Updated: Jul 30
And so, as we crest what we commonly and comically call ‘Summer’ around these parts before tilting towards autumn, Nadia and I are heading north to brave the wilds of Invernesshire and this year’s Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival! En route, our first ‘port of call’ is Tayport, just south of Dundee, the City of Discovery. In fact, we discovered a significant diversion as we approached the Tayport turn-off south of the river Tay, which required us to head across the road bridge and turn around in the fair city before heading south again back over the bridge to access our turn for Tayport! Road works; you just gotta love ‘em, eh?
As we drove into the community campsite, our stress levels dropped. We relaxed into another (hopefully) fabulous trip, and we even had a lovely sunny evening to set up Iona before heading into Tayport to sample some of the local delights! Our first stop was the Tayside Inn on Nelson St, where we mingled with the locals and enjoyed a few quaffs and their particular jukebox selections; Billy MacArthur MacKenzie and his Associates were popular!
Our next stop was Cobbies Inn on Tay Street, adjacent to the harbour, where we were warmly welcomed and efficiently served our chosen ale by the barkeep! I was even complimented on my choice of T-shirt by the owner, a fellow Declan Mcmanus fan, who advised us that her particular favourite Costello song is “Indoor Fireworks” (an incandescent classic!) I agreed and volleyed that one of my all-time favs of his is “(What’s so funny ‘bout) Peace Love and Understanding.”
On our way back to Iona, we stopped at the local ‘chippy’ and ordered one battered and one breaded haddock fish supper (fish and chips!), freshly cooked as we waited, which we enjoyed once back at the campsite. Not a bad start to this adventure.....
Day two started early! A downside of sleeping ‘communally’, or on a campsite during school holidays! Our ‘neighbours’, an elderly couple with their granddaughter, were “up and at ‘em” at 7:30, and the dug joined in! Thank the Lord for earplugs! Anyway, we rose a couple of hours later, as owls tend to do, and set about our morning cup of Java whilst enjoying the sunshine through the breaks in the clouds!
Our second day was spent in St Andrews, and we travelled there on a local bus service which went orraboot the local villages and made us feel like real ‘penshies’, i.e. oldies using their free bus passes to spend a day on a bus! So having passed through Newport-on-Tay, Gauldry, Belmerino, Balmullo, Leuchars and Guardbridge, we finally trundled into St Andrews at around half one in the afternoon!
The rest of the day was spent walking around the town and sampling the local fare; we had a great panini and coffee for lunch, admired St Salvator’s quadrangle and Chapel, and visited a few quaint shops, then settling in a hostelry for a jar or two before catching the bus back to Tayport. A Grand Day Out, as Wallace would say!
Back on the road again, and my trusty navigator, Nadia, was hard at 'work' looking for our next stop as I concentrated on driving! As we were due in Inverness on Wednesday evening to rendezvous with friends, we headed north out of Dundee, and soon we had a destination for Tuesday night. We had chosen the quaint highland town of Braemar and booked a spot in the town's campsite.
En route, as we ascended the road up to the Lecht Ski Centre in the Cairngorms in Strathdon, we passed a couple hitchhiking in the torrential rain and did the 'decent thing' and pulled over. The couple, who had spent the morning walking four Munroes, were delighted to get out of the rain and to be offered a lift to their car a few miles further along the road. It transpired that they were a Polish couple, resident in Scotland, who were in the area for the day to do some hill walking, and we chatted amiably as we drove towards their car, parked on the other side of the summit. Once we had dropped them off, we continued down the road and found a layby to stop in and prepare lunch. By now, the rain was starting to ease off, and the sun was making a welcome appearance.
By the time we reached Braemar, the sun was the dominant weather feature, and we were able to set up camp on a glorious summer afternoon. Ah, the vagaries of Scottish summers! Once set up, we walked into town and wandered around, bought some local fillet steaks for dinner, and finally settled on a local hostelry where we watched the cricket on the TV and played a game of pool, all while sampling some Braemar Brewery ale.
We woke to another fine day on Wednesday and were soon on the road again, heading towards Inverness, and we stopped in Tomintoul for a fabulous bacon roll and a double espresso! Our journey then took us through some lovely highland towns and villages, including Granton-on-Spey and Cowdor, before we reached the outskirts of Inverness, and we made our way to the parking area adjacent to the Beefeater on Glenurquhart Road. Once settled in, we communicated our arrival with our festival pals and advised them that we would meet them for a pre-dinner drink in the Beefeater. Unfortunately, we received word that they could not join us on the night as work commitments meant they were still in Glasgow. Ah well, the best-laid plans and all that!
We awoke on Thursday, the first day of Belladrum, to heavy rain bouncing off Iona's roof. We could do nothing except get on with it, so we struck camp and drove to the festival site and hoped for the best. As we left Loch Ness behind us and drove up into the hills towards Kiltarlity, we ascended into the morning mist and were soon engulfed in a dense fog! However, on our descent from the hills, we emerged from the mist into a brightening sky, and the sun began to warm the air, completely contradicting the forecast. Wonders never cease!