Time always has a habit of sneaking up on us. Somehow, we’re almost out of time here in the UK: it’s hard to believe, but our two-year UK visa expires in just a few weeks. We’re going to head over to Europe, next, and we have a ferry booked from Hull.
But first, we’ve an errand to run.
Back when we were in Wales, Katherine had joined the queue for an appointment with the Swansea hospital, and we just received word: she’s finally — finally — been given one. It’s in a week and a bit.
Making the appointment means driving almost 1000 miles — about 630 down to Swansea, almost the entire length of the UK, and then 300 or so miles back up to Hull via York! We decide it’s worth it, though, rather than skipping the appointment. Road trip time!
So, we head back to Portree to finish off some final Nettle errands; apparently our brakes had only just passed the MOT check, and were in desperate need of some love, so we’d ordered replacement pads the week before.
We leave Nettle with the garage, go and have lunch and some coffee in Portree, then return to find out that actually, the brakes were in perfect condition, and the guy who’d done the check had messed up. Oh, well — they didn’t charge anything, so I guess that’s the best outcome!
So feeling a little wistful about our short time in Scotland coming to an end — we’ll most certainly be back, though — we set off on our long journey southwards.
The first leg of our drive takes us through some of the most beautiful countryside we’ve ever seen. We wind amidst breathtakingly huge, green, craggy mountains, deeply creased by countless years of rain pouring down their flanks — these mountains look old — along fjord-like, crinkly coastlines studded here and there with crumbling ruins, alongside picturesque rivers.
Honestly, it was almost more than I could take — it’s a wonder I managed to stay on the road. We pop on the powerful, often Celtic-styled Battlestar Galactica soundtrack, a perfect accompaniment to this almost mystical, larger-than-life land, and waves of intensity wash over us in that odd conjunction of place and music that happens when the mix is just right.
The end of our first day’s journey finds us in the deep valley of Glencoe, cradled by soaring mountains. We park beside a wide stream that runs along the valley floor, and stare wide-eyed at the peaks that tower over us, wrinkled, sun-dappled, wild. They go up, and up, and up, surprising the eye — just when it seems like one’s gaze has reached the top, there’s more to see above. There’s a dusting of snow on their grey, rocky upper reaches, and streams tumble down their deeply-lined faces with white flashes of waterfalls.
The sky darkens, and a gentle rain starts falling, even as golden afternoon sunlight streams down through a clear patch of sky. A perfect, whole rainbow appears right beside us, glowing intensely against the dark grey sky and the mountain in shadow — okay, Scotland, now you’re just showing off.
We stand out in the rain, laughing with delight.