Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Day 25: Loch Ness

The day started well. We left beneath a very well-behaved sky, putting behind us Skye and its terribly slow caravans and roadworks. We grumbled about idiots going at slow speeds and refusing to pass slower vehicles, causing queues. We complained about still more slow idiots who held up traffic without pulling into a bay. Little did we know we would be one of those idiots by the end of the day.

We parked back at Eilean Donan Castle for a bathroom stop. I was alarmed at how long it was taking to get to Loch Ness. By the time we pushed off from the castle, I was thinking we should avoid Fort George because I was tiring and wanted to get off the road.

I cruised at 60mph. The road narrowed. A caravan came at me. I moved to the side - looked like a slight ditch there maybe - then boom-psshh! Crap!

My fiancé confirmed my hypothesis by saying he thought we’d blown the front left tyre. I found a safe place to pull into on the second attempt, then re-parked to ensure my fiancé had enough room to change the tyre without hanging out onto the road. I had heard horror stories about people being hit by cars while doing this. While I freaked (I had been very calm until I had nothing to do!), my fiancé set to work, jacking up the car and getting out the shitty “space saver” spare tyre which looked awfully thin. A sticker said we could only go 50mph on this!

I managed to help at one point by showing my fiancé how to loosen the nuts - I never knew being forced to do this one task at a Year 12 camp would come in handy! Then I stepped back, conceding to greater knowledge and experience. I rang the car hire company who put me onto a call out. Talking to the call out people was faking annoying. The guy needed to know exactly we had stopped. I was on the A887 but where? Near the A87 intersection? But where?

My fiancé had to rejack, having used the wrong spot. I firmly told him not to rest his foot under the car. Yikes! Finally he got the spare on - oh dear, his hands were filthy! As we cautiously drove on, he rang to cancel our call out then asked what to do. Our car hire company suggested we find one of their tyre places but we had no idea when we’d find one. Because we were returning it the next day at Edinburgh, they seemed alright with us just dropping it off as is. We had paid for full insurance.

After driving like a slow idiot and not being able to overtake caravans, I got us to Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness (my fiancé wondered just how many of the people we got annoyed with earlier had been on spare tyres). I somehow nabbed the last parking spot. Crazily busy! It wasn’t like this in spring!

People. People everywhere.

Cafe stop for a late lunch - badly needed. I was still shaking from adrenalin as we went outside and I could barely focus, even though the weather was much better than during my spring visit in 2013. It took a late phone call to Australia, finally achieved while I stood on the Grant Tower, to calm me down. My dad reassured me that people could drive on spares for weeks. An extra day would be okay. I finally, finally relaxed.

Grant Tower

The castle was crawling with tourists. So frustrating! Summer is not a good time to explore Scottish landmarks. Getting up and down the Grant Tower in this day and age, with queues and screaming children, was surely harder for us than the armed men who stormed it multiple times. Damn!

You know you want more photos of ruins. Admit it.

I loved explaining the ruins and telling my fiancé about the stupidity of the castle owners. They had such an impressive gatehouse, but a shit narrow wall on the water gate side - and this gate was not so strong and used more often! We discovered that the bagpipe music pervading the area came not from speakers but from an actual player. Lovely.

*hums loudly*

I left, feeling calmer, though I did not acquire the desired coasters to match the one I have at home. Sadface. I continued to drive at 50mph as dictated by the shitty tyre, annoying the hell out of everyone on the roads. The car insisted tyre pressure was off (ya think!?) and the bigger blown out tyre took too much room in the boot. Grrr!

We arrived unscathed in Grantown-on-Spey which looked peculiarly neat - I later discovered it was a planned Georgian town. That explained the vaguely English look! Our hostess at the B&B was very helpful and chatty. She booked a place for dinner for us.

We were amused by the waitresses at the restaurant - there wasn’t much to do before the rush so they were very chatty. Some were newbies and just learning. One discussed Cecil the Lion with game hunters. Others made fun of the hostess at our B&B (!!? that is just not on!). But the food was good.

Hopefully tomorrow’s trip to Edinburgh goes well on that blasted tyre…

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