Serendipit|y n. The faculty of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident; hence ~ous a. [coined by Horace Walpole (1754) after The Three Princes of Serendip (Sri Lanka), a fairy-tale] ... The Concise Oxford Dictionary of current English - 6th ed
The term has become a little bit of a cliché in recent years but no other word would have had its similarly sibilant susurrations alliterating with Scotland. While we did experience Fortuitous Fortrose, as a title it would have excluded many other little gems.
Mull was one of the gems. A chocolate box small harbour town on the Sound of Mull, Tobermory was somewhere we'd been planning to spend a while on the Isle. We were having such a relaxing time on the other side of the island we only had time for a quick stop in the car park. Serendipity had intervened, even though we'd extended our stay. Enough of that for now ... we'll come back in a few episodes time.
The last year of the teenies was a huge one for us. Shelley-ann (Shan) retired at the end of March freeing us up to #Roaminate together and April was our first opportunity. Our beloved only daughter, Kate, was getting married in May and Judith, her grandmother, was turning 90 in Hermanus in the Western Cape in June. We'd always wanted to spend some quality time in Scotland and by the beginning of April most of the long range wedding details were set in concrete. If we swanned off for the month in Campy, we'd be back in time to help with fine tuning the arrangements
The plan was there was no plan. Just get out of Dodge (England) as fast as possible for a 7.2M behemoth. Avoiding motorways.
We ended up just North of Buxton on the first day and spent the night in a splendidly bleak site on the edge of Parwich. The village pub was a main attraction but required a stroll down the hill, returning up a quiet lane in the dark. I'll concede that it was quite cold. Madame was not keen to leave Campy's cosy warmth so I resorted to a G&T after chatting to a fellow cyclist, the only other inhabitant of the site, who'd done about a gazillion metres of ascent that day.
The next day we determined to sleep North of the Lake District and had to take to the M6 for a while to achieve this. We found a spotless site near Knock in the middle of nowhere where Madame was vindicated by a substantial layer of snow over the North Pennines right in front of us.
At least the snow was pretty to look at from Campy's picture window.
We could have gone in a more or less straight line from Knock to Gretna Green but were tempted to climb up to Alston, which has claims to be the highest market town in England. It is situated at about 1,000 feet above sea level and rivals Buxton, which makes similar claims and which we'd visited two days before. Some people bag Wainwrights. Campy was bagging market towns.
Had our faithful steed known that the route down again from Alston in a North-Westerly direction was closed, Campy might have demurred in the first place but the alternate route took us past Unthank Hall on the upper reaches of the Tyne. This would probably mean not a lot to most people but Shan and I are fans of The Unthanks singing ensemble. In my case to the extent that I'm listening to and being inspired by the group's song Flutter while I type.
We arrived at Gretna Green just before lunch but it didn't really commend itself as anything other than a fuel stop and instant wedding destination. We pressed on to the Annandale Distillery where I failed to notice the preceding 1 on the price tag of the 60.2% ABV peated Man O' Sword on a special promotion. I was surprised at what a bargain I was getting for £16.95. I repeated the "b" word to the sales assistant and he seemed to agree.
Unfortunately Madame had been absent during the entire transaction. She doesn't drink whisky and had used the opportunity to escape to the lav. She came into the shop as I was proffering my credit card and couldn't believe my male stubbornness in going ahead with the £116.95 transaction anyway. How long has she known me? We decided to compound my idiocy by having lunch in the restaurant there. It was lovely and the people working in it were welcoming and informative so it was a grand entrance to our first major holiday in Scotland.
What do Annandale and Milton Keynes have in common?
A little bit of background
Before we embark on our first big Scottish trip, some background knowledge might be useful.
We've always wanted to take Campy on a leisurely stroll through the grandeur that wonderful country offers. But, Campy keeps reminding us it is an almost 1,000km round trip on motorways to the border before we start, which is not very leisurely. We needed a longish break to do it justice.
The previous time Shan had ventured into Scotland was in 1983. We had been to a wedding in Shropshire and were staying with friends of my parents in Solihull. Reg, our nurturing host, had planned our 40 mile journey from Solihull to Shropshire for us. Inch by inch. He consulted friends and then invited relatives around to sanity check the route, during which time adjustments were made. You can imagine the deep intake of breath when we announced, the next day, that we were planning to do a more than 2,000 km 5-day trip from Solihull to Wales, the Lake District, Inverness, Edinburgh and back to Henley-on-Thames. It did involve doing a ton on the M1 on the way back in our rented Fiesta. But we made it, including a manic but compulsory stop in Inverness to send Reg a postcard. We also managed 4 overnight stays in Llanbedrog, Buttermere, York and Tomintoul. More of the latter later in this series.
This time there were friends and relatives to visit. A "call of the glen", A Viking reunion and many other delights.
One of my all-time favourite ex-colleagues introduced me to the call of the glen when I started visiting Glasgow and Edinburgh on business. Essentially, a post-work trip to the pub with colleagues followed by a meal satisfied most of the troops but there were those who needed a post-prandial malt to restore equilibrium. How else was the world to be set to rights?
The last time I saw Scott McKee had been some time in the 90s when we'd set the world to rights in an ancient pile near his home North of Glasgow. He sensibly walked home. Struck out across the fields kitted with a head torch. Terrified sheep scattered back into the darkness in fear ...
Coming next: Shan and I strike out for the Clyde estuary and beyond
 Campy is the silly name we gave our spacious motorhome as a joke and it stuck. To the extent that our friends also refer to it by that name.
 Alcohol by volume
 The magenta-ish sign in the first picture says "PLEASE DO NOT SIT ON BELLA OR BARLEY. THANK YOU" The sign is not the answer but please feel free to answer with a comment via the appropriate button below.
 When we moved to the UK in 1987, Angela and Reg became our surrogate parents. Angela had known Dad since the mid 1940s.