Day 8 of this years Scotland holiday took a while to get started. Not in terms of the actual day - we didn't wake up at 8am to find it still dark outside and the sun saying 'I don't want to get up yet, I'm tired!'. The trouble was that we as a group are rubbish at organising ourselves, and always leave it until the morning to decide what we are doing for that day.
The weather wasn't brilliant, and some people's walking boots were still wet (not Jim's - how does he do that?) so walking wasn't really on the cards. Leigh grabbed one of the maps that were left in the lodge to help indecisive cretins like us make the most of our time here, and we chose to travel up the coast a bit to a place called Gairloch, which - according to the map - boasted a dog friendly pub, boat trips, a museum, forest walks, kitten wrestling, seaweed architecture, and a full size re-enactment of the D-Day landings by the members of the local
W.I. (playing the Allied forces) and the local scout group (playing the Nazis).
So, something for everybody I'll think you'll agree.
We set off, pausing only by the loch at the end of our road to take photos of the now snow tipped peaks that looked down on us. But then we were on our way!
We chose a coastal route, which turned out to be not very coastal at all. Luckily, it did take us past many more snow tipped peaks which were beautiful to behold. It was quite a long journey (about an hour and a half) and at one point, Ben had to stop to fill up with fuel because he didn't think he had enough fuel to get to Gairloch and back (we didn't know if Gairloch had a petrol station - this is the Highlands). Ironically, the person serving in the petrol station was originally from Essex, just as all of us are.
Actually, is that ironic? Or just an interesting coincidence? Is it even interesting? Perhaps not; maybe I should have started that sentence with "By boring coincidence....". Or just not mention it at all. Oh well, too late now......
By the time we got to Gairloch, we all had one thing on our mind: food. We stopped at the Ox Inn, which Leigh had researched and found to be dog friendly. Sadly Jack isn't dog friendly, and as there were two dogs already in the bar area where we wanted to go, Jack had to be left in the car with a selection of CD's to listen to (Snoop Dog is his favourite, but he can't stand Cat Stevens).
Dog free, we went into the bar and ordered a round - two bitter shandys, half an ale, an orange J20 and a Coke. All for £8.75, which I felt was very good. Sadly, that is where the good feeling ended. We had intended to get some food while we were there, but the menu didn't inspire us, the food we saw other patrons eating didn't look appetising, and Ben found a pubic hair on his glass when he came to pour his J20 into it - which is enough to put anyone off. Even the paintings in the bar were off putting - a landscape of what was meant to be the rolling kills of heather running down to a loch, looked more like Death Valley. We decided to leave and find other sustenance 'in town'.
This would prove to be a mistake.
As we drove around town, we stopped at every hotel, restaurant, cafe, and food establishment of any kind in search of lunch. What became very apparent very quickly was the fact that everything in this town shut at 2pm and did not re-open until 5pm. Everywhere we went we turned up a blank. It was the strangest thing: all the signs said "lunch 12-2, dinner 5-8". As it was 2:15, we were out of luck.
But the whole town seemed dead. Did this 2pm to 5pm "void" in activity cover everything in the town? We're you 100 times more likely to die in a house fire if your chip pan went up between 2pm and 5pm, because the fire station was shut? Do the patients in intensive care have to "wing it" for three hours every day because everything shuts off at 2pm? Are the children at the local school all below the national average level for reading and arithmetic, because they get three hours less education per day than everyone else?
And where was everyone during this three hour window? Out sacrificing strangers to the Sun god in order to ensure good crops this year no doubt. It was really weird - and very frustrating.
Eventually we found a place that was open; a bookstore with a coffee house attached (or vice versa). The trouble is, they only served filled bagels and cakes, nothing more substantial. We had no choice but to take what they had to offer. Well, all of us except Cain. He had been so looking forward to having Fish and Chips that he just didn't want anything else, and wouldn't be tempted by the (really quite good) Bagels the rest of us were eating. He also had a right face on him - but he is a teenager, so what can you do?
Answers on a postcard to the "Beat Them Into Normal Behaviour With Their Own Spleen" competition, at the usual address.
After eating, we drove off in search of the Kitten Wreslting. On the way we saw a secluded beach that was just begging to be investigated. It was a bit of a scramble down, but once we made it we had the beach to ourselves. It had lovely smooth sand with almost no shells or seaweed at all. The sea was gently breaking on the shore in small waves, and it was a lovely place to be. Leigh and Jim gave Jack a bit of a run, and Cain climbed on some rocks while Ben and I held hands and gazed out to see and pondered what might have been. We then realised what we were doing and after a manly discussion about guns football and breasts, we decided to write messages in the sand for Leigh and Jim who had taken Jack further on.
Shortly Leigh and Jim returned with Jack and laughed at the messages written in the sand, which included "CHIP SHOP OPEN⬆", "HIYA LOVE", "BALDY + WHINEY", "ADVERTISE HERE", and "CHIP SHOP CLOSED ( we have crisps)"
These may not sound very funny - but they are. Trust me.
When it came time to scramble back up to our cars, we found that the tide had come in slightly and the place where we would start to climb was now wet. This wasn't a problem for me and Ben, but Jim and Leigh had to take a longer route back. Ben, Cain and I waited on a picnic table by the war memorial for Leigh and Jim, and whiled away the minutes by playing tunes on the table. That might sound impossible, and to the untrained person might look impossible - but Ben and I are experts. If a tune exists, we can play it on the Picnic table.
Soon enough Jim and Leigh rejoined us - and we realised that it had gone 5pm and that Fish and Chips were now available! We rushed back to our cars, pausing only for Ben and Leigh to point out how much the man sitting in the back of the car next to us with two elderly people (his parents?) looked like me. Apparently, the criteria for being a "Larry Looky-Likey" is as follows:
• Bald / Balding
• Signs of disability of some kind
After the laughter eventually stopped, we went and got Fish and Chips. They were very good by all accounts. After finally getting some decent food, we came home.
Overall, Gairloch is rubbish. It's one redeeming feature is its secluded Beach, and it's Fish and Chips (when it opens).
I don't think we will be going there again.