Also, holidays get in the way and, as usual, Scotland beckoned...
Saturday 16 July 2011
I had left the sat nav in my car over at Toby’s so we went over to collect it and eventually got away at about 8am in the rain. It was a pretty awful journey – heavy showers and spray.
We stopped at Tebay for lunch. This is one of the most beautiful locations for a motorway services overlooking the Vale of Lune. I got my first Scottish money in my change and the weather brightened a bit as we came into Scotland.
View of Loch Awe from the hotel terrace
We arrived at Portsonachan about 4.30pm – not bad; about 7 hours driving plus stops. Last time we came up, our room wasn’t ready and we had to wait on the terrace overlooking the Loch – the hotel has a reputation for being a bit like ‘Fawlty Towers’- see http://www.youtube.com/show/fawltytowers but we have a real liking for the place and its location is simply stunning. There’s no doubt they try hard but the hotel is a bit isolated on Loch Awe so they find it difficult to get and keep staff. This time, all was ready and the whole place seemed more efficient – a real improvement. Marea insisted on doing the unpacking while I went to sit outside in the sun with a malt whisky and my book (Water for Elephants – unputdownable!). It was warm, dry and very pleasant.
Across the loch to Ben Cruachan
Eventually when Marea came down, we sat in the sun with a glass of wine (I had forgotten how big their glasses are). Had dinner early and, in spite of good intentions (having had a good lunch) had langoustines followed by chicken with lime and coriander. The food at Portsonachan remains probably its best feature. Back in the room, we turned on the laptop to see if there was a wi-fi signal (not advertised) and found there was a good free signal. We fell into bed after watching The Impressionists – very good.
Normally, the run up to Scotland is very pretty and, despite the distance, quite enjoyable. On this occasion, the weather was so awful that it was something of an ordeal. Tebay is one of the best services on the whole motorway system , not just because of the location, overlooking the Vale of Lune, but because the food is good, the staff are friendly and you might get your first Scottish money in your change. Everyone seems to want to meet here.
Onward into Scotland via Gretna where people used to get married in a hurry.
"Gretna's famous 'runaway marriages' began in 1753 when Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act was passed in England; it stated that if both parties to a marriage were not at least 21 years old, then parents had to consent to the marriage. This Act did not apply in Scotland, where it was possible for boys to marry at 14 and girls at 12 years old with or without parental consent. Many elopers fled England, and the first Scottish village they encountered was Gretna Green. The Old Blacksmith's Shop, built around 1712, and Gretna Hall Blacksmith's Shop (1710) became, in popular folklore at least, the focal tourist points for the marriage trade. The Old Blacksmith's opened to the public as a visitor attraction as early as 1887.
The local blacksmith and his anvil have become the lasting symbols of Gretna Green weddings. Scottish law allowed for 'irregular marriages', meaning that if a declaration was made before two witnesses, almost anybody had the authority to conduct the marriage ceremony. The blacksmiths in Gretna became known as 'anvil priests'." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gretna_Green
The road goes through Inveraray to the Portsonachan turn and we take the rather lengthy and winding road along the south side of Loch Awe – the longest freshwater loch in Scotland and ancient stronghold of the Clan Campbell.
Main Street, Inveraray