Going there

As a French national one of the most exotic experiences I hoped to do was to go the further in the north that I could – which meant Scotland in this part of my life, as I once wanted to go the UK before Brexit was actually completed.

I knew I needed to do that early before the doors of those hills would be closed on me – I couldn’t imagine it was easier to do that than in the Covid-19 era. It was then 19 years that I hadn’t been to the UK – this was then, a high school trip to Oxford, Warwick, Stratford-upon-Avon, London, Canterbury and the Blackbird Leys suburb of Oxford where we stayed.

I had always been inspired by Scotland from my childhood readings: the Adventures of Tintin climbing atop the petty hills to a small village that looked to be the most remote point of the continent, which I envisioned to be Thurso or something similar. Also, the Famous five, describing such landscapes. No real place might have been described by the authors, so it’s just up to the imagination of everyone.

2. Departing from London

So in London after visiting the whole city by feet or bike I prepared myself to go the UK’s northern point.

The first researches were made through the Omio app and there was one seat left on a flight to Inverness, which is the farest point to reach by air. This was a British Airways service that was cheap, but somebody was faster than me to book that ticket.

I was in Regents’ Park in London at the time, so next I headed to King’s Cross station nearby, to find an overcrowded station, for as I tried to understand, there was a strike, so I felt like I had so few options left but to book a bus trip to the southern Scotland big city of Glasgow; so I did, I spent the rest of the day in town before heading to the Victoria long haul bus station, which I left upon arrival in London.

So that’s quite around midnight that I left London and Victoria Station by Hyde Park and, let’s say, A 41 through M 1 shortwards after. I liked getting another glimpse of London through the exotic shops along the road before eventually being sleepy.

The song that makes everyone think of the petty hills of the British and Irish Isles.

3. The first glimpses of Scotland

The bus trip wasn’t comfortable, trying to sleep on two seats but it could have been worse: few seats were occupied. So I got awake early in the morning, to find that I’ve never been this far at north, near Newcastle – I could see the North Sea through the curtains, looking somewhat cold but attractive.

The bus went past Edinburgh, then the airport along the road to Glasgow and then Glasgow where I stopped. From the very first lights in the mornings, I knew I would have been met by heavy rains, pouring in Edinburgh. As I arrived at the Glasgow Buchanan bus station, I walked a bit around the station, to find the city very square and not so old, of Victorian Style. I remember the crossroads of Killermont and West Nile Street and I was quite melancholic under the rain and the absence of sun in the morning – and my shoes beginning to be quite soaked, too.

par AlasdairW, Wikicommons

I tried to find all the combinations to go further north, but it was difficult without my map to understand how Scotland was made, and the prices where seamingly high. I tried to get some advice from the station and I made my choice to go to Luss by bus, which was close to Glasgow, but a famous village on the shores of a lake.

4. Luss and the shores of Loch Lomond

Luss is a relatively close village to Glasgow around a loch which is the closest to Glasgow and the largest of Scotland: Loch Lomond.

Arriving at Luss I had all the difficulties to cross the road to the village, because this main road A 82 is the only road from Glasgow to the Highlands of Scotland. To find myself in an unknown village of Scotland was a very new feeling to me. The village, on the shore of the lake happens to be known for having hosted a series in the 80s and is famous nationwide for this: it is called Take the High Road.

Feeling soaky I had to warm myself up to a comforting hot chocolate in a café in the village, and to get a shelter from the heavy rains that were announced to be unusual… I rested at the Coach House Coffee Shop, there were a lot of tourists from other countries, I could hear German people in the very table I sat and some French people in the distance, asking myself what they could be doing too in this remote place…

Afterwards and as the rain stopped pouring, and even though my feet were soaked I wanted to go deeper in the countryside – this is what I was here for. So I did catch the closest path into the unknown, tried and climb the Beinh Dubh mount westwards of Luss to search for what I was looking for of Scotland.

I soon began to walk in the middle of a meadow where a herd was nearby, and managed to climb the hill several hundreds of meters above the lake.

I might have been looking for the petty hills of Scotland. There is obviously one in the background… Creaghan Hill. And it’s on the « Old Peat Road ».

I could see the village and the huge loch in the distance. The glimpse of fresh air was enough to be relieved for a while. I don’t think I breathed an air so fresh, windy and moisty ever…

Unfortunately, the too much adventurous trip to an unknown place and ache at the feet made me shorten the trip that I had in mind… But as the saying goes, « it is not about the destination but the journey ». So I got back to village to walk around its charming houses and shore for a while. The regret I could have is not having bought back some Loch Lomond whiskey at the cottage, the favorite if Captain Haddock. The village is home to plenty of ferry route of the loch.

Didn’t go that far, though…
The music that recalls me of this trip to Luss and the shores of Loch Lomond.
Laurenbaillie123, Wikicommons. L’abus d’alcool est dangereux pour la santé. A consommer avec modération

5. A bigger view of Glasgow

And then I took the bus back to Glasgow to stay here for the evening, visiting its streets of Victorian style, its large Buchanan Street, its large Town Hall Square, as well as its comforting river banks.

You could see its industrial heritage, too.  I didn’t quite felt the vibe of Glasgow, perhaps because of the cloudy and rainy moment. Or I found the sad side. But I’m interested in New York, and, thinking again, you could find similarities in both.

With all the rain, the music that recalls me Glasgow would be this one. This is a famous song also in the ex Soviet Union – having accompagned every weather forecast bulletin there since the 70s.

Afterwards I took another bus from Glasgow to London. I heard here people make fun at the name Blah – Blah – bus… The MegaBus ticket I bought was cheap bus not as comfortable, but that’s another kind of a story…

Next I’ll be making you discover the places of the film with Rob Brydon and Coogan in the north of England. It’s here

(Mappingforyou.eu is a free map service dedicated to landscapes and slow tourism)