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Skye Drive

13 January 201810:29AMviking-raidtravel

I've always been a bit of a skeptic of renting a car while travelling. It seemed like just one more thing to keep track of, just one more expense to take into account. There's parking, and fuel, and traffic - and to a large extent that's exactly the stuff I'm trying to leave at home. I'm a lifelong train fan, with the occasional dalliance with budget airlines. But perhaps no longer.

I really enjoyed driving around Scotland, and I think I'm a little bit of a car convert. It's a conversion of two parts. the long and winding and mountainous single-lane road

The first part is that it gives you a whole lotta freedom. To go where you want to go and stop where you want to stop. You drive to your own schedule and that schedule is gloriously flexible.

(The downside of that, of course, is that you get too flexible, and get caught in a cycle of sleeping in and rushing - if nothing else, the threat of missing trains keeps you punctual. Or missing things you might otherwise have enjoyed because you've already passed their freeway exit by the time you realise you want to see them. So there's a bit of swings and roundabouts in there, but it's generally been pretty positive for us - and at the very least a nice change.)

More than that though, there's parts of the world you can only reach by car. Trains are fine for city-hopping, but this trip was all about that untouched wilderness. If you want to get out of cities you basically have to drive.

passenger seat. sunnies on. the norm

I kind of knew and accepted all of this intellectually, but it's been interesting to see it in practice. It's the second nice thing about driving that really surprised me. At the risk of sounding like Jeremy Clarkson, driving (especially through somewhere like the Scottish Highlands) is an experience.

You're going through the country, with no choice but to look at where you're going. There's no tuning out and reading a book or watching Netflix behind the wheel*.

The roads in Scotland wind through mountains and cross rivers. They rise and fall, traversing wild moors and rolling hills. At one stage I assumed we were driving through a tree plantation before realising that no, coniferous trees just grew here, and that we'd spent the last fifteen minutes driving through a genuine misty Scottish forest.

It's a bit like hiking. You fall into this meditative state where your eyes and brainstem are locked into navigation, but your mind is freed to wonder and ponder what you're seeing. And driving is fun when there's twists and turns and hills and valleys to navigate. You feel the road under your tires the same way you feel the track under your shoes, and it's a wonderful and (to me) new way to experience the landscape.

We don't get landscapes back home, at least not where I'm driving. There's a lot of flat and a lot of brown and while that's kind of majestic in its own way, it's not interesting the way this drive was.

Or maybe it's just that it's new to me. It's probably that, isn't it?

*Unless you're phenomenally stupid.

 landing cliffs

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