Updated: Oct 4, 2021
Good morning and welcome to the final part of the Scotland Holiday Blog, the third blog (almost in a row) I've had to split into multiple parts!
Apologies about the rather "sudden" end to the previous blog, I'm trying to separate it out into even chunks by where I'm staying - so the first part being on the road to Nairn, the second being in and around Nairn before leaving to go to Skye, and the third and final (this one) being after leaving Skye.
One thing I did think was amazing whilst there was the fact that usually roads cut into the landscape, but this time the landscape decided where the roads went, ant I thought that was pretty cool.
Also a little disclaimer: In my previous blog, I stated I did river bugging, this was in fact on a later date and the incorrect date has been rectified and placed in this blog instead.
So, without any further rambling - let's finish the blog series I've been writing for almost a month!
14/09/2021 There were three main things I remembered from the 14th - obviously, and unforgettably, taking a COVID Test (as it was required on entry for the concert tomorrow), though this was incredibly uncomfortable as as prior to this date, I had only done tests done in centres (bar one exception), this being uncomfortable because there was no "guidance" other than Charis and a rather small mirror.
Continuing on with my plan of "eating somewhere different every night", I ate at Maccies (McDonalds), I just needed something made for me and slapped in a takeaway bag, something easy for once.
I'd shortly return to the accommodation after and would hit the hay not long after - especially as I had a big day.
Before going on to the 15th, my parents would begin renting a property on the Isle Of Wight on this day - meaning our belongings would either be in storage, in the Isle Of Wight house or staying in our current house (or well, current house on the 14th September...shortly after, it not being ours).
This was slightly ironic as I had been VERY far north, they were VERY far south!
The 15th was an incredibly busy day, and it started early.
After arriving half an hour early at about 09:50am, the others would eventually turn up at Clunie Power Station in Pitlochry not too long after.
The activity for the day would turn out to be River Bugging - which consist of going down a stretch of river/rapids in a tiny little inflatable "craft" - or "Bug"
Of the two activities booked with Splash White Water Rafting (the activity operator), I was more hesitant about doing this compared to the White Water Rafting booked for the next day.
In the beginning, the River Bugging and White Water Rafting was supposed to be booked for the same day, but with the White Water Rafting happening at about 2 pm or so, plus the drive back and then onward drive to Glasgow, it all got a bit tight and tricky, so Charis managed (prior to the holiday) to separate them and have one on one day and one on the other
No less, despite it being (apparently) shorter than advertised, I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite it being a little sketchy at moments - especially having to go down a sizable waterfall (sizable in comparison to what I was in, it wasn't a "deadly" drop, just like an "uncomfortable" one which eventually turned into adrenaline.)
Charis told me that the activity had gone on a lot shorter than it said, although I personally think/thought this was down to us splitting the activities into the two days - travelling to the White Water Rafting starting location, getting in and doing the rafting coming into the total time of the activity.
After this, we'd drive back to the accommodation.
Prior to this date, I had never worn a wetsuit before (other than for sizing purposes), and although mine was a little loose (comfortably loose), it kept me warm - although I didn't enjoy getting in to "practice" falling in/flipping over, it did what it was supposed to do.
My First Concert
Two words, one man: Tom. Grennan.
Whilst I am still a relatively new fan (only "discovering" him in March 2021), it was pretty much love at first song, and since then I've been quickly picking up his songs (mostly from his newest album Evering Road) and can now loudly - and obnoxiously blare out any of his songs at the top of my lungs... Going into my first concert, I didn't know what to expect - would I know enough songs, would I be the only adult male/my demographic...who WAS Tom's audience?! Other than playing once or twice in ASDA, Tom wasn't the most "well known" and "famous" artist in the world - but since picking up a contract at a Finnsbury Pub, he's been one of the hottest up and coming pop artists in a while. After taking a rather uncomfortable COVID Test (required for entry), I tested negative (surprise, surprise) and after a little bit of a quiet day, I headed off towards Glasgow with no idea what lay in store for me.
Arriving in Glasgow about an hour or so before the performance, there were already people waiting outside, a short queue, sure, but nevertheless - having people stand outside waiting over and hour to see you surely says something.
Parking in Glasgow also was surprisingly easy to find - and not a single road was closed, it was just like another day in Glasgow - and I'll come back to this point after the show.
After parking under some street lighting in a very residential area, I wondered towards the venue.
Obviously, I'd forget my mask in the car, but I was less than a 5 minute walk away, so I jogged back, grabbed it and lined up.
All things considered, I was pretty darn near the front of the queue - obviously, during the first 10 minutes or so it's like "damn, I'm at the back" but as time went on and the time of the concert grew nearer, so did the line of people behind me. Tom's only going to become more and more famous, so I think the "one hour rule" will apply less and less, and the "2 or more" hour rule will begin to apply.
No matter, we were let in shortly after 7pm and had two or three checks - the first was checking we had tickets (or available) and had negative tests, the second was scanning our tickets, and probably double checking the test results, and the third was a bag-check. I had a tube of Pringles and an Oasis (plus a miniature bag of Haribos)
Weather it was the fact that they had a bar in there, didn't want me to drop crumbs on their floor, or they thought it was a bomb threat - either put a bomb in the tube or put a bomb in the tube and put some Pringles on top to disguise it - they asked me to throw both away, but chuckled as he saw the Haribo bag and let me have it (it wasn't one of the regular sizes, it was one of the 5p/10p mini bags you get)
I was asked anyway to put my bag in a corridor - weather this was due to space, a bomb threat or the fact I could have thrown it over the balcony (I was in the balcony seating - didn't know how long it'd go on for and didn't want to be on my feet for the whole thing), but no matter, I had my phone and camera, and that's all I needed.
Eventually the lights dimmed and I could make out a drum-kit....riiiight, interesting....
Eventually, a young lad the same sort of age as Tom walked out, and I kid you not, my first response was "what's happened to Tom's hair?!?"
It turns out, it wasn't Tom. It was Frankie Beetlestone - a 19 year old artist who was having his second gig here.
Upon doing further research, Frankie has two videos on his channel and I can proudly say that I have more subscribers than him. Do I care? No. Does he care? No. Does it matter? No. With 506 twitter followers, Frankie truly is "starting out", both videos receiving roughly 10,000 views each.
After another support act (below), I was more than ready to see Tom...and damn did he make an entrance...
It was fucking incredible. That's the only way to put it - there's nothing quite like seeing your idol/favourite artist in the flesh and then to hear that it's not just editing trickery - that they can actually sing as well as all the videos you've watched of them. As I said, it's just seeing them in a whole new dimension - almost bringing a human body to the face you've seen so many times on the screen.
There's also something weirdly heart-warming and wholesome about seeing a lesser known artist and having everyone in the room passionately singing the lyrics of your favourite artists - not one of my friends or friend groups know who Tom is - or have mentioned him (that I know of, they might just know the name but not the songs) - but being quite solitary and not knowing anyone that shares the same passion for him as I do and then have a room of 2,500 people harmonising all of my favourite songs of his, honestly has made probably the moment of my life (sorry iRacing!)
Here's another bloody impressive moment - Tom trips during the song, but just keeps on going like nothing happened. Like, how he doesn't yell, apologise or even pause for a moment or let alone, miss the beat is just like holy moly...Could be the adrenaline (that he doesn't feel it) but damn, that's some performance right there.
I wish I could re-live these 4 minutes over and over, because the atmosphere in that room was something else....
Let's end on a classic: A Little Bit Of Love
There was also this song, however has quite the interesting language.
As with all good things in life, the best things must come to an end, and unfortunately, this too had to come to an end - this escape, this one night where I felt a part of something - a part of something big, almost like I was a part of a huge family.
During that concert, I forgot about all my outside problems, I forgot...me. In that moment, in that venue, it was an escape, an escape from reality - an escape from the outside world, it was just me, the crowd and Tom, singing my favourite tunes at the top of my lungs. I was weightless, I was careless and I was free. Nothing Mattered and it will remain as one of the best nights of my life probably for my life-time.
This also played after Tom's final song:
I collect my bag from the corridor and head out into the darkness of the night.
Somehow I remember where my car is and....
Disaster strikes. I'm hungry, I want a quick drive through McDonalds, so I bang in "McDonalds" into my SatNav.
There's two in Glasgow, I go to both and they are both ones you have to walk into - the second of the two being a "McDrive" - which I thought meant "McDrive Thru" but obviously not. Eventually I did get McDonalds, although it was pretty darn late and probably quite out of the way
As I mentioned earlier, I would get onto the fact that "it was just like another day in Glasgow" and this was also true after the show, after just one turning it was like there was no concert at all, or no major event - no hoards of people, no closed roads, no busy pubs or bars, it was just the front of the venue where people were hanging out - both underneath the lit "Tom Grennan | 15th September |" sign as well as super-fans trying to catch a glimpse of him leaving or getting in his bus or saying goodbye, I knew and know that the security has planned well in advance for this - and just like his sneaky entrance into the venue, they'd also ensure that he makes a silent escape too - but I found it very interesting.
16/09/2021 - Final Day In Scotland
The 16th started not too badly, seeing a massive cat that after doing some research, looks to have been a Maine Coon.
In all honesty, the 16th was a fucking mess. We'd drive out to the same vicinity as last time, however this time it was a Aberfeldy (Aberfeldy is on the west of a fork in the river whilst Pitlochry is on the right, both of these merge to form the a junction and this time I'd be late. We'd miss the activity, which was a huge shame as it was the one big "finale" that Charis was most looking forward to do and due to my Dyspraxic timing and clumsiness, we weren't able to do it. Especially as we were leaving Scotland the very following day.
I didn't even bother trying to ask them to reschedule it, and (regrettably) without telling Charis, I drove home without doing the activity, we were both livid, but it just goes to show that everything in life needs a fuck-ton of planning.
If it was any consolation, I did take a picture of the phone number to call to ask for a refund to see if we could get anything, but I didn't do anything with it nor made any calls nor emails. This would eventually be sorted almost two weeks after the holiday finished, yes I was busy with university and moving out, but since I was the one who "fucked up" the rafting, I should be the one to sort it out, no matter.
We'd eventually leave and head south to a town called Cauldhame.
Down there was the Wharry Burn, where there was a nice little bridge a few yards from a very well hidden secret called the "Sheriffmuir Paradise Pools" - Googling "Paradise Pools" will not turn up any results, and to get down there is a good 5 - 10 minute walk through a common (pheasant) shooting range and some long grass.
Downstream from here was some nice waterfalls, but given the general upkeep of the place, it looks as though it's soon to be lost to time unless there are people who are specifically looking for it.
After this, we'd head into the centre of Stirling for what seems a simple task: Take a picture of a Sir William Wallace Statue, grab food - Pizza in this case, and leave...seems simple right? Right?
Well, this is me we are talking about.
The statue itself, we found alright...it was the bit afterwards which was a little bit of a problem.
The statue was of Sir William Wallace who was a famous knight.
We wanted Pizza from Papa John's to take back to the house. I knew where Papa Johns was, so I offered to pick Charis up and drive her down there so we could get food...This turned out to be...problematic.
Simply put, Stirling's roads were disastrously laid out.
I should have been able to just go down the road from where the parking was (further up the road from Nature's Solutions/Baker Street) but when I last checked, there was a plastic barrier/blockade/road-works barrier there.
Weather it was a no entry sign, a "cycles and pedestrians only sign" or roads that didn't exist/no longer existed, I got lost around Stirling Town Centre trying to find a way by for about 45 minutes, even once ending up at a Tesco Superstore on the other side of town, whilst my phone buzzed and rung - Charis was as freaked out as I was, and quite understandably so, I was only meant to turn the fucking car around/drive down the road or find a way around the blockade.
The "butt" of the problem was my Kia not telling me which roads were "no entry" roads, which weren't actually roads, which actually lead to the statue and which were sending me to the shadow realm.
I used "Corn Exchange Road" quite a few times, but as I couldn't see the statue, I was a bit confused as I was coming past a different side of the clock-tower.
No matter, by the end of the night, I found a way to the statue and Charis got in and we looked at another two statues on each side of a road.
On one side was Robert Burns (the man Burns night is named after) whilst on the other side (rear of shot in picture below) was Rob Roy who was an outlaw who became a folk hero.
With Robert The Bruce, Rob Roy, Stirling and William Wallace all circulating in my head - and many different statues, monuments and buildings and other things to think about, I think it was just the fact it was dark and I had a lot on my mind that just sort of "overwhelmed" me - alas, that was a horrible night I wish not to think about because I was driving in circles for almost an hour and achieved fuck all other than finding Charis again - (as mad as we both were, she reminded me to check my car's destination history, so props to her on that) and eventually we found each other, headed to said statue before heading back to the accommodation to rest.
17/09/2021 - Last Full Day On The Road
After waking up early to ensure everything was packed, we were shortly back on the road, still heading South, still heading towards Surrey.
Back-tracking slightly, but there's something different - almost magical and far away about the Isle Of Skye, I'm only thinking about it now because of how rural, out of the way and almost how it was like an "escape" - I said to myself on the way down to the property - "This reminds me of Iceland" (or words to those effect) because it did - giant mountains either side of the road rising up high into the sky, a small, twisty, narrow road with frequent passing opportunities and not a house to be seen on the horizon in any direction and unfortunately, mainland England/Scotland (well, especially the South) is a bit...depressing, I don't know if it's the "coming home from holiday blues, but I certainly missed rural Scotland and the highlands. Tangent over, we were out of the house by 08:30am and after a little snap of "McLaren Terrace" for no reason whatsoever, we hit the road to Glasgow....
Yes. Glasgow. I butched up. Again. This time, I got confused between "monument" and "memorial"...
No matter, with this butch up, and quite the drive still to go down to Scarborough, we ate up the miles.
In this brief period, I'll go over some of the irrelevant things that happened - Tom Wallace celebrated his first month on iRacing - going from a rookie to a Class D 1.7K driver - after my first month on the sim, I was also a Class D, but at 1.1K - although having joined at Week 5, and only doing one race a week, this was about my 4th race and racing in Week 9.
More detail on him and his incredible leap onto the sim in a separate, specific blog.
This Weekend's Races
F3 Cup (UWRacing) - Donington Park
BTCC Croft (Don't care for Croft/out of the way, though we could have seen it on the way home from Scotland..ha ha.)
iRacing Bathurst 1000KM (No KBM Entries)
In addition to this, canyoning was planned, but unfortunately, Charis booked it for two people - but in trying to only do it for one person, the tour organiser completely unbooked and cancelled it...which was...bizarre.
And with that and less than 100 hours left as a Resident Of Surrey and indeed Woking, we return to Scarborough where there are already fans hovering outside the Scarborough Open Air Theatre in wait for Duran Duran who were ironically playing where we were on the Friday, and on the Isle Of Wight, where my parents were soon to be on the weekend. What a coincidence.
No matter, with some extra time to kill before Duran Duran started (Charis' Concert, as I went to see Tom Grennan which extended the holiday, so she went to a concert too) we walked around a beautiful park before heading slightly more into town to a Costa where we had...simply put "Unofficial Lunch" - we had devices that needed charging, and those toasties, shortbreads and custard creams looked and smelled too good to resist so we had a little natter whilst we ate, drank and charged all of our low devices.
Whilst here, we saw a couple of Police vans outside, although it was the town centre, so it was to be expected.
Following lunch, we'd return to the Open Air Theatre and I'd line up with Charis.
Luckily, we arrived there a little later so the line would be "fluid" (moving forward) as opposed to waiting for everyone to be let in.
Whilst Charis was at the concert, I went on my own little adventure.
From the car-park outside the theatre, I headed to North Bay Beach where I parked up on a side road/hill (lots had parked on the sea-front) and firstly went onto the beach itself, which was pretty much deserted other than a large group of surfers out to sea.
After the sun set at the beach, I'd drive up to a petrol station before deciding on what to do next.
My mind was split in two - A) Go further up the coast and see if I can see any signs of costal erosion
B) Head back into the town/city and look for/find a Wetherspoons I can blog at.
Knowing A) would be a bit of a stretch - even during the day, I picked B) - especially with the knowledge that a house wouldn't just "fall into the ocean" or even be close - and if so, the Police would have tape MILES down the road - so the chance of me seeing a house, road or even path "abruptly ended" is pretty minimal - even if I DID know where to look, so I instead went to a local Wetherspoons instead and further made progression on the Scotland Blog - at this being the second part.
After having a three course meal (that I unfortunately didn't finish due to a small appetite), I'd nip back to the car and grab my laptop before making some serious blog progress. At almost 11pm, I'd get a message from Charis saying that the concert had finished, so I saved the draft, closed my laptop and packed my wires away and headed back to where the Open Air Theatre was and it was absolute chaos.
It was like the exit of the venue was a burst vein wound, people spilt out like a fresh flow of blood.
There were people absolutely EVERYWHERE, on the left of the road, on the right, up the road, down the road.... I eventually found a spot on the grass up the road from the exit that hadn't been taken up by cars or people.
The next challenge was to find Charis...in a sea of people and cars saying "on the grass" was pretty pointless and it was only by chance that I saw her not far away, walking away from me, so I got out of my car and sprinted towards her...had she gone any further back towards the entrance/exit, I probably would have lost her - but fortunately she stayed within my sight, and I went over to where she was and pointed towards the car and we both walked back. Phew.
Honestly, how we timed her being so close to the car and me pulling up/parking in one of the only available parking spaces (on a grass banking) I will never know.
No matter, we both bundled into the car and headed on the short sprint to Hull where our Premier Inn was for the night, arriving here at close to 1am in the morning, we were all pretty done and hit the hay almost straight away.
18/09/2021 - Homeward Bound
Breakfasts at Premier Inns and Travelodge's always get me sentimental (if that's the right word), all these travellers from all over the country all sleep in the same building and the next morning, after having breakfast in the same room, they all drive off to their destinations in every corner of the country - it's like you see the family on the table in front/next to you for about half an hour and once either of you head off, you never see each other again.
Anyway, after breakfast, Charis was a bit tired after she didn't get the best of sleep, so she slept on for a couple more hours before coming down shortly after 12, with the keys returned to Premier Inn and everything in the car, we were ready to set off, and we did so.
In all honesty, the drive back down to Surrey wasn't the greatest. It started well, until we reached Junction 29A on the M1 which displayed that the motorway was closed from Junction 28 - Junction 29 - The thing we didn't - or sorry, I didn't know, was if this INCLUDED Junction 28, or that Junction 28 was closed one side and open the other.