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Inverness Weekend
Fri 29th Mar 2002 to Mon 1st Apr 2002
organised by Central Scotland

Car Count : 6
[ show pre-run info ]

If you see a dead lion by the side of the road, a two headed cow grazing quietly and two stags eating chicken food while you sit in a conservatory munching breakfast, you can be sure you are somewhere rather special. Unless that somewhere special is”Oz”, or you’re involved in a remake of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” some further investigation is needed. Firstly, we can rule out any drugs link. No one on the trip seemed to be using drugs, different combinations of people saw the different things and no one had a VW camper van with flowers painted on the side.

Let’s start at the beginning. We left Edinbugh at 8.30 am on Good Friday and drove over the Forth Road Brige where we linked up with Mino and Zarine in the second 5. After the pleasantries, both cars headed, top down of course, over Kincardine Bridge and up the M9 to Callander, in order to link up with Richard and Eileen in car number 3 at 10 o’clock.  Judicial use of the mobile phone and, as we got closer, the headlights, meant that Richard and Eileen  could leave their driveway and take the head of the “convoy” without us slowing.

The three cars made a good (and legal of course) pace through Lochearnhead and Crianlarich to Tyndrum where we met the rest of the convoy: Alan and Miranda in their Mk2 and Alan’s sister, Elaine and her son Elliott, in Elaine’s Renault Megane convertible. After a quite extortionately priced coffee stop (nine quid for two coffees and two bacon rolls) and after watching the electric hood operate on the Megane (and trying to calculate just how many times we could get a 5 hood up and down in the same time), we headed north towards our destination, Garve, north of Inverness. “North to Inverness” doesn’t even begin to describe this route. The A82 runs through Bridge of Orchy and then through Glencoe. Anyone who has driven or even been driven through Glencoe will remember it forever. To drive it hood down is something special. The sweeping road, the oppresive, dominating majesty of the scenery and the angry echoes of the masacred McDonalds make you feel both elated and very very humble at the same time. Glencoe has an atmosphere all of it’s own which decends when you enter it and lifts only as you leave. It also has a dead lion lying by the road.

We stopped at the Commando monument to stretch our legs and the conversation turned immediately to exactly what had been lying, apparently dead, at the road side. I didn’t see it at all, the A82 through Glencoe being a road you don’t want to take your eyes off for too long, but those who did agreed that it was big, golden in colour and feline. My suggestion that it was a Labrador was dismissed.  We could have headed back for a second look, but if it was a lion, a: it might just be sleeping, waiting patiently for someone to poke it with a stick before leaping into life and eating them, or b: it might be dead, but that would be proof that this landscape could support a lion and if it could support one, it could support two and would you want to be the one holding the stick next to a dead lion when it’s pal stumbled across the scene? We used the excuse that we were late and moved on, but I know we all breathed a sigh of relief at our our lucky lion escape.

We headed up to Fort William, a horrible new town of a place which has grown up around the base of Ben Nevis.  Although an old place it was “developed” in the 60’s and 70’s and is ripe for the bulldozer treatment again.Then through Spean Bridge to Fort Augustus and lunch. We watched a couple of boats come through the locks and watched the swing bridge move rather less than majestically out of the way once the idiot tourists had finally been cleared from it.

From Fort Augustus we headed north again up the side of the long expanse of water reputed to be home to a monster. Loch Ness is another place with an atmosphere of it’s own. If you have been there you will wonder why the argument is based around whether there is a monster. See the water, especially flat and shiny as a mirror as it was this day and you wonder instead how there is any way there couldn’t be a monster there. Next, Drumnadrochit where we cut inland away from the coaches and caravans towards Beauly and a stop at the Moniack Castle Winery.

From there it was Muir of Ord then finally, Garve and the hotel, arriving at 5.30, where we met Bill and Linda Bennett, who are from that area and who had arranged to stay with us for the weekend. After a shower and a nap, we headed in for dinner, where we discussed the route for tomorrow. Bill had prepared 2 routes with maps and we pored over these trying to decide which we should do, before, in time honoured fashion, deciding we’d  do both. So we merged the routes and, after consulting the weather forecast which predicted the lesser weather coming from the west, reversed the route so we stayed in the pocket of good weather. And so to bed.

Dawn broke at 6am. I know this because I was awake every hour through the night, but that’s rich food eaten late, 4 glasses of red and a lumpy bed for you. Even if I had been soundly asleep, every beast in the immediate area is issued with a megaphone which they all use to out shout each other. The dawn chorus, is, in reality, a  dawn riot.  Imagine a classroom full of hyperactive 5 year olds on the last day before breaking up for Christmas and you have a picture of the dawn chorus.

After problems with the shower, we all met up for breakfast in the conservatory. Where they came from I’m not sure but suddenly for all to see were two stags. A stag standing against the background of a wood is almost impossible to see. You could walk past it and never see it. Of course the stag would leg it (or more accurately hoof it) long before you got anywhere near.These two saw us and torn between timidity and the lure of the food this side of the fence left for the chickens, they paused. Then, one moved forward, measured the fence against it’s chest, took a step back and hopped over. Food won the day.

At around 10 am we were ready to set off on our marathon trip for the day, calculated at around 211 miles. There are two things you should know about the north of Scotland. 1: it is empty. 2: because it is empty, the roads are in fantastic condition. I have seen poorer tarmac on race tracks. The 6 of us set off and headed west towards Kinlochewe, Poolewe and finally  Ullapool in time for a late lunch. We saw the North Scotland region parked at Poolewe Gardens, but we were running late and didn’t see them until we had passed. At Ullapool, we discovered the mountaineering shop were selling neckwarmers and within 10 minutes their stock was gone. Looking like the turtleneck convention we headed off again.

What can I say about the route? Twisty turny single track roads, passing places, nothing to pass, sea lochs, fresh water lochs, stunning scenery, two headed cow, blue sky, whoa! Back up there! Two headed cow? Well not really, but more than one of us thought so at the time. What we actually saw was two black cows stood side by side in exactly the same position except one had its head up while the other was grazing. Flying past it looked like one cow, two heads. Only as you passed did it become apparent it was two cows, two heads.

Late in the afternoon we hit Dornoch, with it’s cathedral which was happy to exist in relative obscurity for many years until a certain Madonna decided it was to be the location of her wedding. She had gone by the time we got there but two coach loads of Americans were looking around the place and generally making a noise. As we pulled in, one, in an ultimately futile attempt to impress the girl next to him, shouted to his pal “I don’t think it’s a car show, I think it’s just some dorky guys in the same car” to which Christine bellowed back “DORKY??!!” Yes, we can hear you when you shout and now you know that. We took great delight in pointing at said person while he was out of earshot, making it obvious that the comment had been heard and shared. We also took time to acknowledge that we had been called “dorky” by a young man dressed in a duffle coat who was on an organised coach trip. The final indignity for him was when Richard pointed at him and growled “Is that him?” as the young man was walking back to the coach. He covered the last 3 steps to the coach in world record time. I feel it necessary to point out that at no time was he in any danger from us, but his embarrassment was complete.

From Dornoch we headed west then south through Dingwall then back to Garve. It was 6.30pm. We headed back to freshen up, then back to the bar for dinner.

Sunday, the clocks had gone forward and since stags don’t observe BST, they were nowhere to be seen. We picked a route south that would keep us off the A9, one of the world’s most boring and ultimately most dangerous roads (too fast, too close together, too few opportunities to pass). Bill and Linda accompanied us to Aviemore where we had coffee then said our goodbyes and thanks for their hospitality. We stayed on the old A9 which is now empty and quiet, then cut “across the tops”, a phrase of Richard’s which turned out to mean a single track road with sheer drops to one side and sheer faces the other, and blind hairpins aplenty. It would make a fantastic run, but I wouldn’t want to explain to relatives why so many didn’t come back. A high level of concentration was required - a swerve and a lock up would mean a grisly death.

Mino told me he had covered over 600 miles on this weekend. The things I remember most was the driving a rollercoaster, watching the stags at breakfast (ours and theirs), the way Elaine’s driving in the 16v Megane became less studied and more free flowing, straightening the corners out, the fantastic scenery and the perfect company who all gelled together and made the weekend something special.

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