• Welcome to The National Midday Sun. Please login or sign up.

Hols 2021

Started by Nick, April 26, 2021, 19:32:01 PM

Previous topic - Next topic

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

We had a great holiday in Northumberland and Scotland in August. I don't have the attention span to write about it in one post, so I'll do it in instalments.

Day One

Set off at about 10:00 up the M1, then the A1. We arrived at a hotel on the outskirts of Alnwick in mid-afternoon. The hotel was actually situated on a business park half a minute from a roundabout on the A1 so it was ideally placed. No great shakes but comfortable enough. We drove into Alnwick after checking in, took a look around the castle and had a long walk round Alnwick Gardens. I'm not fond of that sort of thing myself but it's a very picturesque and tranquil place.





After an hour or so here we walked into Alnwick town centre, looked round the shops and looked round the castle from the outside. I'd only ever been to Alnwick once on a school trip in 1970. None of it looked familiar really. Nice place though.

Then back to the hotel where we had dinner and a couple of drinks.


Day 2

Breakfast at the hotel, then straight back up the A1 in the direction of Edinburgh. However we stopped off at Berwick-upon-Tweed on the way. I'd never been here before. There are some terrific views from the high ground, and a nice walk near the old town walls with a view of the sea. I enjoyed seeing the old coastal gun emplacements.

We arrived at Edinburgh early in the afternoon. Checked into the hotel - I had to drag a large suitcase about half a mile from the multi-storey car park I'd booked - then went out to wander along the Royal Mile. After a pizza, we look round the castle from the outside then wandered over to Holyrood. Sue wanted to look around the Royal Palace, so we did that for an hour or so. Expensive, but for myself I purchased a discounted over 60s ticket. Bit of a sobering moment, that.




Later in the evening we ate at a place just off the Royal Mile called The Whiski Bar. As you might expect they had a huge selection of Scotch, although I just had my usual 12YO Glenlivet and a Talisker, nothing exotic (or expensive). The food was very nice. A lovely cosy little place.


Day 3

We had breakfast at the hotel in Edinburgh, hauled our luggage back to the car park - mostly downhill this time - and set off in the direction of Helensburgh, 70-odd miles to the west, and a short distance from Loch Lomond. We took the M8 most of the way but joined the A82 a short distance after crossing the Clde near Erskine. This was a beautiful drive, with lovely views along the banks of the Clyde.

We parked up in Helensburgh, and had a look around. Other than views across the Clyde a fairly nondescript little town really, but pleasant enough. We'd arrived a little early to check in so after half an hour we set off in search of lunch. We found a nice pub at a village called Rhu, a little further along the coast. After that we went driving around Gare Loch. We passed the Royal Navy base at Faslane, home to Britain's nuclear deterrent, and very impressively fortified - miles of barbed wire and guard towers. The road running along the Loch is actually a bit precarious - narrow, and right next to the water.

After checking in later in the afternoon we rested up for a couple of hours then went out to dinner at a place called Padrone. It has an excellent reputation for pizzas but since I'd had one only the previous day I thought I'd do something different and ordered a pasta dish. This was awful; I've honestly had better pasta out of a tin. Furthermore I ordered a Cosmopolitan and this tasted like diluted, stale cranberry juice. Awful and the glass wasn't chilled either.



Only ever order a cocktail at a place where you can be sure they know what they're doing.

Needless to say I hammered them on Tripadvisor when we got back.

I took the pic after we came out of the restaurant. It had rained.

Worst gin and tonic I was served was in my home town, it was a gin and tonic, no ice, no citrus, glass warm from the dishwasher, I refused it.
Everybody's got to evalate from the norm.

Day 4

Breakfast, then we drove into the centre of Helensburgh (just a five minute drive). I'd noticed that a screw on my specs was coming loose and wanted to find a jeweller's screwdriver. I found one at a hardware shop on the high street. Then we drove to Balloch, about eight miles away at the southern end of Loch Lomond. Very pretty town.



The previous day's rain had given way to a warm, sunny day. We took a one hour boat trip onto the Loch. There was a recording by Neil Oliver, highlighting the history of some of the views on the shore; scenes of various battles, castles and old houses and so on. Interesting stuff. The boat had a bar as well so we had a beer or two while we took in the scenery. Nice views of the mountains to the north.




Then we strolled around the woods on the shoreline of the (bonny, bonny) banks of the Loch. So tranquil. We walked up a hill and chilled out for a bit on the grass, enjoying the view. I was slightly concerned that we'd be attacked by the famous Scottish midges and I'd bought two repellent sprays, but they weren't on operational duties on that day for some reason.



Then a late-ish lunch at a pub in Balloch - we were slightly troubled by wasps as we sat outside - then back to Helensburgh.

We ate that night at a place called Riva. This was much better than Padrone the previous night. I ordered a cocktail called a Faslane - a bit like an Old-Fashioned but made with dark rum, bitters and Tabasco sauce. Sublime.

Finally just after sunset we walked around the shore of the Clyde just a minutes' walk from the guest house. Saw a heron strutting over the rocks.


Day 5

Breakfast in Helensburgh, then we put our stuff in the back of the car and headed up the A82 in the direction of Spean Bridge, where we would be spending the next two nights. This was a wonderful drive along the shore of Loch Lomond, through the Trossachs National Park and into the Highlands. Amazing views.



By the time we'd reached Fort William, about ten miles from Spean Bridge, it was chucking down with rain. Undeterred we parked the car, deployed an umbrella and had a look round the shops there. I bought a pair of hiking trousers at one of the many outdoor / camping shops. I was particularly interested to see the town as when I was a kid, one of my school friends used to go there every summer on holiday. I always imagined it as a huge fortress on the side of a mountain. But it isn't. It's a small town.

We had lunch and a drink at a combined art cinema / restaurant in Fort William then continued on to Spean Bridge. We checked into the guest house in mid-afternoon. This was a big house set into woodland at the end of a long driveway. Our room was more like an apartment, an independent annexe with a separate bathroom. We relaxed for a couple of hours then went out to eat at a restaurant converted from the former railway station building at Spean Bridge. The station is still open though, and we had a view of the platforms as we ate. We saw a sleeper train from Euston make a stop there.



QuoteDay 5

Breakfast in Helensburgh, then we put our stuff in the back of the car and headed up the A82 in the direction of Spean Bridge, where we would be spending the next two nights. This was a wonderful drive along the shore of Loch Lomond, through the Trossachs National Park and into the Highlands. Amazing views.



By the time we'd reached Fort William, about ten miles from Spean Bridge, it was chucking down with rain. Undeterred we parked the car, deployed an umbrella and had a look round the shops there. I bought a pair of hiking trousers at one of the many outdoor / camping shops. I was particularly interested to see the town as when I was a kid, one of my school friends used to go there every summer on holiday. I always imagined it as a huge fortress on the side of a mountain. But it isn't. It's a small town.

We had lunch and a drink at a combined art cinema / restaurant in Fort William then continued on to Spean Bridge. We checked into the guest house in mid-afternoon. This was a big house set into woodland at the end of a long driveway. Our room was more like an apartment, an independent annexe with a separate bathroom. We relaxed for a couple of hours then went out to eat at a restaurant converted from the former railway station building at Spean Bridge. The station is still open though, and we had a view of the platforms as we ate. We saw a sleeper train from Euston make a stop there.


Did you see the smelting plant at Fort William mate? We have a lot of slabs brought down to us from there.

I didn't know about that! No I didn't. Must google it.


QuoteI didn't know about that! No I didn't. Must google it.
One of the lorry drivers told me there is a sharp bend down the road from the factory with a lake by it, and on more than one occasion a slab has come off a wagon and ended up in the lake!

Day 6

While having breakfast at the guest house, we chatted to a lady who'd worked as a volunteer vaccinator. Her background was mainly in medical physics but she'd worked with computers to run simulations. We talked about a computer language we were both familiar with - Fortran, although I haven't used it since I was a student.

We had no definite plan for this day. The proprietor of the guest house suggested a walk that starts a 20 minute drive from Fort William, through the Nevis Gorge to a waterfall called Steal Falls. This was lovely, a bit like Dovedale but surrounded by higher land.





After that we had drove to the Commando Memorial at Lochaber, a short distance from Spean Bridge, overlooked by Ben Nevis. We looked around there for a while and found another walk through the woods that took us to Highbridge, where we looked at the remains of a bridge built by General Wade in 1736, later the scene of a battle in the Jacobite rising of 1745. The bridge fell into disrepair in the 19th century and collapsed in 1913.



We went to an opportune cafe on the way back to the guest house, and chatted to some ageing bikers who'd come up that morning from Sunderland. They were on their way to Aviemore.

That evening we went to a terrific restaurant called the Old Pines, again quite close by and quite a way out of town, set in the countryside. We had an unobstructed view of Ben Nevis through the trees from our table.