Monday, August 5, 2013

My First Scottish Adventure: Landing and Driving

This month I will post once per week about my journey to Scotland. I am not only planning my next Scottish adventure, but my current work in progress is the next British Agent Novel, which is set part in England and part in the Highlands. Needless to say, I have Scotland on the mind. 
Photo by MK - I happened to be driving while taking a photo of this castle at a great distance.
Preparing was much easier than I had anticipated. Packing was a breeze. Customs was a walk in the park. Catching that first glimpse of Scotland from the airplane window and stepping out onto that tarmac felt like coming home.

This is a story of my first adventure in Scotland, or the Scottish Highlands to be exact. Seven days was not enough time. I doubt that a lifetime would be enough, but I filled those coveted days with as much eye-opening delights as I could. I went that first time to soak up a bit of atmosphere, but for me it was all about the landscape. 

I actually traveled to Scotland in 2005 so I'm sure a bit has changed, and I've posted links that are as current as I can locate. There will be more Scotland adventures, but for now I'd like to write out this one and just perhaps it may help others who seek to spend time in this beautiful and wild land.

Note on the photographs: This visit took place before I invested in my beautiful Nikon that has not, and I believe will not ever, let me down. The camera (at the time) battery would often die out and I would miss out on some spectacular shots. The majority of the photographs were taken by me, but those that are not, credit is given to the site or photographer as best I know it.

Landing and Driving
Photo Credit: Undiscovered Scotland
The fog slowly lifted as our flight descended towards Edinburgh, and my first glimpse of the land not only gave me great relief because I had survived my first overseas flight, but I was at last going to step foot upon Scottish soil. No matter how many books I had read or movies I had seen (often not even filmed there), nothing prepared me for my first experience in this spectacular country.

Now to be honest, an airport is an airport and I don't care for any of them. The crowds of people, waiting for luggage, figuring out which transport to take to which end of the airport, and then waiting for what seems like hours before the next leg of the trip - I just don't like it. However, since it was a necessary step, I pressed forward. Customs in Edinburgh was remarkably simple and took far less time than I had anticipated. The agents were efficient, precise, and didn't waste my time which I greatly appreciated.

Once I passed through those gates and gathered my luggage, I was kindly directed towards the car rental section of the airport which is where the real fun began. I had reserved an automatic (months in advance) and a mid-sized vehicle. What they had available were very small manual transmission vehicles. The woman at the counter smiled as though to say 'you can reserve what you'd like, but you'll get what we have'. She really was quite kind and only asked briefly if I knew how to drive a manual as though to say if I didn't, I was going to learn quickly. Luckily I had and since I had a few hours drive ahead of me, I wanted to get on the road. I took what they had and off I went.

Luckily navigating out of the airport was simple - I only took two wrong turns. Once on the correct road, I proceeded to follow any vehicle headed in my direction. I even waited before fueling up until I could follow someone into a petrol station. My brain was completed rattled, but I prevailed. I kept getting these strange looks from passing drivers and looked down at my speedometer to be sure I wasn't going too slow - I was even speeding a bit so I kept at it and let the looks come.

Then I saw it - my first castle. Obviously not my castle, but that didn't matter. It was beautiful and magnificent and standing tall above the trees and city. Not caring that I was driving a manual vehicle with the wrong hand on the wrong side of the road, I pulled out my camera and snapped a few photos. Unfortunately, these were so blurry they did me no good, but at the time I didn't notice. I was beaming with absolute delight. I was soon driving like a pro, or at least a pro-American who had never driven in a foreign country before. 

Bonus: I even got on the correct side of the vehicle the first time . . . not to say I continued to be so acclimated the entire trip.

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