Thursday, 20 March 2008


It's getting to that time of year when I'm in need of a holiday. My wife and I are heading to see our parents over Easter, three or four days with both. And it's going to be nice, being looked after. But it's not 'getting away'.

A couple of years ago we went to Scotland for a week. We flew up to Edinburgh, hired a car. From there we drove up to Inverness, stayed over night and then drove down alongside Loch Ness and then cut across to Skye where we stayed at a B 'n' B on the western side of the Isle.

I did my usual thing of working out a catalogue of music for our trip and spent a couple of evenings burning CDs. There were dreamy tunes for looking at mountains and misty lochs; there were singalongs for top of the voice shouting in the car; there were old comfortable favourites. I should add, I don't drive. My wife does all the driving. So there were a few discs of tunes she likes to sing along to, for those moments when she's bored of driving and needs perking up.

We made our way across the airport to the rental carpark. We got the keys to the car and headed across. My wife opened the car and climbed in while I put the suitcase in the boot. I jumped into the passenger seat with my big pile of cds. I looked at my wife who looked at me. We looked at the car dashboard and looked back at each other.

NO CD PLAYER. No CD player. CD player none! The car only had a cassette/radio. I hadn't seen one of those in a while. So I played around with the tuning and found a radio station that was playing some decent tunes and off we went, heading north towards
Inverness. A little while north of the city the scenery started to get more beautiful and rugged as we hit the Highlands. We arrived in Inverness, found our hotel for the night and hit the pub.

The next day we headed out for breakfast and drove south west alongside Loch Ness, stopping to take in the tourist things and take some pictures along the misty
Loch. By lunchtime we were heading west towards Skye singing along to oldies on the radio. The roads became a lot less busy than they had been, and the weather did that thing it does in Scotland of changing in an instant. Rain pouring down, scenery growing wilder by the minute. I looked at the map: there was nothing but road and mountains for at least another couple of hours drive. The radio poured out some more oldies for us to sing along to. The road we were on curved around the base of a mountain range, eventually running between mountains on it's path to the coast. Nothing but road and mountain I said, and I meant it. Looking at the map I had realized that the Highlands weren't exactly heavily populated and I realized why now. A road running alongside some lochs at the bottom of steep jagged mountains. Nothing else, not even sheep or anything. Just scary looking mountains. And guess what mountain ranges do to radio reception?


We looked at each other as we lost the radio. The scenery was beautiful and impressive. But it it was also scary and lonely, even though we were together. The sky was dark with rain and the whole thing kind of took our breath away; both from the wild beauty of it and underlying fear of this place.

No-Man Days In The Trees

*not a Scottish tune, but the feel of the track captures perfectly how I felt on that drive...


Planet Mondo said...


Thats a great piece, having had similar moments in Glen Coe, long single track roads in Scotland and parts of various Wales and Dartmoor - I can relate totally and in some ways music can clutter the scenery rather than enhance it.

I'm firewalled at the mo' but will be sure to check that tune tonight

Simon said...

On the way home we went through Glen Coe. There were loads of wow moments all through the trip. There's an car advert on lately where the sat nav directs the driver away from the city and into the countryside in Scotland and I get little chills just thinking about some of that scenery. Scotland really was the first place I've been to that truly 'took my breath away'.

I would like to go back with and see what it felt like with tunes. I've been around the world and I haven't felt quite as..isolated as I did that week. I didn't realize such an unpopulated area was quite as close!

Wales doesn't quite do the same thing to me. I love it - in fact that's where I'm going tomorrow to see 'me mam', but it's too familiar probably.

The No Man tune came out in the early 90s; they were heavily influenced by things like Bowie and Scott Walker and the New Romantics and the production styles of things like Soul II Soul. Members of Japan ended up joining them later on.

Simon said...

JC said...

and feel free to base yourself at Villain Towers in Glasgow while you get out and about.....

About 30 minutes out of Glasgow you hit Loch Lomond - yup, its a bit busier than the places you found yourself in those few years back, but it is still pretty breath-taking.

Problem is , we kind of take it for granted....

Simon said...

Loch Lubnaig was actually one of my favourite places, a few miles north west of Dunblane. We had some family living in Stirling at the time and they took us there. There's a little beach with an outstanding view. Gorgeous.