What was the first thing you did when you passed your driving test? For my fiancé, he drove one thousand miles on a trip with me in a car he had only owned for 48 hours beforehand (big yikes). That’s right – it was road trip time!
We’ve just come back from nine days away, travelling from Hampshire to the West Coast of Scotland and back again, along with many other little overnight stays in the UK. It feels like the world has really opened up to us now we (well, Rory – I won’t be learning to drive for a while) can drive. Considering the busyness the autumn brings for both of our jobs and the fact we hadn’t been away together for well over a year and a half, we decided it was time for a COVID safe holiday.
It helps that most of Rory’s family lives in Scotland, so we booked into Hotel De Familia, secured the time off work, and luckily, Rory passed his driving test just in time.
We set off from Hampshire straight after work on Friday 27th August, diving right into the literal road trip section of the road trip holiday.
Of course, I was armed with multiple curated playlists, such as ‘Road Trip: Musicals’, ‘Pop Bangers’, and ‘Dad Rock’ (aka the three parts of my personality). Five hours and a lot of traffic in, we stopped at a hotel in Wigan to spend the night. Whilst Rory could have easily done the whole trip, for a man with approximately twenty-eight minutes of motorway driving under his belt pre-road trip, it was a good idea for a little break (especially as the car he learnt in had cruise control, and our 2006 Ford Fiesta is aaaaaall clutch control).
After a late breakfast on Saturday, we completed the final two hundred plus miles to get to Gourock. It was a lot of boring M6, a lot of belting to The Hunchback of Notre Dame soundtrack, and a lot of foot cramp from both parties. But when we got to Rory’s parent’s house in Gourock, it was all worth it. Long views of the Clyde; soaring hills and deep green islands; and beautiful, watercolour strokes that made up the sky. Also, we were greeted with the comfiest bed I have ever slept on. I’m still thinking of it, weeks later. Remind me to ring Rory’s parent’s about the mattress…
When Sunday came, that was the day our holiday really began.
We woke up to the first mist of summer, a sure sign that autumn (the superior season) was on the way. After a delicious and lazy lie-in, Rory and his mum introduced me to Largs, the traditional holiday resort not far from Gourock. Despite growing up in Dubai, Rory spent many of his summer holidays exploring Largs and devouring ice-cream from Nardini’s. I love visiting places close to people’s hearts; there’s something so tender about being allowed into their personal space and memories. And to ruin the childhood joy, we took this monster with us.
I say monster, I just mean puppy. In all honesty, Breagh is perhaps the most beautiful dog I have ever seen. She’s a tri-merle border collie, not even a year old, and is a terror in the way only a puppy can be. I love her. We walked along the bay and along the esplanade, throwing the ball and working on her recall, all whilst taking in the views and breeze from the River. We finished our trip to Largs with some putting. Now, when Rory said putting, I imagined a cheesy, pier-side crazy golf course in desperate need of repair, dripping with charm all the same. Nope. This was literally a plain golfer’s green. Despite having no skill in my body that would lean towards me being a good golfer (please see clumsy, asthmatic, easily bored), I had a lot of fun (and even had two holes in one!). If you are near the area, I would thoroughly recommend visiting Largs. It’s charming and nostalgic in a way a true, well-loved British sea-side resort only can be. Salty chips, scooped ice-cream, sea gulls, and people wearing shorts when it’s really too cold to wear them.
Monday was another day to explore the local area. This time, Lunderston Bay, with just Rory, Breagh, and myself.
We walked by the river, between the brambles, and I got thrilled at the sight of blackberries coming in (what can I say? I’m an autumn hoe). Then, Rory said the third best sentence to me, coming in behind ‘Rosie, will you marry me?’ and ‘I’m buying us a takeaway’. He said ‘shall we go to the garden centre?’ If I wasn’t incredibly in love with him beforehand, this was the clincher. I know living in the South of England was expensive, but boy I didn’t realise that this extended to plants! I got excited over some neon pothos, nearly bought all of the leftover summer blooming plants from the sale, and I did get my hands on a gorgeous little string of pearls. Whilst it wasn’t a particularly Scottish experience, it was good fun.
My more Scottish experience came later in the day on a walk with Rory’s mum. We did the Shielhill Glen 3k walk and it was beyond magical. The walk takes you around the hills of the Greenock Cut and is full of heather, brambles, and towering views. There were little wood carvings of sprites and wood spirits, and it genuinely looked like a Hobbit would pop out at any moment. Perhaps the most magical feature for me was the path. The path moves from a stony pathway to planks and bridges over streams and fauna, winding between trees like we were in some sort of C S Lewis book! Before I knew it, I had made my way hundreds of metres above sea-level to look out from the top of the Greenock Cut. Now that’s one way to trick a girl into climbing a hill.
Waking up with aching calves, of course I was going to have a relaxing day in the last of the summer sun. Wrong.
I have a question for you. Do I look like a woman who enjoys cycling? Please find my Instagram here for some context. I’m not talking about body type or fashion sense here; I’m talking about vibes. Sure, I would love a gentle cycle around a cute country village, fresh bread in my basket, on the way to pick my own strawberries. But cycling eight miles around a Scottish isle on a mountain bike after seven year of no cycling and a sporadic exercise regime? Please tell me why I said yes…
The Scottish isle in question was the Isle of Cumbrae, which has a small town called Millport. Whilst it was not the most enjoyable experience of my life, the views from the Isle were stunning. On your left, you have humongous white cliffs, covered in greenery. On your right, you have views across the river, across all of Scotland! The crisp air felt good on my skin, the cafe we stopped at for lunch was divine, and the ice-cream we had after was even better. If the word ‘outdoorsy’ or ‘yeah I’ll give it a go’ applies to you, I would honestly recommend hiring a bike and cycling around the Isle of Cumbrae. It’s not too hilly (well, the bits you ride aren’t) and it’s a good way to see the island if you are a confident rider. But if you are like me (bum not made for cycling, only made for being bootylicious – or just cycle-averse), I would suggest seeing the Isle through a different means. Next time, I’m walking around or getting myself a boat tour.
When September hit on Wednesday morning, we waved goodbye to Gourock and hello to Glasgow!
Well, not before I had a cheeky outdoor swim. Alas, it was not a bracing wild swim in the chill of the Clyde; it was in a heated lido on a late summer morning (not sure my asthma would even like a bracing swim). But it was still joyful, refreshing, and set me up for a day of museum hopping. That’s right, my art hoe mode was activated.
We started with a trip to the Kelvingrove, the central art gallery and museum in Glasgow. Amongst all of the taxidermy animals and stolen historical artifacts, they had a stunning collection of art spanning the ages. Some personal favourites of mine included Dali’s Christ of Saint John of the Cross, all of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh glass pieces, and the stunning mixed-media and neon installation by France-Lise McGurn (I’m a sucker for modernism, what can I say). Then we moved on over to the Riverside Museum which is all about travel and transport! Okay, I get that this might not be most people’s cup of tea, but I grew up around classic cars so I was in my element. However, the main event was outside of the building; the Tall Ship Glenlee. Not only was it so incredible to walk along a real life tall ship, it was also a bittersweet moment for Rory. His grandfather was the last captain of the Glenlee, who towed her from Spain to Glasgow when she was a mere wreck. For you arty-farty, historical, dark-academia types, check out the Kelvingrove. If motors, cars, and British history are your thing, head to the Riverside Museum. However, if you just like history and learning, both museums are truly worth the trek across Glasgow.
After crashing at Rory’s brother’s for the night, we woke up and piled everything back in the car. Alas, Thursday marked the end of our Scottish road trip.
No sad faces here however – we may have been leaving Scotland, but the full road trip wasn’t over! Thursday was a day of driving and getting stuck on the M6; every driver’s dream. Whilst the playlists and company were top-notch, there were only two interesting things that happened on this leg of the road trip. Firstly, autumn arrived. Well, it arrived in the sense that I had a Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino and felt my powers grow. Secondly, we made it to Bristol!
We had a whistlestop stay in Bristol with Rory’s sister, which included some immense walks up and down Bristol’s hills, Lebanese cheese bread at Five Grains, and of course, the chance to stare at some more art at the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery. Whilst the modernist in me loved seeing Banksy’s piece in the foyer, I also fell for the painting La Belle Dame Sans Merci by Frank Bernard Dicksee. Victorian art ain’t normally my thing but it’s always nice to be surprised!
We finished the trip with a round of mini golf at Jungle Rumble (proud second place, silver medalist), and a trip to Burger Theory where I ate my weight in kim-cheesy fries. From Bristol we went to South Wales to see my family for two nights, and celebrate my parents move to a new town (all part of that minister’s life, right Mum?). And with that, we piled everything back into the car – dirty clothes, pairs of shoes, tupperwares of Dad’s curry – and made the final leg of the journey back home.
Hampshire to Gourock. Gourock to Glasgow. Glasgow to Bristol. Bristol to Cardiff. Cardiff to Hampshire. We travelled over a thousand miles in one week alone and it’s fair to say that Rory knows how to drive on motorways and country roads now. For me, I feel so happy that I’ve finally been able to explore Scotland beyond Edinburgh, after being in a relationship with a Scot for nearly seven years!
I don’t think that will be the last road trip we have to Scotland either. We have our eyes on doing the NC500 one of these days and with family in Scotland, we’ll be visiting all the time! Let me know what your favourite places are in Scotland to visit. I’m talking everything – walks, art, cities, trips away – let me know! I’m here for all of the recommendations.