I'm embarking on an escape. I need to leave the claustrophobia of London and the South East and feel some gentle freedom in the green and pleasant fields outside the anchor of the M25.
I am attempting to capture some of the moments below.
Day 1: Mostly M1 and M6 with a little Bedfordshire magic too.
- Miles: 338
- Counties: 10
- Playlists: 1
- Sunset: 6/10 (obscured by petrol station)
- People: 4 (school friend & family)
- Natural Wonders: driving through the clouds in Cumbria
- Accommodation: Travelodge Carlisle. T'was on the wrong side of the motorway which was a bit of a pain.
- Overhearing the toddler in the toilet cubicle next door to me ask his Granny why he couldn't swipe the poster ad on the door for a better picture
- Driving into the cloud and landscape on the M6 in Cumbria and realising everything doesn't all have to be on top of each other and rural beauty is only in fact a few hours from home
- Realising how different my heart feels being out of the city shackles for a bit.
Days 2-5: Glasgow
- Miles: 128
- People: 2 friends and 3 strangers
- Sunsets: 4/10 (hotel not really facing the right direction, and lots of rain too)
- Natural wonders: More like urban wonders with the beauty of Glasgow
- Accommodation: Macdonald Crutherland. Lovely 4* spa hotel - perfect for escaping London and a few miles from the city centre. A peaceful retreat with excellent facilities. Variable rates, BnB.
- The sunshine pauses between heavy downpours
- Walking around the beautiful architecture
- Art galleries galore and finding out more about the Scottish Colourists
- A gay bar that is my namesake!
- Breakfast in bed
- Incredible vibe. Loved this city.
Day 5: Dumbarton
I spent the afternoon on Dumbarton Rock visiting the castle and returned for the sunset. What a treat.
I started to feel the magic. The magic I was looking for when deciding to embark on the trip. A sunset that almost brought me to tears. A coast line that is a mere 20 minutes from a leading city centre.
Days 6-8: Loch Lomond National Park and Surrounds
Miles: a circular 214
Accommodation: Ross Priory. Billed as student accommodation, I had fears of returning to my Rootes undergaduate Overlook-hotel style accommodaiton. For £70 BnB, this gorgeous Georgian building is set right on the east side of the Loch making it a perfect spot for sunset watching and peaceful walks. High quality rooms too. Great value.
Magic and parrhesia. These are the two words that keep springing to mind.
I sense magic in the universe. Connecting back with nature, away from the urban clutter, is spectacular. Special. Essential. I've had some beautiful sunny days but even the misty shores of the Loch today carried this sense of bold magic happening. I can feel it in my blood and it feels good. It feels like the healing is happening. Not in a way I might have expected, not in a quick, obvious jolt, but little by little, the pain is easing. The tightness in my chest that is the warning sign of panic attacks is lessening. Bit by bit.
I had started to feel a little lonely, out here on the road on my own. A sense that sharing the experiences of travel with a special person might be better than doing it alone. Until yesterday, when I had a bit of an epiphany at Bracklinn Falls. I experienced a moment of pure joy that I would not have felt had I shared it with someone else. I needed to feel it alone. And I am grateful. It was a bit of a turning point.
Parrhesia, is the telling of truth in the face of challenge. Being bold. Being authentic. The opposite of rhetoric. It is who I need to be right now, a Parrhesiastes telling my own truth.
Days 9-11 Glencoe, Fort William, Glenfinnan, Ardnamurchan Lighthouse and Mallaig
- Miles: 188
- Sunsets: 3
- Visitor Centres: 3
- Trains: 2
- Film locations: At least 3
- Podcasts: 2 - My Dad Wrote a Porno and Richard and Judy Bookclub. Both useful for writers in very different ways!
- Accommodation: The Caledonia Hotel, Fort William - - great value at £50 per night BnB and v close to town and also an excellent spot for sunset watching - but one of those hotels that is best suited to large coach fulls of the more mature traveller.
The further north and west, the more remote and ruggedly picturesque Scotland becomes, and driving through remote country villages along loch and sea coastline is one of the best ways to pass time I can think of.
11 days into my road trip and I can finally say the anxiety is easing and the sense of moving forward from my worries and challenges of London life is becoming real and lived and part of my being.
Hot chocolate to remedy a rainy day, sea views that are beautiful whether enveloped in sun or cloud, intermittent wifi, friendly people. That's what I came here for and it is better than diazepam.
Days 12-13: Isle of Skye
- Miles: via Mallaig Ferry, 150 back and forth round the isle
- Accommodation: The Old Church House BnB (£35 a night single room) - very friendly welcome (I was a bit of a nervous BnBer after the luxury of more anonymous hotel like accommodation) - Paul and Jannine are lovely and have got the BnB hosting just right. Excellent value.
Bliss. The magic continues and Skye is something special. I took the car ferry (facing my fears) and arriving was like entering another world. With coastline and rural landscape pretty much every direction one faces, waterfalls skimming down almost every rock side one passes, and the sense of crossing a boundary into a timeless, worry-free zone, it's definitely aided my mind healing in leaps and bounds. The only downside was sharing it with so many other travellers. But that's August and the impact of a TV show.
It rained intensely the whole time I was here so I didn't get to take many photos. I will be back without a doubt.
Day 14-15: Ullapool
A glorious arts focused town, close to beautiful beaches. I stayed in the inrecible Ceilidh Place which was a hotel right up my street - a reading room / lounge with excellent selection of teas and coffees, perfect breakfast, lovely restaurant, book shop and laundry services. I could live here! I went to Alchiltibuie to watch the sunset, a remote but beautiful spot and as I drove through the country lanes saw some spectacular colours in the sky.
Days 16-19: Inverness, Loch Ness, Lossiemouth and Dundee
A spot of shopping in the city, then a cheeky drive down to try and spot the monster (via more waterfallas) before ending up in the quiet, sleepy, pretty beach town of Lossiemouth. Perfectly placed for sunset and sunrise, ice creams, late night beach walks and proper peace and quiet, I had time to really start some writing and build some lego models! Oh and then a massage in Dundee :)
Days 20 - 24 Edinburgh
The main focus of the visit was the Festival Fringe. It was a complete contrast to the previous weeks of peace and calm and a bit of a shock to the system. However, I managed to see a number of excellent shows - theatre, improv, circus, music - and catch up with friends before heading back on the loooong drive home.
Scotland, you have stolen my heart.