Skye 1

Really, I should have taken the train up. Why I thought flying would be the best idea seems to escape me in moments like this. Did I really want those Frequent Flyer Points? I’m never going to make Silver and the benefits suck anyway. The train would have been a better option. Faster too and less inconvenient than this delayed flight, worrying about luggage weights and crying babies. Anyway, I’m on this tram and Edinburgh Castle is to my right so I’m here. I’m on my way to pick up the car that I’ll drive 500 miles. Up to a town called Portree and then back.

Portree and back. Skye and back. As far north as I’ve ever been on this planet and back. And I’m going to do it in a Mini Cooper S, thanks to BMW Edinburgh who found one for me. Am I mad? 5 days, 500 miles, in the smallest car available. Nah. This trip is a blast North through the grey Isle on Turbo. It’s going to be fun even if my back won’t be thankful.

A bus trip to the dealership, a scan of my Licence and the keys of this 2019 Hatchback are in my palm. 5 miles on the clock. Dark Grey. GPS. Spotify. Podcasts. Weekender bag in the boot. A steering wheel and myself. Gripping the wheel with both hands, running my hands along the dash in the carpark, I’m grinning. As childish as it sounds, I can almost recall this feeling as the same one I had driving Matchbox cars around my parents living room, dodging and weaving through the legs of the couch as if it were the mountain roads ahead of me. This is the grown up version of that.

I had a rough guide to get up to Portree and stop at some places along the way, but I left myself open to my whims. On the highway out of Edinburgh I discover Glasgow is an hour away. I spend that time on the train from Eltham to Melbourne CBD. ‘A doddle’, I say in my best British accent and set the cruise to 60. 

When I was 15 and started playing Soccer I picked Celtic as ‘my’ team. I don’t know why because when I my mum found out, she told me my Grandfather would be turning in his grave. He apparently trailed once at Rangers as a kid. When I drive past Ibrox and Celtic Park, my grin gets wider.

I stop in the middle of town and find somewhere for lunch. Glasgow is quainter than I thought, at least this part of town. I walk up and down the street and notice that I’m in the college district. I settle on a cafe that looks out of an episode of Friends, called Offshore. It has the most college vibe of any cafe I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Low boxy vinyl couches, once bright colours now muted by decades of sun. Coffee, about as bad as you could imagine, but I drink the whole thing and order another.

College students funnel in with bright faces and foreign accents. Baggy flannelettes and track pants and conversations about political science. Humph. I think about if I had my time all over again, what I wouldn’t have given to be experiencing this at 20.

I sit in Kelvingrove Park for a while. I come across a little notebook on a bench. It’s filled with doodles of peoples faces. Someone has spent a long time capturing the faces of people he has met along the way and carelessly has lost all that time. All those faces. I contemplate ways to return this notebook to its owner. I Google the closest police station but it seems like a waste of police resources. I decide to leave the notebook for someone better equipped to make decisions and return the book where I found it.

I leave Glasgow towards the first planned stop, Glengoyne Distillery, an hours drive. I get a tour, buy a 12 year old bottle of whiskey to toast this trip in the future and kick stones up and down the drive contemplating the history housed here.

The roads through here have been nice. Mostly rural with a strong sense of civilisation. Large plots of land with traditional English houses with pristine gardens and lots of trees. I realise it’s past 3 and I’m meant to check-in in Oban before 7. Two hours away with unfamiliar roads I decide to get a move on, especially if I want to see the sunset. I don’t have much time to stop and take pictures.

I reach Oban with about an hour before sunset. I check in to a local BnB, grab my camera and journal and walk downhill into town looking for the localist of local pubs for a meal and a whiskey. The town is home to about 9,000 people and it shows. There’s a silence hanging in the air that you only get in towns this small. The town was built around the distillery which opened in 1794 and still operates today.

A ukulele is playing Sweet Child of Mine. Laughs and cheers are coming from the front of a small pub called the Markie Dans. The sky is starting to turn a shade of orange closer to that of an apricot and I’m taking considered sips from a glass of whiskey that is sitting on a ledge as I write in my journal. I’m looking over the inlet and small boats while the sun begins to drift lower.

The sound of the town silents even further as the evening drags on. The ukulele has stopped and been replaced by an occasional bell from an approaching boat. It’s about 8pm as I start to walk towards the foreshore and the sky begins to turn violently orange. 

A man on the foreshore ventures towards the water to get a better photo. It’s a cliche thing to say but words do escape me. A thousand generations of poets would have described it better than I ever could. All I think is a prettier sunset I could not imagine.

It gets dark and the moment is gone. I head back to prepare for the next day. Australia’s federal election will occur overnight. I’ll wake up to the results. I have to be in Portree by tomorrow night. 150 miles. It’s going to be a long drive.

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