Sunday, 27 July 2014
We've driven miles and miles and miles over the last couple of days and the biggest things we have learned are :
1. Some of us don't like being here one day and somewhere else the next, and
2. Google lies when you ask what the driving times are to places.
From Royal Tunbridge Wells we travelled to Nottingham. Before we left Kent though, we paid a visit to Hever Castle where Anne Boleyn spent much of her childhood, and some of her courtship with King Henry VIII. We were early enough to be able to be the 2nd people into the Castle when it opened so had much of it to ourselves. The gardens open earlier than the castle itself. There are some wonderful portraits there and a lot of information about her and the family. No inside photos though - they're not permitted. We are such history (and in particular Tudor) geeks that this was a must-see for us.
Then the long hot drive - hours and hours on the M25 to get to the M1. Masses of traffic and queues, but still faster than Auckland I reckon. It was 30C according to the car, but the tv said 28 - whichever it was we were glad to be out of it and in an airconditioned room at the Holiday Inn.
Next morning we began the next part of the epic journey north. To Galashiels via Middlesborough. We only went there for a joke since before leaving NZ a friend had said to Lauren "don't go there". So we had to, just to see. It was another hot driving day, but seemed to get a bit cooler as we approached the border. We stopped for the obligatory photos to record the crossing into another country where no passport needed to be produced, then continued on our way. Turned out the actual Scottish pub I had booked for the night was a tad further north than Galashiels itself. But, it was not too bad, they had a restaurant so we could get dinner, breakfast was part of the deal and there was free wifi.
Today, we started off with a plan to go to the James Hogg monument (Border minstrel reputed to be related to Lauren) then drive through the area where the family was living for generations prior to emigrating to Australia. Some years ago Mum and Dad had taken a photo for me of a James Hogg statue near Tibbie Shiel's inn at St Mary's Loch. He used to frequent the Inn with his mates William Wordsworth & Sir Walter Scott who were all inspired to publish poetic verse about the location. Turns out this is not the monument marked on my new road map. The one we found today is in Ettrick and marks the site of the cottage where he was born in 1770.
look at these !! just growing wild everywhere on the side of the road - YUM
on the road from Ettrick to Traquair - just us and nature
From there we found our way to Traquair where the last Scot born Hogg was born in Lauren's branch of the family, then had a cuppa at Traquair House. Traquair House is the oldest inhabited house in Scotland, it dates back to 1107; has been visited by 27 kings and queens; and became a refuge for Catholic priests and the family supported Mary Queen of Scots and the Jacobite cause.
So back to the drive - via Edinburgh and Stirling so as not to get caught up with the traffic around Glasgow and the Commonwealth Games - to Fort William. It took a lot longer than we thought and thankfully we had the foresight to stop at Stirling and buy things to be able to cook (yes COOK) dinner. As well, the temperature dropped the further north we came and we had rain. Woohoo. We got caught behind slow traffic and those of you who have been to the Highlands will know that dual carriageways (passing lanes in Kiwi-speak) are a rarity. We'd have loved to stop and take photos of the mist hanging in the glens and covering the peaks. It makes it all look so much more moody. Hopefully it will hang around (excuse the pun) so we can get photos tomorrow, or another day this week.
We are staying in the most amazing apartment next to the Caledonian Canal by Neptune's Staircase, close to the Road to the Isles and the Clan Cameron museum. Both on our list of must-do's.