Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Edinburgh and surrounds
So as i mentioned, July - August - September have been extremely busy.
Moving and setting up apartments, cranking out experiments in preparation for the ISDB (international society of developmental biology) conference in Edinburgh, preparing a poster for said conference, attending said conference, as well as seeing some of scotland and catching up with shobs mark sima holly, and family, in london.
flew to the uk on the a380 - nothing special i thought, apart from the larger tv screens. leg room still anaemic. - and stayed with sima overnight. up to edinburgh the next day and landed around 2.30. in a hire car by 3 and on the main highways by 3.30. drove to crianlarich and stayed in the crianlarich hotel overnight. everyone must say this, but it was quite fawlty towers-esque. as i was enjoying a read and a pint by the fire the bell boy confided that all the staff called it that too, and the shambolic spanish f&b manager seemed to confirm his theory.
early next morning i set off for some B-roads and smaller A-roads that wove around next to the many lochs in that mid-west part of scotland, finally wending my way up the coast through oban, to fort william and across to mallaig, by way of strontian. absolutely stunning scenery although the roads did sometimes leave something to be desired - and some of the VW golf smeared on them too. mallaig is a functional little fishing town and the jumping off point for the ferry to skye. as such it's not really a tourist town, and thus exactly what i was looking for. the front bar of the pub i stayed in was empty, by way of all the town's residents being at a 21st birthday party at the pub up the road. of course i joined in and we all had a cracking good laugh, before i retired early for the next leg - a loop up to inverness and back down to edinburgh.
one of the characters i met at the pub was an old fisherman called tony and his daughter, who was a welder out on oil rigs in the north sea. a tough girl whose features in no way belied her occupation. tony had given up fishing and now ran a charter boat (a beautiful old cutter) up and down the coast ferrying tourists around. he flew a stars and stripes, not out of any particular fondness for the states, but just to piss off the locals. a contrarian! i liked him immediately. before setting off i visited his boat moored alongside the slumbering fishing trawlers. (licenses have been reduced and the fleet could only fish on certain days / weeks of the year, this not being one of them.) tony and his daughter must have given it a fair nudge the night before after i'd left the pub as there was no sign of life on deck let alone any preparations being made for departure, so i took some film shots of the docks before heading off.
uneventful trip up to inverness apart from the filthy weather for the first hour or so. once up next to loch ness though, the sun broke through and it became a glorious day for driving. (this was 2 days after the torrential rain had flooded aberdeenshire.) too glorious i guess for one person, who must have lost concentration and bounced off the steep rock cliff next to the road, blocking the middle of the two-lane A road. they weren't moving but people were on the scene so i u-turned and headed back to for a mid morning coffee and sandwich at drumnadrochit. it seemed to take quite a while for the ambo and fire engine to make it to the accident site so instead of waiting i detoured on another, smaller, A-road via cannich and beauly, which turned out to be another stunning piece of road and scenery with rocky escaprments and rolling hills studded with the weird glowing scottish sheep.
up to inverness and through grantown-on-spey, then onto the most spectacular road i've ever driven, including of course the great ocean road in victoria, where let's face it, you get miles and miles of, well, ocean. the A939 winds north-south through the central scottish highlands and the vistas are breathtakingly beautiful. simply gorgeous. the light is incredible. i always believed those old scottish paintings were kind of fibbing about the light, but they truly do show what it's really like. not surprisingly i used heaps of film trying to capture this light and the feeling of old-world painterliness. we'll see if i succeeded at all in a few months i suppose.
after driving through the highlands slackjawed with wonderment, the last 50 or so miles back to edinburgh were a bit of a struggle, but after more than 1000 kms it was the only time i became sick of being behind the wheel.
made it backt to edinburgh with time to drop off the car, grab the shuttle into town, check in and have a quick shower then head off to the conference centre for registration and several well-deserved beers.
i've mapped the drive here and as pictures are forthcoming, if any are good enough, i'll try and link them onto the map - without using picasa if i can help it.
oh, this picture was taken on my new iphone (!), through the viewfinder of the bronica after a ladybird had flown into it. insects still rule the roost even in temperate countries i guess.
View drive around scotland in a larger map