When John said ‘Shall we have a road trip…’ Jenny misheard and thought he said Route 66, so she was vaguely surprised when he mentioned going via Carlisle Edinburgh, Pitlochry, Inverness, Fort William, Glasgow…….. What he’d actually said was that they could ‘meander up the A6’.
So off we set…
Day 1 1st October.
Setting off early from Bedford (9.00am is early for Jenny!) we visited Crewe, Warrington, Wigan, Layland and Preston. We spent the night at The Travelodge in Preston £29 for the night. We also ate our – 2 courses and a drink for £13.25 each….not cordon blue but just about acceptable.
Day 2 2nd October
Leaving Preston we travelled to Morecambe Bay….on a less windy, rainy day we may have ventured out of the car for a stroll along the front. But it was nice to see the sea.
Views of Morecambe Bay
We travelled on to Carnforth and on to Windermere. Windermere was its usual quaint place, popular even on a wet Autumn day. Parking in Bowness and having a walk along the lake shore. The lake cruises were as popular as ever. The view a truly beautiful ideallic English scene, spoilt only by the mist and low cloud.
We continued to meander up to Carlisle, via Kendal, and Shap. The later has one of the highest points of the English railway network. A photo stop was obligatory.
On arriving in Carlisle we booked into The Hallmark Hotel, next to the Station, for 2 nights. It is being done up and is far more pleasant than it was 2 years ago when we stopped here. When booking, make certain they include free parking, otherwise it costs £10 per night. the room rate was £62.00 per night. It is easy walking distance to the castle and attractions. There is also a very acceptable ‘Wetherspoons’ just round the corner and the hotel has a pleasant restaurant and bar.
The view from the hotel….
Day 3 3rd October,
We spent the day driving around the area. John wanted to visit some railway haunts. We had some retail therapy at Gretna Green Outlet Village…..2 pairs of Sketchers successfully purchased and a pair of walking boots for John. A lovely relaxing day. We once we again had our evening meal in Wetherspoons – if you can get over the snob value of eating there, they served a very tasty rare sirloin steak, chips, tomatoe, mushrooms and peas for £7.99…it was ‘Steak Night’.
I was reminded again as to why I swore, 2 years ago, not to stay at The Hallmark Hotel. Our room was nice enough except…neither window would shut, thankfully the interior type double glazing kept most the cold out, curtains which didn’t even cover half of the window, the bathroom was so small. The shower about 60 cm by 60cm, the sink so close to the heated radiator that you have to stand sideways to clean your teeth and a loo seat which had no attachment to the loo!!!! They did change the lightbulb in the bathroom when asked……..next time we’ll try The Ibis or Travelodge….we’ve tried The County before but that’s worse than The Hallmark. Anyone any ideas of somewhere decent to stay in Carlisle?
Day 4. 4th October
On leaving Carlisle we headed north, via Gretna Green and on through Dumfries to Castle Douglas. We enjoyed a mid-morning coffee with Johns cousins and Aunt in a lovely farm cottage they had rented. From there we crossed to Edinburgh via some truly magnificent scenery. We went through Lockerbie, Eskdalemuir and Galashiels. The autumnal colours were amazing. We were somewhat surprised to come across a Tibetan retreat at Eskdalemuir – Kagyu Samye Ling monastery and Tibetan centre.
We booked into the Travelodge near the Haymarket central station. A short stroll away we found Omar Khayyam Indian Punjabi Restaurant. We had a really tasty meal and we were treated to some superb truly Indian hospitality….it reminded us of our time in India, in February, when everyone we met were so polite and courteous and made you feel like part of their family …this restaurant was just like that…we’ll be going again.
Day 5 5th October
We planned to take the car to Carlton Road carpark first thing in the morning. The Travelodge has limited on road meter parking, at £3 per hour, where as Carlton Road Carpark has overnight all day parking…….However all good plans are made to be altered….
John had got up early to train spot the rush hour on Haymarket Station. When he returned at 9.30 he was freezing. Although the sun was shining there was a real Autumn bite in the air. So plans were changed and we drove out to Dalmeny and South Queensferry …. What a treat of a view.. … How many bridges can you see?
Now look more carefully…….
And the hotel just down the road gives you the answer ‘3 Bridges’.
Across the road is a bistro/cafe/gift shop, just what was needed a fantastic cup of ‘illy’ and a bacon butty, served with a happy smile. I was tempted with their advertised 1/2 lobster, chips and garlic butter for £19.50 but I demonstrated some reserve as it was only breakfast time !!
We continued the day by driving over the Forth Bridge and visiting several small villages and of course their Railway stations. Our final stop was at Bo’ness and the preserved railway. The station wasn’t open due to it not being a weekend, however the museum was. We enjoyed wandering around the museum, it was very interesting, particularly how the mail used to be moved and sorted.
There were also some interesting quotes…And John could relate to another… Being the son of a Train Spotter…
It was a nice afternoon, returning to Edinburgh for John to go back to Haymarket Station for the evening rush.
We rounded the day off by walking from the Travelodge to a Chinese Restaurant – ‘China Star’. It was a mediocre meal and in all honesty we probably wouldn’t go again.
Day 6. 6th October
We drove out to South Gyle – turn right on to Haymarket, past the zoo and keep going …a short 10 mins drive. The station is well signposted, it’s free parking and a £6.50 return train ticket into Edinburgh Waverley …… great compared to the £30 a day meter which has to be fed every 4 hours. The day was one of retail therapy for Jenny and train and tram spotting for John. There’s building work around Princes Street, but that didn’t stop Jenny finding John Lewis!! Then a train ride back to the car and the easy transit to the Travelodge.
We returned to Omar Khayyam for yet another splendid meal.
Walking back to the hotel we said thank you to Edinburgh for three nice days. Tomorrow we head off further north.
Day 7 7th October
We said ‘Goodbye & Thank you’ to the Travelodge and Edinburgh and set off for Pitlochry. Taking the A9 to Sterling then on to Gleneagles. When we get home I think I’ll blog interesting roundabouts…..the one entering Gleneagles has a sculpture of golf clubs in the middle.
The station in Gleneagles is extremely smart and well kept in what seems to be its original style.
From there we drove on to Perth. Even since the last time we visited a few years ago it seems to have become more run down, which is such a shame as many years ago it was a smart well kept quaint town. We decided not to loiter and continued our travels north.
On arriving in Pitlochry we were amazed at how busy it was…….it was literally heaving. All hotels and guest houses had ‘No Vacancy’ signs up. It was a stark contrast to the sleepy town we’d visited on our last trip. I was pleased I had booked our accomodation. I had booked a B&B guest house because accomodation had been expensive and finding anything at less than £100 per night had been a struggle. But I had booked ‘Carra Beag Guest house’ – Carra Beag at £184 for 2 nights including breakfast.
We were greeted warmly and we were delighted with our room….a 4 poster bed … And a room with a view..
A quick walk down the garden steps led to the main centre of town.
Because it was so busy we decided to book a table for dinner….alas all good plans ….. Everywhere we phoned was fully booked apart from The Old Mill
They don’t tale bookings. We rocked up at 6.30 and were told we could have a table in about 40 mins. We had a drink in the bar and passed the time people watching….a busy, vibrant bar. True to the floor managers word we were seated in 40 minutes. Surprised at the nice restaurant which you can’t see from the bar, we were even more surprised at the culinary extravagancer we were about to encounter. We started with smoked Scottish salmon and capers and then progressed to Killiecrankie Chicken. This was chicken breast stuffed with haggis served on a bed of piped mash with roasted carrots, tiny onions and parsnips all with a whisky sauce……it did more than tickle the taste buds it brought them alive….Then to round it all off we had ice-cream in a brandy snap basket……..We literally waddled back to the Guest House choosing the road route rather than the garden because we didn’t have a torch!!!!!
Whilst out we discovered this sleepy towns sudden and dramatic claim to fame. From a Hotel in the middle of town trips to ‘The Enchanted Forest’ take place. This is a sound and light show in the forest not far from Pitlochry and accessible only by the laid on buses. Even if we had of fancied going we couldn’t have because tickets sell out about a year in advance. In fact they are taking bookings for November 2018 at the moment. It is extremely popular and keeps the Pitlochry tourist season going for an additional few months. We felt many of the English seaside towns could learn a lot from this clever piece of entrepreneurialism. We asked how much the show was and we were told about £22 per person …….we saw at least 12 trips by the locally own busses ‘ Elizabeth Yule’ depart the hotel throughout the evening and we only watched for about an hour in total…….so this really is a money spinner for most the local businesses.
Day 8. 8th October
The day started early with a hearty full English breakfast or should I say Scottish….what is it with guest houses that they all seem to serve breakfast between 8 and 9am regardless of the day of the week ?? Don’t they know Jenny doesn’t do early mornings now she is retired !!! The fresh coffee soon smoothed Jenny’s grumps.
Today was a famous ‘Jackson’s mystery tour’ …that’s when John has no idea where he is going and Jenny drives to his instructions…..the Cyprus ones are noteworthy!!!
John said that today might not even involve trains…but Jenny has still never seen a flying pig!!!
We took a ‘B’ road west through Tummel Bridge and Kinloch Rannoch. The scenery was magnificent, made even better by the array of Autumn tints…people who talk about ‘Boston in the Fall’ Obviously have never driven this route…. The Browns, deep reds, pinks, rouge, golden, sunshine yellow, lime, racing green, vibrant green …all in one view…..
The Loch shimmered in the sunshine and the babbling Brooke’s raced by swallow from the recent rain……
What glorious sightseeing it was. The road forks at the end of the Loch Rannoch. We took the left fork, 5 miles, to Rannoch Station. This is a ‘no through’ road which stops at the station. It really is in the middle of nowhere. A small hamlet of houses and the station, which is home to a very smart Tea Room.
Needless to say we waited for a ‘Special Train’ to stop. It waited 30 minutes so the passengers could get off and sample the Tea Rooms, take pictures of their train and a Loch…..then on it went towards Glasgow and then eventually to Kettering.
The Tea-room was ideal for elevenses….John had an Apple and almond tart ( still warm from the oven) and coffee and Jenny had Victoria sponge cake and hot chocolate.
After refreshments had been enjoyed we read all about the local area.
Continuing with the ‘Mystery Tour’ took us back to the junction at the end of Loch Rannoch and our return journey to Pitlochry was along the other side of the Loch, where many cyclist enjoy the off the beaten track Sunday ride. The scenery was once again breathtaking.
Back in Pitlochry we ate at McKays, we both had scampi and chips. It was an experience we would not repeat again….poor service, poor food…..having asked for the bill and still not got it we asked if the meal was ‘on the house’ and stood up and put our coats on…needless to say the bill was then produced at double quick speed !!!!
Tomorrow we head into the heart of the Highlands.