From Sydney to Scotland – May 2015

I have been in Scotland for nearly a week and I am loving it. Right now I am sitting beside a window in Machrie Bay on the Isle of Arran overlooking the Mull of Kintyre – sorry I know that song is now running through your head.

I have been uploading videos I shot earlier today at James of Arran Chocolate Shop and with Alistair from Taste of Arran and while I was doing that I managed to eat half a wheel of cheddar and half a jar of hot beetroot chutney.

I need to get back into crossfit. Oh Canada I will enjoy being back in a habit training and it will be nice to have some money going into my account as opposed to out, as it has been for the last seven months.

Before I left Sydney I also had a family feast at Amber’s, spent time with April and Elissa in Erko, got my car bogged in mud in mum’s back garden (in fact I believe the car may still be where I left it), caught up with Vic, Tom, Shane, Sar, Sel, Shan, the Simpsons, the MacPhersons but not all in the one place.

I farewelled Sydney in the best possible way.

I farewelled Sydney in the best possible way.

I flew into Aberdeen last Tuesday and by the time I stopped for smoothie supplies (yes I am travelling with my blender) and got to my accommodation I had been travelling for forty three hours.

After a good sleep I was up and off to golf with Harry Dougal, the pro at Peterhead. I was stiff and not really getting on to anything but by the last few holes was actually hitting golf shots.

I was tired by the afternoon and headed straight back to Greenbrae where I was staying. I drove past a badger killed on the road – I am assuming it was a badger the markings looked like Badger from Wind in the Willows and he is British so clearly it must be a badger.

It was such a lovely drive – the hills dotted with sheep, the cliffs rolling into the the North Sea, the stone fences and cottages make me feel I have been transported into a storybook – albeit one that has a golfer as the main protagonist.

Stuffed mushrooms at The Tufted Duck

Stuffed mushrooms at The Tufted Duck

I don’t understand a lot of place names when people direct me to places to visit. With the accent and the spelling of said names sometimes I just nod, smile and agree and it may be a day later that I drive past a sign and have a moment of clarity – aha that is what they were talking about.

Driving through North East Scotland I note that every road seems to lead to Cruden Bay.  Or perhaps there are forty five different ways to get there?  Or are there numerous towns named Cruden Bay?

Pennan

Pennan

I was very lucky that my playing partner at Inverallochy,  George, took me on a two hour tour of the area and I got to see so many wonderful little villages that I wouldn’t have known were there. Pennan was my favourite and has quaint little cottages brightly painted which reminds me of southern Portugal. If I had the means I would love to have a wee holiday cottage in this stunning part of the world.

Pennan

Pennan

I was a bit sick when I arrived but my voice is not breaking anymore and has pretty much returned to normal and my cough is nearly gone. In some of the interviews I shot I actually squeak when I go to speak and I must say it is nice to have my voice back.

Fraserburgh

Fraserburgh

Today I am off to play at Shiskine Golf Club which is why I am on the Isle of Arran in the first place thanks to Andrew Greig and his book Preferred Lies. I will be going to Andrew’s house and interviewing him next week when I am in Edinburgh. I might have google stalked him and contacted him saying I would love to meet and have a chat and he happily agreed.

A plate of deliciousness

A plate of deliciousness

Before I golf I will be going to Cafe Thyme to interview the Turkish chef and talk all things food. I have spent yesterday talking food as the weather was not great for golf so I spoke with James of Arran at the Chocolate Shop, Alistair from Taste of Arran and then met and interviewed Tim from Creelers and talked all things smoked.

While I was somewhat hesitant when he ordered the hot and cold smoked salmon as a starter for me (I last had dry nasty smoked salmon around 15 years ago and it was so bad I have never had it again – until last night) and wow who knew it was so delicious. I also enjoyed halibut on a bed of mash with chowder sauce which I couldn’t help but clean my plate.

After eating so much cheese yesterday then eating two courses at dinner I was bursting full. Oh Canada to train again will be nice. Although I will be walking Skiskine today so there is a wee bit of exercise.

Yesterday when I headed to Brodick in the pouring rain a big truck was heading towards me on the narrow road out of Machrie, so I pulled my car off slightly to give him room to pass. And got myself stuck in a ditch in the process. I whacked it in reverse to no avail and got out of the car in the rain to see what was going on.  The front wheel was just hanging in the air and I couldn’t go forward or backward.

The truck driver kindly pushed my tiny car out of the ditch while I reversed and I popped back up on the road and was on my way once again. I might have been having heart palpitations thinking of the rental car insurance and stopped a little down the road to have a look for damage – brilliant there was none. Big sigh of relief from me.

I am driving around Scotland with no maps or gps and just winging it. I have a look at a map on google the evening before I drive anywhere and work out what places I am heading towards and off I go just following signs. I have stopped twice in the last week to ask directions if I can’t find a sign for my destination but I have found Scotland well signposted and easily navigated.

Here on the Isle of Arran there is only one main road so you just drive and explore and easily find your way back.

Fairway by the sea at Inverallochy

Fairway by the sea at Inverallochy

I did stop at the garage in Inverallochy for directions to the golf course and it was very windy and raining quite steadily but I had my wet weather gear and was going to play regardless. Turns out the mechanic is an avid golfer and I saw him later that day waving madly at me as I came up the 18th and he came over for a chat saying it was lovely to see me again.

Scotland you are one hospitable nation.

I was teased by Gerry at Fraserburgh when he pulled out a couple of sandwiches “I’ve got a sarnie for you” I declined and pulled out my fruit, nut and dark chocolate mix I had made up that morning and he asked “what is that for? Are you going to feed the birds?” He clearly wasn’t having what I was having.

The fields covered in blooming rapeseed and the big sky remind me of Prince Edward Island and sometimes I wish I had tiny cameras attached to my eyes to record everything I look at while I drive.

I drove past Glamis Castle and I was torn. I want to see a castle (when in Scotland and all) but more importantly that day I wanted to go to Gleneagles. While I am new to golf I can’t seem to get enough of it, so golf easily won out and Gleneagles it was. If only I had time to play here but I had a boat to catch. I was happy just looking about.

A golfie at the gate.

A golfie at the gate.

I have filled the car with petrol (a tiny fiat) once and was shocked at the forty one pounds it guzzled. $82AUD for a tank of fuel. Wow!

On my road trip south I snacked on corn chips and a cheese platter I had got to go from the Tufted Duck. I was driving so just grabbing hunks of cheese from my lap eating a chunk and then following this with a few corn chips. I was quite content until one hunk of cheese didn’t have a very strong “cheesy” taste and as I was thinking it was a little buttery when I inspected the chunk edged with seeds I realized I had just ate a big hunk of butter. Not delicious.

Roadie lunch

Roadie lunch

I caught the ferry to Broderick and found my accommodation easily (500 yards from Whiting Bay Golf Course) and unpacked my blender and bits and bobs. I had wifi issues at Viewbank B&B and headed to Burlington B&B for dinner and to use their wifi. Theirs wasn’t working well either so I settled for a wild mushroom and asparagus risotto and reading Golf is not a Game of Perfect on my kindle.

Back to my room for an early night and I was freezing. Not sure if it was still a hangover from being a wee bit ill but I put every blanket I could find on the bed and the bathrobe and slept with the hand towel across my head as my knit cap was in the car.

Next day and I was off to eat my way across Arran. I had spoken with the Director of Greenkeeping at St Andrew (got the number from a fellow I met at Fraserburgh) and he told me if I was on Arran I had to make sure I also played Lamlash.  That was the only thing I had actually planned for the day, was to call in and see if I could get a round at Lamlash, the rest of the day I was just winging it stopping where I pleased at whatever took my fancy.

Drove by Arran Fine Foods and turned around and popped in and chatted to Debbie (who declined to be interviewed on camera). I told Debbie what I was doing – eating, golfing, travelling, reviewing and she kindly gave me some Hot Beetroot Chutney and some oatcakes and directed me to The Cheese Shop to get some cheddar to go with it. I also picked up some other mustards, chutneys and relish that I will take home to Canada.

A Taste of Arran

A Taste of Arran

I headed to Machrie Bay as I had a hankering for pide and I knew Cafe Thyme would fulfil my cravings. I enjoyed a vegetarian pide with spinach, spring onion, garlic, wild mushrooms, egg and cheese and arranged to come back later in the week and meet Hansa the chef and shoot a bit of an interview.

I then made my way to The Cheese Shop and chatted with Alison she kindly gave me some cheddar to go with my chutney and some rapeseed oil which I wanted for my smoothies.

She directed me to James of Arran Chocolate Shop and I was not disappointed. The dark chocolate with sea salt and hazelnut was my chocolate of choice and I am not proud to admit it but I gobbled it all in two sittings. Wish I had more now actually.

Although I don’t really need anything to eat as I have just returned from interviewing Hansa at Cafe Thyme, who let me load the oven with a couple of turkish loaves. Which he then gave me hot, directly out of the oven. I don’t really eat bread, sourdough maybe once a week and yet I just hoovered a whole loaf. I have a rule not to eat anything bigger than my head and failed as bread hot from the oven – I couldn’t seem to stop until it was gone.

Heading back to Whiting Bay I popped into Lamlash Golf Club to find the course closed and the doors locked. As there was a car in the car park I walked around the building trying every door I could find. Upstairs I found an unlocked door leading to the bar.

I chatted with Al the bartender telling him what I was doing and that Gordon had recommended I play Lamlash and he yelled for Smithy to come over and after telling Smithy who I was and what I was doing he said he would golf with me if the captain couldn’t. He then asked if I wanted a drink. I got a water and sat with Dan (real name Ian) and Al (Smithy) and thought I would be there for a drink then head on my way.

With the boys at Lamlash

With the boys at Lamlash

Five hours later I was saying my farewells after spending a wonderful afternoon making new friends. Ian, the club captain had arrived and I had arranged to play with him at 6am the following morning. I then interviewed him and also interviewed the boys Al and Dan. They were a little like a comedy duo. I had so many laughs talking golf, food and life in general.

They were a little astounded I was travelling solo and just turning up to places on my own speaking to strangers, then arranging to golf with them.

I asked them what was the worst that could happen? I am armed with clubs, can run fast and have done five years of kickboxing. I will be fine I told them to which they readily agreed  as they thought I could probably take care of myself.

Monday morning at 5.30am I was up,  grabbed the smoothie I had made the day before and met Ian at Lamlash for a 6am tee off. He had suggested that we take turns hitting each others ball as he was pressed for time and I think he thought I would be a lot worse than I am.

We played our own ball and I gave him one of the Mizuno balls that Mizuno have given me. I lost a ball or two in the rough but as they still make them didn’t care. We got the buggy (cart) stuck and I jumped out to push getting coated in mud in the process. I burst out laughing but Ian was horrified. He couldn’t apologize enough and I told him I only wanted one thing from him – take a photo of me covered in mud.

A little muddy

A little muddy

Was a beautiful morning being out when not many people were even out of bed.

I headed back to the B&B I was staying at and as I was checking out everyone was taking breakfast. A couple I had met the day before asked if I was golfing today and they were startled when I said I had already played 18 and was off to play another 18 shortly.

The couple beside them interrupted and asked if I had been at Lamlash Golf Club yesterday? Yes I had, I told them. “See it is her” Says the wife. Turns out they were on a bus last night that a couple of guys from the club got on and were talking about me. All good things, so it was reported anyway.

I showered and took my muddy clothes to the laundry to get washed while I golfed.

I met David at Whiting Bay and had the round of my life. I had just cracked 110 for the first time last Friday shooting 109 at Fraserburgh and at Whiting Bay cracked 100 for the first time shooting 92. While it is a par 63 with my handicap I shot 60. 3 under par. Go me!!!! To say I was happy is quite the understatement.

Golf keeps me smiling.

Golf keeps me smiling.

I enjoyed John’s curry at the clubhouse then headed across the island to my new accommodation at Machrie Bay. I met Doug and settled in but as it was such a beautiful evening I headed off to Machrie Moor Stone Circles.

The light was amazing

The light was amazing

Wow. I don’t know if I will be able to describe my visit and do the place justice.

I didn’t fall throughout the stones like Claire in Outlander but I was taken with the place.

No Jamie on the other side of these stones.

No Jamie on the other side of these stones.

Initially I saw an ancient burial spot and shot some videos of lambs playing in the field and looked around and thought that was it until I spied a mother and daughter walking across the track, so I turned and headed in the direction they came from.

I overtook a couple and was the only one around when I got to the stone circles. I touched the stone warm from the afternoon sun then put my cheek against it. This is a magical place and I would love to see the sun line up on the summer solstice when it hits the stone just so.

What a place!

What a place!

I did feel out of place dressed in my golfers garb and I must admit I deleted all the photos I took with myself at the stones (except for the ones with my shadow) as I looked ridiculous next to these ancient rocks that had been shipped here from off island before the wheel had been invented.

I must say I do love a pagan ritual and I wanted to be wrapped in a flowing dress and dance around the stones instead I walked around them alone, the only person as far as the eye could see in the late evening sun imagining what it would have been like thousands of years ago.

Now I have to run as I am off to Shiskine Golf Club for a spot of golf.

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