2000 Miles of Happiness

Hello,

You know, once in a little while, something happens in your life, that makes you realise how awesome life can be. I’ve just experienced this, on a 10 day road/walking trip in the beautiful, beautiful country that is Scotland.

I started my journey on the 17th of November, by heading up North to Coniston Waters, Lake District. Tiss a lovely wee place. My plan was to camp there over night, but I arrived on one of the worst days – weather wise to hit the UK in a long time, so pretty much everywhere was waterlogged. Not happy. I checked myself into a glorious wee pub, and slept in a peachy pink room, where I felt manly. I spent the night in the pub, drinking some really nice local beer, and chit chatting to the locals.

18.11.09 – I woke up, had a bath and managed to scorch my foot. (This became a nuisance later or for me, really uncomfortable pain – but fear not jolly readers! I pushed on!)

My destination on this glorious fine day was Edinburgh. Edinburgh Airport for 13:15 to be exact. Off I drove, cruising up the motorways, without a minute to loose, as landing at the sky port was a beautiful wee girl – who was gonna join me on this lovely adventure. Regina landed safely. I was greeted by her warm, beautiful smile, and a mammoth bag pack.

We found ourselves a lovely little Hostel, and hit the town, went for some food, catching up, and drinking.

19.11.09 – Today, we decided to be tourists. We went up to the fantastic Castle, where Regi was overwhelmed with excitement to see the Crown Jewels and the ’thing with the thing’. I like the Castle, it’s really quite impressive, nearly as good as Caernarfon Castle.

From here, Regi insisted that we went up Arthur’s Seat, ‘a remarkably wild piece of highland landscape in the centre of the city of Edinburgh, about a mile to the east of Edinburgh Castle. The hill rises above the city to a height of 251 m (820 ft), and provides excellent panoramic views of the city.’ It was crazy how the weather conditions changed, just by going up this little Hill – and it was our first glimpse into what was in store for us, weather wise, walking up these Scottish hills. About 10m from the top – the wind, rain and hail came. The wind was something else – blasting those wee hail stones into our faces, it was bordering unpleasant.

The view from Arthur's Seat

It was a nice view though, well worth the wee trip up there. The way down was something of a mission for me though. I wear Vans skate shoes, and, well to be honest, I need a new pair. The floor was slipperier than Bon Jovi’s album title ‘slippery when wet’ – and it sent me flying, smack on my back. This was Regi’s first glimpse into how accident prone I am. Winded I was for a few minutes.

To dry out a little we headed over to the National Gallery, where I saw a really nice drawing of Caernarfon Castle by someone who was really busy back in the day – Paul Sandby. I really enjoyed it.

A good first day.

20.11.09. – We got up early from our beautiful wee Hostel, and headed North West, to the biggest lake in the UK – Loch Lomond, The sun was blasting in our little eyes – what a great day to start walking we thought!

We stopped off in a wee village to get us some supplies for our trip. Whilst standing at the checkouts, Regi turned to me and said ‘You’ve got Midget Gems!!’. Now – for me, this was hilarious, and it’s one of my best memories of this trip – for those of you, like Regina at the time, who don’t know what Midget Gems are – they are tiny little sweets, similar to Wine Gums in texture, but much, much nicer.I could not stop laughing.

We drove up the East shore of Loch Lomond,  and parked at the car park there, and within minutes of us being there, the heavens opened. Oh how it rained. Our route was to head North, over the Ptarmigan Ridge, then climb quite steeply up the final ridge to reach Ben Lomond’s summit. We got dressed all up in our grear, and headed off. After about 20mins into the walk, Buzz Killington to my right said something to the effect of – this mountain is steep huh? In fact, we’d miss the turning, and we were going for a gently stroll around the lake.

We found the right path, and headed up towards the Ptarmigan Ridge. The views from not very high up were stunning already;

Loch Lomond

We got to the Ptarmigan Ridge, and by here – we’d experience pretty much all seasons of weather. Blazing sunshine, heavy rain, fog, wind. Times we good, and moral was high. We came to a nice plateau at the top of the ridge, and it became very muddy. Regi doesn’t like mud, so I’d often hear ’yuck!’ being shouted, which made me smile. There was some lovely stepping stones right at the bottom of Ben Lomond’s steep climb, which I thought was really pretty.

On my way up Ben Lomond

The last 200m up to the top of Ben Lomod was something else. I’ve never been in such a situation before in my life. The hail/snow/rain/blizzard of the millennium was in,  and he wasn’t friends with us. For me, walking up became very tiring, my legs were getting heavy, and to be honest, I was struggling. I stopped, and ate a Mars Bar. Without a doubt, this was the best Mars Bar I’ve ever had in my life. The feeling of sugar rushing into my body and straight into my muscles is something that I’ll never forget, it was sweet. On we went, and after a tough battle, we reached the summit of Ben Lomond. (974m/3,196 ft)

Me Ontop of Ben Lomond
Regina ontop of Ben Lomond

I liked the mountain a lot. The way down was a bit of a trek, along a very well used path, – the loser trail as Regi nicely calls things.

We got back to the car just in time, as it got dark pretty soon. Rain was still pouring, so we got dressed into our civilian clothing, and decided to grab some food. We had some lovely Chinese, then we headed out and found ourselves a lovely little B&B in Balloch, where we were looked after really well, and our walking gear dried out.

21.11.09 – We woke up, and had the best breakfast of the whole trip me thinks. Regina’s porridge looked amazing, and I tried out French Toast for the first time, and I’m happy to report that I’m a fan. Over breakfast, I remembered something that Regi had said previously, and asked our lovely hostess about this. She’d remember that there was this great big whirlpool off the West coast of Scotland, and was wondering if we were gonna go see it. Our hostess googled it, and found some information about it; Corryvreckan (meaning “cauldron of the speckled seas” or “cauldron of the plaid”). It was now a part of the agenda for the day, as today we were taking the beautiful scenic route from Loch Lomond to Fort William – the A83. Really beautiful road, through the mountains, and pass the Loch’s.

We came to lovely named viewpoint – Rest and be Thankful’ where we had a really nice view down the valley we’d just cruise up. We happened upon a really beautiful little town called Inveraray. Every single house/shop/building in the little town was black and white – it was so nice;

Inveraray

We boarded a wee coffee ship shop, and had what we Welsh people call ‘panad’ – a nice cup of tea. We headed into the town, where we came across a traditional sweet shop. Only one thing was in my mind; Midget Gems! I bought a bag so that Regi could experience this wonderful sweet. She fell in love with them. (Not the black one so much – as the one and only black one she tried went hurling through the car window).

We continued North. The turning off to Corryvreckan was on the way – so we took it. We drove along this really nice single track road, and Regi took this really nice picture;

Lovely pic by Regi

I love it. We continued, and reached, what can only be described as ‘the end of the World’.

Regina at the End of the World.
End of the Wrold, it's right here.

It was a nice rugged place, with nothing at all there. There was a disused (looked un-used anyhow) jetty running into the sea, and ending abruptly, and just sea. Unfortunately, or beloved Whirlpool wasn’t to be seen – the weather had come in, and visibility was quite poor. The whirlpool itself looks quite impressive though – check it out! http://www.whirlpool-scotland.co.uk/index.html

We headed back on track, and continued North, through Oban, and up towards Castle Aaaaargh (for the Monty Python fans out there) – or Stalker Castle.

Castle Aaaargh

I love this spot. Whenever I do go to Scotland, I always try and stop off here. We grabbed some lovely food at the little café, and headed for the Fort of William.

We checked ourselves into a posh B&B  We decided to hit Fort William that night, and grab some alcohol. Night life there was alright. We had fun. I managed to be-friend an older man, who’s beard was mighty impressive, to which I’ve taken my inspiration from to grow my own. it’s slowly getting there.

We had a nice night.

22.11.09 – Today, didn’t go as planned. Today was a day that will stick with me for the rest of my life. Fact. It’s a day that I feel made me and Regi grow to be really close. It had it’s high points, but boy, there was desperate times. Times where I closed my eyes, and wished that I wasn’t where I was. Teamwork got us out of this day – alive – and I’m so thankful  for Regi for being there, and doing what she did at the time. We both worked so well as a team, and it made me truly realise how amazing she is.

Before coming up to Scotland, I prepared some walks for us to go on. These walks were based from the Trail Magazine, and an awesome wee book called ‘Walking the Munros’ by Steve Kew. I was stupid on this day, I didn’t bring a map. The one thing that I’m never ever doing again – the only ‘map’ I had was the map that was in this book – it’s a very very simplified map, which doesn’t show much of anything.  I was stupid.

We were heading up Ben Nevis. The route was to go from Glen Nevis, up towards Loch Meall an t-Suidhe, drop down into the heather filled valley to the North of Ben Nevis, up Carn Dearg Meadhonach, Carn Dearg, over the CMD Arête, and scramble up the last 200m or so to the summit of Ben Nevis.

We set off early, and it was all going really nice and well.

On our way up to Mr. Nevis

We reached the loch, and hooked left to go round the Ben, so we could drop down the valley, to go up Carn Dearg Meadhonach. At the bottom of this beautiful valley was a beast of a river – and it’s been raining. It took us a little while to find a safe crossing place – Regi just took her boots off and walked through, while I waded through – and my lovely boots kept my feets all nice and dry. The super steep climb up towards Carn Dearg Meadhonach was a climb and a half. Walking through heather, for me is a nightmare,  I hate the stuff. I was being really slow – my foot was giving me some intense pain (the bath incident), but I put my head down, and went for it. About half way up, I stopped and looked up to see where Regi was – she was a good 50m ahead, and about another 50m ahead of her, was this weird looking sheep. I thought to myself – ‘what a weird looking sheep’. I stood there, wondering, what on earth is wrong with this sheep? I could only see his head at this stage, but when it moved, it became clear what is was – it was a deer!! This was my first ever encounter with a wild deer!! I loved it! It totally made the horrid slog up the steep hill worth it.

Once the gradient started to ease out, we flew up to Carn Dearg Meadhonach. The snow was awesome. I really like walking in snow, and fresh virgin snow is just beautiful. We stayed and got our pics taken. Regi had bought with her an awesome, awesome walking ‘biscuit’ from Prague – Tatranky. It’s awesome!!

Me ontop of Carn Dearg Meadhonach
Tatranky muching

We carried on, and reached Carn Dearg quite quickly. The weather was holding, but the daylight was starting to fade. In front of us was the CMD Arête. It looked beautiful, and we really fancied walking over it;

The CMD Arete

It was just like my old friend Grib Goch on Snowdon, but bigger and snowier. We went on. The weather came in. And it came in fast. It was soo cold, the blizzard was so powerful, high winds, and very unstable ground. I’ve been growing my glorious beard for a few weeks, so my little face was all protected, but I felt so sorry for Regina, it must have been so cold for her, but she didn’t complain. This took us a really long time to cross. It was getting really dark, and the blizzard was not easing up. I felt totally out of my comfort zone. It was something else.

I decided to take a look over the Arête – to see what I could see – any signs of anything, and just as I did this, the fog lifted for about 10 seconds, and I could see a sign and some metal posts. I decided to head for those.

Panic and fear set in. I told Regi that I really wanted to go down, and we should follow these metal poles. Regi was amazing. She led the way, down the super steep slope. The wind blew her off her feet a few times, and she went flying. Oh how I hated it.

I think it’s safe to say, that I owe my life to my head torch this night. It got dark really quickly, and we just had to get off this mountain. It was something so surreal. The beam of light from my head torch shinning down on the snow covered rocks, and seeing the snow being blown at such a force made it seem unreal.

I think it took us about an hour to get below snow level. We slid down on our bums. Covered in cuts and bruises, torn my waterproofs. I was so happy to get down from that slope. The next challenge was to navigate down, to the river (the same river we crossed earlier) and follow it down the valley. This proved to be a challenge, but I’d calmed myself down a lot with the help of Regi, and just decided to go for it. It wasn’t so bad. Once I hit the Charles Inglis Clark hut at the middle of the Valley, I knew we were alright.

It took us a further 2 hours to get to civilisation. We were both wet to the bone, tired, in pain, and just wanted to have a shower. The promise of a Shower, Indian Food, Family Guy,  and bed was keeping us going.

We got to the B&B, after some great generosity from the locals by calling us a taxi. We were sooo happy to be back, safe – and without any serious injuries.

The Indian, and the Beer I Had that night was the best I’ve ever had. We slept so well. it’s a day that I’ll never, ever forget. Thanks for being there Regi, it would have been something else if you weren’t there.

23.11.09 – Today was totally going to be a chill out day. We drove up from Fort William to Tokavaig on the Isle of Skye. Tiss a beautiful drive, with lovely scenery and Lochs. We stopped off at the lovely famous Scottish Caslte, Eilean Donan, and took some pics etc.

Eilen Donan Castle

We grabbed some food at the little village just before the Skye bride, and decided we were going to camp that night. So armed with supplies, we headed over the bridge, to the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to (thus far) – the Isle of Sky.

I knew of a lovely spot to camp, so we headed directly towards it, Ord. Our view was the Cuillin ridge, and the sea was our view.

Our lovely Campsite at Ord

It was really nice. After I complained a lot that ‘I was starving’ I was let go to cook us some food. Pasta ‘n sauce with mushrooms ‘n peppers. It was lovely – followed by chocolate dessert.

It’s a great spot this. I’ve always liked it.

24.11.09 – it’s lovely sleeping in a tent. It rocks. Hearing the rain hitting it always makes me smile when I’m all warm and nice inside. We munched on Chocolate Porridge, and Regi decided it would be nice to go for a swim in the sea. Bear in mind this is the end of November. We ‘both’ went swimming. Regi went fully in – me on the other hand, up to my ankles. I’m telling you, that sea was cold!!

It didn’t stop raining. We toured the Isle, and went right up North, we saw some lovely waterfalls including Kilt Rock, and some nice scenery, Quiraing rocks.

From here, we decided to leave the Island, and head up North to the lovely little fishing village of Ullapool. Our little hearts was set on camping again, so after arriving there, we scouted for a suitable camping spot off the beaten track. This little mission was unsuccessful, as everywhere was waterlogged, and the wind was pretty heavy.

Reginita fell asleep on my lap whilst I was driving, looking for a camp site. Bless. I saw loads of wild deer on the roads. It was a really nice experience. I fell in love with a song by Iva Frühlingová called It Ain’t Easy. This little stretch of driving was just lovely.

We managed to check into a cool B&B, with a similar smell to my fave pub here in Wales – Pen y Gwryd, so it felt homely. We hit the bat, and had some Czech beer. It was nice.

Our plan from Ullapool was to attempt to conquer the lovely walk that is An Teallach, but the weather up here was so bad – and we were still suffering from our mishap on the Ben, that we decided not to.

25.11.09 –  We woke up, to an awesome stink. The stink of our walking gear drying out in our room. Oh my, that was some stink. The wind and the rain was still terribly bad. Water had managed to force itself in through double glazing windows! We were right on the sea front. Proper crazy it was.

We checked out, and headed South. On the way, we stopped off at a really awesome gorge –  Corrieshalloh gorge.

Corrieshalloh gorge

Mighty impressive. Now, my only two fears that I’ve got, is man made hights – such as tall buildings, and spiral staircases. This was a man made height. Oh gosh. Regi decided it would be fun, once I was on the bridge to start jumping on it. The whole thing started to swing. Oh I felt so ill. The view was stunning though .

We continued South towards Inverness. We stopped off again at some nice rapids called Rogie Falls just by Contin, there was a lovely woodland area where you were free to go walk through and see the falls. It was quite nice.

Hee - Hee

Inverness was a nice place. Never been there before. We headed up to the Castle, which is now the courts, to the History of Scotland Museum, where I got to dress up;

Yes!

I felt a bit weird going into a city (yes, it was a city Regi) after being in the wilderness of Scotland for a while. I much prefer the wild. We stocked up on food for the night, Indian from M&S, as we were going camping. I don’t know about you lot – but there’s something odd about having such glorious food when you’re out camping huh?

We drove passt Loch Ness, no Nessie unfortunately, she must be doing her toe nails or something, so we went on a hunt for a camping site. We found one, but it was waterlogged.

We found a lovely one by Loch Eil – but it was closed. Being so cool as we are – we decided to stay here anyhow. We got us a lovely spot, right on the loch, with our own beach. It was great!!

Loch Eil Campsite

We pitched the tent, got in it, and decided to take a little powernap before commencing the cooking! We set a goal for ourselves of cooking dinner at around 9pm. We woke up at 12am. Oh dear. We decided to skip the lovely Indian food, and kept on sleeping.

26.11.09–  Morning arose, and we headed out – over to take a peek at the Glenfinnan Viaduct, and then back over through Fort William and through the beautiful Glen Coe.

Glen Coe Panorama

The weather wasn’t really on our side, but the views from here are just beautiful. It’s such a shame we didn’t get to walk on the three sisters. I’ve always wanted to go up them. Next time perhaps.

We cruised into Glasgow to see the whole place light up with Christmas lights. I’ve not been to Glasgow before, and it was lovely to see it all lit up and looking pretty;

Glsgow looking pretty

We hit the Galery of Modern art, not my cup of tea to be honest. We then found us a cool ‘n funky hostel. Our first attempt at finding a Hostel ended up in what can only be described as a den for drug dealers. It was all rather quite bizarre, and huge! Not recommended.

The first thing we did was cook our Indian Meal from the other night, followed by a Sticky Toffee Pudding smothered in Custard. It was bliss. The fellow residents wanted to kill us by the looks on their faces, it was really good food.

27.11.09 – We hit Glasgow in the morning, went to see the nice Cathedral, down to the banks of the river Clyde, and the Disney Store.

After lunch, Regi choose that we went to a place, on the map that showed a little symbol of the sun shinning, as the weather so far had been terrible. This place was Largs.

Here at Largs, something beautiful happened. Me and Regina became a couple. This is my happiest moment in the whole of what Scotland had to offer.

We stayed at another closed campsite, and the view in the morning was stunning.

Campsite at Largs - amazing views
Largs

28.11.09 – Waking up was really nice. Seeing the mountains and the sea. I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay there in that moment forever. Knowing that Regina was flying home the next day took it’s toll on me.

We drove into Largs for a lovely Bagel – then headed east to Edinburgh. The place was packed! Ruby weekend – so after running around trying to find us a wee room for the night, we got into the tourist information place, where the very helpful woman got us an amazing place just out of the city centre.

After much chilling in the B&B, we headed into the city (yes Regi) to grab us something nice to eat, and admire the pretty Christmas lights.

Edinburgh looking pretty

29.11.09 – Today was a sad and frightening day. We headed out first thing, and headed up the Scott Monument. Now – imagine if you will, your two fears all rolled into one. It’s something that I really need to overcome, so I did want to go up the Monument. It was riddled with spiral staircases, and where did it take you? Up. Up to a man made height of 61m. I’m sure the views from up there was fantastic, but I couldn’t face it.

Regina left for Prague at 13:45. I hate goodbyes.

For me, it was a fantastic trip. Exactly what I wanted. I became so close to Regina, and we got on so well. The place is just incredible, the people is just amazing, really friendly, and always really happy to help you out.

Go to Scotland people. Experience the rain, the cold, and fall in love with it.

4 Replies to “2000 Miles of Happiness”

  1. What an experience!!! Took me ages to get through it.I’m so happy that you have met Regina and you two seem so suited together. Hope your life goes well from now on. You have so many interests. Do keep in touch. x

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