View over water from Tarbert Castle at sunset

Find yourself a life partner that is willing to take the wheel. Steer you in the right direction. In a rental car. In another country. Like Scotland. Find yourself a Brian Braveheart. 

Aside from our day on foot in Edinburgh, Scotland was to be a road trip. A week on the left side. With a stick shift. In the “wrong” hand. Through towns and villages. On and off ferries. Winding and climbing and dipping on single-track roads.

Could there be a truer test of a 30-year marriage?

Laughter is key to survival. Laugh when you go to the wrong side of the car. Again. Laugh when the misdirected reflection in the rearview mirror makes you dizzy. Again. Laugh as your husband lurches to the left to let faster locals pass. Again.

“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.”

Robert Louis Stevenson, The Silverado Squatters

Always remember you are the foreigner. You. Learn the rules of the road. Brian knew about A roads and B roads. The passing places. The friendly finger lift called the “Islay wave.” Not the hostile flipping the finger of our homeland.

Edinburgh => Tarbert. Scotland Day Three.

With a sausage and bacon biscuit in my tummy and coffee in my hand, we left Edinburgh. Taxi to the airport. Pick up a car. Somehow catapult out of our first roundabout to head west.

A plotted course connects the dots of Edinburgh to Rest and be Thankful to Loch Fyne Oyster Bar to Tarbert. Some clear targets but time for discovery. Delights and surprises.

Coffee calls again. The village of Luss in Trossachs National Park looks sufficiently adorable. We detour to find cozy pink stone cottages dripping in posies. A storybook church. Our first look at a Loch.

We next stretch our legs and enjoy the view at Rest and Be Thankful. The climb out of Glen Croe is long and steep to a crest of 803 feet. Imagine the drovers’ journey. Respect the restless slopes and signs of past “land slips.” 

We round Loch Fyne to the raved about oyster bar and spy a sign for Fyne Ales. A farmhouse brewery in the Scotland countryside feels like fate. We enjoy a pint after our oysters. Talk about our pup. Wish we could add this surprise to Rosie’s dog-friendly pub list. I leave with a Fyne Ales hairy coo t-shirt. Then spot a real highland heifer as we drive away. 

Next stop is charming Inveraray. Georgian architecture overlooks the water and contrasts with working fishing boats. The town is a little sleepy as tours to the castle and jail are ending. We walkabout and journey on. Follow the water around and around and around and slide into Tarbert.

Tarbert is a postcard. Reflections of pastel painted buildings and bright boats and a bubblegum pink sky. Our Knap Cottage is a full apartment with two floors and a kitchen. Worthy of more than our one-night stay. Breakfast will be dropped at our door before we head to the morning ferry. A mere 10 minutes from town.

We wander along the wharf to Cafe Ca’Dora. Brian tries the traditional Cullen skink. Smoked haddock chowder. I indulge in the fish pie. Rich with smoked haddock and salmon and prawns all swimming in a white wine sauce.

A broadcast plays in the background. Something about Queen Elizabeth II. In the past tense. We pause our gluttony. Incredulous we each grab our phones and confirm. A somber, surreal moment. To be in her home country. At the end of a historical and revered reign. 

The airwaves overflow with stories and tributes honoring the Queen for the rest of our visit. If there was controversy or ambivalence it disappears in death. A united queendom mourns. But in the small west coast villages and towns life goes on. The fanfare and procession to St. Giles’ Cathedral is over before our return to Edinburgh. 

With dwindling light we leave the Tarbert cafe. Scramble up the hillside. Carefully navigate and shut the first of many Scotland sheep gates. Sheep outnumber people in Caledonia but have far less right to roam. 

Tarbert Castle sits above town with an impossible view. The site marks the beginning of the Kintyre Way. 100 miles of path around the peninsula. Someday? We marvel at the stunning sunset and ruins. Mother Nature showing she has the power to lift our hearts and bring us back to the earth.

What delights await us tomorrow? The Isle of Islay. The playground of peated whiskey is next. 

To be continued…

Road to Tarbert photo gallery

Scotland Part One: Edinburgh

Writer. Photographer. Future Master Gardener. Artsy miid-life mama planting seeds for the second half.

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