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Travel Diary - I am 35 years old, live in the UK and this week am on holiday in Scotland driving the North Coast 500 with my dog
Day 1 - Saturday
6.30am -Eeek it’s here... I wake up and bring coffee upstairs to bed with the dog M for a last cuddle. I’m going to really miss my husband D but I do understand him not wanting to close his business again so soon after being closed for 3 months due to Covid. It might seem odd me holidaying on my own but we are very happily married - honest.
8am - I start getting my stuff together. I’m not a big fan of breakfast early on after waking up, but I have a long way to go today so I grab a muffin.I get myself ready, then get D to walk with me to the park, so that M can be thoroughly emptied and he gets a good run around. He’s not over pleased with his new car harness (he usually travels in D’s car with a dog guard) but I strap him in and off we set. 334 miles to go...
9am - I blast some tunes and M goes straight to sleep, and I push through until Gretna Green which takes just under 2 hours. I’ve often driven past here, but never stopped, but I need a wee and think it’s time to let M out too. We have a quick walk through around the visitor centre complex.
11.30am - I then hop back in the car, and my next stop is the Starbucks at the services. I had made myself a packed lunch but I annoyingly left it in the fridge and so I pick up a tuna melt and an iced coffee from some credit on my app. I’m breezing along at this point, the scenery looks stunning and I can’t understand why the sat nav is saying it’s going to take so long to arrive. I make a quick stop at a lay-by just to see if M wants a wee or a drink. Then I hit the outskirts of Perth... What should be the last hour takes 2, in fact it takes 30 minutes to drive a mile. I’m absolutely exhausted by this point and M is telling me he’s understandably fed up. We start moving again and I’m so tired it’s getting dangerous, and I notice that some of the lay-bys have access to a lovely riverside path, so I stop. I put M on his lead and we just do a 10 minute walk, which makes both of us feel better. Then the last 30 minutes through the most stunning scenery, and we’re here. Kingussie in the Cairngorms. I check in, this was one of the cheapest hotels and it’s great, they upgraded me to en-suite which was super kind, and the room is great albeit very hot.
4.30pm - I dump my bags and head straight out with M. I find a couple of places to let him off, then a lovely river for him to cool off as he’s super warm. Then to the hotel bar for a well deserved cold pint £4. The staff and (fairly well lubricated for 5pm) locals are so unbelievably friendly, couldn’t have picked a better place to stay. I shower as I’m dripping, get changed into something cooler, which I sweat in immediately as the room is boiling, then we walk out to where I have booked for dinner - the tipsy laird. The staff again are super friendly, and I order a cider, and the Tipsy burger with cheese. Everyone loved M and he was brought water straight away, but the only problem was that the table I was given was on the through flow to the toilets/kitchen so he was up and down like a yo yo saying hi to everyone, and I didn’t get the most relaxed meal. The burger comes though and it’s massive! Big feed for £12. I decide to leave after this, we’re parked in the middle of the through flow really, and it’s not super restful for either of us, so I pay the bill £15.65 and walk back the same way as earlier Max can have a run around and I phone D for a quick chat.
8.00pm - I head back to my hotel and buy a bottle of wine. £15.50 that I drink a glass of in the bar, a glass in bed, and pack the rest for another night. I watch a bit of tv on my iPad, and have an early night as we have an adventure tomorrow...
Miles travelled - 334 Hotel - £55 Amount spent - £55.64 including a half tank of petrol the night before
Day 2 - Sunday
7.00am- I had set an alarm this morning, as I have a bit to do, and I want to pre-empt any wee needs as we are 2 floors up in the hotel. He’s also had loads of water as it’s boiling. I didn’t get the best night sleep unfortunately which is a shame as the bed is amazingly comfortable. The room was unfortunately just super hot, nothing they could do as it’s been a heat wave. I’ve also never stayed away with M before except with family and he was hot and unsettled. So I had the window open, but all the young lads from Kingussie unfortunately decided to congregate under our window, playing their music from the car speakers making him quite understandably stressed. So I throw on last nights clothes and we go for a quick walk, then I come back up and shower, make coffee and pack the million things I seem to have brought up to the room. Not easy to travel light with a dog. I would have liked to have had breakfast here, but the hotel and both coffee shops in the village don’t open until 9, and I need to be on the road. So I just eat a muesli bar from the car and we head off towards Aviemore. Unfortunately my car sat nav gets me hugely lost, and keeps trying to send me down down gravel tracks to get on the A9 which surprise surprise don’t lead me onto a massive dual carriageway... I end up back tracking all the way I came as I had no phone signal to double check. Turns out I should have just carried on a few more miles. Puts me a bit behind schedule.
9.30am - I park the car at the air bnb that I booked, quickly pack a day rucksack and we frog-march down to the train station, as today, we’re going on a steam train. M’s first time on a train. I collect the tickets (£16.25 + £1 for M) and find our table. They have sold only half of the tables for social distancing and it’s really well organised. We choo choo off. It’s very picturesque, but mostly fields etc but still a worthwhile little outing. M isn’t quite as interested and goes to sleep. We get out at the first stop as I want to split my ticket, so I get a reservation for the later train back. They sort this for me (again everyone is super friendly) so I jump back on again. At the terminus I get out again for some photos and a leg stretch.
12.00pm - Back at the Boat Of Garten stop we gather our things and get off, as we have a reservation at the Boat inn for lunch. I order a pint of cider, and a sandwich and chips. We just hang out here for a while, well ages really as our train back isn’t until 3.30pm, unfortunately the middle train of the day got cancelled with Covid. About half way through I get a bit peckish again and order a sticky toffee pud and a glass of rose. I pay the bill which comes to £36.25. It’s coming up for our return train time so we wander back to the station, and not long after the train arrives.
3.30pm - We board and chug our noisy way back to Aviemore station, where I have a quick wee and then we walk the 30 mins back up to our air bnb to check in. I booked a tiny house just outside of Aviemore, and it’s ideal.. The lady who owns and runs it (it’s in her garden) has broken her elbow, but her Mum is there looking after her and they both show me around and make a fuss of M. I have a quick shower, and we both just chill out for a bit as we are exhausted. I decide not to go out tonight. It’s been a long couple of days, so I think fish and chips, a glass of wine and Netflix is on the cards. As I’m just about to head out the owner lets her dog in the garden and they have a fab 20 min play whilst I chat to Karen who is truly lovely.
7pm - I nip to the Co-op where I pick up a bottle of wine, and a pack of hot cross buns and some utterly butterly for the next 2 mornings breakfasts which costs £9.30, and then I order Haddock and chips for me, and a sausage for Max, £11.05. I head back to the cabin, get in my PJ’s, and just have a lovely chill. The cabin is amazing as night time wee’s can be achieved by just opening the door into the garden, shame I’m only here 2 nights. Write my trippie, and sleep like the dead.
Miles travelled in a car - should have been 15 but was actually more like 30 Miles travelled on a train - 20 Accommodation - £75 Amount spent - £73.95
Day 3 - Monday
6.00am - I wake up early so I nip to the toilet and then am just able to open the cabin door to the garden, and M can sort himself out which is just so easy. I take my medication then we both get back into (our separate) beds for a bit and fall back asleep. I wake up at about 8.30am to a snoring dog. I pop the kettle on, make myself a coffee then toast 2 hot cross buns for breakfast, setting off the smoke alarm in the process. Both fully breakfasted I pack a bag, load the car and we’re off to Loch Morlich.
10am - I find the right car park after a couple of bodged attempts, and scrape together the £1.50 car parking charge. I get a leaflet with a map (just worth pointing out I’m fair terrible with maps) and set off towards the beach. Well Mr water baby practically drags me in when he sees the loch. After a couple of false starts, me going the wrong way, then me following the wrong colour signs, and a brief occasion where M may have decided to join some kayakers, we get on the right trail, we are going to walk all the way round the Loch, about 6km. It’s quite warm, and very midgey but stunningly beautiful and we don’t see anyone for the first half until we start to come across people who are doing shorter walks from the other way. Towards the end we cross a bridge and I lose my path altogether, I know I’m not right but I am right next to the loch and can see where I need to go, so I just clip him on the lead and we follow the road. Later on I see where I need to be; the path is elevated on the other side of the road, but I decide scrambling up verges next to busy roads isn’t overly sensible. We make it back to the beach, let the boy have one last swim, then head back to the car where much towelling is done, as well as a bit of pre lunch damage control with wet wipes and a clean t-shirt for me.
12.30pm -Our lunch stop is the Old Bridge Inn, and so I park up and we wander in. It’s a beautiful old pub, and it’s Monday today and the UK govt eat out to help out scheme and so it’s 50% off. I order a cheese board which comes and is absolutely fab (but why do they never give you enough crackers) and a pint of cider. I have a little nose popping up to see if there is any cheese going spare. I eventually catch someone’s eye and ordered a piece of cheesecake. This comes with sorbet which makes me really happy as I love sorbet (and can’t eat ice cream). I get the bill which comes to a mere £11.90. This Eat out to help out is really going to help me stay within budget.
2.00pm - Back in the car, we drive back up the road to the home of the Cairngorm reindeer herd. The hill walk is one of the things I would have loved to do (I did it in 2008 though) but obviously no dogs are allowed, and due to Covid the little paddocks with a few to pat and snap are closed. I drive up regardless though just to see if I can spot one from a distance. Unfortunately no luck, so I head all the way back through Aviemore where I stop at the Cairngorm Brewery to choose some beers for DH as a gift. I debate dropping the car and going out for a drink, but M can barely keep his eyes open, and so I nip to the Co-op for a cold bottle of Prosecco. I still do have a couple of half bottles of wine, but neither are cold, so I’ll drink them later in the trip when I get a fridge or a bar with ice I can pinch.
4.00pm I just have a shower, get in bed for a bit, have a glass of Prosecco, message D and write my notes.
6.00pm - After a bit of a chill out, I get dressed, sort a few bits out then we wander out and into the village. On the way past we stop at a stone circle I spotted on google maps, pretty funky and right in the middle of a residential area. We get to our dinner reservation half an hour early, but they kindly seat me anyway, but just say I can’t order food until my reservation time which is no problem. It is super busy and it takes a while to get a drink, but I just read my book. I decide on a smokey chilli chicken pizza and skin on fries, and it comes and it’s massive! Also very spicy but really tasty, can’t complain at all. Total including 2 glasses of wine was £20.75, an absolute bargain. I love this eat out to help out business!
8.00pm - We wander back to our little cabin. Pj’s and a chill out in bed, we’re moving on tomorrow and it’s an early start so to sleep for both of us.. a lovely day and I’m so glad to have seen Aviemore again, but I’m excited to move on and see some more new places.
Miles travelled in a car - 15 Accommodation - £75 Amount spent - £51.35
Day 4 - Tuesday
7.00am - When the alarm goes off I snooze a couple of times, then start the process of showering and getting dressed whilst trying to make coffee and breakfast, pack and sort Mout all at once. I wash the dishes, then load the car, and off we go. Our first stop today is Dochgarroch lock, as we are going on a Loch Ness cruise.
9.00am - We make cracking time which is good as it did take me a little longer than expected to get everything in the car. We pass road signs highlighting a yellow weather warning for heavy rain (hello Britain) so I pack both our rain coats just in case. The boat is ready for us, so we wander on and sit outside at the back so I don’t have to wear a mask for 2 hours.
9.30am - We set off, chugging slowly down the canal, past the smallest lighthouse in Britain, and then when we enter Loch Ness we really pick up speed, charging right down the centre. No rain yet, in actual fact it’s very sunny so I keep swapping seats to try and get shade for us both, as stupid Mummy remembered his water bottle, but not his bowl to drink from. Yesterday when I went to the brewery, I completely forgot to pick up a beer or two for my best friends birthday, so when I see the Loch Ness lagers on the bar onboard, I buy 2. £9.20 which serves me right for not being smarter yesterday as they are double the cost. We pootle past Urquhart castle which I have visited myself back in the day, and I get some photos as they turn the boat round for us all to see. A lady is on board who is a single Mum with 2 kids (at least one special needs) and 3 chocolate Labradors. She managed to remember a water bowl though (what a human being) and she sends her little girl over to offer M water. I feel like my dog is quite rightly judging my parenting skills at this point as he pointedly drinks up like he’s not been offered water in days. We start to head back up the canal, and I must say I’ve really enjoyed it. Well worth it.
11.00am - Get back to the car and the first stop is filling the car up with Diesel. This comes to £45.47 but I buy a meal deal for £4.95 too as I’m getting hungry. Quick wee stop then I’m on the road,this is my first actual section of the NC500. First stop is Dornoch Beach. I park up for free and give M a real treat, a swim in the sea. I’m a bit nervous as it’s busier than expected but he’s completely excellent and charges around like a loon, but comes back to me with no issue at all. Much towelling and cold drinks for both of us, then back in the car. I’m looking for the stone remembering the last witch execution in 1727, it’s now in someone’s garden, but I find it.
1pm - On the road again we go, this time just to the outside of Dunrobin castle. I would definitely have paid to enter here and see the falconry display, but it’s not dog friendly. So I just take a photo and have a nosy, then it’s north again. This time it’s a quick stop at Cairn Liath, an old stone Broch. This is fabulous, we have to cross the A9 on foot which is a little hairy, but so worth it. I can let M off and we both have a good nosy around.
3.00pm - My last stop is a museum called the Timespan museum which I have read you can take dogs into. Unfortunately it’s closed though, so we decide just to push onto Wick where we are staying tonight. The roads get incredibly hilly, and I see my first Highland coo... you just wouldn’t imagine here you are anywhere near a big town, but then all of a sudden, a lidl, a retail park, and a town, with a wetherspoons
4.30pm -Find the hotel and check in, super friendly again. And I have a massive room on the ground floor near an exit to the car park, so incredibly thoughtful. The bed is huge too. I decide to go for a walk through town, I snap a photo of the world’s shortest street. And then I hunt down the Wetherspoons. I sit outside with M and order a pint of strongbow on the app. Absolutely ideal because I don’t even need to go inside to order and therefore leave him. I then realise I can order bar snacks from the app too, I even get 50% off my peanuts. If I’m honest, if i had known i could eat outside, and that it would be dry I would have eaten here tonight, but it is undoubtedly better to give the money to the independents after all. I stay here rather longer than expected, mostly because I realise my watch has not quite stopped but gone very slow. I spend under a tenner here including buying a bag of crisps for the car tomorrow. 7pm - Back to the room and I shower and get changed, feed M then wander to the hotel dining room. I’m eating in the residents lounge so I can keep M with me. To be honest with you, I think he’d prefer to be in the room in bed, but the hotel is packed with people coming past, and I’m worried he’ll bark if he gets startled so I keep him with me and he goes to sleep on the carpet. Then starts flirting with the Scottish ladies visiting. I order a wine, mozzarella sticks and chicken jalfrezi which are quite nice. This costs £20.50. I ring D, write my notes, then head to bed. It’s been a busy day, but a really good one..
Mikes travelled in a car - 149 Accommodation - £86.95 Amount spent -£91.48 but I have plenty of budget left from prior days to chip into the petrol
Day 5 - Wednesday
8am- Waking up I take the boss out for a quick wee, then head back to the room. Breakfast for him and shower for me. This hotel has been absolutely ideal, the only negative for me is that the walls and ceilings were paper thin, and I think the other guests of the hotel found the Wetherspoons too. This made M a bit unsettled as it was pitch black by this time and quite noisy, so I had to sleep the first part of the night with my foot in his bed to keep him calm. But then all went quiet and we had a lovely night sleep. The bed was amazing. We have breakfast in the residents lounge, which was great, and they even bring M a sausage.
9.30am - Then it’s time to check out, we’ve been very leisurely this morning because a couple of the first suggested stops are here in Wick, but don’t open until 10. I first head in the car to the Old Pulteney whisky distillery to look at souvenirs for D. The weather this morning is overcast to say the least, and I drive through some very industrial type areas. The town has a very different look and feel to it than yesterday strangely. I arrive and the smell of the whisky greets me, but unfortunately also does a sign saying they were closed. I snap a photo then off we go. Next is the Wick Heritage museum. I arrive at 10.04am to a big closed sign on the door. I decide to sit it out for a minute, and a lady does arrive and go through the door about 10.10am, but despite sitting it out for a while, the door remains shut with the big closed sign on the door. I know these places are small, but I wish they had updated their website/social media as I had got the impression they would be open. I won’t be deterred at my next stop though, Tesco petrol station, I only need just over a tenner, but it’s really cheap so decide to top the tank up and it’s on to John O’Groats. I’m glad we didn’t stay here the night, but it was a great little stop. Thankfully most things are open, so I head into the little Brewery and get D 3 local beers from the brewery in the village £10.50, then grab myself a coffee for the car, £2.90.
11.30am - It’s then onto Duncansby head lighthouse. And a bit of a walk over the field to the sea stacks. I really enjoyed it here too. The Castle of Mey is my next stop, this once used to be owned by the Queen mother and apparently has lovely gardens. I was hoping to be able to nip in like Dunrobin yesterday for a quick mooch and a photo, but they are only letting people in with pre-booked gardens tickets. They are super friendly though and point out where on the road I can get a quick photo. Then it’s onwards and upwards again. I follow the signs then for Dunnet Head. This is the most furtherly north place in the UK (not actually John O’Groats). This was a longish single track road to get there, and again there is a lighthouse, and viewpoints over to the Orkney islands. Again very worth the trip up and Max enjoys the walk around. Good practice for the single track roads too.
1.30pm -Back down the long winding track and it’s the Dunnet Bay gin distillery next. I don’t drink gin either, but my husband and best friend do, so I nip in and buy them some souvenirs £19.50. I’m desperate for a wee at this point, and the lady from the gin shop points me next door to hotel where they have outdoor toilets they don’t mind people using. I notice a really busy eating area, and a quick google later and they are doing eat out to help out. It’s nearly 2pm by this point, and I’m hungry, so I grab Max and sit outside. I order a lime and soda and some mac and cheese. This turns out to be a great idea, as I don’t really see anywhere else to stop on the way, it’s also delicious and costs me a whole £6.48. I spy a sign for a beach, and the boy has been so good, we go for a walk on Dunnet Bay Beach. This is absolutely stunning, and we both absolutely love it. Well I do until he brings me a present of half a dead fish.
3.30pm - Onto our destination for the evening, the village of Tongue. It doesn’t look that far, but the roads quickly become single track, very hilly and winding, and this time there are HGV’s rumbling past. I have to be honest I find it fairly traumatic, and don’t really get to take in the very stunning scenery for trying to avoid sheep who are napping in the passing places! I really wish I had stopped to photograph the roads. Truly beautiful but I didn’t half wish D was here. But I make it in one piece, with a rather big sigh of relief. I unclench my hands, and check into my room, it’s a single which is no problem, in fact the bathroom is bigger than the bedroom strangely. They have left me a complementary bottle of wine though which is a nice touch (I pack this for another night) I have a cool shower and just chill out for an hour or so with my book. It’s very warm, and incredibly midgey, I must have about 50 bites on me, but the bed is comfy. We go down and I order dinner, onion bhaji’s followed by lamb shank. The food is a little expensive, but absolutely lovely. I’m quite tired, so I take M out for a very quick walk round the village, then we head back upstairs. I think I have a lot of single track driving to do in the morning, so I have an early night watching MAFS Australia in bed. I think the older I get the earlier my bedtimes do 😂 It’s been a really good day despite a couple of closure early on.
Miles travelled in a car - 95 Accommodation - £60 Amount spent £79.50
Day 6 - Thursday
7.30am - I wake up to my alarm. Both of us slept really well. Think M is getting used to hotels now. It’s fairly wet, wild and windy this morning, but my weather app tells me it should be fairly short lived. For today anyway. Usual dog wee, shower, and packing up of our worldly possessions.
8.30am - I go down for breakfast, having packed the dog bed in the car, to find that I can’t have him with me for breakfast. I decide as it’s cool the car is the safer option, but I rush through breakfast as quickly as I can. I sneak a couple of bits out in a napkin to the car for him, then I pack up and check out.
9am - We drive for the first hour on single track roads, stunningly beautiful again but thankfully quieter so I build confidence a bit. I soon figure out the best way for me to slot in behind someone at a safe distance and almost take a tow. That way they make the call to go or stop, and I just follow. It takes me an hour to do 28 miles, but I’m happy enough pootling along. In fact my first tow is a campervan doing 30, but then I progress later to a VW Sirvocco doing 40, go me...
10am - Our first stop today was Smoo Cave, well what a fab stop, and I’m even able to let the little monster have a swim. It’s stunningly beautiful, and well worth the 10 minute walk back up and down. It has got very very warm, completely different to how it looked this morning when I got up.
11am - Only a few miles away was the Balnakeil craft village. I make a pit stop first at the famous Cocoa Mountain, where I get a coffee which comes with 4 chocolates for £5.95. I was going to buy D some chocolates to take home from here, but they are £1 a chocolate, and I’m worried they’ll end up in a soggy mess by the time I get home as it’s warmer than expected. So I just sit in the sun with my coffee for a bit have a quick nosy in one of the shops, but I’m no good in a mask, so I head back to the car and get on my way.
12pm- I snap some photos of the famous Kylesku bridge, then carry on, I miss the sign for the Rock shop which is recommended, this is possibly because it may be closed, and decide to do the optional detour to Lochinver. This wasn’t the best call. It’s 11 miles which does take about 20 minutes each way, and I head to the pottery shop. Well it’s all stunning, but at over £35 for a mug, it isn’t the souvenir shop for me. I haven’t had any lunch, so I stop at the Lochinver larder, a famous pie shop. Well all I want to do is buy a takeaway pie for lunch, but after 10 minutes in the queue which is just to pay, and seeing that no one who has ordered since I’ve arrived has got their lunch, I give up, I don’t want to leave M in the car for any longer. Luckily I have a spare pack of crisps and some haribo in the car.
2pm - Continuing on towards Ullapool which is my stop for the night, I spy the sign for the ruins of Ardvreck castle. Well this is a great stop and cheers us both up. He gets to swim, and I walk and clear my head. It is so beautiful, and we both really enjoy it. Not long after another sign for the Knockan Crag geological reserve. We enjoyed this too and walk the loop above the car park reading the signs and looking at the exhibits.
4pm - Not far from here to Ullapool, so we bundle back in the car and check in. It’s motel style, and can park straight outside the door, much easier for lugging our stuff in and out. Accommodation options in Ullapool weren’t cheap, this cost £95 for the room, and is 20 mins walk from the village, but it serves food and they are very nice, if a little Covid stressed.
4.30pm - We decide to follow their route to the village to give M a good walk. Ullapool is smaller than expected, but it’s very rugged and picturesque. We have a quick drink in the Seaforth inn £7, but then the bad weather is clearly coming in, and it starts raining, I’ve come out in flip flops, and a t-shirt, so not the most sensible, but it was sunny when I left half an hour ago. We nip into the Ferry Boat inn who kindly offer us a 30 min rain respite before their table bookings, and that’s all it takes. It’s sunny again. £5.50 for a glass of wine.
7pm - We wander back up the hill and order some food, goats cheese to start which is really tasty, and pepperoni pizza which is lovely but could do with 5 more mins in the oven. The owners are lovely, and we have a good chat; then it’s time for bed. Chat to D, tv, book and bed.
Miles travelled in a car - 104 Accommodation - £95 Amount spent - £61
Day 7 - Friday
7.30am - I wake up just before my alarm. Didn’t hear a peep out of the hound last night. He’s definitely now a hotel kinda dog. Pack everything up which is so much easier with the car parked right outside. Then I drive round for breakfast. I’m not really hungry but I do my best.
9.00am - I nip to Tesco to get some car snacks and a birthday card for my niece, £8.80, then join the queue for the petrol station on the way out of the village. I decide to fill up just in case which comes to £21.23. We set off, and our first stop is the Corrieshalloch gorge which has an incredible suspension bridge. We have a wander about and snap some photos, then back to the car for us.
11am - It’s then a detour to Mellon Udringle beach, this is up a single track road, I start to wonder if I have gone wrong, but I get there and it’s beautiful. M charges around and swims for ages. I had noticed a field of sheep when we arrived, but what I stupidly hadn’t noticed was the field had no fences. I turned round and M was nose to nose with a rather large ram with horns bigger than me. They were just looking at each other. I screeched and grabbed him quick and we toddle back off to the car and back on the road. There are some famous gardens at Inverewe which sound fab, but we can’t take dogs in so we didn’t stop.
1pm - About a mile or two before the village of Gairloch I hear some funny noises (followed by a funny smell) from the back seat. I quickly turn round and see a sea of vomit. Now anyone who knows me knows that I can deal with all the poo in the world, but I’m terrible with vomit. I think it’s a belly full of sea water as normally he has a gut of iron. I quickly find a petrol station and pull in, finding somewhere to tie poor M up I try to deal with the back seat. I throw the towel straight in the bin which caught most of it, but it’s everywhere and he clearly is feeling really poorly and I can’t set off yet. Leaving him tied up in the shade with some water I take the opportunity to jet wash the car as it’s covered in bird poo and he eats his body weight in grass, then throws it all back up again. Feeling safe enough to set off, we literally make it to the next parking stop, and we limp on like this for some time. We get to the Victoria falls car park, and a short walk seems to do him a bit of good. The falls are lovely, but it’s very very midgey.
3pm - A little further on we reach the shores of Loch Maree. It’s a lot less midgey here, so I sit on a rock next to the car, and he just potters about eating grass and paddling his feet in the water, and he seems to be a bit better. So we set off properly again. We reach Torridon and decide not to stop for a drink, but plod on. The roads get very narrow but it’s incredibly beautiful.
4.30pm -Arriving at our destination for the night, Lochcarron, I have a drive through the village, then head off to a tartan shop called Lochcarron weavers. I was looking for cushions or maybe a rug, but I end up buying DH a lovely woollen jumper that’s on sale at £40, guessed the sizes so fingers crossed. I decide to leave the ruins of Strome castle for the morning, so we drive back to the Loch, and I spot a fish and chip van. I’ve had no lunch with vomit gate, so I just get a portion of chips, and I eat them on a bench looking out over the Loch, but then the rain starts so we go check in. Now I must say the reviews of this place were terrible. But it was cheap, dog friendly and right where we needed to be, so I decided to take it with a pinch of salt. I’m glad I did, the room does look a little dated, but it’s clean, very friendly and I’m on the ground floor. My room in Ullapool last night was dated too but cost £95, today was £55. I give him some water and a nap (but no tea as yet which causes some consternation) then we wander next door to the barestaurant when he has had a good rest.
6pm - The food looks fab. An older lady with her son orders the special of ribs, and I’m sold. I order a leek and goats cheese tart followed by the ribs, the food is a little dear, the starter alone is £9, but we are very remote and it is very tasty. I would normally have had a helper with the ribs, but I didn’t dare, so I got a lot of incredulous puppy stares. Instead a tiny portion of dry dog biscuits for him, and a glass of wine for me from the car, and an early night again.
Miles travelled in a car - 130 Accommodation - £55 Amount spent - £73.93
Day 8 - Saturday
5am - I wake up in the pitch black to the unmistakeable sound of retching. Jump up, put the lights on and there are 3 piles to deal with.. thankfully just undigested grass really, and I have my handy wet wipes so we have it cleaned up in no time, and I decide to take him out to see if he needs a wee or anything whilst I’m awake. We just have a quick walk along the water front, being careful not to get locked out of the hotel, then back in and it’s back to bed for both of us.
8am - Getting up again and the monster seems to be feeling much better. We go next door for breakfast, but I just have a yoghurt and a croissant. It was lovely though. I really enjoyed this hotel, it was friendly, laid back and right on the route. I pack up the room, and give M a third of his normal breakfast (which he wolfs down) and we get in the car.
9.30am - We head just up the road for now to the ruins of Strome castle. I can’t let him off the lead here because there are lots of sheep, but it’s a great little stop for a walk around. It starts to rain but only quite lightly at this stage.
10am - He seems ok so we get on the road towards Inverness and eventually home (tomorrow). I must admit I had very serious thoughts of trying to just head home, both yesterday and at 5am, but I’m very far from home, nearly a 9 hour drive, and as such I think it would be better to stop regularly to offer him water and fresh air, rather than trying to push through. I have a quick call with D who reminds me that dogs eat things they shouldn’t all the time and to stop worrying, he’s eating, drinking and toileting normally and so to carry on but just not over feed him and offer him regular breaks. So our next stop is the Glen Dougherty look out, which is apparently stunning on a clear day but it wasn’t a clear day. So just a quick look about and off we go again. Nice for a photo and a leg stretch though.
11am - Last stop for us on the NC500 route is Rogie Falls. This is a great stop and walk down to the waterfalls. Apparently at the right time of year you can see salmon jumping up the falls, but it wasn’t to be today, this stop was incredibly busy, the car park was completely full and I had to wait a while to get parked, but it was a lovely walk and we both really enjoyed it.
12pm -Not long after this we reach Inverness and leave the NC500 route, we’re a little early to head to Pitlochry which is our stop for the night, so I do a couple of things, firstly grab a quick drive through McDonald’s for lunch £8.80, then fill up the car at the Tesco petrol station which comes to £19.87.
1.30pm - It’s only 90 mins to Pitlochry from here. And so I think I’ll be a little early really, so I head to Culloden battlefield for a walk around. Well unfortunately the heavens just open, and we are both completely drowned. Rather rudely I felt M wasn’t over interested in the Jacobites. But we have a very quick walk round, and then a towel off and on the road. I tell him I’ll put Outlander on for him when we get home. I’m actually very interested in history but I have been to the visitor centre before (and read and the watched the Outlander series which I’m sure is super accurate ).
4pm - We hit Pitlochry. I can’t get into the hotel car park, but I find street parking and check in nearby. This place is quite fancy, it’s in the same chain as the lunch I had on the steam train right at the beginning. Here it’s sort of a fancy gastro pub with rooms upstairs. This was the costliest of my accommodation at £99 but also the nicest. My heart does sink a bit though when I see where my room is. Sort of up two flights of stairs and round a lot of corridors and through several fire doors. I really hope we don’t need 5am dashes tonight. It’s nice to have a bit of luxury though too, most of my accommodation has been fairly basic, not even offering toiletries or tea/coffee in all cases. So this room with it’s very fancy toiletries and biscuits is very welcome.
5pm - We chill out for a bit, and I even nod off for 15 mins which is incredibly unlike me. Then we have a quick walk through the town, which looks lovely, and then head into our hotel/pub for dinner. I order the spaghetti carbonara with garlic bread. It’s lovely but very big, and I only manage half, but I did have lunch today.
8pm -We go for a last walk through the town, I contemplate an outdoor drink at a different pub, but I can’t find a table, so I have a glass of car wine, call DH, and watch Indian Matchmaking on Netflix.
Miles travelled in a car - 147 Accommodation - £99 Amount spent - £78
Day 9 - Sunday
8am - I wake up, and the boy has slept like a log. It really was a lovely room. I get up and he seems in no rush to leave his bed, so I quickly shower and pack and we head down the maze together. I take him for a wee and load the car. And then we pop in through the front door for breakfast. They kindly serve me brekkie in the bar so I can keep M with me. I order a couple of hot items, and they bring Lorne sausage which I’m not sure about so I risk sneaking a bit to M who thankfully seems back to normal.
9am - We jump in the car, and get on the road. We are going home today, but stopping at Glasgow to see my little brother. I stop at a Starbucks just outside Perth for a coffee (£10 loaded on my app), then arrive just before 11 to Pollok country park. Unfortunately it’s really very rainy, but I find my brother (A) who is 21 and just finishing up his time at uni, loan him my brolly, and put rain coats on both M and myself. We walk for over 2 hours, just chatting and getting lost. Most of the walk is spent trying to find the Highland Cows I drove past on the way in, and we do finally succeed. M absolutely loves it, and doesn’t stop running around and sniffing everything in sight. Eventually we decide to call it a day as I’m a way away from home. I drop A off at the Asda, pick up a quick Maccy’s for the car £8.40 and we head home. We end up doing it in one go (about 3.5 hours) as M was completely zonked out on the back seat. DH phones and we chat for ages, then with about 45 mins to go, we hang up and he says he’ll see me at home. I get in, to no DH. I unpack his gifts and finally give him a ring. Turns out there has been a terrible shock as his Dad had a heart attack whilst out shopping. Thankfully all is ok, but DH gets home a bit ashen, and we go round to his Mum’s to await seeing how his surgery goes, which thankfully is all fine. D picks up an Indian takeaway on the way back from his Mum’s, he opens a beer from his gift pile, and we breathe a big sigh of relief. It’s super lovely to see him.
Miles driven - 300 Amount spent - £18.40
Playing a point system really helps
Played with my FIL on Sunday (mostly par 3 exec course) and we usually play strokes, counting everything by the book. But after 9 holes, we decided to switch it up since we suck and wanted something new to try. We thought about having wages on each hole, but a dollar or a 6-pack of beer wasn't motivating.submitted by hilesai to golf
Instead, for the back 9 we played the following system -
Fairway: 1 point
GIR: 1 point
1 putt: 1 point
3 putt: -1
Playing head to head was really motivating to me and the points incentivized smart play in a way that stroke play just doesn't. And giving a max of 3 points per hole meant you could score even if you mess up. Don't hit the green on a par 3? You still get a point if you end up on the fairway instead of shanking it. And you can get another point for hitting a good 2nd shot and leaving yourself an easy putt. For hackers, it became less about miracle shots to make par or bogey and more about how to get the most points per hole. We're definitely going to keep playing this way (while also counting our overall strokes). If you have a game you play, I'd love to hear about it.
Proof that this worked for at least one round and thank you for coming to my TED talk -