Driving North from Kent, we had to travel through the Dartford tunnel on the very busy M25 freeway to Cambridge. This was the only congested section of road we encountered – due to many trucks joining the road, enroute from the continent. We arrived at our B&B in Cambridge by late morning and spent the afternoon exploring the old city centre. Compared to Oxford, the colleges were bigger and each of them had an imposing church attached to it. Again, lots of history and a lovely relaxed ambiance.
The next morning at 8:30 we set off on the longish 7-hour drive to Edinburgh in Scotland (350 miles/560km). We had about 2 hours of heavy rain on this section, which was the only rain encountered on our 10-day road trip. We were very lucky and happy with the good weather.
Another excellent Airbnb near the centre of Edinburgh and the following day we explored the historic castle dating back to 1083 and the old town, before driving through the highlands to Inverness in the North. The Castle pub in Inverness had haggis on the menu, which was excellent, served with mash, sweet potato chips and a whisky sauce, washed down with Guinness.
The drive from Inverness along Loch Ness down to Oban was spectacular, to the point of my eyes watering. We arrived at my old friend Murdoch MacDougall (Jock’s) place by midday on Sunday. We met back in 1970 when he, as a young 22-year-old, arrived in South Africa and spent 30 years there before returning to Scotland. Being from the island of Barra, he speaks Gaelic, which he teaches at the local high school. We had a pleasant day catching up, with Jock showing us around town and having dinner at an excellent seafood restaurant.
We were sad to leave the next day, but still had a few places to visit. Jock’s son Michael has settled in Sydney and Jock promised to come and visit us sometime. On the way South along the west coast of the UK, we stopped at the Falkirk wheel near Falkirk. Designed by the architect Tony Kettle, it is a rotating boat lift connecting the Forth and Clyde canal with the Union canal. It was opened in 2002 and lifts boats 24 metres, replacing 11 locks.
Not far from the wheel, are the beautiful 30m high sculptures called the Kelpies, completed in 2013. The Kelpies represent the lineage of the heavy horse of Scottish industry and economy, pulling the wagons, ploughs, barges and coal ships that shaped the geographical layout of the Falkirk area. We stayed overnight in Gretna Green, just North of the Scottish border.
The following day was a short drive to Liverpool where I had to go and pay homage to the Beatles, the group that swept a 16-year-old teenager from Benoni in South Africa, off his feet in the early sixties. An emotional time was spent at the Cavern club, where we had a couple of beers with a crowd of people of similar vintage, from all corners of the world. We were listening and singing along to a young fellow, who not only knew every song composed by the Fab Four, but also sang the Lennon and McCartney vocals in a Merseyside scouse accent.
Outfitted with a new collection of Cavern and Beatles tee shirts, a contented Muller drove back to London. We dropped the car off at the rental company having travelled 1,821 miles (nearly 3000 km) in 10 days. We moved into an Airbnb in trendy Brick Lane near Petticoat Lane for the next 10 days.
Before our next post, some thoughts on our British driving experience: The Brits are very patient and good drivers, whether you are driving along a narrow country lane at 40 miles/hour or along the freeways at 80m/h. The roads are in very good condition for the most part and we didn’t see one accident. Compared to nanny state NSW in Australia, where all cars have to park in the same direction in the parking lane, here they can face either way.
It is unnecessary to fit indicators on British cars, as nobody uses them – you become very good at reading minds on roundabouts and intersections. Similarly, they could save the expense of green and red pedestrian signals at intersections, as jaywalking is an Olympic event in the UK.
More about London in our next post.