Updated: Sep 22, 2021
After waking up at usually early at 7am, I'd have breakfast and a last minute check of everything. With the thumbs up from my slightly-less-Dyspraxic-side, I'd hit the road.
Onward from here, I'd quickly top up my tank (driving down from Harlow had depleted the tank slightly).
With a large, inflatable ball removed from my passenger seat (ironically didn't take it out of my car because I had no room in the house - now the opposite happened), we were finally ready to properly set off.
By 10:40am, we were out of the county and on the road.
Our first port of call was in Sheffield. Specifically, a particular road in Sheffield.
The name of said road was very unique - in fact, so unique that it is the only one in the UK (and possibly abroad).
Of course, I'm talking about the one and only Truswell Road.
I was not only lucky enough to have my own road-name (obviously no relation to me), but so too an avenue, the very next turning.
After seeing both, I was incredibly uplifted.
Up-lifted to not only see the road that bares my (uncommon/rare) surname and the fact that both roads were in a good condition and had some nice houses down both sides of both roads.
Going to Truswell Road and Avenue was also a very nice treat as it was not only the most northernly I had driven in 2021 - but in my history of driving too.
The previous "record holder" was Porthmadog in Wales, however that's 50 miles south (disregarding east/west) of Truswell road.
Anyhow, we got a couple of pictures of me and the signs, before we hit the road once again - this time going to Johnson Road - my mate's surname - this also ironically enough being in Sheffield (albeit far in the North of the county).
Following this, we'd next bang in the address for the Premier Inn in Stockton-On-Tees and hit the road.
Other than a rather steep road entering/leaving Deepcar (town where Johnson Road is) and seeing a Ferrari and a Lamborghini, there wasn't all too much to report on - traffic wasn't too bad, views weren't bad (though most of it was just motorway driving) and other than a little Winehouse concert for two, it was a very quiet journey.
We'd arrive at the Premier Inn at about 6pm, chuck our stuff down and I'd go down to the restaurant to see what they had on the menu.
After both eventually eating something, we'd both hit the hay.
Following a rather substantial breakfast, we'd get back on the road and continue northward, passing the most northernly town in England, Berwick Upon Tweed, where we stopped for a quick toilet break.
Just up the road from here was the sign (quite literally) we had been waiting to see since leaving Surrey.
From there, it was off into the mountains and into the Land Of The Scots.
Prior to this, I had only ever been to Scotland once in my life time, this being to a place north west of Stirling and Edinburgh called Tigh Mor Trossachs, going only when I was a wee little lad, my ole memory hardly going back that far.
We'd continue on into Scotland, passing Edinburgh, Glasgow, Troassachs and Perth right up to Nairn, where our accommodation would be. Wide three-lane motorways quickly turning into dual-carriageways, at most needing only two lanes for the significantly lesser volume of traffic.
On entering Scotland, I observed that they used the "70" (mph) signs, instead of much more commonplace National Speed limit signs, possibly due to entering a new country? Not sure.
We'd follow the A1 up to Edinburgh before taking the Queensferry Crossing Bridge over the Firth Of Forth (now there's a mouthful!)
If one to were to look North (on a map) this bridge in particular would be the furthest to the right of the three bridges (Forth, Forth Road Bridge and Queensferry Crossing) - the lattermost being so recent that Google Maps even caught it being built on Google street view from the adjacent bridge!
From here, we'd continue up the M90 up to Perth before this turned into the A9.
Heading through the Cairngorms National Park and mountain range was stunning, it was just such a shame that I didn't have more eyes (eyes on the road and eyes on the views) or a driverless car I could just take my eyes off the road and take in the gorgeous view and have a little photo-session. Saying this, I did have Charis in the back, and she did quite the marvellous job of taking some stunning shots!
Shortly after Layby 134 (joining at 1, the most nothernly being 200), we'd take the exit to Carrbridge and take a short back-road up to Nairn.
I had such fun counting up the Laybys. Always livens up a long car journey.
Mysteriously, the Layby following Layby 68 had a missing sign, which was a shame, because it was at that moment that I needed to stretch my legs, and with no Layby Sign, (had we had an emergency) I wouldn't know what Layby to tell the Emergency Services I was at.
We did stop off at Layby 110 though. How my brain can remember something so silly and insignificant as a Layby Number driving up to Scotland, yet nor my phone, wallet or keys, I will never understand.
After a total of 6 hours of driving (obviously, with a stop in Berwick and said layby) we arrived at our first multi-night accommodation of the holiday.
We'd arrive at about 7pm, and after a long day of travelling, we were pretty darn shattered, so we headed to the beach and had a look around, before finding the local Co-Op (called Scotmid Co-Op) and had ourselves a little Pizza.
Nairn was and still is very pretty and gave off that "small, sleepy, seaside village" feeling.
Upon discovering there was a nice restaurant across the bridge from the beach at the bottom of our road, I decided that It'd be a nice idea (just to have a bit of variety) to eat somewhere new (or something new) on every night of our stay.
Whilst Charis took the double bed, I took the leather Sofa in the lounge. Was I upset or disappointed?
Not in the slightest. I've slept on my friend's sofa/sofa bed for two months, four days on a leather sofa was nothing, although, admittedly, the Sofa I stayed on for two months had a soft, cotton fabric.
And with that I was out. Zonked out on the sofa. (Photos of beach on morning/evening of 5th Sept.)
On The Road:
Disclaimer: In the sixth image, I am holding the steering wheel, I am just holding it with my right hand, at the bottom. As seen by the picture, traffic was not heavy.
I only see out the front seat so have no idea how I look whilst I'm driving! (view is also good!)
This is the first time I've mentioned iRacing up this blog, so I'm going to make it short and sweet.
iRacing Events I Didn't Mind Missing This Week Were:
- A Daytona 24 Hour Race (part of a Series, so that the Le Mans 24 Hours could be held)
- Round 7 of the Nurburgring Endurance Championship
- A round of the ARL F3 Championship (I'm no longer racing in)
And in real life, the Dutch Grand Prix.
Spoilers: There wasn't a bit of significant contact and the only retirements were due to mechanical failures. Highlight of the race? Bottas ignoring Team Orders.
and that was it, it was a pretty boring race.
One year ago would also see me upload quite a lot of content in a rather short span of time...in summary: - Discovering A Landmine At Donington (5th Sept, 2020)
- Nice Throw (Wii Bowling) (5th Sept, 2020)
- How 2 Warm-Up Lap (6th September 2020)
- I think I need a new F3 (7th September 2020)
Why did I do it like that? Because I'm in the middle of Scotland, it's a holiday - and holiday blogs are meant to be a whole lot different (and read by different people) compared with a normal everyday kind of "today I played iRacing" kind of blog.
The 5th was a rare day we didn't have anything planned - so I used it to get the very first blog done in quite a few days, this blog being called "Life Flashes By In A Split Second" - this being the first part of a two-blog series where I rush through the events that happened in late August.
Charis would then enter my room and tell me that she wanted to go for a walk, which, after finding a nice short route, we'd embark on (after a quick trip to the beach beforehand)
The route was through a community forest/wood with very a much a "walk your own route" vibe.
After about an hour, we'd head back to the car and drive the short drive back to the AirBNB, despite getting eaten alive by mosquitos and other flesh-eating flying insects, it was a pretty little walk and filled in the time on a rather activity-less day.
We'd both stay there until the evening, and whilst Charis had some pot noodles/something home made. I went out to the restaurant I spotted the previous night and had fish and chips - being Scotland, the fish was fairly large (in terms of length).
Ironically, the TV's were showing the Dutch Grand Prix (which was unfortunately a little boring), but no matter, it was still interesting to watch - even if there were no overtakes or accidents.
For desert, I'd have a brownie and Ice Cream before walking back to the accommodation at close to 10pm - just at closing time.
I'd get in and quickly hit the hay.
The 6th was by far the busiest, most action-packed day of the holiday, after waking up having breakfast and leaving (the house) at 10am, we were on the road headed to Inverness.
The first stop of the day was a the docks for a Dolphin Spotting Tour.
After arriving a little early, (and initially getting a little lost) I'd do a bit of photography (OK, just taking photos) around the outside of Inverness and of the stunning Kessock Bridge before heading to a secluded beach at the Merkinch Local Nature Reserve
After collecting some beautiful pebbles, stones and minerals from the beach, we'd head to the docks where we'd have a tour of Moray Firth, the goal being to find and see Dolphins.
Whilst we didn't see any Dolphins (quite a rare feat not to see them apparently), we did get an excellent tour of Moray Firth, the history of the bay/Firth and saw a the head - or part of the head - of a Harbour Seal.
There was also one of the cutest passengers EVER onboard - and despite trembling a bit, I think he had quite the experience - and was incredibly quiet which was a bonus!
A huge thank you to the lady owner who let me take a picture of your dog, he was absolutely adorable and very well-behaved!
I know that she had another dog onboard with her, but s/he didn't have a Scottish costume on!
Here are the best pictures I got before boarding the boat
Pictures From Boat:
From here, we'd return to the port and jump into the car before driving a little more into the "heart" of the city, where we waited for our next tour (as we were a little early).
This early arrival did cause a slight problem though...
The maximum you could park on the street (in the car-park I had found) was for two hours - having (at most) half an hour to wait for the tour to start/tour guide to arrive meant I'd have to extend my parking...
To combat this, I tried feeding the machine more coins...no success. Phoned them up, same result.
So I would just have to hold on and hope that by 4pm the parking wardens were: A) in a different part of the City
B) Unsuspicious of my KIA as they had passed it before 4:01pm
C) Aware I was on a two hour bike tour and unable to move it (unlikely) ~ The tour guide would arrive not too long after, followed by the two others we were doing the tour with.
This'd be shortly followed by us ensuring we were comfy and safe (raising/lowering bike-seat/s) before getting a little history of Inverness and us then starting the ride.
Before that day, I never knew the actual meaning of the name "Inverness" - but it turns out that the Gaelic name "Ibhir Nis" is comprised of the word "Ibhir" meaning "mouth of" and "Nis" being the River that runs through the city - meaning Inverness or Ibhir Nis literally means "Mouth of the River Ness" - which is exactly where it is located.
The tour would begin In Central Inverness (West side of the River Ness) before heading South to cross a beautiful bridge onto the Ness Islands.
On the Ness Islands, we learnt that an artist sculpted beautiful benches for visitors to sit exactly in the location of where a tree fell down - quite incredible actually!
Following a short break at a view-point on the most Southernly Point of these Islands, we'd get back on our bikes and continue the nice, slow, gentle, relaxing and almost therapeutic bike ride to some Botanical Gardens.
After a quick whizz round just to see what's there, (carnivorous plants were advertised, but I didn't quite know what to look for - also very nice smelling flowers and plants all through the gardens, though it still wasn't my cup of tea)
Before we hopped back on our bikes, I nipped into the cafe to grab a picnic lunch - just a sandwich, crisps and a drink, though I only managed a sandwich or so before it was time to go.
From here we joined a nearby canal-path and cycled down to a series of locks. Up here, I tried to extend my car-parking again, however to no avail. Had a parking warden arrived between this point and the end of the tour, I would be done for - although I made it half-way through the bike-tour without parking beyond my stay.
In this location, there were 5 locks in a row, however during the tour we were told about a lock system further up the canal which had 8 locks in a row taking over an hour to get through the entire system. This was down in the South West at the other end of the Caledonian Canal - the canal that slices straight through Scotland View the Loch Ness and Loch Lochy (saving ships and boats time and risking going around the northern tip of Scotland - avoiding the simply suicidal North Sea - unlike the south of Scotland and almost entirety of England - it's not protected by Ireland - so the brunt of the waves from...well, anywhere north are truly felt up there and has left MANY ships shipwrecked.
Onward we went, and not five minutes later, we were greeted by a swing-bridge. As if by design, whilst the tour-guide was talking to us about said swing-bridge and locks and lochs - two small boats came along and showed us the swing-bridge in operation - t'was pretty cool!
After a quick cycle through a small residential and industrial area, we popped out at a place I recognised...somewhere we had been earlier in the day - Merkinch Local Nature Reserve - we'd driven up here waiting for the boat tour and had a very nice view of the Bridge.
From here, it was a quick cycle back to central Inverness, a check of the windscreen (and of course the wheels), but no clamps nor Police Notices - I was beyond relieved.
After this, we'd pile back into the car after a great day and headed home, exhausted, but happy and in good spirits.
After popping out to get some last minute items (we'd gift to the lady hosting the AirBNB), I headed out for a late night McDonalds before coming back - probably writing a sentence in the blog before hitting the hay.
That's the thing with being so far behind and having something booked for pretty much every day - you have a wild day, blog a little bit in the evening and then the next day comes quicker than expected and it's a bit like "slow down, I'm still processing August!"
No matter, that's why I blog. To almost process everything (and make the end of year review easier).
I've also reached the very bottom of my Black Box Journey history - so I can start remembering trips I've taken in that way.
07/09/2021 - Last Full Day In Nairn
Kayaking. You sit in a boat (usually small) and use one big paddle to push yourself along in the water, having the momentum of one side in the air and the other in the water also helps you to keep speed, as you lift it out the water, the other side can go straight in for the next stroke.
I was certainly looking forward to it, especially since I last "kayaked" (albeit not in a kayak boat) was on holiday abroad in my dinghy.
Eeeeexcept this wasn't exactly Kayaking. And we didn't have our own boat.
Yes, we had one oar, but one side had a hand-grip (like some walking sticks) and the other had a paddle. This was canoeing.
After refreshing my memory - a kayak (the boat) is a lot thinner and more sleek, whilst a canoe is wider
I don't know, I'm not a boat expert - point being - one uses one paddle (smaller/thinner/sleeker), whilst the other uses two, can often fit two and isn't specifically built for speed (except in the Olympics) - the Material also differs, but that's for a different blog. No matter.
We'd meet (after some carfuffle and hassle) at one of multiple laybys on the A831.
With very limited to no signal, communication was difficult, but we sorted it with a "I'll come find you"
Which he did....Only just!
Speeding along the road, he eventually spotted us in a layby and gestured for me to follow him, so I did.
He may have dissapeared down the road, but I quickly caught up to him as he was unlocking some gates.
He further gestured to pull up into a layby, and we pulled up, got our stuff and went over to him.
He instructed us to get in the minibus he was in and we hopped in and he drove us down the road to the only bridge on the river for a couple of miles.
After getting geared up, valuables in drybags and the boats in the water, we'd row up-stream, just to test that we were "competent", before turning around and going downstream.
In the beginning, it was rather shallow, yet there were lots of streams and rivers joining onto ours, meaning there was a little current we had to deal with, but other than spinning sideways once or twice, there were very few problems - and we didn't go over once!
About half way in, we'd stop for lunch on this beautiful little peninsular, have a bite to eat before continuing on.
Onward from here, we'd canoe through a giant, beautiful gorge and past Eilean Aigas rumoured to be an Island owned by a rich Qatari Family - but I don't know how much is that is an Old Wives Tale, I do not know.
Alas, onward from here, we'd make it to the back of the Aigas Dam, marking the end of the journey. It was super, super beautiful, I surprised myself at my (mediocre) canoeing skills - Dyspraxia doing its best to stop me and at moments it was tranquil and silent.
No less, we got out, hauled our bags up an embankment and were just where we started.
After thinking I took everything, we thanked the man that canoed with us, Charis got in the car and I took a picture of a large mushroom and we set off.
The last four pictures of the canoeing trip (the ones with a different camera (sky isn't white-washed) were taken from Adventure Highland's Facebook Page. Original Post
Video Of Charis Canoeing
Half-way home, I pulled over so I could get some pictures of a beautiful panoramic view (final pictures in gallery) Not being able to find my phone concerned me a great deal - I went there with my coat, phone and wallet and at most left with my car keys and coat.
Whilst I had a feeling I had left it there, we headed home to check that I hadn't left it at the AirBnB we were staying at.
After dropping Charis back off at the AirBNB, I headed off again back to where were just were. Yes, it may have been a 1hr+ Drive, but if there was any opportunity of getting my phone and wallet back, then I was going to take it - because not having a phone - nor bank card in Scotland is like going up Mount Everest without a coat. You. Can't. Do. It.
Whilst I was headed up there, Charis was in contact with the guy who organised our activities non-stop.
Unbeknownst to me, as I pulled up in a layby near where we started, just one car separated myself and the man in his minibus.
After pulling over to turn around, he pulled over too and I was instantly was like "aaaaaah! It's hiiiimmm!" He told me he had been following me for "about four miles" I'm just so fucking glad it worked out all alright and I was able to get my things back...which had been left in a wet-bag...which is...probably standard for me.
No matter. I got my stuff back, gave him an awkward side hug and drove back to the AirBNB in a much happier state then when I left.
A few hours after I got back, Charis asked if we could go to the Loch Ness, although it was getting a little bit late and dark, I agreed and off we went.
The view was spectacular and, to my knowledge, it was my first time ever going which was nice.
We'd spend over an hour there before deciding to head back.
It was very much a night of animals - ducks sleeping on the beach less than a meter away from me, Toads hopping out of the torch-light and one million mosquitos feasting on every bare millimetre I had of bare skin.
On the way back, I noticed the "check engine" light was illuminated on my dashboard.
Having never experienced this before and being almost 10pm, pitch black and having no idea how many miles my car had in her - I was pretty shit up. Had it been something serious, the more revolutions the engine did, the more damage I reckoned I would do.
On that night, all I was concerned about was getting Charis back to the accommodation - on one cylinder or on all - that's all I cared about. I had signal there, I had WIFI there and from the accommodation we could know our surroundings and contact either the AA, Privilege or the AirBNB hosts.
Somehow the car made it.
That night, I stayed up pretty late figuring out what to do - whilst the closest garage was Inverness, they only had availability from the 10th - and not having a car for those three days would cause more problems then good.
Fortunately, Halfords did have a solution: Dingwall. A couple more miles out, but with "ASAP" availability.
I would post a picture here, but it honestly gives me nightmares, and the less chance of jinxing myself, the better.
The final day on mainland Scotland, and indeed the final day of this blog.
With Halfords opening at 8am, and my diagnostics test booked for 8:30am, I was keen to get a wriggle on.
Obviously, this is me we are talking about and nothing I ever do works.
I started off by going to the wrong (two) Halford's in Inverness, then whilst trying to find WiFi to prove I had a booking/I booked a diagnostics test, I remembered that it was in the next town over.
At the same time, Charis had booked a Glass Bottom Boat tour for that morning, on top of the fact that we had to be out of the AirBNB House by 10.
It was carnage and chaos.
Meanwhile, I arrived at Halfords, and due to me being slightly late, a gentleman had snuck in and taken my slot, fair enough.
Initially at 9:30, Halfords were kind enough to serve me at 9, meaning that I'd get back to the AirBNB at 10:10am, could be worse.
Better yet, we were able to have the Glass Bottom Boat in the Afternoon - or later. Wonderful.
Fast-forward, and it was just an Oxygen Sensor that had gone bust - and the mechanic said that I should be able to go to Skye and recommended me sorting it at my next MOT. Perfect.
I drive back to the AirBNB and the lady is lovely about us being a little bit on the slow side - as I already had all the suitcases in the boot, it was simply a matter of getting Charis in the car and leaving.
After talking to Charis and the AirBNB woman, we set off for Skye.
Along the way, we'd stop off at Loch Ness, this time to grab a little something for our parents and familes (I swear I didn't go overboard...I swear.)
With my wallet looking a little lighter, we set off East again, first stopping off at a petrol station in the middle of no-where, before continuing on again.
The Glass Bottom Boat was due to set sail at 2pm. After getting confused at Kyle Of Lochalsh and Kyleakin, I managed to get us in totally the wrong place and on the wrong side of the harbour. A little drama later and a phone call to the operator later, we eventually found the meeting spot...and arrived at 14:06. As I found a car-park in the little town of Kyleakin, the boat had already left. Fuck Me.
- A quick stroll in Kyleakin
Had I not fucked around with Halfords, had I not gone to the one in Inverness, had I filled up last night, had I looked at a map or god-forbid the website, we wouldn't have missed it. It was a total fuckup on my behalf and I felt terrible for it, but there was always September 13th, when we were due to return from Skye. We'll see, I have to be on top of my game with timing.
After that absolute clusterfuck was dealt with, we drove straight from Kyleakin to the rough vicinity of where the property was - My KIA not exactly being the most reliable when it comes to Sat-Nav instructions, we had to pull up the AirBNB's instructions on "how to get to the property" which we found after the second attempt.
Just like the first, it was very much like an "annex" an extension of the property which "forms" its own house.
For the rest of that evening, we did nothing.
Especially as we were both not in the mood following the Glass Bottom Boat disaster.
I think the only positive that came out of that day was the fact that we made it back to Nairn and, that we could continue on with our holiday without needing to remove the engine of the car. But the future can still happen.
What do I think of Skye? Beautiful. Remote, Mountainous, I suppose a different way of life, the people are very friendly here and the amount one can do has also surprised me.
Despite having more passing places than a man could wish for, the attitude on Skye is very much "ya giv' som, ya get som" (you give some, you get some) - meaning if you give room to cars they'll wait for you when they can. If you drive like a moron and take it like the Welsh Rally, then you're asking for an accident - especially given the amount of blind corners. Those on Skye are considerate and safe drivers, if you're not, you're going to be stuck behind those who are, so either way - as the ole saying always goes - "giv' som t' git som." (give some to get some)
Right, that's beyond far too much for just one blog, but it's the biggest holiday I've had since starting University.
Anyway, Catch you in Part 2, I hope you've enjoyed it!