Amy’s road trip across the Scottish Highlands, part 2
If you’ve not yet read the first installment, you can do so here...
Day 5 – Being tailed...
As I sit here sipping my large glass of red, and eating a spinach and walnut bread that’s just been served from a silver platter while Enya plays through the hotel stereo (yep, you read that correctly), it seems a lot more than three days since I was blasting through Glencoe, blaring music and whizzing down twisty passes with a gleeful “Wheeeeeeeee!!’. The only reminders are the chunky, muddy boots on my feet, contrasting with the high heels and polished shoes all around (I packed two pairs of shoes… Walking boots and, well, another pair of walking boots).
This evening marks the first day back in civilization, made apparent by the sudden appearance of street lighting and, less welcome, the impatient Subaru up my arse for most of the A9. Still, the sight of a bath when I entered the hotel room cheered me up no end.
The journey from Ullapool to Inverness via Tongue today was an incredibly wet and windy one, hence the majority of my shots are from the viewpoint of my warm and cosy car. Driving along, I found it childishly amusing to have my wheels kiss the edge of puddles to see how big a splash I could make. However, every now and then I’d misjudge the puddle, resulting in my windscreen receiving some of the action. The colours around me as I snaked between lochs and pools were that of such beauty and vibrancy that I had to keep rolling down the window to check my slightly tinted windows weren’t creating a saturating effect.
Tomorrow I shall be venturing to the capital of this fantastic country, Edinburgh. My intention is to visit a cool Mini workshop – I’m also going to hunt down a spa, as driving over 1,000 miles in a 30-year-old car has not done my shoulders any favours.
Day 6 – En route to Scotland’s Mini mecca
Today I actually interacted with humans again that weren’t hotel staff or waitresses. I spent the majority of my morning and a good chunk of the afternoon sat on a very wet A9, attempting to soothe my struggling car from the harsh, bullying spray from the lorries in front. My vision was primarily directly in front and to the right of me, simply as they were the only places I could reach to wipe the dripping condensation from glass. I’m not going to lie, it was pretty damn boring. The highlight of the journey was the point at which I found my front left tyre still with air in it after hitting a pothole the size of a swimming pool.
My destination was a fabulous workshop just outside of Edinburgh: The Mini Works. Simon has been restoring Minis for the past 30 years and believes in achieving the very best of quality for his customers, with absolutely no funny business. His morals are commendable – however, they do come with the disadvantage that he has little time to work on his own Minis. Still, if you want Simon and his team to work on your car, you’ll have to join the waiting list as this talented bunch are constantly inundated with work. From what I saw though, it’d definitely be worth the wait.
Tomorrow I’ll be attempting to find some gorgeous, quiet areas of Edinburgh to shoot the Mini before heading off south to the Angel of the North. I’m nearing the end of my adventure and I’m rather sad about it... but so, so chuffed with how it’s gone.
Day 7 – A calling from an Angel
I experienced some rather spectacular moments today: for the first time in my life, I saw a great murmuration of starlings above me; I received a slightly surreal picture message of myself whizzing around a corner in Edinburgh from a photographer friend of mine; I shot up the hill of the Angel of the North to capture a photograph I definitely shouldn’t have been taking… But, most spectacularly of all, I pulled up to refuel and discovered the petrol was less than £1 a litre. Mind blown.
The morning was spent driving around Edinburgh, hunting for locations to photograph the Mini. I had help from a friend of mine but might have misjudged how busy Edinburgh can be on a Saturday morning leading up to the Christmas season. This resulted in the majority of the morning spent sitting in traffic with an aching clutch leg. However, I did manage to get a couple of shots among the beautiful, historic streets of the city and some of its gorgeous residential mews. Oh, and a very unflattering shot of the Mini and the castle. Finally, a word of warning for anyone visiting in an ageing vehicle – avoid cobbled streets. That is, unless you’d like to feel you’ve been sitting on a vibrating exercise plate for an hour without the advantage of becoming slimmer.
My final stop of the day was the Angel of the North. Now, I knew the shot I had in my head was going to demand speed and agility, due to the ever-so-slightly frowned-upon nature of driving across pedestrian walkways. I arrived knowing that I was almost out of daylight and, if I were going to successfully accomplish the mission, I’d have to act quickly. The car park was pretty busy so I decided to grab my camera and do a sneaky reconnaissance of the area, figuring out whether the grass was too wet and slippery to make a quick getaway if anyone challenged me (and if there were any bollards I’d have to navigate past).
After figuring out a plan of action, I waited for a couple of minutes for the opportune moment between tourists leaving the top of the monument, and new tourists arriving. I revved the Mini and off I went, up onto the pedestrian walkway. A hard right around the information board took me to my path up the hill to the foot of the Angel. Engine running, I grabbed my camera and ran down the hill, past a couple of confused tourists, and proceeded to snatch a couple of shots before running back up the hill (grabbing another couple of shots) and reversing back down the hill to complete a 180-degree manoeuvre (via a four-point turn… come on, I’m not Bond), skimming back past the information board (two tourists reading it smiled and waved) and off onto the main road and out of sight. Mission accomplished. For something that really wasn’t all that ballsy, it felt pretty exciting.
Day 8 – An emotional return to base
This last post will be short. I have to be up at 5am to head off to a shoot, but at least I’m being picked up by Classic Driver’s UK Editor in an Aston Martin DB9 (you’ll find out about that later). Can’t really complain. Most excitingly, I’ve been told it has heated seats.
Anyway, today I stopped in a very wet York to grab some final shots, getting a good telling-off from a miserable local (a failed ‘smash-and-grab’ shot...), and experiencing the gorgeous sound of York Minster before heading back to Leicester just in time to make it to De Montfort Hall’s Last Night of the Autumn Proms (absolutely fantastic, by the way. I waved my flag in a very patriotic manner).
This past week has been one of the happiest and most fun of my life. I can’t even begin to express how much I’ve appreciated every moment with my little car. I truly hope that my adventures might inspire someone out there to complete their own road trip of wonders.
Photos: Amy Shore for Classic Driver © 2015