The Ultimate Scotland Experience
It's been almost exactly half a year since we shipped our Unimog by ferry. Back then, it was going from Spain to Morocco. Today, we're checking in on the Stena Line to get from Holland to the UK. The route is almost three times as long and the ferry is also at least three times as modern. Casino, cinema, various restaurants and bars. If there was also a swimming pool, we would believe ourselves in a 5-star hotel somewhere in Las Vegas. We are also amazed at the level of alcohol consumption on this ferry. It really seems that none of these stalwart drinkers are traveling by car. Or maybe they do? In any case, we prepare ourselves mentally not only for the left-hand traffic, but also for the unpredictable.
The crossing to the big island takes place in beautiful weather. Actually very unbritish. It is already 8pm when we again get solid ground under the feet and tires after six and a half hours on water. Shortly through customs and we are already in the left-hand traffic. In my opinion, driving a left-hand drive vehicle in left-hand traffic is even more unpleasant than our experiences with a right-hand drive rental car in the respective countries. Especially for the co-driver it is a bit uncomfortable when he or she is rushing towards the thundering lorries without being able to steer. Fortunately, we quickly find our way on the freeway leading out of Harwich. Only the low speed limits give us cause for concern. I wonder if this is to be understood as a consequence of the increased alcohol consumption of the motorists leaving the ferry. It takes us a while to realize that in this country we don't only drive on the left, but also calculate in miles. So we step on the gas and head for Dedham, where we have found a suitable place to spend the night outside the village.
Shortly before dark we reach our destination. The last kilometers we drive through very narrow roads lined with ancient trees. We have now really arrived. This is how we imagined England to be. Apart from the much too nice and warm weather, but full of spooky forest parts and brick houses that seem to be abandoned.
above: typical England: mighty churches and red telephone booths
When passing through the village, we discover a pub on the right hand side. The kitchen is already closed, but at least we can celebrate our arrival in Great Britain with a pint. We knew that the British don't like foam on their beer and I personally don't find it bad at all. The broth that we are served here, however, is still warm and seems stale to us. Very unsure whether we have landed here in a bad pub, we observe other pub visitors. Finally, we find the pub to be good. It is up to us to get used to the local preferences. We still have a few months to do so. In any case, this should not have been the last pint. Later, we also learn that the British tip their beer at 12°C, while we in Switzerland prefer to get our bottles directly from the 7°C fridge.
Above: What do you think distinguishes English beer? A self-experiment in the pub of Dedham
The next day our parking lot fills up in a flash with bathers and hikers. Before we are possibly parked up, we move and then enjoy a few carefree hours with sightseeing in the village.
In Ipswich we get our local SIM cards. Again we follow our strategy to have two different providers in case the network coverage of one of them is not good. Especially in the far north or Shetland there are supposed to be differences.
We spend the rest of the weekend at a beautiful forest south of King's Lynn. The forests here are very special. They seem much healthier than in the Eifel or in Holland. Green and lush to the very tips of the trees. In addition, they are very mixed with different types of trees of different sizes. Especially the very old, gnarled trees give these forests this spooky flair. The only thing missing is the much described British fog and we would be in the middle of a horror movie. In the warm sunlight and without fog and haze, it is really beautiful here, just the way we like it.
above: after "good" comes "better": parking at the edge of Shouldham forest
below: Gorgeous view from the kitchen and living room windows...
We leave out the highly recommended Community Pub for the time being. On Sunday they close at eight o'clock and Monday and Tuesday it is completely closed. We travel on, there are probably still a few pubs in other places too ;-).
Today we leave East of England and drive to the East Midlands. It is warm, not to say hot. Asking a local about the current weather situation and whether it is usual here, he replies with an unmistakable "Oh No!". For a few days it can be that warm, but it won't last long. It's a pity actually, we just got used to the summer heat. Still, we hope it will last a little longer. In any case, the weather forecasts are very positive, even in the longer term.
I find the road network in this region rather confusing. Again and again we change direction. This is particularly noticeable to us, since once the driver and soon again the passenger are sitting on the sunny side. Somehow our inefficient progress amazes me. The British, a nation of railroad builders, should be obsessed with straight lines. The many curves and traffic circles are really exhausting, but we see them as intensive training for the left-hand traffic, which still seems a bit strange to us. The most difficult thing with a left-hand drive truck in left-hand traffic is, in my opinion, driving onto a highway in a large right-hand bend. The lane to be driven into is exactly in the blind spot. Without a co-pilot, I'd really be lost.
Tonight, for a change, we camp on a river once again. The Trent, the third largest river in Great Britain, is currently creeping quietly and leisurely through the landscape. A first flock of sheep grazes comfortably on the opposite side of the river and is probably watching us as we prepare excellent Lamb Chops from the Farmer's Shop in our outdoor kitchen.
above: Country idyll on the River Trent near Besthorpe
We sleep like babies in this wonderful nature and after the second coffee we are ready to take off again. Shortly before continuing our journey, a local advises us to avoid the highway heading north at all costs due to construction. So we will have to take a winding road today as well. The drive takes us from Besthorpe northwards towards Gainsborough and Goole into the next region of the United Kingdom to Yorkshire and the Humber. In Wykeham Forest we steer again to a parking place, which does not get rid of us after one night only. Here we meet a lot of birdwatchers. I'm writing this blog when a well-camouflaged Brit dressed in natural colors whispers at me from a long distance : "Are you recording?" he asks me. "Excuse me?" "Are you recording?" Only the second time I understand that the good man thinks I'm recording birdcalls. I give the all-clear. "No, no, you're not disturbing me here". He enlightens me that we are here in the middle of a special forest with a rare bird population. The Nightjar will likely be hard to miss tonight. The Birdwatcher trills to me briefly, how it will sound then probably. The Nightjar is supposedly the only bird that does not sit crosswise on the branch, but lengthwise. Interesting, I think to myself, what these bird fans find out. There are several signs pointing to what must be a unique bird population in this forest. Also the one or other bird of prey seems to occur here quite often. The following day, we once again hoist down our fatbikes and go exploring.
above: Birdwatchers in action
below: some write, others photograph
And here some impressions of the spooky Wykeham Forest
After three nights in this fabulous forest, it's time to take a step closer to Scotland. We have been on the big island for a week now and have hardly seen the sea. Of course, that's where we're going now. The route leads us out of the North York Moors National Park over what feels like 270 traffic circles north to Seaham. There we install ourselves directly at the sea on a cliff and with view of a small drilling platform(?), but also beautiful beaches with bizarre rock formations. Here we are now no longer the only ones who spend the night. The parking lot at Nose Point II is divided into two parts. On the upper one the campers stand in cuddly distance to each other. On the lower one we are all alone. Shortly after our arrival, the police comes to the parking lot. However, peace and order is ensured here, so they also leave the "scene" immediately. Well done, guys!
above: at last sea view again at Nose Point near Seaham
below right: commemorative plaques and objects decorate the cliffs
The cliff here is mostly oriented to the east. Thus, there will be no sunset in the sea. To experience the sunrise, you would have to be on the doorstep at 4:30 am. So that's not going to happen either. Nevertheless, we enjoy both the romantic evening and the fresh morning atmosphere. From 6:00 a.m. on, of course. The cliff is full of small memorial plaques of the deceased. Surely they didn't all jump over the cliff to their deaths? We urgently need clarification on this question, because the thought shocks us. A local couple finally explains to us that the relatives of the deceased would prefer this place to a cemetery. Especially if the sea played a special role in the lives of those who have passed away. Yes the place is really very special, calming and peaceful. During the morning fitness I even see a group of dolphins not far from the beach, as they elegantly move along.
Elegantly moving along is also our plan for today. However, we are not yet sure whether we want to drive today the more than 200 kilometers to Scotland, i.e. Edinburgh, or only half the distance for the time being. In Washington we leave the highway briefly in the hope to be able to pose with a place name sign "Washington". By the way, we also pass the Washington Lidl to buy some fresh goods. Who would have thought that we would pass by the American capital on the way to Scotland. ;-) The Washington Bluff selfie with the place name sign finally comes to nothing. We quickly return to the A1, which soon turns from a highway into a freeway. And then we get stuck in a traffic jam. Today of all days, when we have quite a long stretch ahead of us. We swerve onto the A697 and are soon back in the familiar road pattern. Bend left, bend right, traffic circle, hilltop, dip and then the whole thing again from the beginning. At some point it's finally "Welcome to Scotland". We cross the border river Tweed and enter Coldstream. What sounds like an Indian name is nothing more than the charming little town on the border to England. We are here! After three weeks of travel, today we stand at the gateway to our next adventure. We are very much looking forward to the ultimate Scotland experience.
Next Blog: 3.3 Welcome to Scotland!