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The idea was that I would join Tom and Ally for a relaxed coffee before setting off for Grantown-on-Spey, Highland, but, especially since I had decided not to take the quickest route, I realised that I would only have time before my departure for a quick visit to their house, in order to have a good tour of Ally’s wonderful garden, and that earlier than planned.

Tom’s daily blog always includes pictures of the wonderful results of his wife’s efforts, so here are just a few impressions I took away on that day.

I set off from their house in Langholm at about 10.00 and arrived at the Grant Arms around 5.00. My aim was to minimise mileage, which as I looked at the map meant not taking the M74 but crossing the Southern Uplands pretty well due northwards, skirting round Edinburgh rather than Glasgow, then not taking the A9 round the Cairngorms westwards, but going almost straight through them south to north on the A93. So I programmed my satnav to do just that. When I told Tom that I was going (I see now, unnecessarily) via a place called Ettrick, he warned me that that meant lots of potholes. What I hadn’t realised is that the first part would mean several miles of single carriageway over fabulously beautiful moors.

It was a lovely drive, and I met scarcely a soul. Tom was right about the potholes, but fortunately nearly all of them had been filled in!

As I lost altitude, the mist cleared. At 11.14 a partial eclipse of the sun was at its peak, but honestly I wouldn’t have known.

And in due course, I could see that I would have to join a major road. View ahead not too bad though.

Once on such a road, it was much more difficult to stop to take photos, which was perhaps as well, or else I would have made slow progress.

It was tedious going round the various motorways to the west of Edinburgh. At one point I found myself alarmingly on one signposted for Glasgow, but trusty satnav knew wat it was doing, and to my enormous pleasure I found myself swept over the beautiful Queensferry Bridge, with the famous Forth Road and Rail Bridges to my right. The traffic went slowly enough for me to glance over to them from time to time. I would have loved to have taken pictures of and from the new bridge, but it was absolutely impossible to stop, for no doubt very good safety reasons. But here is a beautiful picture of all three, taken from the north side, courtesy of Visit Scotland.

Around lunchtime I stopped at the Kinross Services, then set off north again. I really had to stop myself from stopping too often. I had had neither talk nor musical distraction up to then, as I had just wanted to enjoy the scenery, but for the next 50 minutes or so, I did plug my favourite podcast into my ears, Steve Richards‘s latest ‘Rock and Roll Politics‘. That took me through Perth, and somewhat beyond, and I continued onwards undistracted through places which until then had been just names to me: Blairgowrie, Bridge of Cally, Spittal of Glenshee (not that I had ever heard of these last two before), Braemar, and eventually to Grantown-on-Spey.

The Bridge is the flat road curving right. It’s over the River Ardle.

The next three photos are of beautiful Glen Shee.

The road to myself, as it was most of the way!

Through the Grampians

I could not get a better view of this very steep bridge, as the wire fence was in the way. Protecting me from these Greylag geese!

These last three were all taken from the same spot, just a few miles from Grantown.

And after a good dinner in the restaurant, I went to a talk on the wildlife of Guatemala by the hotel’s celebrity speaker, about whom more next time.