Two Broke Girls: The Roadtrip: Part Two
Following a surprisingly good night’s sleep in the village of Contin, Georgina and I rose at 8:45 to begin our official 500 miles.
We made packing the damp tent into the car look difficult, and decided not to waste any time contemplating the fraying order of the never-quite-organised boot before setting off. Our first stop was Gairloch, where sheep could be seen meandering along the verges and in the village’s front gardens. We stopped for a picturesque but trashy lunch of Spam sandwiches.
Listening to patchy bursts of Radio 2, more Radio Gael than we wanted, and the limited list of songs on Georgina’s phone, we watched the wind flick across the water, and speculated as to what kind of masochist you would have to be to bring children on a camping holiday.
The road from then on became a single track dotted with passing spots, and as drizzle thickened into a monsoon we fell to an uneasy discussion of how to put up the tent if the weather continued. Outside the window the wind buffeted its way between the rocks and through the heather, almost bullying as it lashed at the glass and came howling through the air vents.
‘Maybe we should keep going,’ Georgina said, as we passed the windswept shell of a village called Laire.
With its wealth of crafty woollen shops and Tesco (where I bought the second lighter of the trip, having left the first in Glasgow), Ullapool was civilised enough to shed any idea of the wilderness, and we made the most of it by buying some cans to take back to the tent. We found the car rolling across the car park thanks to the dodgy handbrake, and after spending an entire evening nattering and generally condemning all the other campers to our private derision, we agreed that there was something to be said for this camping malarkey, after all.
On the third day of our grand tour, we meandered up through a ramshackle craft village by Dunster, where a series of temporary buildings painted in gaudy colours sold beads, woollens, and overpriced ornaments hewn from sea glass. We passed through settlements, unchanged since the 1900s, and a church with a billboard outside reading ‘sin is eternal death.’
We decided not to linger.
We glided along the north coast to Scrabster, which appeared to be a low point of human enterprise in the western world. Despite romantic notions, we found Scrabster, with its ferry link to the Orkney Isles, to be a pit, and we hurried out through Thurso, which smelt like rotten eggs, and had only one saving grace: Lidl.
Reaching John-O-Groats by dusk, we threw the tent together, and drove twenty-three miles in a frustrated bid for an ATM. We found one, and a ‘Spoons, in the scarecrow-infested town of Wick.
As we drove back to the campsite in the dark, Georgina assured me that driving was all very well. However, slogging twenty-three miles in the dark, watching moths splatter on the windscreen, and foxes run away from the headlights, knowing that all that awaits you is a small, damp square in a damp, windy field in the middle of nowhere, is no picnic.
Listening to Luther Vandross’ ‘Dance With My Father’ for the seventeenth time, I had to agree that perhaps, just this once, our total lack of planning had come to bite us. However, it was then that Georgina found the mysteriously absent CD player in the roof of the glovebox, and we ended our night in a fit of laughter at our own hopelessness.
Lulled to sleep by the hushing sea, the bleating sheep, and the rustling of rabbits in the grass outside the tent, we woke to our final day on the road. After a quick visit to the world’s most depressing shower block, we headed back down to Wick, where Georgina and I spent the better part of an hour looking for the most disappointing ‘castle’ in all of Scotland. It was a brick pillar, and inaccessible, thanks to a wealth of barbed wire.
She turned back, I followed with a shoe full of mud, and we headed on until we reached Dunrobin Castle, and had an extremely stressful experience when our car wound up an inch from the rear of an immaculate blue-grey Jaguar (absolutely nothing to do with Georgina’s parking skills, of course). We spread a map over the windscreen and hid until the Jaguar pulled away.
Past farms on the industrial east coast, and through anonymous villages on the edge of decay, our adventure wound back into Contin. Almost crying with longing for our forsaken beds, we set up our tent for the final time, laughing at our folly, and we marvelled at the memories behind us.
Editor: Joel Emmons