28 August 2015

Scotland the Brave - Report 1

The idea was originally to set off Friday morning and drive up to the Carlisle area for an overnight stop. Given the hassles and massive tailbacks that are associated with the Dartford Crossing, I added another overnight on Thursday to get part way along the road so that we would have a pretty easy day on Friday.

I chose a Days Inn near Baldock in Hertfordshire as it was cheap and dog friendly.  We packed the car and when Claire came home there were a few bits to do and we set off. Luckily later in the evening the traffic wasn't too bad through the toll tunnel at Dartford. We made good time and were soon checking into the motel on the A1 service area at Baldock.

Reggie was okay in the car and despite a bit of noise he wasn't too bad overnight.  The odd bark and growl when people made noise in the hallways.

As we left in the morning we saw this car in the car park.

Pity the van parked so close to it!

Friday we set off on the A1 route up to Scotch Corner where we would take the allegedly scenic and "biker friendly" A66 across from the east to west coasts of England.  It is quite a narrow part of the country.

The run wasn't too bad until around Barnard Castle on the A66 where the road became two lanes of jammed cars.  After 45 minutes inching along we checked the map and I set the TomTom for a country route via Barnard Castle and Middleton in Teesdale.  Once we were free of the jams we purred along.  At least we were moving and did see some nice scenery and villages.

Finally arriving at the next stop at Stobart's Motel.  Stobart's are one of the biggest UK truck companies and the motel is on the northern side of Carlisle. It is dog friendly, in fact the staff made a fuss of Reggie, has a cafe and bar onsite.  

Car outside Stobart's Motel
Once checked in we had a run into Carlisle to have a look about and take Reggie for a walk. We found our way to a free car-park near the castle.  On the map it shows a park behind the castle that goes across to the river.  

Carlisle Castle

Castle and bridge to town

Tubular bells sculpture
The park had lots of these sculptures that were actually musical instruments.  A kind of tubular bells.

Saturday morning and we were packed and on the road again. The plan was to head north past Gretna to Glasgow and pick up the A82 and stay with it alongside Loch Lomond to Glencoe.

We had crossed the border into Scotland and with more stops required for Reggie to stretch his legs and ablute, we pulled into a services on the M74. Had we seen the overhead signs and then heard the radio, we would have been able to plan a detour. Why? There was an accident on the A82 about halfway up the left side of Loch Ness that had blocked the road.  I pulled off the motorway and looked for a right side of the Loch route.  In this area there aren't too many roads!

In the end we had it sussed and let TomTom lead us around Glasgow onto the A81 and A84, and we stopped in the touristy town of Callander for lunch, and my first haggis of the trip. It wouldn't be the last.

Callander Fishery

From Callender there was heavy traffic in the opposite direction as people unable to get south on the A82 had to travel along the A84 and the way we had come up. The traffic for us wasn't too bad.

There's always a bit of frustration when you have had to make a quite long detour, and as we arrived at Crianlarich to rejoin the A82 and the original route, the road to the south was still closed.  Adding to the frustration was the column we had joined had a guy that looks at a 60mph speed limit and does 45!

Just before we entered Glencoe itself the guy turned into a hotel and we were let loose. The scenery is superb despite the rain!  Yes. It rains in Scotland. Frequently.  In Callander it had been warm and sunny.  There had been rain at some stage though as the "Fishery" car park was pretty well flooded in parts.

TomTom took us through the glen and then right onto the small road with passing places across the River Coe to the Glencoe Youth Hostel. There are two on this road, the Independent, and ours, the Scottish Youth Hostel Association hostel.  We checked in.

Although they are testing the water with dog friendly hostels, dogs aren't allowed in the cafe/restaurant or the lounge.  So basically they can go in the entrance hall and into the bedroom. Personally, this is a little restrictive and as long as the animals aren't where food is prepared then they could be allowed into the breakfast room.

Once checked in we had a run to look for the vistor centre. We founf it but it closed at 5pm. We did have a little walk in the rain and then back tot h Hostel. We decided to eat at the Clachaig Inn that we had passed on the road after we turned off the main A82.  In contrast to the YH it had no restriction on the dog - obviously guests don't go in the kitchens! Oh. It was still raining! Hard.

There is no reservations at the Inn and no organisation for getting a table.  Just hang about and dash when one becomes free. Not good. The food was okay, but the "who runs faster" system was shit.

We found a table that was in the hallway on its own and Claire and Reggie took residence whilst I queued at the bar to order drinks and food. It took fifteen minutes to get an order in and once seated it took a few minutes to be delivered. I guess at the pace they take orders that the kitchen is waiting for it to arrive and can concentrate on one at a time.  Certainly not worth the Tripadvisor rating at all.

As we were staying only two nights at the YH, we had breakfast booked only for the first morning, and so once the group occupying most of the beds in the hostel had had theirs we went and had oursm leaving Reggie to his own devices in the twin room we had.

We had another trip to the visitor centre (where dogs aren't allowed in) and went on the longer run through the glen. Unfortunately, it was raining most of the time, and forestry work meant that most of the walk was of scrub and severed off tree trunks.  But we all got a walk!

From the visitor centre we headed towards Fort William and decided to take the Corran Ferry across Loch Linhe.  It's not cheap for such a short and fast crossing at £8. But it is always nice to be on a ferry!

On the other wide we followed the A861 along the loch edge to where it meets the A830 main road from Fort William to Mallaig.  Traffic was pretty light as it was Sunday,  but I guess as Mallaig is a port on weekdays there might ne a lot more heavy stuff on the road.

Glenfinnan. Where Charles Edward Stewart aka Bonnie Prince Charlie, left Scotland forever after losing the battle at Culloden on 16th April 1746.

Reggie paddling

From Glenfinnan we set off along the main road for Fort William in the hope of getting some food. Although we found a dog friendly pub, food didn't happen, unless you count a packet of crisps and a pint....

Sadly, there was football (soccer American chums) and it featured my club, Arsenal losing 2-0 to London rivals West Ham United.  The locals in the pub seemed to be honorary Arsenal fans judging by the colourful language.

From here we got back in the car and headed back to the visitor centre for a coffee before it closed and then to the YH.  Checking the dog friendly places, we chose the Glencoe Inn for dinner. We should have gone there the night before.  Not to crowded, Reggie very welcome in the bar and they had food!  What could be better?  The staff were very friendly and to be honest it knocked the Clachaig Inn into a cocked hat.

The next morning we would be packing up and heading about 75 miles to Drumnadrochit and the glamping site.

To be continued.

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