Day 3 part one Blairgowrie to Inverness
Even though my mattress deflated during the night, I still had a far more comfortable time than the previous night when I ‘slept’ in the car. Scotland is a bit excessive in its use of street lamps (possibly because they have to use up all the green electricity that is produced), so I kept waking up thinking it was dawn as it was so bright.
However, eventually it was definitely getting light enough to see what I was doing, so I packed up my bedding and the tent, all wet with dew, and set out into a clear, cold morning.
The great challenge, or so I thought, was going to be climbing the Glenshee Pass over the Cairngorms. The countryside got hillier and more beautiful, and the sun shone brightly, but it was very cold.
On the way south, I had managed to loose my hat under the seat in Lizzie and Erik’s car, so Lizzie lent me her beanie at the last moment when I set out. It was now very welcome, along with my buff and my driving gloves.
As I got into the pass proper, the sun was cut off by the steep hills to either side of the pass. Cars passed me, but only once did I need to pull over to let someone past. The car ground on, and eventually I was down into second gear, but my speed (about 20mph) held steady on half throttle and there was nobody behind me, so I plodded on.
The temperature gauge dropped from its usual reading of 100 to about 75, which surprised me. I thought at the time that it was because it was so cold, but then the electric fan came on. The thermostat for the fan is in the bottom radiator hose, but the gauge thermostat is in the block, and there is no water pump. The system relies on the hot water rising into the top of the radiator
. I think what had happened was that the angle of the car on the hill made circulation more efficient.
After a short break at the top of the pass, where there are chairlifts and fenced off ski slopes, I started the decent, which was quite gentle. The scenery was beautiful and the weather was perfect, if still cold.
I went past the gates of Balmoral, but only realised afterwards what they were, as they’re very understated.
I had thought that Glenshee pass would be the great challenge, but there were several long, steep hills to negotiate. I came to a right angle bend with a sign saying, “Hill 20% engage low gear now”, and assumed it meant downhill, so I approached the corner slowly in fourth (I haven’t met the downhill yet where the car ran away from me in fourth) to be confronted with a steep uphill climb. I probably couldn’t have taken the corner much faster if I’d known, but probably would have taken it in third.
I think the 20% was an average, as parts were not too bad, but parts were really steep. Near the top I came to a section that seemed to be almost vertical. I was losing revs in second, so had no alternative but to try and get into first, which has no synchromesh.
As soon as I tried to double de-clutch I started rolling backwards. The hand brake and foot brake combined wouldn’t hold the car, so I had to ram it into first. With a nasty crunch, I managed to engage first and crawled over the summit. As always seems to happen, the camera wasn’t rolling for this drama!
I managed to film another very steep hill later, but the camera flattens things out and you get no real idea of what it’s like.
Having negotiated the Cairngorms, I headed by B roads towards Inverness. I passed through Cawdor, as mentioned by Shakespeare in ‘The Scottish Play’ – “Hail Macbeth, Thane of Cawdor!” It seemed a pleasant, sleepy village. Then I came to Culloden Battlefield. I stopped in the entrance car park, and looked round the corner into the main car park, which seemed quite full.
The B road took me under the A9 into the outskirts of Inverness, so I pulled over and entered my next destination beyond Inverness in the satnav to guide me onto the A9 and over the bridge. This went quite well. Most of the bridge crossing is in a 50mph limit, so I wasn’t horribly slower than the rest of the traffic.
Soon after the bridge is a car park with facilities, so I pulled in next to a modern Jaguar convertible. The owners came over and we had a chat. As I pulled away to continue my journey, I saw they were lowering the hood of their car.
Modern convertible owners remind me of sailing yacht owners, who cruise with the engine even with a favourable breeze, as it’s too much bother putting the sails up. Seeing me seemed to remind this couple why they bought a convertible.
They passed me a bit later on the dual carriageway, waving gaily, and turned off for Cromarty