Friday 23 March 2018

A Trip South

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have friends and family in the south of England. I try to get away from Skye at least three times a year to visit them all - though it can be quite a challenge to find a slot when I can take time away and everyone is available to visit. I always drive south - enjoying the drive in my lovely Jaguar...

I had beautiful weather for the first day,
driving through the stunning scenery of the Highlands on mostly deserted roads
However - things didn't quite all go to plan this time. I managed to get to my sister's on the edge of Dartmoor on Saturday 17th, this being the birthday of my niece Hilary, so all the family were in attendance - which was lovely.

Then - who would ever imagine that I would get snowed-in in Torquay - a place where palm trees grow in every garden, and that prides itself on its Mediterranean climate? But, oh boy, did it snow...! All day on the Sunday (my birthday - the 18th), the white stuff fell and fell.

Falling snow blots out the view from Val's flat
There was no getting Puss off that drive!
Torquay is hilly - these were the local roads on Monday
There was even more snow overnight, so Monday it was quite clear I was not going to follow my plan to drive on to Southampton to see friends there. I spent a couple of hours of hard labour clearing the driveway and about eight inches of snow off Puss, in the hope that the roads would be OK to use on Tuesday.

I knew she was under there somewhere...!
Now - my planned itinerary had been to drive on from Southampton to Paisley, near Glasgow, where I was booked for a visit to a Jaguar specialist garage for Puss to have her annual pampering and MoT test. Since I was still in Torquay, I decided the almost 500 miles from there to Paisley was too much to tackle in one day, so I hastily found some ovenight accommodation in Warrington. On Tuesday, I had a trouble-free and snow-free (at least on the roads) drive up to there.

It is worth a mention here that I used Airbnb to find accommodation. Bed and Breakfasts seem to have become very expensive, as are the Travelodge-type motels when booking at short-notice, but through Airbnb, I have been able to find very acceptable self-catering accommodation at a much more reasonable rate.

I drove on to Paisley on Wednesday, where I had booked another self-catering apartment for two nights (through Airbnb) to use as a base while the car was at the garage. At around 200 miles from Warrington to Paisley, this was not an all-day drive, so as I approached the Lake District, I decided to take a chance on calling un-announced on our friends, Ian and Andrea, who moved from Skye to a village near Penrith a couple of months ago. Luckily, they were home, so I had a lovely break in my journey chatting with them and seeing their lovely new (old) home.

Ian and Andrea at their characterful Cumbrian cottage
I spent the day in Paisley - without a car - so wandered about the town a good deal. In common with many once-industrial towns in the UK - it is a town of stark contrasts. There is a modern and smart traffic-free High Street filled with glossy shops, and there are a number of fine historic buildings. I also found a lovely park featuring a fascinating and unique cast iron fountain. But stray into the back-streets (only a stone's throw from the High Street) and much decay and dereliction is all too evident. Empty shops are everywhere, and the streets are not being maintained or cleaned. Wander further from the slick centre of the town, and many tired-looking aged industrial buildings stand alongside more modern units, most of them no doubt providing local employment and essential services.

Grand Central Fountain, Fountain Gardens
The fountain features dolphins, herons, cherubs and four life-size walruses
Former Post Office, now Wetherspoons pub/restaurant
Sheriff Court, St James Street
Back Sneddon Street - just a short walk from the above
Former warehouses of the major Scottish grocery chain - Galbraith Stores Ltd,
Currently disused
Today - Friday - I have driven home from Paisley. For much of the journey, I had the wipers keeping the rain off the screen. But there was little traffic, so I enjoyed giving Puss a stretch of her wheels - she is definitely a Highland cat! As I crossed the Skye bridge, a miracle occurred - blue patches appeared between the grey of the sky, and by the time I approached Roskhill, the sun was shining brightly.

It's good to be home!

Back in her natural Highlands habitat...
Loch Linnhe, near Fort William