Oh, It’s You Again, Is it? Or “First Lockdown Trip – Part 1”

OK, look, here’s the thing: we could go on and on about who or what is to blame for me not writing this blog for over a year. We could spend many, many words with apologies, excuses and beggings for forgivenesses, or we can just say “it is what it is” and move on.

Ach the truth is I just dunno: ran out of ideas for a while, then one month ran into the next and before I knew it, 14 months had come and gone, and we were all in the middle of a cocking pandemic…

Aha! I could blame the Coronavirus! Hey, yeah! Let’s do that!! It was the VIRUS! It was LOCK DOWN! I couldn’t *possibly* come up with blog ideas and sit on my arse typing away while the world was turning to all kinds of shit. Yes, admittedly that would only account for the last 6 months of non-bloggery, but fuck it: I’m going with the ‘rona.

Here we are again, though! A new chance for you to read my potty-mouthed ramblings about Scotland – with frequent tangents into my thoughts about other stuff too. 

Speaking of “other stuff”, then, I can’t not start with a bit about this current, insane, fucked up situation we find ourselves in. And, no, I’m not referring to the time I got lost in Jenners on Princes Street and got The Fear, after passing the Ralph Lauren department 18 times, convinced that the staircases were moving just like in Harry Potter. 

I, personally, can sum up the whole Covid-19 thing in four words.

What. The. Actual. Fuck.

That’s it really. 

I won’t bore you too much with yet more crap about Covid – there are enough folk doing that – but just to acknowledge this utter shit show, here is a short list of “10 Things I Have Learned In Lock Down:

1. Living at my boyfriend’s house in Dunfermline was very nice (he can cook and he has a garden. Oh, and also he’s lovely…

2. Golf courses are fucking beautiful when there are no golfers on them (see pic below)

3. Working from home makes you fat.

4. Zoom / Teams work meetings will always include the phrase “You’re on mute”.

5. Getting beer delivered is *superb*. Thank you, Beer Hawk!

6. I will NEVER EVER EVER take being able to nip out for a long walk / drive / go on holiday / see my family and friends for granted AGAIN.

7. I will NEVER EVER EVER take going to the pub / eating out for granted AGAIN.

8. Lock downs make you spend less, so you realise just how bloody much you spend on the above.

9. Tiles are bloody expensive! (I’m using the working from home / not spending a fortune on drinking and eating out situation to my advantage and finally get Tiny Flat on Shit Street refurbed).

10. I am INCREDIBLY lucky that I have not been seriously affected by this shitty, wicked, arsehole of a disease.

Right. That’s enough of that. On to what we’re here for. Some STUFF ABOUT SCOTLAND!

Of course, the vast majority of folk have had their holiday plans royally rogered this year, and I’m no different. The first casualty was our week on Skye at Easter. Then the week in Croatia which was booked for October. Then the trip to Belgium. That last one was supposed to have been last weekend (which was, in itself, Plan B after the Steven Wilson tour was cancelled – we had tickets for his gig in Nottingham, after which we were planning a couple of days in a posh hotel somewhere lovely – mainly to make up for the expected less lovely night in a Premier Inn in Nottingham – albeit after an evening of sublime prog rock from Mr Wilson. But I digress). Anyway, with things *tentatively* starting to look promising for trips away, we booked two nights in Oban, with a one night stay in Balmaha on the shores of Loch Lomond first. 

I must say, I know we could have ventured north before mid September but to be honest, I was put off by all the fuckwittery I was reading on social media, about complete MORONS coming to the Scottish countryside “wild camping”, with – it seemed – absolutely ZERO concept of HOW TO FUCKING BEHAVE!!! Seriously, I read about piles of human shit and nappies found in the grounds of the ruined Ardveck Castle in Assynt; the blocking of people’s own gardens and properties by idiot “wild campers”; hundreds and hundreds of bits of rubbish on usually unspoilt remote highland beaches. It was all too depressing, and I couldn’t imagine anything worse than holidaying in some of my most beloved areas of Scotland with cretins such as these in the vicinity. Fucking idiots. ANYONE is welcome in Scotland. Just DON’T BE A DICK! Rant over (for now, anyway…)

Our patience really did pay off and we were rewarded with the most amazing weather for the entire weekend. Honestly, is there anything better than warm autumn sunshine in Scotland? It’s like the “golden goal” of summer. We had beautiful blue skies, which just looked all the more stunning with the backdrop of the autumn colours on the trees.

This is the view from Duncryne Hill in Gartocharn – we went there before heading to Balmaha.

The only thing was, of course, since the weather was so awesome, and since Scotland was still the favoured location of folk who would normally (let’s face it, folks…) be sunning themselves on foreign shores, everywhere we went was much busier than it normally would be at this time of year. But, no matter – we still found plenty of quiet spots and never really struggled to find places to eat and drink.

First stop was Balmaha on the east side of Loch Lomond. This side of the loch has always been my favoured side. I fondly remember childhood trips up the wee road to Rowardennan, and in my late teens, me and my pals even used to drive to Balmaha of an evening just for fun (I lived only about 40 minutes away from there at that time…). I remember one particular night. My pal Alan was the (I’m sure reluctant) designated driver and the weather was atrocious! Torrential rain and wind the whole way there – God knows why we didn’t turn back. We got to Balmaha and Alan suggested getting out of the car “for a walk”. The rest of us collectively expressed something along the lines of “fuck that for a game of soldiers”, but Alan – who, to be fair, had driven all that way through, effectively, a storm, and may have started losing his marbles by the time we arrived, jumped out of the car and ran around for a few minutes shouting “We’re fucking going for a walk! We’re fucking going for a walk!”. Happy days.

This time, not a raindrop in sight and not a breath of wind. Before we checked in at the Oak Tree Inn in Balmaha, it was up the road to Rowardennan for a wee walk

This was followed up with a pint and some scran in the hotel there. Can’t fault the view from their outdoor eating area.

And the buffalo wings were top notch. Add that to an ice cold pint of the Big Red T and I was a very happy bunny. Just sitting there in the sunshine, looking at that view, even though we were less than two hours from home – I felt like I was in another world. I could feel the stress just lift off me and all was good with the world. Especially since the boyf was doing the driving so I could have that pint, and he had to negotiate the wee windy road back to Balmaha 🙂 A wee walk round Balmaha itself and up a hill for a great view of the loch:

Then it was on to the hotel. I’d recommend the Oak Tree Inn: friendly service, lovely room, great food, and very good with all the Covid rules. And the view from our bedroom window wasn’t bad either!

The next morning, after an awesome slap up breakfast, it was on to Oban. Well, first was the inevitable detour to Loch Lomond Shores. This is a, frankly a bit weird, shopping centre right on the shores of the loch (hence the name, I suppose) in Balloch. It’s generally where coach parties go to buy Nice Things, and they do a good line in sturdy outdoor wear. And scones. They have a wee branch of Jenners (hey two mentions in one blog post! At least the one at the Shores is all on one floor…) and the boyf (who is *permanently* “too fucking hot”) had neglected to bring any shorts and, since the weather was looking like it was going to be epic all weekend, a pair needed to be purchased. Me finding a most beauteous Biba jumper in the sale was just a happy coincidence. 

We had decided on a walk to Castle Stalker in Appin, which is just north of Oban, so we took the route up along the west side of Loch Lomond, then through Glencoe. To be fair, I’d probably have suggested this route anyway as it is awesome. I’m sure I’ve written about driving through Glencoe before, but this time was a bit special: blazing sunshine, blue skies.

The road was fucking mobbed, mind, mainly with folk driving far too slowly, but since we were in no hurry we didn’t get stressed about it. Well, I didn’t; the boyf, not so much…

Our walk at Appin didn’t disappoint. It was very flat and easy, over the Jubilee Bridge, then on to the beach towards the castle.

Isn’t that just the best looking castle?! It’s a private home apparently! Wouldn’t thank you for the heating bills.

Arriving in Oban is always good. You drive into the town down that hill, and the view of the bay opens up. Admittedly, your first sight is of the not-very-attractive Corran Halls and the long stay car park, but hey ho. I have written a full blog post before about Oban, and – yes – the town could be seen as a bit touristy and tatty in parts, but I still love the place, and always will, I expect. And on this trip, we actually explored bits I hadn’t before (behave…) so I think it deserves another blog post.

In fact, yup – I’m going to make that a separate post, so this’ll be “part 1”. Hopefully I’ll write “part 2” within the next 14 months…

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