Fourth visit to Scotland

Friday: Travellers meet
Travelled from London to Kettering. Jumped on a fantastic Midland Mainline train. Do not remember the journey, and do not remember arriving at Kettering. Although it could have been the time that Mark was about 20 minutes late and I stood around outside the station like a lemon. Mark drove us back to his house. We watched TV and drank. I drank copious amounts of Newcastle Brown Ale. My “guide” written in jokey style included Mark and I having arguments and not talking. Mark’ and I have never really got on but we used to have enough in common to get by. I find him particularly difficult to deal with on a Friday night as his ideas of good tv to zone out to isn’t mine and he’s likely to want to go to bed far too early for me. I would stay up but it is always awkward in someone else’s house. I did manage to get pissed and I don’t remember having any serious argument or disagreement tonight. His politics are very right wing as well.

Night -2: Slept in Mark’s spare room. It is a sparse room but comfortable and quiet. I think Mark had dumped a load of stuff in there for storage. I started pissed and ended ill. Really ill.

We set off early and headed towards Birmingham. I love long journeys. This was the grandady of long journeys without leaving Britiain. Stops were few and speeds were fast. M did all the driving. I did all the throwing up. But I felt OK past Birmingham – once I’d got the alcohol/bile mix out of my stomach.
After Brum in all its high-rise glory, lots of industry we hit the north, passing near Manchester, Liverpool and the Lake District. I remember being near Carlisle. A motorway stop along the way yielded a Cardigans album which got lots and lots of plays throughout the trip. I still can’t help but associate the cd with cramped, dark, rainy, quarrelsome, cold, uncomfortable car travel around a small and depressing Scottish island. I had my tapes – compilations of mainly 90s music which I’d put together just weeks before.

When we reached the Scottish borders we were still only half way there, which was a bit depressing. Mark is a maniac driver and I did not feel safe. Admittedly he didn’t drive any faster than anyone else and we would have had considerable harassment if we had travelled on narrow Scottish roads any slower. We made a big fuss when we passed “World of Jellyfish”. I thought the idea was a bit scary and would have made a good 50s B Movie. Suddenly the land was mountainous. We were both impressed with the waterfalls everywhere.
As we approached the Kyle of Localsh the landscape was different again. Watery with lots of bridges and less mountains.
We got in late but were able to erect tent in campsite. In fact Mark left it all to me to do. The wind was almost non-existent.
I recognised the site from 5 years earlier when I’d been up with Celia. Why do I always fall out badly with people I come to Scotland with?

I had made a conscious decision not to bring a camera, but Mark brought one – and then he didn’t use it. Was that because of me? I think he should have carried on as normal.

We bought Shoo! Insect repellent which was very repellent. It felt nasty. Walked to Kyle along main road. This was so we could both drink. We went to wholefood restaurant – quite expensive. I had a vegan meal while Mark had oysters.

Another source of friction was my diet and choice of food. I don’t know why he became so upset about things. He did not compromise in his wish to eat fish and meat every night in an expensive restaurant. I wanted to snack, do take-aways, Indians, and eat out of supermarkets too. For him the food was part of the experience. The other thing he never gave on was going to a pub. I wanted to visit pubs and he absolutely refused. He also objected to me going out on my own. And when we stayed in he chose the television we watched. No wonder I became pissed off.
We went up to a viewpoint to see the Sky bridge. Mark is definitely not into walking. I am. The view was fantastic and we identified the main landmarks: mainly mountains and islands.It is staying light here till nearly 11.00 pm.. As it began to get dark we were unable to see much and so staggered back to the campsite. It was a long walk. Passed secret military installation by the sea. Staggered about on dangerous stretch of road, but made it back OK.

Sunday: Leaving the mainland
We woke up in tent.. Mark is slow and ponderous. It was fucking hard to get him to do anything. Washing facilties a bit basic here. I took the tent down, packed it & so on. Mark wanted to visit nearby gardens and look at all the plants. Then we were able to drive onto Sky. Used vouchers we had bought earlier to pay for crossing. Travelled through __________ which is just a row of buildings – as far onto Sky as Celia ever got. I got a lift from here to Sligachen last time I visited Sky. This time we drove all the way to Portree and to the campsite near Portree where I stayed for a few nights 5 years ago.
The tent wouldn’t stay up due to the wind. Mark took the piss but eventually we decided on using B&B. We found one using the tourist accommodation service in Portree. That night I tried to get Mark to go up on headland that I had been up on before whilst pissed. Mark insisted on stuffing his face first so that he could hardly walk. I still dragged him up there but he moaned. And then complained about walking through ferns (carcinogens apparently). Then he said he felt ill. I wanted to visit the pub but he didn’t. So I left him to it while I continued to walk around Portree. Didn’t visit pub though and it wasn’t long before I arrived back at B&B.

Monday: Time to explore the island
I started to write my diary today. We had a breakfast laid on. Got out in car and travelled north, to Trotternish waterfall. Heard sound before we arrived. Breathtaking. Then up to northernmost point of island. We walked here – Mark’s concession. Saw Harris and Lewis shining in the sea. It looked magical. Went through Uig and decided it was too windy for tent – why are campsites all in most exposed parts of island?

I don’t remember what day we climbed the mountain, it isn’t mentioned in my original account written at the time. We pulled up by a coniferous woods and followed path up. It was a bit cloudy – one reason why I didn’t do my original mountain top walk – we would have been in thick mist. It was a steep climb but we coped – and coped better than Mark. Mark seemed to have come completely unequipped for walking which was my reason for being there. And I made that clear when we agreed to go together. His knees are permanently knackered too.

It started “raining” when we passed the tree line. In fact the rain was salty and lashing in from the sea. The ground became more dificult and finally reached gravel which led to the rocky top of the mountain. We made it to a sheltered plateau whci was backed by sheer cliffs leading to the very top of the mountain. It was here we saw the phenomenan of two micro-climates on either side of mountain. It was dry on the other side, and clouds were being blown towards it from off the sea. Our side of the mountain the pressure due to clouds being forced higher was causing precipitation. On us! Gradully it got worse, and mist came down. We explored our sheltered plateau and found evidence of a camp and lots of slugs! The view was spectacular and took some believing. Then we had to go down before the weather became dangerous for us. I think it was after this that we picked up the American hitcher.

Then we went to Portree again with American hitcher ( to his credit Mark got well into picking up hitchers) and Sligachen. Tried to put tent up but it kept blowing flat. Mark took the piss and didn’t help. Went back to Portree and booked with different B&B. Saw Dunvegan castle on evening walk on beach but didn’t make it to Neiste point as it was too far.
Feasted on a curry in Portree and I was stressed about cash.

Tuesday: We find another camp-site
in Portree. Went to Bakers and Safeway to stock up. Visited Neiste Point. Saw “Breaking the Waves” cemetery with names from film credits on head stones. We had beer and rolls for lunch – thoroughly enjoyable.

Later Mark wanted to visit Dunvegan castle. So we did, and I was quite pleased to see it too.

The campsite we found on edge of Kinloch was quite sheltered so the tent stayed up. I enjoyed the location. MacCleod’s tables were visible. I( wanted to walk there, but no chance.

Tried to walk at ________ Point but it was fenced off. Dutch couple was bulldozing through every barrier with complete sense of social justice. We followed them. Drove to Sligachen for meal – had stupid argument about art on walls. According to Mark he knows everything and I am shit for brains. Played pool and “stupid game with puck”. Drank beer. Went back to campsite.
Portree left overwhelming impression of bungalows, drive-ways, and wheely bins.

Wednesday: To the Outer Hebrides
The day we got the Uig Ferry. Saw the mountains. Went up the mountains. Saw a fjord like lake. Met our new hostes/ Mrs McTeagle. Drove to far north of island which caused us awe.

Rain. We woke up in leaky tent. Had a shower – very high powered – push button easy to use. Lovely and warm so I wanted to stay there.
But trudged back in rain across very uneven site to pass Mark on his way out of tent. I recommended the showers. The campsite was heavily populated with German bikers. I could hear bird noises from the muddy banks of the Loch. Frozen and damp, we packed the tent andshoved it in the boot of the Micra. It dripped everywhere and added to the terrible mess in the back of the car. The tidy part of me couldn’t deal with this. My mildheadache cleared after a coffee in a local roadside café/bakery.
Our mission for the day was to drive out to a place called ________________. A remote peninsula. Sheep dogs, tiny bungalows, a hotel with a filled carpark. Left car and walk along track through sheep inhabited land, and walked out to the end of the peninsula. Island, seals popping out of the water. We sat still and peaceful. Saw Diurnish peninsula across the water which had no evidence of human habitation whatsoever. Later, looking on the map we saw the Diurnish peninsula contained no roads, and therefore very little in terms of human dwellings.

It was aad to leave but we had a ferry to catch.

Driving into Uig, with the horseshoe shaped bay below us, we got stuck behind a tractor. But there was plenty of time. At Uig we sat eating chips in pub – I’m very short of cash as usual. Saw bay from pub which was next to the pier. The ferry arrived bang on time, emerging from behind the pub. We explored the shop which sold Heather beer and other Scottish things. I bought the beer with a credit card. ‘Mark bought an Ordnance Survey map which was mssing from my collection so we had complete maps for Harris and Lewis.
Drove onto ferry and went up on deck. It was small but contained a café. I needed chips and beans. It was already part of my staple diet at home. At that time I was often buying chips from shop on Colliers Wood High Street on way from work, and quickly cooking a tin of beans to shove on them to shove them down my gob while siting in garden or back step.
Mark looked on disdainfully. I spent time on deck looking for wild life. And it paid off. I saw a seal swimming along with us for ages. Observed other islands in far distance, Sky disappearing behind us, and huge fuck-off waterfall not visible from Uig, somewhere to south.

Arriving in bay at Harris and Lewis, pointed rocky islands, looked treachourous,. Saw island with bridge to it. Took ages for us to negotiate bay and arrive at Tarbet (??). The island is very thin here – only feet wide. Rolled off ferry and into Tourst car aprk. We needed to find accomodation. The staff talked Gaelic amongst themselves and English to us.

The rain had stopped earlier but wind was picking up. 25 mph winds were going to stop us from pitching a tent. The worry was that ferry might be cancelled – our only route home.

A guest house was found for us in the capitla. The bright lights of _________ await us!

Our drive was impressive. We climbed to the mountains – the ones I saw shining from Sky. They still shon. The weather was better here than on Sky.

The flat moor land and finally into __________.

Harris and Lewis
Drove the golden road, and right round the island. Saw islands trailing off the south. It rained and we disagreed badly on politics. Did a walk and argued vigorously. Saw standing stones. Found a little fort structure mostly intact and a strange child
Went up a peninsula, saw beaches and was followed by chickens. Drove across the moor repeatedly. Tried out a bus shelter. Ate in Indian takeaway. Had fish and chips from recommended chip shop. Saw local youths driving round the town centre – repeating a small loop, wheel spinning and screeching tyres.

Thursday: A whole day on a dark and depressing island

Friday: Back to Sky

Saturday: Going home
The day Mark drove us from Scotland to London and I was ill with sinus trouble.
Bought big bag of crisps from motorrway place

Day 8 (Sunday): The day Mark nearly made me miss my train to London