63 // Beautiful & Rugged

The best of plans come from adventurous thinking. Seeing as I’m doing my 30 before 30, I asked a friend if there was anything they’d like to do before they turned 30 themselves. This friend is Dan, and he’s one of my closest pals. His response: Drive through the Highlands… Next, picture the scene: I’m sitting at home on my sofa, it’s 2am, I have a voucher from Christmas for Canopy & Stars that needs using before the end of the year. I come across a listing for The Ferry Waiting Room – a former waiting room converted into a sleeping area with a little cabin for cooking. It sleeps four, dogs are welcome. It has a brilliant view, and is in the Highlands. An idea starts to form.

I ask Dan. He’s in. I ask Mikee. He’s in. Dan asks me to ask his wife Nicola, because it’ll be ‘less crazy’ coming from me. I ask her. She’s in. And where me and Mikee go, so goes Piggy. The stars aligned timing wise, so we made a rough plan and we booked for 3 nights. He would achieve his goal just days before his birthday.

Along comes the 7th of Sept. All of us make our individual ways to Sussex. On the 8th I have my grandads 92nd birthday & they have a wedding to attend. 9pm rolls around and Dan & Nicola show up at my mums and our adventure begins – a 3 hour journey to Birmingham by car which goes much faster than the 2 hour journey’s to London in my mums car.

On the 9th we make our way from Birmingham to our destination – Monachyle Mhor on Loch Voil. It takes us 7hours, we make two stops, and play the question game. I discover lots of things about my lovely friends. The drive gets more and more lovely the further north we get. We check in, and the lady in reception shows us where our bathroom is, leads us though the woods in heavy rain to our weird little cabin, gives us the keys and bids us goodbye.

We have arrived.

We spend the evening with the boys making multiple fires and since the Hotel had a dinner Michelin Star menu costing £65 per person (I’m sure it’s worth it but we’re not loaded) we ate our car snacks – a feast of crisps, bbq fired camembert, bread, babybels and chocolate biscuits. I had a stonking cold, and we were all pretty tired from the journey so we all went to sleep after each having a creepy journey walk the pitch black woods to go and use the bathroom in the hotel. At least it wasn’t an outhouse ha.

With two full days to fill, Dan had the best knowledge and ideas and so we followed his lead. On day one we went to Mhor Bread in Callander, just missing breakfast but everyone got to try pies and I had a tasty soup. And then we decided to drive to Loch Lomond and go on a ferry ride. The ferry was very informative. Loch Lomond is the largest inland stretch of water in Great Britain, I believe they said there used to be an illegal whisky making operation on one of the islands in the loch. We spotted an Osprey nest as we went around and they also have wallaby’s living on one of the islands.

We drove back, trying to find a place to pick up ingredients to make soup. We found a tiny Londis, the only shop for miles around – we picked up potatoes, onion, mushrooms, broccoli, cream cheese, garlic, carrot and stock and somehow Mikee managed to cook us the best possible meal from our Londis which we paired with an awesome cheese and jalapeno sourdough loaf which we managed to cook on the log burner in our little kitchen.

I had ordered Dan a cake to celebrate the last few days of his 20’s and sort of have an early celebration of his birthday, and I picked it up from the hotel and it was one of the best cakes I’ve ever had. A chocolate orange cake with candied orange, chocolate crumb and crushed pistachio on top. The look on his face when I gave it to him was the best.

We decided to head to the hotels living room for some comfort, in our pyjamas so we could easily get ready for bed, and watched Stranger Than Fiction – hogging the room to ourselves.

The second day we had some promising weather in the morning so after breakfast of leftover soup we decided to drive to Glen Coe, an hour and a half away further up into the Highlands. The mountains started getting bigger and as we got further north the weather started changing, in some spots there was lovely fluffy clouds and then was had misty drizzly rain, and the mountains started appearing out of nothing as we kept on driving. The landscapes were stunning. We stopped at The Boots Bar on the A82 and everyone enjoyed a good lunch. One of the barmaids gave us some tips – told us to avoid Fort William, recommended Oban, and told us if we had to chance to drive up to Morar to see the Silver Sands where there’s a white beach and turquoise water, and to go further up the road even though she said it was a bit of a hair raising drive.

As the weather was a bit pants and the drive to and from places would already be pretty long, we decided to go to Oban. Nicola and I bought some lovely bubble bath from the Highland Soap Company (the honeysuckle smells delightful). And we stopped briefly in the Distillery but left as they weren’t dog friendly. I picked up some violet gin from a bottle shop, the guys grabbed fish and chips and we made a booking for dinner at Mhor 84 which was just down the road from where we were staying. It’s owned by the same family as Monachyle Mhor but much more affordable. After a long drive back we all had a brilliant dinner there, then it was rather late and so the beds were calling.

In the morning we all packed up, got ready and checked out. We made friends with some of the resident dogs – Rose, Betty and a black lab. They all followed us across a field where we went to take pictures before we left. With Rose photobombing a lot of our pictures. After dancing like a bunch of idiots because I wanted to make a silly travel video (above) we went and got breakfast (from Mhor84 again) and it was really good. The environment there was really nice as well so it was nice to go back. It was Dan’s actual birthday the day we drove back, so it was a good way to welcome in the new decade. And Nicola drove us all the way back to Birmingham while Dan and Piggy slept in the back of the car. And with that, our Rugged & Beautiful adventure ended, I’ll be going back with my mum.

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