Back On The Mainland

We’re in Ullapool, our first night on the Scottish mainland since Glasgow, which already feels as if it was an eternity ago.

There wasn’t time to do much before our ferry crossing, so we drove out to the beach at Tolsta and had one final play on the fine, golden sands of the Outer Hebrides. After a few days on these tranquil, isolated isles, one starts to forget the mayhem of the real world.

Here, time stands relatively still. I thought that growing up in Cornwall had been a remote, rural experience — and it was — but times have changed. Cornwall is no longer the unbearable cultural backwater that it once was. Broadband Internet and wider, faster roads have brought access to that far flung corner of England. I wonder what growing up there in the age of the Internet would have been like. In the seventies and eighties, it was pure, parochial hell.

The Outer Hebrides, on the other hand, are protected by their geographic isolation. In many ways, these islands are decades behind the mainland and, also in many ways, that’s perhaps no bad thing. Not all change is progress and the Western Isles seem blissfully ignorant of much of the strife of modern life. I’m sure life here has its own challenges — I’m imaginative enough to think of many on my own — but overcrowding, violent crime, issues of multiculturalism and pollution don’t appear to be amongst them. For young children in particular, a childhood spent here is a priceless gift from one’s parents; or so it seems to me in my ignorance.

The ferry crossing today was a relatively long one, at two and a half hours. Happily, there was a children’s play area on deck 5, so we settled there after yet another Caledonian MacBrayne lunch. I must surely be in the running for the world record of most fish and chip meals consumed in one calendar month.

Speaking of which, since we arrived in Scotland, my diet has gone seriously pear-shaped, along with my figure. I can’t imagine how many kilos I’ve gained. It’s back to the crosstrainer for me when we get home.

We arrived in Ullapool at about 17:15. The drive to the hotel was literally just a few hundred metres. Had we not gone to the beach this morning, our drive today would have come in at under 2 km.

Ullapool’s a charming little place and obviously a great base for exploring the surrounding area. Unfortunately for us, we’re spending just a single night here. In fact, it bears the dubious distinction of being the only place in which we’ll spend just a single night on this trip (except for Barvas, but that was down to circumstance, not planning).

Tomorrow morning, we have to be up bright an early for the drive to the far north of the mainland, where we’ll catch the ferry from Scrabster to Stromness in the Orkney Islands.

I’m very excited to be going to the Orkney. I think it’s going to be fantastic and I’m thrilled at the prospect.

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