Day 1 - Home to Gretna
A leisurely 255 mile drive up the motorway to spend the night just inside the Scottish borders at a cracking campsite. One that claims to play host to the cave Robert the Bruce once sheltered in from the English in 1306 along with a charming little riverside walk along the river above which it sits.
It's little wonder he became obsessed with the antics of a spider trapped in cramped, cold cave in the depths of winter. Still this insignificant little spider is probably one of the most important arachnids in history. It said the spiders determination inspired him not to give up and continue his struggle against the English, leading to his famous victory at Bannockburn on 24 June 1314 where the Scots defeated an English army that outnumbered them 10 to 1. Giving rise to the saying “If at first you don't succeed, try, try, again.”
But before that there was a detour to a famous English location the Lake District, Orrest Head. It's a small hill on the Eastern shore of Windermere. It not a particularity big or challenging hill, the walk to and from the summit can easily be ticked off in an hour or so. So why is it on so many walker's bucket lists?
It was here in 1930 that a young man called Alfred Wainwright first visited the Lake District. Leaving the train at Windermere he climbed the path outside the station to the viewpoint on Orrest Head. So enchanted was he by the views he saw they changed his life, and set him on a live long lover affair with the Lakes, documented in his pictorial guides. Describing it as “our first ascent in Lakeland, our first sight of mountains in tumultuous array across glittering waters, our awakening to beauty"
Day 2 – Gretna to Inverness
Another 275 miles on the road with an entertaining detour to Falkirk for a couple of attractions that were also on my Scottish tick list, the Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies.
The Falkirk Wheel is unique. The first boat lift built in the UK since 1875 and there is nothing like it in the rest of the world. Opened in 2002 as part of the Millennium Link project it replaced a a derelict flight of eleven locks and reconnected the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal for the first time since the 1930's.
The rotating wheel, the height of eight double decker buses, is set in a 100m circular basin whose landscaping carefully conceals its origins as an open cast pit. Sadly during my all too brief visit I didn't have time to take a boat trip and experience it first hand, but did get to see it in action.
A few minutes away from the wheel another stunning piece of canal side art and architecture can be found, the Kelpies. Set in the Helix, a land transformation project to improve the connections between and around 16 communities, they are its crowning feature. They stand guard over a new a new extension to the Forth and Clyde Canal, near River Carron. Thirty metres high and weighing three hundred tonnes each.
They take their name from the the mythological transforming beasts of the same name, said to possess the strength and endurance of 10 horses. Representing the transformational change and endurance of Scotland's inland waterways and the role of the heavy horse in Scottish industry. Guided tours are available for those who wish to see the world from a horses eye view.
Then it was on to Inverness for a brief overnight stop before setting out on the famous North Coast 500 route, but that's for another blog.