rather than to explore, so found parking near my cousins and spent a very lovely evening with Mark, Anna and their two little ones. I’d given them very little notice of my visit so rather than staying had planned to stop further south from Glasgow at the Old Stable Inn at Beattie. This gave me a headstart in the morning and a very comfortable nights rest. The Inn is lovely and they are happy for campervans to stay as long as you pop in for a meal or a drink and leave details with them.
I didn’t want to drive the next day, but was excited to be making my next ‘last minute’ family stop at my cousin Catherines in Macclesfield. I was so happy to still be in Scotland when I woke up and spent the morning in Moffat, stopping for coffee, toffee and at their wonderful bakery. Wanting one last jaunt and googling ‘Castle’ I drove the short distance to Lochmaben. This turned out to be the seat of Robert the Bruce and I enjoyed a rather brisk walk around the Castle Lake before commiting myself back to the van.
I actually love this drive. The M74/M6 is a beautiful stretch of motorway, particularly when you get into and through the Lake District. Unoriginally, although I will nearly always spend a little more time trying to get off road and stopping in smaller villages or towns, I throughly enjoy stopping at Tebay services. It fulfills my weird inherent feeling that travelling south is like driving downhill. And they do really good snacks.
By the time I got to Catherine and Andy’s I was very grateful to be stopping at theirs. Their house is beautiful and relaxing, despite continuous improvements being made by Andys fair hand! I felt incredibly guilty when I realised how close they were to the Peaks, and also very sad that a stones throw from the crags and I still wouldn’t be climbing. But I wouldn’t have exchanged the company for anything.
The third family day involved me driving down to the Malvern hills to meet Beccy, Mim and the boys for a walk, and proved that you can go all the way to Scotland, and still be amazed and delighted to walk so close to your family home.
Unsurprisingly by the time I got back on the road to Mim and Jonts in Wales I was absolutely exhausted. I was suffering a real lull whilst trying to get in touch with friends in London and regain some enthusiasm for the coming year there. Most of this was due to being tired. Road trips are wonderful but they are also dangerous, they move your mind away and leave you so tired it is hard to reconcile your return. In the future I would do as I had originally planned, share the driving or make sure that I at least had a couple of days in one location in between coming and going.
Then, as I was really struggling, I was chased down the road by a really tall man in a tiny blue car. After looping the van so I could see that it was one of our longest standing and bestest friends Evan I was delighted, and it was so lovely to catch up (briefly – on the side of the terrifying A40), that it lifted me out of my mood almost entirely.
Today is all about rest and review; write my blog, look through some photos, smile at how wonderful if brief a trip it has been. Then tomorrow perhaps I will be prepared to face the world again.