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End to End

by

Andrew Crathorne

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Well it all came about by way of a silly message for which I've searched on my e-mail account and both The Pembleton and The Citroen Specials forums and cannot find to be able to blame someone for. Someone, and you know who you are, asked where the next stop from John O Groats would be and me being, well me, jumped in with both feet and answered 'Well Lands End' isn't it. Next thing I know is that I'm contemplating doing it with my car still in the garage in bits and no MOT.

Well its funny how when you need to knuckle down to finish jobs before a deadline you occasionally can, however not in my case as working two jobs and lousy rain with work on my car having to be done outside I somehow found myself on Sunday 9th August with the car all back together with oils checked and hunky dory but no MOT, no clothes packed, no groceries packed and no camping gear packed.

So after a 00.10am finish from work on Sunday night that meant Monday was going to be busy day but when I got up the rain was here so I started off by the visit to my local MOT garage and after a wait of 45 minutes left with my document as I was not the first there. The wife was about to leave for work and a usual 'If you want to leave before I get back have a good time' attitude was present 'It has to rain all day but it's going to be fine tomorrow'

Hmm............

Well it was about 12.00 mid-day when I was ready to turn the key and wish Shotton goodbye and with good old wifeys words in my ear I felt it best to wait until 1300 before I left {she's normally back from work about then. ..part-timer} One became Two before the grandkids made it to our door and a decision had already been made by then to abandon until Tuesday

As promised by my darling Gracie the sun was shining on Tuesday morning {shame she can't pick lotto numbers} and with the last pieces of luggage arranged carefully I waved goodbye to my family and headed for the A19 Southbound.

Twenty minutes or so down the road as if I needed an omen I saw a white special travelling in the opposite direction which although I only briefly saw looked to be a fine white machine {as one would expect} turned out to be Kevin Martin on his way to a sure pass for his car's MOT.

Well leaving home a day later than originally planned and because of my commitment to The Applecross Alpine Adventure I was very conscious of the ground I needed to cover so felt it best to travel via motorways and therefore leave as much spare time to travel around Wales so 70 mph and the A1 was soon achieved.

130 miles under my belt and fuel is required so I pulled into a motorway service station to fill her up and at £19.50 I found out a trip like this could be a dear do and that a 25 litre tank could best be bigger ............mind you as part of a Pembleton ritual while checking mudguard brackets I found my drivers rear had broken once again but next to an old repair and came up with an idea to burn the car!

No I didn't, this was nothing new to me as many of you will already know but this time I secured it in a different way. I tied a cable tie around the tube with another tie through it then around the end of the U bolt that fastens around the suspension arm and apart from the occational bob up and down on Britains' not so best roads was no more bother anymore.

That A30 can and was a boring road for me but as I passed Penzance I knew todays quest was almost done and I had a fancy for stopping there so I pushed that bit further to Lands End then WHOA speed hump alert, speed hump alert. Those triple ones across the road in Sennen just waiting to rip my sump off but I wasn't asleep just yet and stopped in time to take avoiding action. Three sets of the darlings so be warned. Then I faced a worse task at 19.00 on that Tuesday night by driving up to the Lands End car park by way of a parking fee of £3.00! With permission to fetch my car through to have a photo taken at the post for a whopping £12.00 I felt really ripped off but they have you at this end because it's all walled off. After a chat with a few onlookers/well wishers it dawned on me that I was now at zero miles on my end to end run and already my bum was numb and I was knackered, but fulfilled.

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Leaving Lands End at 21.00 someone had moved the temporary traffic cones so I had to drive in front of the entrance archway to exit when I had an epiphany, Why not take a picture in front of the entrance for free without any wait for the posted home one.

I found quite a nice spot at Penzance and after pushing the car through some unlocked gates on to grassland near a small museum so not to alarm households nearby and then get moved on by the police I unpacked the stove for a brew, popped up my miracle pop-up tent, blew the air bed up and after rinsing out my empty cup fell sound asleep about midnight. A bit of a disturbing night that Tuesday night by way of young seagulls calling out to their parents for food no doubt about 02.00 then 04.00 and I finally woke and arose about 06.30 and that was my sleep over so kettle on, cereal in bowl with a splash of milk

I drew the usual bit of attention from dog walkers on this misty morning that a Pembleton does and a few called over to ask about the car and my trip when they saw the rally plate on either the front or the back of the car that my eldest grandson was supposed to design but truth be told his mum Leanne had ended up accomplishing. Thank You, Leanne. I think they are great and will be hung on the garage wall forever.

So lets have a look at the map and see which way I would like to travel and what to see; St. Just leading around to St. Ives is a good start but the mist didn't lift as I had expected it to, so the views were hidden and then I heard that a surfing competition was on at Newquay and since I had been there before I gave it a miss and headed back along the A30...Lovely.

Not giving up just yet I turned on to the A39 or was it the boredom of that A30? Anyway I'm not sure but I got back along the coastal route which is a preference always for me and by golly was I glad I did as I saw a signpost for 'Tinta gel'.

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Yes I know you're all saying it's' Tin ta gel' as I now know and is a long standing joke at the chinkies where I work because when I first took a delivery to Tintagel Drive in Seaham I pronounced it wrong. Well I thought it deserved a visit to find out the truth about King Arthur and a few gifts were bought including a tea-towel for my boss to end the joke. It's a very popular place with tourists and upon adorning my leather conehead helmet, goggles and gloves at 11.30 I found the ignition key unable to turn at all within the ignition lock. Damn, what's wrong with this? What am I going to do? Where's the RAC card? DAMN. Damn, damn......A wiggle to the right, a wiggle to the left, up and down and the key still would not turn. I pulled it out and it's not bent so what's wrong!

Right then goggles off, hat off, gloves off and out of the car to dig out the spanners i've brought. Luckily for me John Ward, the builder of the ' Silver Bullet' had not sheared the nuts off the U-bolt which holds the column in place so I was able to loosen it and remove the steering wheel to gain access to remove the steering lock and hot wire the car by way of a screw driver into the black cap which would let me find a local garage and some assistance. I had too far to go with the car in such a state to just leave it as was. Well after directions to Tintagel Garage I pulled into its' driveway to find a parts delivery van there and the guy told me the mechanic is at his lunch and would be back for One. Well not exactly the most patient person in the world I began to faff on with the ignition lock and key with the black cap disengaged. I messed about as before trying different techniques to coax the lock to turn and it began to work. Yes i thought, until I fit the black cap or turn the engine off at the next service station and it won't start again but as I thought of what Mr. Tintagel would be able to do without a ageing 2CV in his drive that I could scavenge the ignition barrel from, with the key in it and I felt a spray of lube or a drop of oil would make it no better so I fitted the cap and tightened the column nuts and as it worked I could see no reason why it shouldn't continue to and since now it was 13.00 and an hour and a half had been lost I pressed on.

Bude, Westward Ho !, Barnstable, Ilfracombe, Minehead then at Bridgewater I turned on to the M5 with an idea of being on the right side of Swansea to avoid any traffic the next morning by then in dull conditions and needing lights. ARGH....LIGHTS. Previously on Monday at MOT all were working fine and Tuesday as light became scarce a flick of the switch brought illumination. Perfect. But not now as a fellow traveller brought it to my attention so I switched on my rear fog as I was already on a motorway and pulled into the next services. Couldn't find anything wrong but all other lights were working fine so I decided to only travel by daylight but after I crossed over the Second Severn Crossing which when I got to the teller at my exit end of the bridge I asked if anyone had ever changed their mind and turned around rather than pay the extortionate price of £5.40 to which he commented 'I never use it myself because it's too damn dear'.

Pressing hard by now as time was getting the better of the day I was on the M4 and had decided Llanelli would be the lucky spot for me that night. I turned seaward down the A4138 and whether it was the route I took or what but the parts of Llanelli I saw were shite so I kept on going through Carmarthen and on to St.Clears once again turning seaward and desperate to find a suitable site for a car and a tent. Travelling along the A4066 I was just about to well I don't know what I was going to do but I turned a corner and my home for the night was there.

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Laugharne Castle or ruins as it is today was my very nice setting for my nights sleep. Upon rising the next morning I was aware of a most beautiful bouquet from wild flowers or weeds that grow in the semi marshland which is liable to occasional flooding apparently, but felt it unnecessary to do so whilst I was there and thankful I am too. All packed up and just about ready to go a bus full of tourists embark and instead of heading for the castle make a bee-line for me and my car. Turns out they're French and I answer their questions with a favourite of my own by way of asking them if they can recognise the running gear from my car since they spotted the BMW engine which has BMW on each side. As they seemed to be struggling I suggest a look at the gearstick and handbrake lever to which the competition is won The Deuche. One last treat for them is to hear the car start up and a arooga on the klaxon means I have escaped and on my way again.

A signpost had drawn my attention to The Museum Of Speed and seems that its on my heading I may as well give it the once over. I arrived at 09.15 and it opened at 10.00 so I had a look around the building which is neither walled nor fenced but does have the filthiest windows I have ever seen so a rub on these windows with a sleeve and there is John Godfrey Parry-Thomas' Higham Special bought from the great Count Zborowski which he christened BABS but other than 4 or 5 motorcycles nothing to keep me from my journey so photographs were taken through the rubbed glass and I left.

It was by now Thursday and with a call in to Bayton essential I made a decision to miss part of the West coast of Wales such as Tenby, Milford Haven and Fishguard by heading North toward Cardigan but there found disappointment by way of the road not being close enough to the water along the A487 until I reached Aberaeron which on a day with lovely sunshine like I had on the 13th of August was the most beautiful setting for a family to enjoy a harbour day out or if ever lucky enough a week away. I was so engrossed in the warmth of the sun with a portion of fish and chips and seeing children catching crabs with spools of twine, a hook and fish heads for bait hired from the harbour masters office to put in their buckets so as to count who had most upon release and ineviatably be the best crab catcher in the world. Low and behold I spent three hours there and caught the sun, I looked around the streets, looked over the new sea defences which are very near completion and if it means anything to anyone I think the place is great apart from one particular old, senile, dizzy and down right useless Toyota Avensis driver who upon guidance from his two equally dippy companions allowed the afore mentioned tosser to rock my beloved Pembleton Brooklands by way of nudging the rear spare wheel whilst attempting to park behind her and then disclaiming no possible damage could of been made. That said when I looked over the car it appears no damage has been done but for heavens sake could the useless B's not see the friggin car or was he reading the rear rally plate.

I felt it a suitable time to call home and Wifey. To which she astounded me as only women can do and this after 24 years of marriage short of 4 days by way of an idea but only if I wanted to {you know what that means don't you guys}, well I have owned my Pem {Silver Bullet} for 2 years and a few months now and not once has my dearest darling Gracie had the desire to travel nor drive her as she would not feel safe in IT {now there's another difference between men and women}, but today of all those days my dearest darling Gracie says that if I am travelling North by way of the North-East of England and moreso near home and only if I want to if I call into home she would be willing to accompany me on the Scotland part of the journey.

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How could I turn her down with the thought of a night tucked up in bed with some time to adjust the passenger tappets, fit a new exhaust bracket which had snapped at some time and had needed two bungees to hold it steady and I was sold on the idea I just needed to head towards Aberystwyth turning inland along the A44 to Llangurig. I'm pleased I don't have to pronounce these names, just copy their spellings from the map. I chose the A470 from here to Rhayader and A44 to Leominster as I could remember Leominster then toward Kidderminster easier than Machynlleth, Newtown, Welshpool, Shrewsbury, Bridnorth and back on myself to Bayton where the creator of my trusty steed abides and duly gave me time to chew the cud with himself and a few goodies to take home to adorn my vehicle with. {bits to repair her in truth}.

It was here that I called Duncan Grimmond once again to update him on my whereabouts as he had a desire to travel along with me for moral support on a leg of my journey but as I grew nearer to where a suitable rendezvous could take place we found the hour of midnight also drawing nearer so plans were abandoned and I pressed on alone but homeward bound.

Gracie was at work on Friday so I arose about 09.30 which has become the norm since I no longer work a usual day job then after breakfast and a cup of coffee I adourned work clothes and fettled the tappets, fitted the exhaust mounting, unpacked single travelling equipment and loaded multiple persons camping gear. I even managed to sort out the side lights gremlin which turned out to be my own fault. Seems as though when I loosened the steering column off at Tintagel to tackle the ignition switch the sidelight wire was the shortest by an inch or so and had pulled from it's bayonet fitting so new fitting and an extention was put into place which had everything working fine once again. Oils checked and when Gracie got in from work we waved the family goodbye and set off for Inverness at 70mph in the rain at approximatly 14.00 hrs. It was hard going with two up and Graces' left side and my right side got a lashing of rain but we soldiered on as we were not about to miss the 'Applecross Alpine Adventure' for hell nor high water as they say.......

As we arrived at Inverness whilst turning right at a roundabout we both heard the tinkling of metal across the road surface so around the roundabout we went for a second time scanning the tarmac for this metal part with no sighting we called into a service station for more gas and a check over of these mudguards. Hmm , everything seems okay with the mudguards so what was the part the car had disposed of and then I found out what it had been....Well when I bought the car from John Ward the passenger headlight had a very fine crack in it at whilst driving in the pouring rain with the headlights onrcan only assume some rain water made its way into the light and blew the bulb and shattering the lense and dislodging a triangle shaped piece which must of been the assuming metallic sounding part which had dropped onto the road. Now the best thing thought to do was not to replace the headlight bulb as the heat would melt a clear plastic cover then blow the new bulb and be satisfied to have a sidelight on that side of the car and not appear to other road users to be a motorcycle so that is what I did.

Fort Augustus here we come to set up our bed for the night within 10 feet of Nessies lair or maybe the Loch anyhow to which I have a particular fondness from last year when I threw two slices of bread into the Loch and in the morning they were gone to which I asked Matthew my eldest grandson who did he think may of eaten them? Nessie of course, or maybe a few of the baby Kelpies.

Putting up an unfamiliar tent in semi-darkness in drizzle at midnight is far from the best of any world but needs must sometimes and this was one of those times. As Oliver Hardy would say to Stan Laurel 'Here's another fine mess you've gottin us into'. You could of guessed after one of those days we were out like the proverbial light.

Well morning had broken and kettle on with a bowl of cereal and time to pack the tent away, load up the car which does become familiar after a day or two. 'Pass me the sheets for the Applecross Run Grace, Please.' just to confirm the 10.00 setting off and low and behold its only blooming 09.00 we are supposed to set off from Drumnadrochit and its now 08.15..........Panic sets in while I'm chucking stuff about and we're ready to zoom along to Drum and I best call Callum to explain we will be there as he may think I didn't make it from the South part of my journey. Answer machine so I hang up and we set off to meet them which considering they're heading South-west down the Loch and we're heading towards them we can take it easy in our minds that we won't loose them altogether in fact seeing a cortege of the group would of been very nice. Well we make it just in time at the gathering spot and start to introduce ourselves and soon it's time to set off whilst others chat more and a few had popped along to a local boot sale. Whilst we are all taking the same route a choice of different stops with sites to see and places to visit means that we are not travelling in a procession which as Callum had told everyone wouldn't of worked and the idea worked a treat.

I think Grace and I were last to leave Drum after chatting quite lengthy with Fred who was very disappointed not to be well enough to travel in either of his specials and as he said 'I'm the sweeper upper'. It's quite nice being last to set off you know as you get to see and hear everyone leave with any locals and tourists waving as these crazy people pass by in their funny cars.

I was looking forward the The Applecross so as to meet new friends and the thought of driving only 100 miles with plenty of places to visit, have a leisurely lunch and even with a drizzly outlook the day was shaping up just fine. Tootling along Grace was by now the official navigator and with the notes from Callum she had an easy ride which was more than can be said for our posteriors by then becoming quite sore. Pembleton seats are very aesthetically pleasing but not necessarily the most comfortable especially when travelling such a long distance.

As we pulled into Eilean Donan Castle or the car park at least some of our group had looked over the place and were adorning their driving garments and after a chat saw them leaving whereas we decided to stay for lunch. On the way to the Visitor Centre a group of motorcycle riders and pillions were allowing children to sit on their BMW R1200LT's and take a photograph so I walked around the back of the bikes so as not to interrupt the photo and noticed the number plate had an I at the front. Since my Pembleton has a BMW powerplant I am interested in the newer BMW multi-valve, fuel injection engine and asked one of the party dressed in leather 'You are Italian?' To which he said, 'Ci, We are Italian and you are having a good holiday? Very good'. 'Oh I admire an Italian called Valentino Rossi the Moto GP rider he is very good' and the guy wrapped his arms around me and gave me a hug then upon release called to his wife or friend for his camera for a photograph of his friends along with his most new one....Me. Photo may need to follow

A writing pad was produced to which he asked for my e-mail address to which I found the one person in the world who gets it..... Ross1theBoss1@Yahoo.co.uk

Wow, they were something to write about as they were in high spirits as were we on our holiday and lunch could only be an anti-climax after that however Scottish salmon as a special on the menu didn't disappoint. We didn't actually visit the Castle but a shot was taken but please not in anger, just a photo.

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Heading to Plockton now and after a little detour, right at first T junction and left at next signposted 'Plockton 6' caught us out and we turned immediately left after the right at the T junction which brought us to a cul-de-sac so we knew we went wrong but we got a inquisitive look from a guy in his garden but had no time to answer the questions so a three point turn was hastened and we were on the correct route again. Through Badicaul, Drumbuie and follow the signs for Plockton went smooth enough apart from showers and a bit of wind but we knew that was coming, shame the weathermen couldn't be wrong when they forecast rain but we weren't going to let that spoil our trip and as we drove down the bank to the sea we had caught up to some of the others who had lunched at Plockton and another chance to find out about some of the other cars in the group. There's a man with a boat doing trips from Plockton who says if you don't see any sealions whilst on his trip you won't have to pay a penny.

Well Grace and I didn't!

No not see any sealions, we didn't take the trip just parked up, had a natter about cars, bought fridge magnets, postcards and some fresh milk as you do. Time to move on again and a fond farewell Plockton as we began to see some familiar surroundings soon after from June this year and last year for me while Pembleing about. We were by now high on good times but were becoming damper on wet times and as the lazy winds were blowing about we were finding it both cold and damp......Boo. {Lazy winds don't go around you-they go right through}

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Turn left after Kishorn with a brown and white sign for 'Applecross' and 'Wester Ross Coastal Trail' means the start of the 'Bealach na Ba' and what a route that was. I was just glad that we weren't returning that way the next day especially when a motorcycle had turned a corner in the middle of the road and locked up his front wheel right in front of me. Hooligan. We missed the gathering point for a group photo by being late apparently but I didn't even see where it was supposed to be. Sorry Callum. On the last 100 yards of the day I made an mis-judgement by turning right with the road instead of leaving the road straight ahead and into 'The Applecross Campsite ' but realized my error as I saw Fred enter the gates so reversed back and dismissed any mistake as I thought the campsite was further along the road but obviously we had made good time somewhere between check points.

Pitch chosen and tent first but the damn midges were having a whale of a time around me so Fred sprayed me but no difference so a lot of arm waving and strolling back and forth. Air bed blown up, bed made, lets escape to the pub was not an excuse but hey was a good idea anyhow. The polly tunnel was becoming busy as we entered but a table was found and Fred had joined us. Food was consumed and beer was smooth enough to enjoy a few whilst the company was very good even when Lesley decided to turn on me but it was all good banter.

Sunday morning was here far too soon and we found ourselves rushing to pack everything away before breakfast but made it or at least we weren't alone in being late. Sorry Callum just in case. LOL.

Since we found ourselves lagging behind yesterday we decided to either reduce site visits or not to indulge in so much steady running while taking in the views but that is impossible in this beautiful part of the world and as usual we were soon turning a corner with another wow.

Duncan had said to take plenty of photographs but after 5000 you still could take more and still not capture the beauty of the landscape. {dinosaur country as I recall someone saying to me and I know just where he was coming from.....WOW}

Well I was so busy looking around and I don't know what Grace was up to that we completely missed Victoria Falls and a suggested meet up at mid-morning. Sorry Callum. We were however first at 'The Old Inn' at Gairloch for lunch because we missed the gathering of the clan. A warm and dry by a real fire, some natter about cars unsurprisingly and eventually I made my mind up to have the Mussels Mariniere for lunch and thoroughly enjoyed it with some home made bread. An announcement was made by Jennie which everyone whole heartedly agreed with that Callum had performed an excellent plan for our tour of 'The Applecross Alpine Adventure'.

WELL DONE that man and once again THANK YOU for your efforts.

But were not finished yet as a trip to a whisky distillery was mentioned which sounded interesting to both the wife and I even if neither of us like the stuff so lets tootle along there then, we decided. Uisge Beatha, meaning water of life.' The Scottish Gaelic and local name for what we know as whisky is brewed like beer, cider or lager which I have done but when you would bottle beer, cider or lager in the second fermenting process thats when distilling differs by steaming off the spirit at 76 degrees and condensing it into essentially moonshine after a further distillation. Keg it up and leave to mature and you have spirit as opposed to brew in a nut shell.

A lot was learnt from a very pleasant trip to the 'Loch Ewe Distillery ' at the Drumchork Lodge Hotel in Aultbea which is officially The Top Whisky Hotel in the World rand sounds like it was a dream of John Clotworthy and wife Frances whom are living that dream along with their two dogs Lucy and Mizzi.

Sounds familiar 'living a dream'.

It was about 16.30 by now and although we had intended to see Corrieshalloch Gorge plans were changed and at the A835 our Applecross Alpine Adventure was over and a heading was set Northward at an easy 50 or so towards Ullapool with the thought of a fish supper as bait to lure us into submission of currency into the fisheries till.

If it is possible, a crack had been overlooked by myself after replacing both front wheel bearings, changing the gearbox and repairing splits in both front mudguards, however that half an inch crack by now was inflicting substantial damage to my right hand side front mudguard as some sort of punishment for travelling along sub-standard roads and I don't mean whilst on the Applecross. All the roads I have travelled on over the last week and a bit have had some deficiency or three and not only the speed humps that by the way, only slow low vehicles down.

So while Grace queued for supper I got two nuts and bolts out to hold the crack together in the up and down plane and changed a blown rear tail light bulb. Supper with a few onlookers is normal with these cars and a family approached with the kids being about 6 or 7 and these two kids seemed so thrilled to see my car I told Dad of myself seeing a British Green Sports Car at the community centre across the field where I grew up and although I never knew what make or model it was because I was so young I was going to have one, one day so he best watch out or his two may be hooked now.

Forever forward and onward with our tummies filled once more we were on our way with waves and an arooga which just tickles me every time. Up that West coast I find myself turning around a bend and wowing again and again and I'm sure Gracie was suffering earache by now with me pointing this way and that as to look at the latest spectacle this landscape delivers over and over and over again. We had been told that the A836 from Lairg to Tongue was a truly magnificent drive with splendid views but the Loch-sides and coastline has me in its grasp forever and we turned left at Sledmore Junction without any guilt of what we may of missed.

Loch Awe, Loch Assynt, Ardvrek Castle or ruins of, Loch Gleneoul, Unapool, Loch Glendhu, Locha Chairn Bhain, Scourie, Loch A Bhadaidh Daraich, Loch Laxford, Loch Na Thull, Loch Inchard, and the Kyle of Durness were all admired and no wonder as we reached Durness about 20.00 and we saw the campsite by the side of the road Grace suggested camping here and I agreed it would be a good idea as we were finally on the North coast with our eyes tiring but not through lack of sleep but worn out by those fantastic views although through damp and misty goggles which I could only hope to describe within this report.

Tent erected and bed inflated, car covered with its green tarp as I still haven’t decided as to fit a tonneau or not but should of by now but its 21.00 and we are off to the pub so tonight Matthew, I don't really care. Top Gear is on the box as we enter and already I'm at home, 'Pint of bitter please and a Tia-Maria with Coke please' any ice Grace? Ha, its always too good to be true and sure enough Top Gear has finished within two minutes and their waiting for the footy and I can't stand bloody football so we move over to the opposite end of the telly end and enjoy a game or two of pool and put a quid in the jukebox to keep the music going and drown the footy sounds out. It sounds like I didn't enjoy the pub but I can't remember what brand of beer it was that was served but I would normally have 2 or 3 as a rule but it went down so well that I had either 4 or 5.

Greedy bugger.

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Next morning and I stroll over to the site office to pay our dues while Grace heads off to the shower block and I get asked for my registration and the guys say they were just talking about the car and sympathised with us over travelling in such a lovely car but in such unfortunately poor weather conditions but what can you do but make the most of it so fees paid and I return to the tent and wait for my turn to visit a shower which was lovely and warm just what a doctor would order. All packed up, fuel topped up and off to John O's today but a special tickle for me is Bettyhill or rather just Eastward of Bettyhill as I seemed to have misplaced it. {Sorry, Raymond and Catherine} you must of thought where is this Bettyhill he's talking about because we've lived their for ________ years and don't know where he's on about. } Well I was travelling last year by Bettyhill well actually Eastward and I could remember turning a right hand bend, climbing up a bank and there was a low wall on my left hand side with a phone box in the middle of nowhere apart from a track running up the side of this wall towards someones home and it tickled me and as I was due to call home I pulled over to give the family an update of my trip. Somehow I had remembered it at Bettyhill. Sometimes I find the most unusual things amusing which others just don’t seem to get it.

By now and for a while certainly since our 70 mph blast in driving hell or was it rain and the beginning of 'The Applecross' by covering so many miles I had assumed that if anything was going to fall off the car it would of by now but a person had best be careful about what he or she thinks.......

Another thing that never ceases to suprise me is how a mountainous region like Scotland can have such beautiful golden beaches and bays hidden around a nook every now and again which just blow you away even on our damp and drizzly days and there are a few. Beaches and bays I mean, unfortunately a few damp and drizzly days as well.

Through Thurso and I begin to think 'Oh, we're nearly finished, oh, we're nearly done!'

A sadness falls over me even though we've had some wind and rain I wasn't prepared for the end myself and I was just beginning to enjoy myself {had away an shite, I was lovin every minute apart from the torrential rainy bits and that drop over the side of the Bealach Na Bla when I took a look.}

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An old reminder of a place we we're now very close to by the name of 'Dunnet' perked me up as I remember unusual names from last year such as Doll, Street, Bettyhill, and Dunnet which are all names of places and a photograph has to be taken to prove to all and sundry that I DUNNET.

With my wife, Grace tagging along with me how much more could I ask for apart from some sunshine please or even brightness and dry would do. A lotto win and good health for a million years would see us alright.

Turn left and down the road to John O' Groats at 1600 on Monday 17th and I knew of a large poster on the quayside # of a certain post stating distances to the Orkney Islands, Sydney, New York and Lands End.

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So I reversed my car down the slope towards the dock to line up for my FREE photo and Grace dutifully takes it I suppose to save her from having to be in it when I say to her 'I best move the car out of the way so as not to get in anyone's way' and a guy dressed similar to a fisherman says that I'm not in anyones way and that he would prefer me to stay put and indeed insisted that I stay there so we can talk about the car and he only turns out to be the Harbour Master so how could I object. We chatted a while then I moved the car to a more suitable position where more people were drawn by the sound of the engine being fired up and I dodged into the gift shops to get my trophy.

I wish it had been a pint but no my End to End fridge magnet to fix to my cars' dashboard as a momento of our quest. Well we already had an End to End fridge magnet funnily enough on our fridge door which I had in mind but the shop was without these special ones so a deal was struck with our lass as to I have the End to End one and I bought her a John O' Groats pebble type.

Leaving John O's as I have mentioned ended our holiday and my personal challenge had been fulfilled but I wasn't ready for home just yet and since Fort Augustus is so special to me we headed South to Inverness and down the Loch but by now Grace likes campsites and not my rough and ready approach to camping anywhere you can for free but it has to be scenic, historic or just nice, so a new campsite is open for its' first year just around the corner from where we want to be and with £6.00 each our fees were paid for one night, with a site picnic bench beside a BMW combination and an accompanying BMW bike the other side of the picnic bench had waited all day for us, so we obliged by camping there. A few midgies were around us so we hastily put up the tent, the airbed was inflated and bed made, surely we're semi-pro's by now and We drove around to the dockside, walked up and down to look at the boats moored up for the night but returned soon as it was nearly 21.00 and we were too tired to fight off those damn midgies.

In the morning it was quite bright and dry. HOORAY.

But those damn midgies are still around and bloody hell did they get on your nerves but wait until later when the bumps start to come up like stinging nettles you look like you have the chicken pox and I'm still scratching now a week later at the thought.

A look at the map was a waste of time really that morning as unless you return to Inverness which was never going to happen you have to head to Fort William but Grace was supposed to be back at work on Monday and it was already Tuesday morning and a long way from home with me reluctant to ever return. Well Grace had asked our youngest daughter, Amanda, to cover for her delivering the 'meals-on-wheels' but she couldn't cover on Wednesday due to prior appointments so we had one day left and since I was due back to work on Thursday both day and night job and my wallet had only £60 in reality struck home with a harsh blow.

I refuse to return to Inverness and travel 70 mph homeward on the A9 like we had to on our way here when such spectacles of wonder and magnificence are over on the West coast beyond Fort William and with fish and chips that melt in your mouth from Oban we were on our way singing 'She'll be coming round the mountain when she comes' which is a favourite of Matty's along with Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang and a few more.

Anyone who has never seen the West coast of Scotland and taken in Inveraray, Oban, Fort William and Fort Augustus to mention the very least will never forgive themselves for not visiting sooner and if you have the time do all of Scotland I would recommend travelling in a clockwise direction as this I found the best and the next time I will have time to journey through Applecross and the Bealach na Bla and those other minor routes with their hidden sights waiting for my eyes to behold and store forever or at least until the time after as I'm sure you've not seen the last of me you BONNY SCOTLAND!

Oban chippy or restaurant as it says above the door had a half lobster on it's special board which was my choice of my Tuesday lunch while Gracie opted for a small supper and it was absolutely devine like all the seafood I had eaten whilst here and about but time stands still for no man I once heard Rab. C. Nesbitt say and we were feeling the sands slipping through our fingers so our journey once again was to take us nearing home every spin of the wheel.

The A816, Oban became the A83 at Lochgilphead, through Inveraray, the sheer enormisity of Glen Croe that is best seen as you drive up the mountainside then 'Rest and be Thankful' even just to attempt to focus on a single pine tree I dare you to try. We however were travelling in an anti-clockwise direction but never the less and it's my third time I still can't believe my eyes. Turn right at Tarbet and the A82 returns beneath us taking us into Glasgow but not over the Erskine Bridge today but towards the M8 and a very wet M74 more off fallen rain than actual raining rain. Wrong type maybe but we still got drawked and it was very un-nerving but the M74 became the A74M past Moffat then Lockerbie and as we pass Gretna Green then Gretna we enter England and on to Carlisle to which we top up the fuel and change direction towards Hexham and Newcastle beyond with the A1 taking us to our A19 and not much further to home. The car unloaded in the fashion of 'Its all out isn't it' but dumped on the couch, the floor and who cares where else so longs as it's in the house. Right open the container and put the car to bed with a little thank you pet. You done good. A message or two to announce our safe return and I had forgot to read the mileage so that had to wait until the morning when after topping up with oil I took the 'silver bullet' for a spin and delivered Gracie's 'meals-on-wheels' for her just to prove she was in ship shape. {That's not a Topher joke by the way}

My mileage for the whole trip is astronomical considering the end to end is 874 or 876 depending on who you believe but as I considered making the end to end alone I soon realized that I would need to travel twice that distance at least to carry it out once, then taking in to consideration a jaunt to see what Wales was about and the pleasurable journey homeward I won't complain as there's no point at travelling 2599.8 miles in total but wish I had gone around the block and that it had not cost so much in fuel mostly due to 70mph travelling to make up time and that Callum had sorted some better weather as he promised but hey that all falls into insignificance as my Gracie came along for the ride and we didn't have to spend our 24th wedding anniversary apart.

Thank you to everyone who made our trip possible and as enjoyable as it was either Applecrossers or total strangers, Phil, Duncan, Callum and especially Gracie.

Love You.

Andrew

PS. And at a word average of only 0.326361 per mile I think I may stay at home in the future as the hardest part of the journey has been the writing up of it never mind the cost of fuel but I forgot to log some along the way so I could only estimate so I won't.


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