Friday – Day One
It was suppose to be the annual Scottish trip for hubby and half a dozen of his mates to bag a few Munro’s, do some cycling and generally hang out together and for me staying at home, a week of solitude, just me and The Dog, binge watching box sets on Netflix while eating all things chocolate and the odd glass of wine…… but sadly, Covid-19 put paid to all that.
A couple of months ago or so, the boys realised that their trip was off, but to save the booking, three of the original gang would still go, taking their wives to make up six people from three households as per the Scottish Government guidelines. The lads had booked a 5 bedroomed cottage, so six people would be okay. Then the goalposts were moved again – this time, still six people but only from two households, so one couple kindly dropped out and so us and our two friends started to get things together ready for our trip.
But hey, not so fast! Four days before we were due to set off, with rising Covid infections, Scotland had another rethink and tightened the restrictions further. Only one household allowed now. We couldn’t believe it. Frantic phone calls and messages between us and our friends who didn’t fancy rattling around in a big house and decided to look for alternative accommodation – easier said than done – and we tried to get our heads around yet another change in the circumstances.
But news came through the very next day, that self catering cottages and the like were exempt from the one household policy (honestly, you couldn’t make it up) and we were back on as two couples in one house (hope you’re keeping up here). So with a deep breath and fingers crossed, we tentatively starting planning who was bringing what and sorting out a shopping list.
And yes, you’ve guessed it – 24 hours later and 24 hours before we were due to leave, my friend called me at work to say the information of yesterday was wrong and it was all back to just one household. I think most of the North West heard me scream. My friend scuttled off to find accommodation again while I phoned hubby to tell him the news, muttering and cursing under my breath. We needed this holiday now just to recover from the planning and execution of it! Our friends were successful in getting a last minute cottage, but on the other side of Scotland in Aviemore – so much for holidaying together, but we had booked an overnight stop in Perth before all this shenanigans started; to break up a 7 hour car journey to the west coast, and we decided to keep the booking and see each other for at least one night.
So on Friday, we took the morning packing the car and loading the bikes, leaving just after midday. We had heard no further news from the Scottish Government and felt relieved. My little car had just been fitted with a towbar and bike rack so we could take the bikes and I had images of my car with its front wheels off the ground with all the stuff we had packed. It looked like we were on a 6 month trip to the Himalayas rather than a week in the Scottish Highlands. We took the back roads as we thought a motorway junction was shut and headed through Sedbergh in glorious autumnal sunshine hoping to pick up the A6. The scenery was stunning, the plump Howgill fells covered in golds and browns of the heather. We went through little villages and communities, snuggled into the hills until we finally picked up the A6 near Shap. There was a purpose for this particular route too – to check if our little cafe in the village had re-opened. In my last blog and our trip to Northumbria in July, we had found to our dismay, this wonderful little watering hole closed and looking rather shabby. We were hoping it had re-opened to receive us for lunch, but as we pulled up, it was still closed and looking even more permanently shut. Thwarted yet again and knowing we wouldn’t find another eatery on this route, we succumbed to a cheap and anaemic packaged sandwich, accompanying packet of crisps and a Costa Coffee from a machine, purchased in a nearby mini supermarket and sat forlornly in the car to unsatisfactorily devour them in the shortest possible time. Sort of refreshed, we continued on up the A6 until Penrith, where we joined the much faster M6 and into Scotland.
It’s relatively easy getting to Perth – it’s basically all motorways, skirting past Glasgow before hitting the A9. We made good time and followed the Satnav directions for the Travellodge, which was apparently just off the A9 slip road. It was at this point, that the satnav threw a wobbly, took us right and indicated that the Travellodge was deep in a Perth suburban retail park. Finding no evidence (like a road sign), we retraced our steps back towards the A9, where I managed to override the technology and deduced that we should of turned left off the slip road. We went over the traffic lights, the satnav finally and reluctantly agreeing with us, though still insisting that it was somewhere on the right of us when patently it was on the left (a big square building with Travellodge embalzoned on its side was a big clue) and with a huge relief, we parked up and peeled ourselves out of the car.
We checked in with the rigmarole of face coverings and squirts of sanitiser and sat in our room, waiting for our friends, who rocked up an hour later. We had booked a Italian restaurant in town, and aware of the new rulings, headed towards the riverside in two separate cars, to park and walk into the High Street. We had a lovely, very filling meal (eyes bigger than the stomachs, I’m afraid), sitting on separate tables, socially distanced, so a lot of talking across the gap which isn’t very conducive. Every time we got up to go to the loo, the face covering had to go on, but not if we were sat at our table. We spoke about how confused we were of the ever changing Covid rules, the Scottish ones seemingly different from the English guidelines and half expected to fall foul of one. We waddled back to the cars and our hotel and with nothing better to do (there was no lounge room here) we went to our rooms to watch telly until sleep over took us.
Tomorrow we headed west!