The wild northwest

Trip Start Jun 13, 2009
Trip End Jun 28, 2009

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Flag of United Kingdom  , Scotland,
Thursday, June 18, 2009

We left Edinburgh on the 17th, and took the train to Inverness, where we picked up the rental car.  Lordy, if I had known how scary and difficult it would be to drive on the “wrong” side of the road, sitting on the “wrong” side of the car, shifting with your left hand, on narrow roads with many blind curves and absolutely NO shoulder …..  I’m not sure I would have done it.  But, it’s good I didn’t know because we never would have been able to get to all the places we went in the time we had without our own transport.  Bill started out driving, but I soon discovered it was every bit as anxiety producing being a passenger, so I gritted my teeth and took the wheel the next day.  Within 10 minutes, we came around a sharp curve going steeply uphill into the path of a full-sized bus.  I almost gave it up right there, but I really didn’t want to go back to passenger status, so I took a few deep breaths and kept going …. slowly. As a driver, you fear being side-swiped by every oncoming vehicle.  As a passenger, I spent the whole time cringing away from the left side expecting to be killed at any moment from running into a post or rock wall at speed.  Either way, it is surprisingly difficult to judge where your boundaries are, where the edge of the car actually is in relation to the road.  By the end of the week I was up to the speed limit and sometimes spent a full 5 minutes feeling relaxed and in control.  My stomach stopped hurting, although my shoulders still needed linament at night.  We drove almost 1000 miles, managed not to wreck the car, or hit anything alive.  It is a proven fact, however, that you can scrape a curb at 45 mph and not blow the tire.

We drove west from Inverness, out to the Applecross Peninsula, truly one of the most beautiful places on earth.  I wish we could have stayed longer, but then I said that about everywhere we went.  Then it was up north to Ullapool and on to the northwesternmost corner of mainland Scotland, and across to the Kyle of Tongue. It rained most of those days and was cold.  Cold enough to wear all the layers I brought.  But it tended to stop when we really needed it to, so we were able to take a few breaks, check out the ruins of Castle Ardvreck, a short beach walk at Durness, a stroll around Ullapool, a walk to a deep gorge with a waterfall.
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