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Lochs and Glens - March 2011
By Jeanette Lemmon

Day One

We were up at 3:30 a.m. to do our last minute things before getting to the pick-up point, 5 minutes from our home, at 4:45 a.m. My husband had our spring tulips wrapped in soggy paper towelling and foil so we would have flowers in our room. We have a collapsible vase we take with us when travelling! Each person is allowed one medium-sized bag for the tour, weighing no more than 20 kg (44 lbs.), to be stored beneath the coach. Of course, I had a large purse and my husband had a medium backpack on the coach. Along the way you will add items as you purchase gifts and goodies for yourself. There is ample storage in the racks above the seats for a reasonable amount of “things.”

The feeder coach driver, Jeff, picked us up here in Eastbourne then went on to Bexhill-on-Sea and Hastings for more pickups. We then joined the A21 and made our way to the M25 over the River Thames and eventually to the road to Cambridge, where we stopped in the service area to pick up our driver, Kevin, and to have a comfort break. We passed through flat Lincolnshire and on to the Yorkshire Moors on our trip north with a lunch break at the Wetherby Services, then had a brief stop in Scotch Corner to pick up Bob, a driver who was learning the route of our tour. The A66, with the Pennines on our left, is the east/west route across the country to the northbound M6 and Carlisle then on into Scotland. We passed Lockerbie, where the infamous air crash took place, and continued on to the Moffatt Woolen Mill for a comfort and shopping stop. There were some good sales in the mill, but Jim, who goes to woollen mills all the time on his own tours, wanted me to walk into the town to see the grave of Robert McAdam, who invented tarmac (blacktop). Also, he had to go into the sweet shop to buy some Turkish Delight with pistachios. It was really good!

On up the road we went, with a quick stop for fuel. On the roundabout, I saw a sign for Crawfordjohn. Crawfordjohn Castle was built for Elizabeth Carmichael, mistress of James V. She bore him a son, John, who was half-brother to Mary Queen of Scots. He was sent to France with her as a child, along with another half brother, James. He later served in her government and was sent to the highlands to quell the witchcraft being practiced there. He was murdered on that assignment. We passed the turnoff for Lanark, which is near the Carmichael estate – part of my family history – and Larkhall, where Jim was born, just 15 miles from Carmichael. His grandfather, John McLeod, was well-known in Scotland as the drum major of the Argyll and Southern Highlanders. He led the bands of the Combined Scottish Regiments at Aldershot in 1940 where he met King George VI of “The King’s Speech” and Queen Elizabeth, later known as the Queen Mother, being mother of Elizabeth II.

We had some road construction as we curved east of Glasgow toward Aberfoyle, but Kevin handed it skilfully. He told us the lowlands of Scotland came from the European continent. There is a geological fault line between the lowlands and the highlands. The highlands are cut off from the lowlands by lochs and rivers, and the highland rocks and soil are like those in North America, so were pushed up against lowland Scotland during the Ice Age.

As we left Aberfoyle, we began an adventurous trip on what Kevin called The Motorway. The road was very narrow and full of potholes – Scotland gives away many free things such as a university education and prescriptions, and they build lovely blacktopped cycle paths, so there isn’t a lot of money left to repair potholes! Grrrr! We passed a house that was used as the home of the spy in one version of the movie “The 39 Steps,” and drove along the edge of a loch as the darkness settled around us. When a car came toward us, the tree branches scraped and clicked against the coach windows. Just before we reached the hotel, we passed a place where Roy Rob McGregor used to have a home. He was portrayed as a romantic Robin Hood figure by Sir Walter Scott, but he was really only a cattle thief. Rob Roy’s cave is nearby where he hid out from the Duke of Montrose, head of the Graham clan.

We arrived at the Inversnaid Hotel on the banks of Loch Lomond, snow-capped mountains visible across the lake by the light of the full moon. An employee of the hotel came on the coach to welcome us and we were given a slip of paper with our room number on it. The key to our room was in the door when we reached it. Our room looked out across the loch and was very clean and pleasant. Our bags were delivered to our door in a short time. We were the last coach to arrive, the farthest to travel, four coaches in all at the hotel with pickups in other parts of England, so were the last in to dinner at 8:30 p.m. There were 4-5 choices for a starter, 4-5 for a main, and 3-4 for dessert. I chose soup for a starter, pork roast for the main, and chocolate mousse for dessert. After dinner we moved into the function room for entertainment and dancing, the man playing the keyboard and singing, doing a mixture of 50s and 60s songs for those of us who grew up in that era and wanted to rock, and 30s and 40s songs for those a bit older, who knew all of the ballroom dance steps. We went to bed and slept soundly.

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