Julie was sat in the navigators seat having packed the car with stuff for a week with her brother in Aberdeen, I was behind the wheel of THE THUG. An hour ago I was at work clock watching! Now we were speeding up the A1. We hooked left onto the wild A66 and pushed ontowards the M6 at Penrith. The A66 is a brilliant road to view the huge expance of moorland and rolling hills as it crested the ridgeline, getting blown about by the harsh west winds that swept up the hillside, we followed it for a while before dropping down the side of the Pennines to hug the dips and swillies at Appleby-in-Moorland.
Penrith was where we joined the M6 passing Carlisle, Gretna and Moffat in double quick time. Oh joy, we had entered Scotland! The road had now become the M74. We turned east at Glasgow to join the M80, it was a glorious but chippy sunny day with a cloudless blue sky high above us. The feel good factor was with us!
I was now in the navigators seat after a break and a refuel and was busy picking us a different route over the Kincardine Bridge, the Firth of Forth flowed peacefully beneath us. The adventure spirit took us across country on the A977 to join the M90 at Kinross. The daylight was beginning to ebb away now, giving way to fawny browns then dark purple before the black of night. Both Dundee and Arbroath passed in a busy twinkle of lights. Aberdeen greeted us with a log jam of rush hour vehicles, it was 18.00hrs and we hit the Friday night traffic, happily it wasn’t long before we turned into Broadstraik Cresent and the chinking of bottles as we greeted David and Alison and Leo the voice. We had arrived, we had driven 350 miles had taken about 6 hours. Time for a drink I think!
The following day David and Alison took us into Aberdeen, parking up on the seafront to take a long stroll along the beach. I didn’t know Aberdeen had a beach did you?
I think perhaps Aberdeen Beach is a bit of a kept secret! I wonder if my pal Jill can recollect these views from her childhood days?
I was more than happy getting absorbed in things to photograph on the beach leaving Julie and David to stroll on the walkway just ahead, Alison and son Leo had tramped off ahead on a route march crunching the calories.
The breakers on the beach attracted dippers and waders on closer inspection I could see why!
The abundance of shells attached to the wood were food for the little birds. The boat that was atached to the line has long since gone!
I held the camera just an inch or two from the floor and put the flash on for this one.
Julie and David Macklam, brother and sister, happy in chat and each others company, as any good brother and sister should be.
Council building don’t often look pretty to the eye do they? Robert the Bruce sits on his oss by the big doors somewhere on the left.
This photo will probably awaken some memories and make Jill very homesick as she lounges in her Gite in sunny France! Sorry hun, I know its been a long time since you where home. Would you care to tell us what you got up to in Union St when you where a slip of a girl?
The Gordon Highlanders statue was very impressive and in full detail. It was gold in colour instead of the usual black. Was it bronze? I dont really know. A soldier of colonial times and a modern warrior guard the square.
Julie is just like the rest of you women and couldn’t resist the urge to look up the Highlanders kilt to check out if he was an underpants or commando kind of guy? David looks on laughing.
After a long night eating and drinking we rose late on Sunday to have a lazy ride around the area. I had contacted Black Bart and Suzi asking where in Scotland they actually lived and the answer was Fyvie….a mere 20 miles away! We arranged dinner for Tuesday evening, it would have been rude not to! We thought it would be a good idea to have a dry run and find their place in the daylight hours, the map was not an ordinance type and the Garmin marked the spot on a green bit of land with not a road or feature in site, I could see possible problems!
This is probably why Black Bart doesnt live near anybody, bloody fearsome looking chap isnt he? They have “Hagar the Horrible” we have “Black Bart”!
We found Fyve easy, but once we turned down our lane of choice it all went at bit murky, we passed one or two dwellings and the Garmin kept saying “arrived at destination”…I begged to differ even though I had punched in the post code and it said OK. I tried the mobile phone but got no signal. We drove up out of the hollow and up the side of the hill and Julie checked the phone to find we had one signal bar on the mobile, so I rang the landline. After deducing where the hell we were in relation to where the hell they where we began to get somewhere. Aha! Bart’s discription fitted that clump of firs about half a mile away. We pulled into the homestead and pulled up at a blockhoose containing no less than eight motorbikes. “Stop, STOP, this is it Im sure of it” Black Bart stepped out smiling to greet us. I’m soooo glad we came in daylight, come Tuesday evening we would have got totally lost and ended in some distant glen in faraway Norway probably! Bart says the post code is actually a farm and the “hotchpotch” of nearlby dwellings come under it, so the piggin Garmin was right after all!
Monday was another day of exploring to nowhere in particular, distance and time was irelevant! We chose to head into The Caircorms National Park. We both love the mountains.
Up we went on our first hill climb of the day, forth gear third gear second gear, gun the motherfuc…oh such fun! From a glance or two I noticed Julie grimace now and then but said nowt. We soon encountered snow pwder and I slowed to have a look around. We had just come over Cock Bridge and were heading up higher in the mountains towards the Lecht Ski Centre.
It was so bloody cold and beautiful, Id have loved to have been on the bike but I don’t think I would have lasted long before camping for the duration in the first pub. I was glad we were in out tin can. It said the wind chill was soaring to -16.
This was the first grouse we saw and he stood out so much in the snow, is it any wonder they keep getting shot at by the piggin gentry?
Once over the top at the ski centre we drove steadily down and the altimeter rolled backwards as we came back to earth! This photo is only about twenty minues after the grouse photo.
We have just come through Aviemore in the Glenmore Forest and heading upwards towards the Funicular Railway at the base of the 1245 metre high Cairn Gorm.
Click to enlarge the photographs as usual.
We jumped from +3 to -16 degrees within the hour twice! Once up the Lecht and now again here up the Cair Gorm. We stepped out of the funicular into a thrashing gale and got sandblasted by a big white cloud of swirling snow, it was like stepping out of an airliner at height. Jeez I need a bigger fekkin coat!
Bog boys toys stood on the mountain. I was a bit puzzled why they had snow plough machines all the way up here?
A baby on a bungy cord! Does Dad push junior down the mountain and when she gets away from him does he press the rewind button to haul her in? Its true what they say..kids have no fear!
The sun gets blotted out for a few moments and a whirling snow flurry follows..then the sun comes out again acting as though nothing has happened!
This is my money shot of the day and worth the cold. Its hard to believe how quickly the weather changes up in the mountains, a minute or two later the wind returned with white clouds and whipping snow flurries which caused another wall to wall, floor to ceiling extreme white out.
Why do they name ski runs like this, wouldn’t it be easier to just give the runs a number or a colour?
We came back down the mountain after lunch and an hour or two in the blizzard. We now basked in sunshine and mildness after the madness on the mountain tops! I found the trees were facinating I’m no swampy or tree hugger or anything like that but they were just so different from what I’d seen in a long time.some of the trees appeared to have died and had lost all their bark, leaves and colour.
We pulled over at Loch Morlich for a few minutes. It was hard to believe the conditions had changed so much for the previous hour!
Ice was pushed to the shore by the morning winds blowing across Loch Morlich. It was still quite mild even though the sun is hidden by clouds. The temerature was really quite moderate in spite of the freezing looking photograph.
Part of the tree has split and fallen to the ground and looked like ghostly white mangrove roots, Its much bigger than it looks here. In fact I walked under the pertified “hand” it was very smooth to touch, unlike the live trunk which was very gnarly and rough on the hand.
The next day we took off exploring in a northerly direction from Aberdeen up the A90 coast road. we couldn’t actually see the coast so we a single track road closer to the coast, stopping at a fishing village called Collieston.
It was a dull day today with heavy cloud but no rain, a rip in the heavy sky let in a shard of sunlight, Julie points it out just in case you haven’t noticed?
Julie catches me out with a candid shot and yes I was cold..Ive been in the car too long!!
We drove up to Fraserburgh to look at the lighthouse, they have a modern automatic lighthouse now to replace the old manned one, They had a museum here too with all manner of parafinalia from the sea. Here in the foreground is a marker bouy, you don’t realize how big these things are untilyour next to one..and if you find yourself next to one your probably in big trouble! The next time I’m all at sea I’ll comment to anyone in earshot, “Aye I was next to one of them things once…..”
Tuesday night came and the drive to Suzi and Black Barts hoos in Glen Nowhere was taken in our stride thanks to the daylight run on Sunday. Suzi made a wonderful fish pie and we got jam to bring home, but we got to the drinking bit and I was so trying not to overdrink thus fall asleep whilst navigating Julie back to Aberdeen at silli-o’clock that I completly forgot to pick the prezzi up! The company was good the rosy cheeks tell of a happy evening. Bart introduced me to a whisky I actualy liked. I will be in touch to be riminded what it was exactly..and the name of that place we should try and find….and of that band..Chicken-Claw or summat? Thank you both for a good night and we promise not to tell anybody about your gay black cat or where you live exactly or that its called Westlife! The blockhoos full of glorious riding machine shall stay a secret also!
The following day we filled up with fuel again and set off in westely direction towards Braemar following the river towards Balmoral castle. This is an untypical photograph as the roadis quite straight!
Outside Barlmoral Castle we came across theis fine monument. It was the Balmoral War Memorial and was dedicated in memory to all the men from the nearby estates who gave their lives in the great war of 1914-1919. If you zoom in you can see a line of ancient swastikas along the bottom. The swastika was a symbol of widespread ancient usage associated with the sun. The name originates from Sanskrit denoting well being, fortune and luck. The symbol had no sinister associations back then when erected in 1922.
I love it when Mother Nature sprinkles the land in a light dusting of icing sugar. She has gone way over the top in winter lately though and been kak handed with bags and bags of the stuff. In fact I’m writing this today (Sunday 5th February) and she’s gone and done it AGAIN! Outside there is bags and bags of the stuff, the osses are not best pleased I can tell you! On the photograph we are just driving up through Glen Shee.
We were heading up to the heavens again! It was a fine day again with some cloud but mainly blue skies and a cheeky chill in the air but we are in THE THUG so we are missing that element today, missin it for the whole week in fact. We have just come through bouts of sunshine and driven around the mountains to be confronted by more snow! This is the road through Glen Shee. We have just ridden..I mean driven past the ski school centre after scoffing some baked potato and chilli, Devils Elbow is just behind us. A thoroughly brilliant day out again!
Having a minute ( taking a pee..a very quick pee) at Devils Elbow with Glas Mabl 1068m to our left and Cairn a Ghoeidh 975 m to our right. Everytime I stopped and got out I was shocked into numbness by the needling wind. Uttering expletives out through clenched teeth! It was well worth it for the photographs. Notice how Julie doesn’t get out of the car at all!
What a fab looking hoos, unfortunatly I can’t find it on our map, its a private hoos is maybe why? Its just after Cree village by Cree water. We had just turned off a perfectly good A road onto another exciting bumpy difficult and narrow B road. All you adventurers out there know these are the best roads to travel on when exploring. I was having fun with driving THUG. I was happy to drive every and all day when out adventuring, Julie is good with the map when she gets zoned in and happy to be in the Nav seat until I get out of hand at the wheel occasionally. I know this because I can hear her nails scratching at the door and clearing her throat and harrumping an bit! She reminds me that we are NOT on the bike and she is actually sat two feet to my left, hanging in to nothing but the map book and staring at the ditch /wall / tree / precepice. Sorry Julie I still have a lot to learn driving…. But hey girl what a feking ride eh?…..and sorry for laughing!
I am fascinated with birds of prey and can’t take my eyes of them when on the road..some memoralbe moments there eh wifey? In the car it is doubley exciting so I have to stop doing this and stop instead where and when I can THEN and only then grab the camera. The things I do for a good picture! We saw no end of Buzzard, a beautiful but poorly named creature in my opinion.
Put youself in its place for a minute. Wouldn’t you be well miffed at what some twitcher had named us? Just look how fierce yet gracefull we are! Something like the Brown Flecked Eagle would be more to our standing eh?
We also saw dozen of Grouse, and literally plagues of pheasant, but sadly no Eagles. Deer we saw a few of and a solitary little red squirrel who ran across my front leaping up the wall scampering up the tree. One male pheasant strolled in front but my skill at the wheel extended his life! His posture and look as I went by was like “bleedin tourist!” Unlike the poor blackbird who flew under the car and thudded off the underside rolling to a stop, now a lifeless feathery bundle. I didn’t like that. But there is only so much you can do isn’t there?
Anyway back to the buzzard, t’was just above the car as we came around the corner sat in a tree, we had seen them all week, generally sat on a post looking for the next takeaway and quite often we were just yards away but unable to stop…until now. I quickly hauled THUG into the nearside verge causing Julie some consternation (again) and stealthily snook out ofthe car with camera in hand. Now then, these guys can see a mouse at three miles so what chance did I have at fifty feet? Buz stepped off the low branch and did a long glide past me to the next tree fifty yards ahead but not before I caught her with the long lens. Its a shame the sky was quite murky behind.
Highland cattle are also a favorite of mine so everytime I saw any near to the road I stopped THUG wherever I could …Often I was just off the road, we were safely out of the way or so I thought but Julie was left high up the banked verge and half into the ditch! “…won’t be a minute love” as I nipped out with camera in hand for the umpteenth time. Now thius guy was just so close but facing the wrong way, would he turn around? would he fck! I whistled, clicked my fingers even shouted, but not a glance did he show me! There sat hafl a dozen in the field, I thought briefly about getting in the field to get a portrait shot from head on but Ive heard stories about mad cows so had do with this classic shot of a “muckle coo’s” ass!
It was Thursday all too soon and time to head back home. We decided we would avoid the motorways trying to take in as many B roads as possible. In the process we discovered many fantastic biking roads…ohh roll on summer! This photo is just on the M90 /A90 as we crossed the Forth Road Bridge around Edinburgh. It was a small run on the motorway before we cleared the capitol.
Having a pause in the late afternoon sunshine near the Castle O’er the Forest in the Scottish Lowlands. The road was the B7009 and was a fantastic newly tarmaced single track road it was over 40 miles in length, we saw a mere four cars!
We had left Edinburgh on the A68 turning off at Louder through Clovenfords, Selkirk by the river route onto the B7009 through Ettrickbridge, Crosslee. Etrick and Glenkerry. This was a huge forest area with scenes of heavy logging and replanting, all mans own work. In Scotland we had seen Mother Nature’s version of logging. The wind and storms just weeks earlier had wreaked havoc, we saw many thick tree trunks violently wrenched in half as we would twist and break a wet sappling, Ive never seen anything like it, seeing the residue of such raw violence is a mere reminder as to the order of things on planet Earth! Dozens and dozens of toppled fir trees were dotted along the roads. Fir trees have a flat root ball that go only a foot or so underground the spread out so this type of tree is not firmly planted in the ground. The authorities must have been extremely busy clearing all blocked roads. Oh I wish I’d brought my chain saw and a trailer, all that felled wood was just begging to come home with us!
We arrived in Carlisle at the start of the nightly rush hour, we had done nearly 300 miles on A and B from Aberdeen in about 8 hours. On the motorway it would have taken 220 miles in about 3 hours but we had no rush we were on holiday adventuring in our tin box and enjoyed every minute! We came to Carlisle to stay over with two more friends from the biking work, this was Fatha and M Jones of the famed Lord of the Rings 1800 Honda Goldwing, it was great to see them again even for only a couple of hours. Fatha has a leg that is need of some garage work which I’m told is finally on the horizon. Until then the bike is resting. Hurry up and get well Fatha we have an adventure waiting out there for us!
We left Carlisle after a very frosty start, a fleezing cloak from the Great North is creeping towards us! We drove east before turned right at Longtown, Bampton and down to Alston. it was yet another stunningly clear day but the moment we opened the door cold needles jabbed us and encouraged us to close the doors and turn the heaters on. The B6277 is a biking road travelled on by us in the past several times with Fatha and M and made for the likes of us two wheeled creatures! We drove higher and higher, the white stuff was here abouts, we drove along beautiful but freezing snow laden moorland towards Middleton-in-Teeside.
It looks like an aeroplane photo of the Alps doesnt it? but its not its a zoom shot of snow covered grassy hillocks twenty yards away from me on Burnhope Seat. I didn’t stay out long, it was so cold that my breath was being stolen out of my lungs!
Water had run off the moor and at the edge it dripped and froze. All along the one hundred yard slip of land this icy hem glistened in the sunshine like a giant diamond necklace.
I have to admit we couldn’t have done this on the bike it was so cold, icy and snowbound. I wouldn’t have put us through abject misery discomfort and danger! So the tin box was a good choice for the week….
Hours later and closer to home we are now looking at Byland Abbey in the Hamleton Hills in North Yorkshire. Julie managed to navigate all this way when we “just happened” across a huge horse shop hear York. Well how about that then!
After a week driving in a tin box called THE THUG around the Scottish Highlands and Lowlands and Northern England on roads that are truly the Dog’s B**llocks. I have come to the conclusion that the car in winter is a good thing after all …..its still a bleeding souless tin box though!
I learnt to pass my car test last year and there I left it. Not bothered at all about driving, I was just happy to have the licence for a rainy day in the future. But now we have a car with a bit of character and a fun car adventure under our belt. I have changed my view. With me in the pilot seat and Julie in the Nav position I feel our winter horizons have just been blown wide open! Roll on summer for the bike adventures..but now I can also add roll on winter for the car adventures, Julie will be used to my driving “style” by then I’m sure!