Like a couple of seventy somethings, Jim and I have just completed a short motoring tour of the Northwest Highlands. A two day window of recess suddenly allowed a holiday and we found ourselves in the ferry queue at Stromness, bound for Scotland.As we waited to board, I realised that while I have done the ferry journey many, many times in the past 29 years , Jim was able to count his journeys on his fingers. Part of the p*ssed off wife syndrome – we need a car south: I am the one with time (and in times past, the children) to brave the Pentland Firth and drive, while a full diary dictated that he went by air.
The relatively novel experience of journeying together was uneventful, with a smooth crossing followed by pleasant drive at a steady, retired pace to Brora where we joined the really-retired lunching in the pub. Folk who live in Orkney rarely stop on the way up or down the A9. They are either hurrying south to the delights of big shops or they are constrained by the ferry departure time on the way north so Brora is usually no more than a pee and of course, an ice cream.
The afternoon produced passing places and therefore an even steadier pace from Lairg to Achlitibuie and we marvelled at the trees, mountains and rivers, all unfamiliar to Orkney residents. Our destination, The Summer Isles Hotel, was reached in time for a cup of tea and a short rest before dinner. Pretending to be retired can be quite exhausting.
Excellent food, wine and comfortable bed saw us ready for our return journey the next day, the long way. More stunning scenery, more passing places, a walk to falls that we never reached and a chance to browse Achins bookshop near Lochinver – a wonderful establishment, the more so for having two copies of A Small Town Affair on the shelves .
Up to Durness and round the corner to the north coast and eventually to the Forss House Hotel for more food wine and comfort. Then we were home again after a pleasant break, with no fall outs.
So, is this a preview of life to come – short motoring holidays to as yet unexplored parts of the UK? This recent trip involved expensive hotels with award-winning restaurants. The idea of a B&B and a fish supper does not have the same appeal. The pension for years of service as an elected representative will not stretch to such a lavish lifestyle on a long-term basis. My only hope is that The Trouble With Keeping Mum is not only a best seller, but also becomes an Oscar-winning film ( I see Celia Imrie as Minty). Then we shall become a connoisseurs not only of British Country House establishments, but of Great Hotels of the World. (It goes without saying, that we will be turning left on entering the plane.)