The car rental man at Edinburgh had such a silvery brogue that he could have talked me into anything. It’s a sign of how tired I was that I actually agreed to upgrade to a Land Rover Discovery at a ‘special’ discounted upcharge of £280. By the time we stepped away and realized we’d made a mistake, the Ford Galaxy we’d reserved was gone.
The salesman mentioned that if we had an accident, we would have to pay for the damages and seek reimbursement from our own insurer. This thing starts at £46,600 and my total experience driving on the wrong side of the road was about a mile in rural Australia. What, me worry?
It helped to have a navigator cue me as to whether I was on the right side of the road as I negotiated out of Edinburgh. Tragically, my navigators were so sleepy even their terror couldn’t keep them awake.
That lasted until The Trossachs National Park. Even two days of sleeplessness couldn’t protect them from the tremors of an oversized vehicle on narrow, twisting British roads. Several times I dropped off the pavement to give way to an oncoming lorry or holiday caravan. I jockeyed between accelerating, braking, swerving, and covering my eyes.
I’m a big fan of the original Top Gear, and it occurred to me that I did much better when I channeled my inner Jeremy Clarkson. That, in turn, made me realize that any new Top Gear rip-off should star three middle-aged women drivers. I’m ready, BBC.
When I finally reached the ferry stop at Oban, I breathed a great sigh of relief. “I’ve driven a lot of difficult roads, but that was among the worst,” I said.
That was premature. The road to Fionnphord was a single track running 33 miles from the ferry station. Traffic included innumerable tour coaches, and the natives have timed their passing to a science. The sensation of seeing a lorry racing toward you on a single lane of pavement only to swerve into a lay-by at the last second is bracing, to say the least. Lucky, the SUV had better nerves, and reflexes, than me.
“Renting that Land Rover was the smartest thing ever,” I conceded.
Despite our late start, we still managed to tromp 7.5 miles around the historic sites at Iona and pray silent thanks for the nuns and monks who kept Christianity alive during its darkest days, including the order at Iona’s founder, St. Columba. If you’ve never read Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization, I strongly recommend it.
But paint? Hah.