EXPLORE Scotland, they said. Enjoy a relaxing holiday in the Highlands. Take in the charms of the North Coast 500. Soak up the spellbinding scenery. Feel the stress ebb away.
And when I say they, I mean me. Someone who has spent much of this pandemic extolling the virtues and off-the-beaten track allure of our homeland as a superior alternative to foreign travel.
Well, that has well and truly bitten me in the backside. Pah.
I am newly returned from a break in Caithness and Sutherland. It was every bit as ruggedly beautiful as I remembered. There was only one downside. Yup, that double-edged sword of a tourism boom: traffic.
Given it was mid-September, I envisaged the dying embers of the summer rush, but the roads were still busy. A slew of motorhomes and campervans were like an army on the move. They travelled in convoy. Some looked as big as tanks.
This is not a column about bashing the above (OK, well maybe a little), but rather a means of catharsis to cleanse my soul of some of the downright madness I witnessed.
Before you howl “not all motorhome and campervan owners …”, let me state for the record that most were considerate, driving with care and pulling over wherever possible to allow faster vehicles to pass.
Yet, there was no getting away from the handful that pootled along at a glacial pace with a long stream of traffic crawling behind. One such gargantuan palace on wheels was going so slow it was overtaken by a tractor with a hay-laden trailer.
This all paled in comparison, however, to the often hairy experiences on stretches of single-track road. Rather than gazing out at the sweeping landscapes, I sat with my eyes tightly closed, whimpering in fear from the passenger seat as my mother valiantly held her nerve on the winding passes.
The actual roads were not the problem. Instead, it was bearing witness to a masterclass in the worst ravages of human behaviour.
Between Tongue and Durness, we found ourselves thrust into a mash-up of the Wacky Races meets Fast & Furious. I half expected to see the Ant Hill Mob and Penelope Pitstop whizzing past with Dick Dastardly and a sniggering Muttley in hot pursuit.
I did spot what I thought was The Gruesome Twosome in the Creepy Coupe, but it turned out to be merely an ageing campervan belching fumes.
You can tell a lot about a person from the way they conduct themselves on a single-track road, be it blithely ignoring passing places or treating oncoming drivers with steely contempt in a game of whoever blinks first loses.
Anyone who deludes themselves that it is acceptable to drive with wheels teetering on the edge of a precipice-like verge, rather than wait 30 seconds in a passing place, or pulls off manoeuvres that would make Vin Diesel break into a cold sweat, should stay at home.
Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald
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