Our drive from the Kingdom of Fife to the Western Highlands might as well have been called “the trip that just wouldn’t end.” Who knew 139 miles could literally take six hours to drive? The Scottish, that’s who—that’s precisely why they think we Americans are so crazy to do all the driving we do. I used to laugh when my Edinburgh-based friends thought it “too far” to go home to Aberdeen or Newcastle or wherever for the weekend. After all, SVV and I don’t think anything of driving three hours down to Birmingham, then three hours back up to Tennessee, in a single afternoon to pick up an armoire we bought on a whim. But after our road trip to the Highlands, I’m starting to think the Brits are onto something.
We chose to drive the southern route, which took us along the northern fringe of Loch Lomond. It was a bit longer, sure—only by 12 miles—but we were never lacking for scenery.
We passed the time by gawking at all the funny Gaelic town names.
We listened to Grace Potter and Mumford and the Avetts and sang loudly to Taylor. We pulled over and took impromptu photos. It was just too gorgeous not to. If you’re stuck in the car for six straight hours, Scotland is a good place to do so.
We had some crazy weather along the way, which only made for more dramatic scenery—and a whole lot of double rainbows.
Once we reached , where the traffic was flying over the hill on a questionable two-lane road, at a particularly dangerous part of the curve, we were flagged down by a Prius “parked” on the side of the road and jutting out onto the pavement. Cautiously, I pulled over; there wasn’t really a shoulder so my car boot was sticking out in the middle of the highway, and it was starting to rain pretty hard.
The victims were a Spanish couple who didn’t speak English—and all of a sudden, all those years of Spanish I took just flew out of my head into the abyss of ignorance—and had broken down. Their cell phones wouldn’t work to call the rental car agency, and our only iPhone with international capability was long dead from GPS use.
We could tell they wanted a ride—but we were in a compact car with three people sandwiched among three suitcases and a whole lot of carry-ons and shopping bags … plus, this is exactly how most slasher flicks begin, am I right? So instead, we took down all of their rental information, noted where exactly they had broken down (not having any highway signs or mileage markers meant we had to clock it exactly on our own odometer) and sped to the nearest town.
Once we reached Glencoe Village, it was after 6pm and all businesses had long shuttered their doors. But in typical Scottish fashion, there was a lone phone booth in the middle of the town, and so we pulled over and I hopped on a 20-minute call with Europcar (who were very lovely, but not local so they hardly knew the area I was trying to describe! plus, who knew you had to have all the breakdown information, from the cause to the model of the car to the moon and the stars).
After they assured me that they would send someone out to remedy the situation, we moved onto Fort William, nervous that our Spanish friends would be left to fend for themselves but not sure what else to do.
At around 8pm, we arrived in Fort William—the biggest town in the area—where we nabbed a booth at the first pub we saw, the Grog & Gruel, and I forced Kari to try one of Scotland’s delicacies: black pudding.
I think the facial expressions say it all.
Actually, we both agreed it was good, but Kari was still a lingering shade of green from recurrent carsickness—if you’re driving in Scotland, particularly as a backseat passenger, you’d be smart to pack some Dramamine or Bonine in advance—and I am a psychological eater who just couldn’t get over the fact that I was voluntarily eating pigs’ blood. So we nibbled and left half the dish for the busboy.
And who do we see from the window at that very moment but our Spanish friends walking down the main pedestrian stretch! We couldn’t make it out of the crowded pub in time to say hi, but we all knew we’d sleep better that night knowing they’d made it to shelter (and less than an hour behind us at that!)
It was another 20 minutes down the road to Spean Bridge, where we had booked a triple room in the Riverside Lodge Gardens for the night (finally! a room for three! and it only cost us $160, including a full Scottish breakfast for all). I felt terrible when we woke up owner Colin at nearly 11pm to get into the B&B—I don’t think he was too pleased with us, but he forgave us the next morning—and we had a slumber party in our cute room before crashing (them) and cramming a full day of work into the midnight hours (me).