Tag: Scotland

The Liquorice Allsorts are back – Scotland 2023 – Days 1-3

The liquorice allsorts are back! – 4th June, 2023
Our 5th trip to Scotland and the allsorts are lining up on the dashboard again.
This trip is a cathartic journey for both Janette and me. The second half of 2023 was ‘anus horribilus’ for both of us. I won’t go into too many details, but we lost a daughter to cancer in August, and I was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma in October resulting in partial amputation of my left thumb. We had various trips planned for this year but ended up cancelling a trip to France due to my diagnosis. I just was not prepared to pay an exorbitant insurance fee for 14 days abroad on the back of what has happened to me. Still, their loss as we are now on another Scotland trip and we’ll defer France until after my treatment has finished (February 2024 – fingers crossed). Oh, and by the way, I am feeling marvellous.

A little treat for Ian as he is driving.

Day 1 – Longtown, Carlisle
Traveling from home we got off (for us) to an early start before 9:00am, miraculous! Never heard of before when going away in Hilma. Retirement means we have more ‘preparation’ time, ha, there’s always a last minute, “oh I forgot the thingammyjig from upstairs, I won’t be a minute” – 20 mins later and we are off. Setting off is always an exciting time, wondering what adventures are heading our way, for our last few trips we never really plan a precise itinerary only where we are heading. Once we reach our destination(s), we then look at what is around and invariably decide what will be between walking, cycling, birdwatching, train travels or simply a game or two in Hilma (all weather dependent). I digress, our first day on a long trip is usually getting to a partway point and so it is today. A CL site (Caravan and Motorhome Club small site that only allows 5 vans) on the edge of Carlisle is our rest point for the night.

Day 2 – Carlisle to North Berwick – 5th June, 2023
We generally regard this as our true first day of the holiday and look to make it as interesting as possible whilst still travelling to our first 4 day stopover. I decide that the best way is to travel to North Berwick was to motor mostly on B roads, which in Scotland can sometimes mean an interesting time when confronted with the odd timber lorry!
I was trying to get to grips with our new Avtex Garmin Camper Satnav system. Unfortunately, I haven’t found the right way of using it yet to Janette’s satisfaction – must try harder and not do the ‘man’ thing and think I can use it without reading the manual. Still we had some great views and came across Whitrope Heritage Centre, a museum run by the Waverley Route Heritage Association celebrating the previous train line from Edinburgh to Carlisle. Things don’t look too pristine, but their website indicates open days for the summer of 2023.

Hilma at the Whitrope Heritage Centre on the old Waverley route Edinburgh to Carlisle. Coffee time.

Diesels and a brake van in need of a paint job

The rest of our journey was punctuated with stunning scenery we have come to expect in Scotland, this is an area we have not visited before so it’s all new to us. The journey was also punctuated with the occasional ‘u turn’ due to my lack of Satnav programming skills (yet to be acquired on this new system).
After arriving at Yellowcraig a short walk along the beach with the binoculars we felt rejuvenated after our somewhat twisty journey, steak and salad with red wine followed and so the day ends with me signing off.

Scottish landscape

Our first view of the Firth of Forth looking towards North Berwick

Day 3 – Yellowcraig – 6th June, 2023
Today we walked along the John Muir way from the Yellowcraig Caravan site into North Berwick. Janette was hankering after a Lobster for lunch (expensive tastes!), she had done her research and identified the ‘Lobster Shack’ on the harbour was the place to go. Before that we had to negotiate the route too town along the dunes, roads and golf club links. Golf is big business here; Americans could be heard on the greens as we passed by and many of them had caddies. Perhaps they need help on the Scottish links courses which are famous for hosting our British Open Championship and are a far cry from many of the manicured US courses seen on our television screens.

Golfers on the North Berwick links course

US Golfers on the North Berwick links course

North Berwick Harbour Bay

North Berwick Harbour Bay

Onward we go slavering at the chops for our Lobster. North Berwick is a lovely harbour town with a fantastic beach meaning it is a tourist trap, and why not, all the old industries are a thing of the past. The lobster shack did not disappoint, in addition to half a lobster we had dressed crab, salad and a portion of chips and sat on the harbour in a make do clear tent with tables. Evidence below.

Dressed Crab

Dressed Crab on North Berwick Harbour

A fantastic walk back along the beach all the way to the caravan site and after that lunch it was toast for supper!

Scotland – island hopping 2022 – Day 3

Our 2nd day at Largs – 8th May, 2022.
A brisk walk 2km walk down the Ayrshire Coastal Path to the Kelburn Country Park on a gloriously warm day. This is a good half day out with a wide variety of walks for all abilities and plenty of activities for children to be entertained. As we walked up the long drive we noted the estate had several motorhomes, camper vans and caravans on what looked like around 10 pitches, this could be an alternative to where we stayed at the Yacht Haven. Amazingly we did not have to pay for walking in the park (although you do have to pay for parking) so we made a contribution for the upkeep.
The walk starts going past the family home part of which has been painted with graffiti by a local artist – the work is certainly bizarre and not what you imagine Scottish stately homes to be adorned with.

The bizarre yet captivating graffiti painted tower at Kelburn.

Our walk took us to the top of the Glen, the path winding ever upward through the canopy of trees reminding us of Muir woods in California (although of course the trees were not sequoias) which were glorious with spring green leaves and dappled sunlight and shade on the ground. It felt as though we were leaving the troubles of the world behind, we only saw 4 or 5 people on upper reaches of the walk which made it feel very special. The path was interspersed with bridges over the tumbling burn and viewpoints for waterfalls with plenty of information points. Kingfishers, Dippers and Grey Wagtails were seen en-route along with some strange painted wood carvings all added to the beauty and mystical ambience – if you ever get here it is a must.

A series of strange and ethereal painted wood carvings adorn part of the south path

After a light lunch (and must have ice cream) we wandered slowly back to the Yacht Haven to watch Largs Sailing Club racing. We had no idea who was winning but the skill level must be admired. Sitting on a bench overlooking the course we had the spotting scope out and a zoom lens on the camera for some close up views of the racers and photo opportunities. Unfortunately a couple of competitors capsized and along with broken masts ended their race early.

Dinghy racing at Largs on a warm afternoon

Hanging out on the side of a 2 person Dinghy – looks exciting!

A sad end to the day for one competitor with a broken mast.


Scotland – island hopping 2022 – Days 1 – 2

Back in the old girl – 6th May, 2022
We are back in the old girl again (sorry Hilma but we must face facts – none of us are getting any younger). Boy it feels good, so much lost time in the past 24 months. Having said that we are in better place than many other people throughout the world, I think the impact of Covid-19 is still to take its full effect and now we have some mad Russian killing, maiming and bombing innocent civilians – and we call ourselves a civilised world – bollocks. Please excuse my language but it deserves strong words. Words of course do not help the Ukrainians or any other persecuted societies. Rant over, but I had to get it off my chest.
The future for Janette and I (and Hilma) is a real game changer, having both planned to retire 12mths ago there were various issues that blocked us from achieving it. Now though, we are relatively free. I say relatively, because we are both being retained on a consultancy basis, but we can see a clearer road ahead and many more ‘Adventures in a B544’ the A713
We decided that we would start our ‘retirement’ by traveling to our beloved Scotland. I say ‘our Scotland’, we are not Scots but we love the place, this is our 4th trip back and I’m sure it will not be our last.

Penrith – 6th May, 2022
We had decided this holiday would be a kind of decompression for us after the last 2 years of hoping to finish work earlier. Rather than driving all the way to Largs in Scotland (our next destination) we decide to split the journey and stop at Penrith. Pulling off the motorway to get some fuel we were immediately in a traffic jam due to a local fire. Eventually after navigating the queues successfully and after paying the most we ever paid to fill Hilma (£107.55 – thanks Putin!), we made our way to a lovely quiet site. Good stopping off point for those going way up into the highlands of Scotland.

Penrith to Largs – 7th May, 2022
Not ones for taking the motorway if we can help it (unless needing to get some miles under our belts) we took the cross-country route from Dumfries to Largs. Always a joy driving through the Scottish countryside, and we were not disappointed, the A713 from New Galloway to Ayr is a great road (especially for motorbikes). We arrived at Largs Yacht Haven – probably our most expensive CL site ever at £32 and promptly treated ourselves to spending more money at the bar – £7.50 for a pint and a half! Not really moaning as the facilities are second to none with water on tap next to each Motorhome spot (they do not take caravans) and immaculate washrooms and showers. A walk into Largs for fish and chips and ate them on a promenade bench. The evening was spent watching Gannets feed and a wonderful setting sun.

One of our favourite seabirds – the Gannet

Managed to capture a nice shot of a Gannet just after feeding

A glorious sunset from Largs Yacht Haven – the land in the distance is the Isle of Bute


Bonnie Scotland – Day 9

Monday 27th May
We left Altnaharra today looking forward to a wonderful drive to Helmsdale. The road follows the railway route we took from Helmsdale to Forsinard, we visited the RSPB reserve there in 2017 during our North Coast 500 trip. We were not disappointed despite the intermittent rain – to be honest intermittent rain was like being in the Carribean to us after having 36 hours rain non-stop – still, that’s what happens in the Highlands. Loch Naver, which is nearly 10km long and average 0.5km, rose about 200mm (8″ in old money) over that period, we were on a loch side pitch but the scuba gear was not required. Previous trips to Scotland had provided us with days of glorious weather, the spell was sure to break at some point. We are not complaining, my literary ineptitude cannot describe the beauty of this wonderful country, rain or shine the visual impact is stunning.

Loch Naver – early morning after the deluge

Loch Naver – the sight from Hilma

The drive from Altnaharra to Helmsdale is approximately 40 miles along single track roads with passing places which took us about 2hrs (and we only had a short coffee break in the middle). Serious concentration is required on these roads with our wheels being only about 12″ from either side of the road (and the sides are very soft and boggy!).

Our coffee stop on the road to Helmsdale saw thes Greylag and goslings

Dornoch was our lunch stop – our good friend Peter in the village at home had put a request in for a bottle of Glen Goyne highland whisky – we were advised the Old Courthouse was the place to go – sure enough they had enough whisky there to satisfy the taste any whisky buff. Ironically the link to our village did not stop there, we noticed some bottle bags that were supplied by our neighbour (they probably won’t order any more now they’ve seen the quality of the neighbourhood he comes from!).
Our target was to get to Loch Ruthven to try and see the elusive Slavonian Grebe. There are only around 20 pairs breeding in the UK and limited to an area around Loch Ness region. We arrived around 5:00pm and were not disappointed, a little bit of a wait but we managed to see 2 on separate parts of the Loch and eventually saw a pair trying out their Olympic synchronised diving skills.

Slavonian Grebe – NOT MY PHOTO t courtesy of Steve Knell

Our overnight stay was a last minute booking as after a long drive I didn’t fancy spending another hour trying to find a wild camp spot so we opted to stay on a handy CL site about 1 mile down the road – The Trout & Grouse at The Steadings (a Johannsson hotel with 5 caravan / motorhome pitches – Luxury). A trip to the bar was in order after our supper and a most convivial chat with our hosts and a couple of Americans who thought Hilma was ‘cute’ when compared to their 28ft RV back home with pull out sides, automatic levellers and an on board ‘hoovering’ system! Close your ears Hilma, you are not getting one!


Bonnie Scotland – Day 8

Sunday 26th May
Raining sheep and deer today. Imagine that.
Off out to lunch today as there seems to be a huge low (or two I suspect) hanging over Scotland and it is not moving away (I don’t really know as we have no way of finding out apart from the printed day’s weather on the warden’s door – no wi-fi, no radio, no phone data). I did buy a spare 4G data card but it was Three – maybe EE would have worked – I’ll never know unless I come back and try (not necessarily a valid excuse to come back here but we don’t need one, at some point we will be back to Scotland again).
Lunch today was at the Crask Inn – somewhere else in the middle of nowhere (look it up on t’internet and you’ll find out where). This inn doubles up as an Episcopal Church so I thought I would kneel and pray for some better weather but that would surely be seen as rude in the bar. A fire that is kept in all year around, a small dog to greet us, a great chat with the landlady about fishing, life in the highlands, the history of the inn (someone bought it as a hideaway a few years back but were unsuccessful) – although it is in the middle of nowhere it is the only inn on the road for goodness knows how many miles – not a good idea to try and hide when it’s on every road map.

We’re on the road to nowhere………. actually it is the road to The Crask Inn

They are completely off-grid, we started chatting about the wind farm that is being put there (but not overlooked by anyone) the right or wrongs of clearing some of the forestry land and other environmental issues around the ‘flow country’ (see write up on Forsinard – North Coast 500 trip) which is where the inn is located. A great couple of hours talking to all and sundry that came in from all over the country, warm and toasty by the log burner I could have stayed a while longer. Considering it’s location, during those 2 hours we spent in the cosiness about 10 people came and ate, so whilst not jammed to the gunnels it is a welcome stop for many a traveller.


Bonnie Scotland – Day 7

Saturday 25th May
Raining cats & dogs. Wouldn’t that be a thing – imagine walking down the street and a St.Bernard fell on your head! You might just come round after a few minutes then down comes a Persian Blue to whack you on the ear. You’d quickly take cover – which is precisely what we did today. Both of us hate being cooped up for too long and getting a little stir crazy we decided to up sticks and go for a drive to the North Coast. ‘Upping sticks’ – where does that come from? – must be a northern thing. Talk to a caravanner and they’ll swear that the flexibility of having a car overrides the ease of which to ‘u p sticks’ – talk to a motorhomer and they’ll swear how much easier it is to go from place to place without a lot of palaver. I digress (again) – I do have a habit of that when a thought pops into the head.
We decided to drive up to Skerray on a small promontory a few miles off the main North Coast 500 road.
Winding our way down the narrowest of lanes wasn’t too bad as the view was open and had plenty of time to move over for any oncoming traffic. Traffic what traffic? This road goes down to a small harbour, a post office and a telephone box – a few houses and not much else.

Skerray Harbour

Skerray seaweed – me trying to be ‘arty’ with the camera

We did find an interesting open air art gallery – we thought maybe it would be an interesting project for us if we ever stopped traveling!

Our next move?

Ironically we found a CL (Certified Location 5 van site) overlooking the harbour with a single caravan on it. Maybe we’ll visit again and stay for a day or two. The next thing we had to do was find some fuel – we could easily make it back to Altnaharra but needed enough to get out of their (it is a long way from anywhere if your low on fuel).
Putting ‘fuel’ into the satnav it told us there was fuel at Bettyhill – about 8 miles away. Driving along the road we came to a beautiful estuary (Torrisdale Bay) – a little bit of sunshine so we stopped for lunch and were amazed to see about 50 Ringed Plovers and 20+ Golden Plovers (also having their lunch) – got the scope out to see them close up – Beautiful.

View across Torrisdale Bay – lunch with the Plovers

The fuel station at Bettyhill turned out to be 2 pumps outside the local shop – a queue of motorbikes and the postmen were in front of us waiting to be served. The lady serving was also serving in the shop so a little wait was in order – no worries we were not in any hurry. After filling up the fuel and a few groceries (ice cream & beer) we headed into the local car park to catch up with some 4G wi-fi to upload a few days of blogging that wasn’t blogged. That done we headed back to Altnaharra via a different route (I told you all roads lead to Altnaharra), our stir craziness cured for a day or two.


Our third trip to Bonnie Scotland

Sunday May 19th, 2019 – Day 1
Today we set off on our third trip to Scotland in Hilma. This time we are taking 4 days to get there. Many people have asked why 4 days, believe me when you are driving a 4 ton 8ft wide and 18ft long vehicle you have to concentrate that little bit more. Motorway lanes suddenly become narrower, you can’t just park where you want (unless your’e in France), ‘B’ roads suddenly take on that country lane feel and everything slows down, which is the way it should be when you are motor-homing. Don’t hurry, you’ll miss things, don’t stress, you’ll get there eventually.
Since our trip to France last year with minimal planning regarding where we were going to stop we have learnt that around 150 – 180 miles in a day is our max, much less when on smaller roads and only that far if we NEED to be somewhere by a certain time. In the UK of course it is different, you can’t just pull in to an ‘aire’ and stop for the night so you do need to plan a little more – so that’s why were taking 4 days to get to Altnaharra – right in the middle of the upper section in Scotland – 26 miles from the North Coast. Whilst on our North Coast 500 trip we kept passing signs to Altnaharra – we thought all roads lead to Altnaharra so we must go and see why they do. There is a Caravan & Motorhome Club site which takes about 24 vans right on the side of Loch Naver – so that is where we are headed, via Englethwaite in Cumbria, Blairgowrie in Perthshire and Culloden Moor near Inverness.
No hurry.


North Coast 500 – in conclusion

I guess the big question is not necessarily “Did we enjoy it” (I think the blog does an effective job of proving that), the question we should be asking is “Would we do it again?”.
The answer is an affirmative “Yes”.
We may not follow exactly the same route, we may pass through some places that we stopped at this time and see what other adventures await us. The great thing that Janette and I have taken from this trip is the utter beauty that lies within our reach. OK – it may be a long haul up there for those that like to motorhome a little closer but it is worth the effort – and one does have to say it is an effort. The driving can be a little ‘tight’ at times, single track roads with passing places – but you know what – those actually create an element of respect with the majority of drivers we came across. Pull in (because you and everybody else has no choice) and a wave and a smile was the ‘norm’. Perhaps we can learn something from this, courtesy on the roads is something that is sadly lacking – I think a mandatory 2 days driving on Scottish single track roads should form part of the driving test!
The sense of freedom we experienced when wild camping was also something that surprised us both – we definitely want to experience more of that. Being able to pull up late afternoon loch side with a stunning view, wake up in the morning with no cars, nobody, just the wildlife will be something very simple that we take away from this trip.

A room with a view – what price? (actually it was free)

Favourite spots?

In the words of Arnie “We’ll be back”.


North Coast 500 tour – Days 4-5

8th May
Now we really are on the NC 500 tour! The previous days were all a build up to today. Leaving Inverness the sun was shining once again for the 4th day on the run. Previous holidays in Scotland have also proved a bonus with the weather for us in May or early June. We made a slight detour off the NC 500 (and glad we did). Leaving the busy A9 at the Dornach Firth bridge we took the A386 to Bonar Bridge and returned via the A949 stopping en-route for a lay-by lunch. Much nicer than the A9! The banks around the Dornach Firth are all covered in deep cadmium yellow coloured gorse flowers, which if you tried to paint would look completely out of sorts with the rest of the landscape.
We also stopped on the A9 before our destination to take in a wonderful sea view along with the 30 or so Eider ducks all pairing up and ‘cooing’ away gently. Arriving at Brora CC site early afternoon left us enough time to walk the 1.5 miles back into Brora village along the pristine beach and footpath sandwiched between the sea and a beautifully kept links golf course. Mandatory ice cream at the end – sun still shining and just starting to chill (us and the temperature). Had to put the heating on for the first time (wimps that we are).
End of day one and if the rest of the holiday is like this I for one will not be complaining.

Brora beach in all it’s finery

9th May
Off for my early morning run again 6:45am – ran along the same coastal path and this time saw at least a dozen Terns (Arctic I think – but Janette and I are planning an early morning foray tomorrow with the binoculars to see if they are Arctic or Common).
This morning I had to sort t’internet out for the online shop as it had been down for quite a few days. Not the kind of thing I wanted to be doing on holiday but needs must. We had a few hours spare as we had planned a trip to Forsinard on the train (RSPB reserve) and the train from Brora was not until 1:00pm.
T’internet sorted and off we pedal to the station for what turned out to be a most spectacular train journey. Seriously, if anyone is reading this, it has to be done. What a beautiful scenic route along the Helmsdale valley – of course the sunshine and warmth always makes one see it through rose tinted glasses but I seriously think even on a ‘dreek’ day this would be a most marvellous journey.
Off we get at Forsinard and are treated by Chris the RSPB warden to an hours walk and talk about the Forsinard Flows – the (and think about this) largest bog/moss area on the Planet, yes, in all the world this is the most important place for carbon absorption.

RSPB Forsinard viewing tower

If anyone knows any different let me know! We are talking 400,000+ hectares of boggy area. The moss absorbs the gas and because the moss is permanenntly in water it never releases the gas – seriously good for the planet. Not just for Scotland, not just for the UK, not just for Europe, but for EVERYONE – yes all your family – think about that and look into it sometime.

Panoramic of a tiny portion of the Forsinard Flows

We saw Common Lizards, Stonechats, Wheatears, Whinchats, Meadow Pipits and various ducks and geese – a great day out and then that spectacular journey back – a magic day.

One of the important Forsinard Flow plants

A nearly ‘stepped on’ lucky Common Lizard


North Coast 500 – Days 1-3

5th May
And they’re off – like a ferret down the trousers, like a greyhound out the trap, like Red Rum winning the Grand National – more like a snail with the scent of a Pansy in it’s olfactory senses. After the stress of getting the dash light sorted (previous post) we were all packed and ready to go with an early start in mind. Thwarted at the last minute – Janette runs a couple of chocolate shops with an online presence (Chocolate Gourmet) and the checkout system was not working. I attempted to sort but it was having none of it – I suspect a recent upgrade may be the issue.
Anyway this is about our trip not work! We decided to take 3 days to get up to Inverness, the start point for the tour. Setting off about 9:00am, destination Lochmaben close to Dumfries, a little CL site. Weather was gorgeous, no annoying dashboard light, Hilma purring up the motorway like a seasoned traveller, what is not to like. The sense of release and freedom always surprises me when we set off whether it be for 2 days or 20.
This is the start our second year with Hilma and so far (and I can’t see this changing), we love it.
6th May
An early(ish) start for the drive to the next site in The Trossachs (I know all those jokes rattling around – sounds painful, etc.). Maragowan was the destination, a CC site, very pretty, sitting next to the River Lochay running into Loch Tay. Very busy – we do prefer the smaller sites but this was a convenient stopover so we would only be here one night. Booked a meal at the Bridge of Lochay Inn, a short walk from the site, talking ourselves into treating ourselves ‘as we were on holiday’.
7th May
I have got back in to my running and had a fantastic early morning run along the river before breakfast – beautiful sunshine but chilly. We were on the road by 9:30am and driving on the A827 along the side of Loch Tay. Mrs.Garmin tried to take us down a road that had a narrow bridge (7.5ft) and as Hilma is of the same girth we gave that a serious miss (although I’m sure the drive would have been spectacular). Warning – this A road felt like a B road – twisty and sometimes narrow. Our next destination was Culloden Moor just outside Inverness ready for the true start of the NC 500. Great views all the way and we found the site easily enough – went for the usual afternoon walk to stretch the legs.
An Oystercatcher had decided to take up residence on Pitch no.43 and was duly roped off!

Ensonced on Pitch 43 and not moving

Spooky, eerily quiet

Dark and dingy with the promise of light.

Not sure what kind of moss – possibly a Liverwort of some sort?


North Coast 500 – before the start

Strictly speaking this first post about our Scottish trip is about getting to the NC 500. We live a good few hours away from the Scottish border and so as the North Coast 500 starts at Inverness we did not want to feel like chewed cardboard by dashing up there to start (besides Hilma doesn’t go that fast anyway).
The panic set in the week before when we had an ‘injector’ light on Hilma’s dashboard stay on permanently. I didn’t fancy 3 weeks and 1500 miles of wondering what might happen if I ignored it. So I had a cunning plan, ask our usual MOT chap to plug her in to his fancy computer ‘thingymajigg’.
Cunning plan A goes wrong, “no can do” says MOT man, “can’t get a readout, let me try ‘supercomputer 2′”, he says. plan B goes wrong, – supercomputer 2 says “NO”.

On to plan C – contact the people who serviced, MOT’d and swapped all the lights when she became a UK citizen, “No problem – yes we can sort that for you”.
Plan C slightly thwarted as it was a bank holiday – had to wait 72 hrs.
Plan C was now in full operation with me driving 1.5hrs to get Hilma to the workshop. I was there 15mins and techy workshop man come out and says their ‘superdooper diagnostic thingy’ wouldn’t plug in – Hilma was too old! What an insult! I told her not to listen and I would help her feel young again.
Plan D immediately came in to play, I would visit a FIAT commercial dealership on the way home, find out what they could do for – things were getting a little close by now, we now only had 3 days before we were setting off.

Great news, Mr.FIAT commercial with a lot of intakes of breath and hurrumphing finally ‘mangaged’ to squeeze Hilma in – the day before we were due to go to Scotland – last chance saloon. Still, it would be worth waiting another 24hrs for the professionals to give her some tlc and get her right before our trip.
Plan D was only a 40 minute drive this time (good job I filled Hilma’s fuel tank a few days ago ready for the NC 500). Up early, on the road before 7:15am in order to get her to Mr.FIAT on time. Yep – you guessed it – same result as Plan B – Hilma was ‘too old’, poor girl, by now she was really starting to get a complex. Needless to say the air at Mr.FIAT’s ‘professional’ dealership was fairly blue for a while – they did mange to print out a list of all dealers between home and Inverness for me – I was getting to feel I might be visiting a few of them at this rate – and if anyone called Hilma too old again I felt like I would ‘lamp them one’.

Well feeling pretty despondent by now I was getting a little tired of all this, we had not even packed yet! Home – think, what next? OK – ring nearest other expert Mr.FIAT commercial. Una answered, what a nice lady, “yes of course we can help” (this phrase was starting to wear a little thin by now), I explained our predicament and covered the delicate subject of Hilma’s age. It was at this point Una said, “aahh – I’ll go and ask our Senior Technician” – my heart was in my mouth whilst the canned muzak was playing. Una came back on the phone “Can you bring it in today?” (I resisted the temptation to say Hilma was NOT an IT – sad I know) – I nearly leapt down the phone “Yes, of course I can – now?”, “1:30” Una replied. This was it, I could feel it in my bones, Hilma was being looked after, nothing could stop us now.

So off Hilma and I trotted, another 90mins to another Mr.FIAT professional who seemed to know that she was a bit of an ‘old girl’ and needed specialist care. Upon arrival I was ushered to a nice seating area, coffee, newspapers and a television, things were feeling better (although I wasn’t sure how my wallet would feel afterwards). After reading some news, looking around the showroom and 2 cups of coffee later I was getting worried, we were due to set off to Scotland within 18hrs and Hilma was stuck in a workshop. Una came around the corner, I couldn’t read her face but I was sure it was bad news. She said (with a blank look on her face) that the technician (here we go I thought) had managed to clear the fault, had driven Hilma up the road and the light had not come back on. HURRAH I nearly jumped for joy and kissed Una – but the usual English conservative attitude kicked in and all I could say was “thankyou”.
Sigh – what a relief. It turned out to be a faulty cooling fan relay. And the wallet was only £85 lighter (I must have spent that much on fuel following Plan A to Plan E).
Still, can’t complain, eh?!