We’d already done our fair share of driving this Christmas. We have a big North South divide in our family, half being based in Hertfordshire and the other in Scunthorpe. But that was just the beginning; we were now bound for Hogmanay in Edinburgh. Celebrating Hogmanay in Scotland has been on my bucket list for quite some time so I was pretty excited as we put Christmas behind us and took to the A1 over the border. We spent New Year’s Eve eve in a bar, trying not to be distracted by Shrek 3 playing on the flat screen beside us. The wine and sizzling chicken fajitas made for a perfect start to this little road trip.
Despite the breeze, the chilly air didn’t make it through my new winter coat as we made our way along the Royal Mile on New Year’s Eve to pick up our Street party tickets. I’ve never been in such a well organised fast moving queue as the one in the Fringe office; I was suitably impressed. The day passed into the evening and the anticipation mounted as we found our way to the entrance of Princes Street, ready to face Hogmanay. Twinkly lights left from Christmas added a magical feeling to this already exciting evening, and add in some burgers, doughnuts, gluhwein and cider and it’s a pretty awesome evening. We even managed to find a stand selling the infamous deep fried mars bars- something I’ve always thought would be greasy and nasty. Turns out they’re pretty tasty, I can heartily recommend them as something to try in Scotland!
Soon enough the sky burst into life with hundreds of fireworks. It was an immense display that I’ve never seen the likes of. The whole evening had been really special, and although a Scottish Hogmanay has been ticked off my list, I know I’ll be adding it again! Perhaps next time in a castle in the Highlands.
We were up at a reasonable hour considering the late night and had our new car packed up and pointing towards Drymen before realising we’d forgotten breakfast. A big oversight on any road trip! As was the lack of pick and mix. We remedied both of these misfortunes at our halfway point, Stirling, and felt much happier and more fit to face the world. We had left the sea views behind us in Edinburgh as we started to climb into the hilly lowlands of mid-south Scotland. The car wound through the roads of the green open lands of Stirlingshire and we were fast approaching Loch Lomond and The Trossachs (or Pàirc Nàiseanta Loch Laomainn is nan Tròisichean in gaelic).
Finding food was still high on our agenda, so on arrival at the Winnock Hotel I indulged in another local delicacy- macaroni cheese. I’ve never been presented with such a mound of food, with chips and salad on the side; if this is what the portions in our hotel were like I was going to remain very happy! Throughout the buildings there were tartan carpets, adding a real sense of occasion to every day, and our double room was furnished with a four poster bed: It felt very special.
Being that it was a bank holiday the celebrations were still in full swing and the whole village seemed to have come to the pub to socialise. There was singing, drinking and even bagpipes all through the evening. Feeling tired we retreated to the comfort of our four poster and ordered sundaes from room service. I should have guessed from lunch, but the portion was once again immense, and I confess I needed help finishing mine. It was hands down the tastiest ice-cream I’ve ever had. I still am not completely sure what was in it, so I can’t count the calories. Never mind.
The scenery of The Trossachs National Park is simply stunning. There were just so many photo opportunities afforded to us, rivers and lakes, as well as mountains. It is such a stunningly beautiful country, which can rival vistas of any of the faraway places I’ve travelled to. The shimmering lochs instil such a sense of peacefulness, and have inspired some great literary writers. And it’s not hard to see why.
We made our way in a loop around Loch Lomond, and I was so thankful that my fears about snow were unfounded. I’d been planning this trip for a while and I didn’t want to miss out on anything because of snow. I hadn’t however anticipated the amount of rain the area had had in previous weeks, resulting in quite impressive flooding. Luckily none of it was over the Road but when we stopped for dinner at Duck Bay the entire car park was hidden under a good few inches of water. The dangers of a lakeside restaurant I suppose. Luckily the food was unharmed, and we had a very tasty meal accompanied by hot chocolate with amaretto. It was blissful watching the sun setting on our last Scottish evening whilst the lake sparkled under the stars.
Travelling back East we passed Edinburgh and re-crossed the border into England. We were bound this time for Whitely Bay via the Angel of the North, a place I’ve always wanted to visit seeing as my mum grew up there. There is a beautiful white lighthouse on St Mary’s Island that is accessible by foot if the tide is out. My mum used to tell me stories about a little boy in her class who lived on the island and had to leave school early or risk not getting home at all. As a child I liked this idea of leaving school early and being cut off by the sea.
We headed there first to see the freezing foamy waves crashing against the rocks of the hidden causeway, just as the sun was setting. After a good few photo opportunities and more than a little cold we retreated to our seafront hotel to defrost, and were pleasantly surprised by the size of our well-appointed room. The bay window looked out on the promenade and grey wintery sea; it was truly picturesque. The Royal Hotel is nicely decorated, has an adjoining bar/restaurant and beautiful sea views, as well as a fantastic breakfast selection. If ever I’m in the area again this would be my first choice, it is highly recommended.
We passed the evening in an amusement arcade amassing tickets for prizes we didn’t want or need: a water pistol, a Barbie look-alike doll, plastic children’s bracelets: It was definitely more about the journey than the destination. On leaving we donated our tickets to an over excited young child and went in search of fish and chips: On holiday by the sea it has to be done. As expected the treat meal was very tasty and enhanced by the salty air of the coast. The next morning was bright and chilly, but feeling very satisfied after a cooked breakfast we went back to the Lighthouse and found the sea had retreated. We followed the now visible path up to the island and explored the beach rocks and grassy gardens around the island buildings. I braved cold hands and investigated the rock pools with my waterproof camera, and was fairly pleased at the colours and focus it afforded. The little secret worlds were interrupted only until my fingers turned white with cold, and I had to retreat to the warmth of our road trip mobile. Once again we were on the road home. It was a long and winding road that still had plenty of scope for adventure.