thro England to Scotland
8th July 2002
Today's newspaper cheerfully announced that the weather the UK has been having for the last 13 years of continental type of heat is not normal and THIS YEAR it may be reverting back to type, that is lousy summer weather. Needless to say I was very pleased with their little cheerful note!
Ran it to one bit of real black clouds 50 miles out with some spots of rain, it was just letting me know that if it want to it could rain hard!
I found out that Hadrian's Wall was not built to contain the Scots but the Picts, the Scots did not arrive in the country that was to bear their name for another 350 years from Ireland.
Driving up the motorway to the road that would take me to the wall I overtook a funeral, it was a old horse drawn carriage, a hearse with two men sitting in the drivers seats dresses in black, the two horses both were draped in black, a real bit of old world charm in today's instant society, of course the person in the coffin was in no hurry!
Driving home I am afraid to admit the sun was VERY HOT! So perhaps they may be wrong and there may be a summer this year.
The chief warden at this site will not let me use the telephone at any time of the day or night to log on to clear the e-mails. It is interesting that a nation that once lead the world in technology and gave the world so many inventions can be peopled with people who resist change and hope it will go away.
Of all the countries I have visited on this trip England has to be bottom of the heap in forward thinking computer wise. It is interesting that some of the best magazines on computers are printed & sold in the UK but the level of computer literacy that I have seen to date shows it has not penetrated into the general population very far.
The thing that worries me is that trends that seem to happen in UK find their way to NZ and if this happens it will be a total disaster.
Bought a couple of newspapers and they were full of the petty crime this country is face with it almost seems like it is totally out of control with the Government having absolutely no idea what to do. This does not sit very well with our Govt as the usually look to the UK for ideas.
The weather was fine with periods of sunshine, and a little rain. Heard that Loch Lomond had to cancel their highland games for the first time known, they have had 52 days of rain. Some one else said that Scotland was very wet this year.
It is quite depressing at times hare in England, you drive thro the whole cities of terrace houses with no car parking, no view, no nothing! And you cannot help but wonder that except for a luck of geography you may have grown up there and how different things would have been.
Then you look around the campground and see all of the security in place on all of the caravans and you are aware that over 3000 go missing every year. Then you read of all the crime that is happening in this country, you observe the high cost of living, the impossible situation the first house buyers are now in, in this country and you can't help wondering what the future has in store for the people that once had the largest dominion in the world, where it was said the sun never sunk on the British flag.
You also know you have a pretty good chance of being ripped off with any dealings you have with the local population, a completely different feeling you have when you are up in Scandinavia, where it is not uncommon to see boats with their outboard motors still on them overnight. Mentioned this to a local he said yes in this country they do not even wait for you to drive away before they have nicked it!
All of these things do not give you a great deal of confidence in the country or its people.
The type of short slightness the whole country is demonstrated in the Caravan Club the largest type of club in the world with hundreds of thousands of members, they are a extremely well run organization, with very good campsites through the UK and very well off. They demonstrate what has become the standard thinking in the UK on the Euro, we will wait and see.
The caravan club have taken this line of thinking about the Internet & emails. THEY HAVE NOT HAPPENED!
They have no provision for their members receiving emails, it is forbidden to use their phone line at any time of the day or night, by degree from H.O. They do not have a phone line you can pay to use, as I say email, as far as they are concerned, does not exist. Yes they do have a web site, but compared to what it could be it is useless.
If it was not for the fact I want to see the wonderful scenery of Scotland I would leave and turn the light out! I wonder if anyone would notice the light had been turned out!
You can almost hear the conversation, bit dark today ain't it Bert , yeer it happened all of a sudden!
Enough of this Pom bashing!!!!
Last year the show was cancelled because of the foot & mouth scare, this year there was another small scare but they did not have to cancel the show. The only noticeable side effect was the demonstration of the sheep dogs working had to be done with Geese, not sure what the dog thought of that!
Then it was time to look at the trade exhibits so I wandered thro one of the large tents and found a photographers display with what I would call very modern photos, the type we have seen by some over the years by some of our leading names, but who have not been able to create a demand with our small population. There was a woman looking after the stand, but she was vitally engaged in a very long telephone conversation. I wandered about the stand trying to look interested, but the person on the other end of the phone held much more interest by a considerable degree.
So I wandered out, had a long conversation at a game keeping stand, and about 40 minutes later wandered back in. SHE WAS OFF THE PHONE, wonderful, so I chatted with he, found out the coy was part of a franchise, got a note of a couple of names of the franchise owners, and left.
After work (6.30pm) that day I visited one of the owners and found out that it is a very tightly controlled organization, with massive training, even if you are a "good" photographer, would only operate in the larger population centers of the UK, they ONLY did that type of photography hence only being able to operate in large population centers, and they had quite a organization supporting the franchises, and the studio I visited had a staff of 15. I, in my age group was certainly NOT one of their expected cliental, which is perhaps why the sales girl stayed on the phone at the show.
All good reasons why those that tried this type of photography, in NZ, and did it extremely well, were not able to make it work to the degree that it is in this country, how well is it working well one of the owners of one of the 40 odd franchisees is driving the latest Ferrari!
OK you say no big deal, and it is not until you find out the north (where I am at the moment) is dramatically cheaper than the south, here a VW Golf costs £2000 a year for insurance, so image a Ferrari insurance bill in the south!
The studios when the come up for sale will sell for £500,000 so it is a good profitable business, but is solely dependant on population as the first factor. Their appointment book is booked nine weeks ahead. Lots of other details that I will share with any one interested on my return. We talked for three hours!
I missed the bypass of Edinburgh so ended up driving almost thro the city center, but in time took a turnoff to Leigh and eventually found myself on the bypass which was much easier that the city streets of the big city. Turned off at Stirling as it was indicated there was a caravan site there, which I could not find, drove past what I assume was the Castle twice then on towards Perth, where soon I found another sign for a campsite which is where I am now.
The town of Auchterarder, no I am not in Germany, it is a prosperous town two miles away from Gleneagles, I walked through the town later and it had five ladies high fashion shops which tells me, along with the BIG houses there is a lot of money in this area.
With all of the "getting lost" twice I ended up driving 120 miles.
still like the south island with stone houses, streets
narrow though and very narrow through the towns. Castles,
after you have seen twelve or so around the world it is
hard to find something new in the ones here, on show.
Found out that when the oil light came on that the car is burning lots of oil, yes I did check the oil but that say many days ago so now buying oil by the large 4 litre container, add to that that reverse gear is hard to find, and the clutch protests when I start up a hill with the caravan on tow I am now requesting all readers of this newsletter to cross your fingers NOW for me. So watch for the continuing story of the £325 car!
From bottom left
Well today I drove about 86 miles to Loch Ness through the Moray area where there are 51 distilleries, did not managed to get a whiff of the aroma however, so it was on past Culloden and through Inverness and down to the campsite about 14 miles down the Loch, on the right hand side.
I wandered into Drumnadrochit, the closest town and visited
the Whiskey shop with 300 to 400 different whiskeys with
one bottle with a price on it of £1000, it was a
40 year old, Rare special collection, of Glenfiddich.
I have seen over 50 B&B today they are everywhere seem to be priced, where they show it, at between £12 & £16, but they all use the word from…so I am not dure if that price is in the hay loft or where!
Be aware that if you stay on a farm, YOU are often there as pocket money to the owner, and if they have a staff sometimes you are barely tolerated, This one where I am staying has horse riding as a big feature and the little girls & their horses would take up the whole drive leading from the campsite, you would be told to stop and you would have to wait till they were ready to let you through, OK I know horses & little girls are scary things but why is the assembly point the middle of the drive?
The highlands officially start at about Inverness and it appears that the people of the Highlands were the original wearers of the Kilt that was to be adopted by the whole country. It is interesting to note that such a small part of the country gave so much trouble and then it was not all of the clans as…
Another factor that I did not know was that religion was a big player in who was on what side, Prince Charlie was Catholic and so were all those that fought for him and the Protestants fought on the side of the Red Coats for the English King, and of course that is a very simplified version.
They had a very good information centre there and a very good book shop.
Weather score 27fine 6 wet days
One interesting hill today would not like to do too many like that with the car I have, talking of the car it burnt no oil today, maybe all the oil I am carrying has scared it!
After being in Scotland for a few days I am not surprised there are so many GP & Rally drivers from this country, the do enough practice on the road every day, there should be more.
Fine & sunny all day today. Drove 50 miles. Concerned that the way down the west coast is quite hilly & I do not trust the mechanics of the 405. it has been a good experiment however and if I was to do it again I would get just a slightly larger caravan, and a larger car, which of course puts the registration & fuel consumed up in costs.
Drove back into Wick, they had a Caravan club site there but I had heard so many tales of their excentric behaviour I drove on. Wick was a very small shopping centre Ashburton or Pukekohe are much larger, I believe even Otorohanga is larger!
A lot of gift shops at John o' Groats and today the car park was almost full and there were many tour buses, the old hotel has seen better days and I think is down to just the bar now it was built in 1875 and could do with a lot of money spent on it.
It is interesting seeing what looks like good buildings sitting empty slowly deteriorating, this is commercial property and often attractive large houses. Then there are the stone cottages with their roofs collapsed or empty showing signs of eventual decay. Makes you wonder what circumstances surrounded the first decision to abandon their property.
This morning before I left last nights camp site I was talking to the guy that was camped beside me, he is a land agent from St Andrews who's hobby is researching old castles, he tells me that in the Caithness, which is the province where I am currently, there were over 40 castles, from those still being lived in to those that may only have a pile of stones. He finds them, photographs them, finds their floor plan from 100+ years ago, passes this information on to a friend who is a architect, who redraws them with the information, then they are published on a web site with their history. An interesting hobby. The web site is something like www.caithness.org.uk or if that does not work do a search for Caithness Castles.
The campsite is right on the edge of the coast and you can see Orkney in the middle distance, quite close. Wonderful view but if you have a view you normally also have a wind, I think it might be a bit of a rock and roll tonight.
Cost to go to the Orkneys is £25 for the car, £25 for the caravan and £10 per passenger, nothing for a dog, if it stays in the car! That is each way of course.
My distant cousin will not be back from his holidays for another 15 days yet so that is a long time to fill in on the Island I was telling my land agent friend this morning, he said "Oh no it is not, I could fill it in easy" he said the Ring of Brogar alone just trying to think why it was built, well I worked it out today about 2000 BC a round space ship was discovered one morning by the early Pict's, they put the stones slabs upright around it to keep it there not knowing it would go straight up into the air, so that is as good as any other theory!
Showers almost all day with periods of sunshine, but on reflection it must count as a rainy day. About half way here the trafficator jammed on turn right. So after a while I worked out the flasher that was causing the problem was in a box under the dashboard of the car, so I removed that and carried on with out any turn indicators.
Now the chances of finding one of those where I was camped, which was as remote almost as you can get I thought was pretty slim, but in a little one man garage, the mechanic with good oily hands, and a garage of three room all as oily and full of things only a country garage can accumulate over many years, so into this apparent mess the mechanic strode, after agreeing he probably did not have one, to produce a relay with the comment is it for a 405, yes it was , it fitted and £10 less I was on my way, again legal.
Driving back to the camp site I stopped at a view point and there was someone taking photos of a family group so I offered to take it for them, the father did not understand but the son came forward took the camera and handed to me, after the photo I found out they were Polish and were on a tour thro all of the UK. I have been seeing a lot of PZ stickers as I wander around Europe & UK on this trip.
The road her was windy, not excessively hilly, one way over 50% of the way with plenty of passing bays all of the distance. The campsite is in a rather beautiful "Bay of Islands" location with beautiful white sands, but with out the good weather. Here normal attire is oilskin & wellies …almost.
Talking to the guy camped beside me who was a engineer, we discussed the demise of the British Auto industry, and then observed that Jaguar was going from strength, Range Rover & Rover were doing very well, Peugeot were building one of their models in UK, of course Morgan & TVR are still UK owned, aren't they? Most the GP cars are built in the UK. He said the UK have brilliant engineers but the Govt has made it difficult with taxes and all sorts of other things to employ people, yet my thought is these foreign people come into UK and do just that!
He spoke about BMW having just built a factory that produces a finished motor for a car every 40 seconds with very few people employed, I asked why could the Poms not have done this, he said the UK engineers did, I said, YES for a German coy!
Is it the modern UK management that is the problem, it is a interesting question, WHY a coy that was failing is purchased by a overseas coy and then "does well", is it that the money for risk finance is not available in the UK like other coys.
It is a interesting question as we in NZ for some inconceivable reason seem to follow the British experiments that end in failure and it concerns me that this failure mind set may be or has been imported into NZ.
Drove about 50 Miles today to the camp ground at Laing, I chickened out and drove the inland route although since I have found out the coastal route which I would have preferred was tarsealed all the way, it was shown as a bad road on the Caravan clubs map and I was concerned that I might strike a shingle road on a hill and with a front wheel drive car pulling a caravan I would have been camped at the bottom till someone rescued me.
interesting conversation with someone else before I left
said that cars in Europe were £1000 cheaper there
and this apparently also applies to motor homes, you do
of course have the language problem but I do not believe
that is as great as one may believe with the spread of
Reverse gear is getting harder to find so I have left the car with an mechanic to look at to see if the selector needs to be adjusted I get the good new at 10 am tomorrow. Word form my architect that the builder can do the alterations before Christmas if he starts in September may lead me to return home in a month's time, and with the car problems I may do that. I am forming many ideas on what I would do differently next year should I do a simular thing.
Report on the car the gear changing linkage was worn that is why reverse is a problem, the mechanic pointed out a bit to push if I have problems but you need another person, after a bit I thought a bit of string around that and I can pull that from the driving position and go into reverse first time every time….. yes it works, I may patent the modification!
Drove from Laing to Ledmore through the moors, the Heather, by the Loch's and then thro some forests and down to Ullapool, more of the same except with light rain and visibility about one kilometre, which when I got to the coast was less and the beautiful views that were there will have to wait for another day. At Ullapool I looked at the camp ground on the edge of the Loch looking out to sea, if the mist ever lifted, with the very wet grass, a front wheel drive car I elected to move on rather that stay in what was the most expensive site I have so far seen, must have been the sea view, no discount if there is a mist though.
On south towards Inverness and stopped at the first campsite 18 miles outside Inverness at Contin, site fee £3.50! beside a good fly fishing stream. Passing one of the Loch in the miserable drizzle saw two men in a boat fishing, I assume the fish are bigger if you are miserable as you are catching them. Drove 94 miles today.
It was a miserable wet day when I was driving, and the thought was that the Clans fought each other for part of this misery , Oh well!
Drove thro Inverness down the side of Loch Ness and on towards the Isle of Skye. I have stopped at a quaint little village Dornie campsite with the Clan McKenzie castle on the edge of the Loch.
Getting here was interesting, after turning away from travelling along beside the edge of Loch Ness I then proceeded to drive along the valley with high hill either side of the road and occasionally another Loch would appear, all very picturesque. after leaving the caravan at the site I drove to the lookout quite a distance on a gradual climb round the hills till at the top there was a commanding view over the large expanse of water on which Dornie is located. Drove 91 miles today.
Drove the 9 miles into Kyle of Lochalsh to see what to expect and inspected the two campsites. While I was there I went into the information office, a Japanese was looking for a B&B and the guy there had found one for him, a double room was £25 EACH, that is £50 in case you can not work that out, he said that is almost $100 (he was talking US of course) he said that is very expensive! The shopkeeper said "yes I know" and we do not get paid very much he said. In fact everyone except one person deplored the cost of almost everything now in the UK. The one person had his own business and I suspect it will not last as he did not appear to have a handle on the financial side, so his judgement was not worthy of consideration.
So I collected information about the Isle of Skye and then it started raining at 3pm. All this wet weather is playing hell with my arthritis, even my steel knees are telling me they so not like it.
So I drove around one part of the Island and drove out of the rain, still overcast. The main employment on the island seems to be Bed and Breakfast it seemed that almost very house had a sign out.
It is now 10.20 pm and is twilight, hardly a cloud in the sky, could it be fine tomorrow?
Drove around the other part of the island today and visited a Whiskey Distillery that I came across it was the Talisker single Malt. Quite interesting. The rest of the day was just like travelling over the south island with water views, sheep and the only differential was the type of houses on the hills, I must admit being surprised at the number of houses, as you could say per acre in the country side, I wonder what the all do? No it does not interest me that much to find out!!!
After leaving the caravan I set off to Plockton a quaint little village on the side of the sea, its claim to fame is that it won the best village in 94. and has been the village featured in many films, most recently the TV series “Hamish Mcbeth” I looked for Hamish around every nook & cranny but could not find him. On the way back saw some hairy Highland cattle. The cracked headlight glass now has fallen out, it will be interesting as to what will pack it in first, me or the car!
LIKE to receive my travel journals as they are written just click