Road Trip Diaries: A Once-In-A-Lifetime Trip Across Scotland With My Daughters

We were ready for anything when we set out across Scotland by car—except the roads, other drivers and maps!

It takes a leap of faith to leave one’s home country and travel to the unknown. My father left his home country of Austria in the early 1900s to immigrate to Canada by himself, while my mother’s family traversed Canada and the U.S. by covered wagon after immigrating from Germany. I was born with a sense of adventure, and I’ve passed it down to my three children.

One example of this is when I travelled Scotland by car with my two daughters, Noreen and Joanne. During the course of our trip, I learned several things about them. Not least, one is a backseat driver and the other loves to eat desserts.

Our journey started in Manchester, England, where we discovered our car was not what we had booked, but instead a rather large Mercedes. We reluctantly accepted it and drove towards Scotland. The roads were very narrow, and we were on the wrong side, at least according to us. That meant the cars were aiming directly at Joanne, or so she thought. We seemed to run into many curbs and often ended up on the shoulders of the roads. Noreen seemed unfazed.

After a while, exhaustion set in and I slept. At that point, I didn’t care much what happened. I was not even aware of all the road shoulders we were driving on.

Road Trip Across Scotland CarPhoto: Josephine "Jo" Carlton
A narrow but scenic rural route.

The girls found a lovely B&B out in the country. We went for a short walk through the fields, which looked like patches of a quilt. Even though it was only 5:45, we went to bed. It was dark when I awoke and grabbed our shared housecoat—a reality of packing light—and shuffled to the bathroom down the hall. Joanne came with me to ensure I returned safely, and Noreen scolded us when we started to giggle, as it was still the middle of the night local time.

Joanne became a bit more confident in driving as we headed to Dalkeith, a small town outside Edinburgh. However, we spent some time going around in circles as the map was hard to read (or else the navigator had room for improvement).

Our next B&B had the most interesting bathroom I have ever encountered. The antique metal tub had eight knobs, one each for waste, cold water, hot water, plunging, waves, sprays, shower and a douche. It was called a Victorian bath and was built in the early 1900s. Having a shower in it was an experience.

We spent the next day touring Edin­burgh. We climbed many winding sets of stairs, walked on cobblestones and explored the castle. One area of interest was the sol­dier’s pet cemetery. After dinner in town, we headed back to the castle for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. We all enjoyed the event, especially the setting of the sun over the castle as a soldier played “Taps” from the top of a turret. After it ended, however, there were 8,500 people trying to funnel their way out of the castle grounds through only one exit. It took us 30 minutes. Now we had to hurry to catch the last bus back to Dalkeith. The kind bus driver took us right to our door.

In rereading my journal, I am amazed at how much we did in one day. I was 74 when we took this trip in 1994. As I am now al­most 101, walking to the dining room is enough to do me in!

Road Trip Across Scotland JoPhoto: Josephine "Jo" Carlton
Jo overlooking the countryside.

Coast to Coast…to Coast

Friday morning, we left Dalkeith and headed to the west coast of Scotland. Now, the navigator was to have studied the map and planned a route to avoid Edinburgh at all costs. Two hours later, we were still trying to get out of Edinburgh (Joanne now hates traffic circles).

We went for a walk along the shores of Lake Katrine looking for the Loch Ness Monster, and the rest of the day was spent driving winding roads. Even Noreen drove briefly. However, Joanne was a basket case, and, finally, Noreen pulled over and told her to drive. We were on the west coast now, when I realized how upset Noreen was that we had missed the chance to walk the golf courses at St. Andrews in the east.

In the end, I made the good decision to go back for her. It was there she fell in love with “Icky Sticky Toffee Pudding,” which suddenly was what she always wanted for dessert…until she discovered clotted cream with scones!

Next, we decided to head towards Hawick. Naturally, we did not take the most direct route. Liking the drive though Edinburgh so much, we drove into the centre of town this time. I told Joanne to sit in the back seat, and I tried to navigate. I failed at this job, as we were soon driving by the castle again. You could say I made a tactical error, but at least Noreen earned bragging rights to driving through Edinburgh! The room in Hawick was delightful, but the owner had to man­oeuvre the car so we could drive straight out the long narrow lane to get to the main road in the morning—backing up in the morning would have been a problem for the girls.

Our travels in Scotland were over. We could have spent more time there, but England beckoned. Our memories of Scotland are special. I loved my adventure with my two favourite people and realizing it was 27 years ago, and yet, it feels like just a few. We laughed at all our antics, and I’m so glad I kept a journal. My father loved hearing about our adventures, as I do about my chil­dren’s and grandchildren’s travels. I only hope they keep a journal.

Next, check out the fascinating history of Scotland’s best-kept secret, the Isle of Lewis.

Originally Published in Our Canada