Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Quite a few years ago I went camping in Scotland by mistake. I'd been to a friend's wedding near Aberdeen with a then boyfriend, and for some insane reason we spent four days traipsing around the north east of the country in a small car, seeing the sights, stopping at camp-sites at night, and for the entire journey it rained.
A lot.
Now don't get me wrong, I love Scotland and I love camping, but not when it's pissing it down with rain the whole time and you find out that the person you're with is a crushing bore when it comes to holidays.
But it wasn't all bad. The time that we were crossing a rather rocky mountain road and the wind blew over the caravan in front of us was rather amusing, and also we had a good laugh every time we saw hikers struggling through the near gale force winds, tied together with rope so that they wouldn't get separated, but other than that it was mostly wet and dull.
On the last day however we woke up to clear skies. We packed up the tent once again and headed off to our last port of call which was a very small village near Mallaig.
We stopped off at various places along the way and arrived at the camp-site in the early evening. To my delight I saw a lovely looking pub right nearby which promised home made food, which after surviving on take-aways and service station 'cuisine' made my mouth water at the very thought.
The camp-site was right by the sea and we pitched the tent on a beautiful patch of soft grass, and at the boyfriend's suggestion, positioned it so that when we opened the 'door' we were met by a glorious view of the Isle of Skye. It really was a beauty of a camp-site and after the 'delights' of the previous ones which mostly afforded views of caravans and nearby housing estates, put me in the most cheerful mood of the entire holiday.
After we'd set up and got the bedding down, I had a quick flannel wash and changed into my last remaining dry set of clothes before scampering back to the pub.
The home made food did not disappoint, and an hour or so later I was stuffed full of beef and mushroom casserole and on my second glass of red wine and happily snuggled in a comfy seat next to a roaring fire.
I didn't want to head back to the cold damp tent and when the clocked showed ten to eleven I began to feel rather less chipper again.
I went and ordered the last drinks, but was surprised not to hear a 'last orders' bell.
Eleven o'clock came and went and I reckoned they must have an extended license until midnight, and decided to make the most of the extra time and try one of the many whiskeys that the bar proffered.
I asked the advice of the landlord of which one to go for, and next I knew a friendly argument had started amongst the locals over which whiskey was the best to try.
After a couple of minutes they'd narrowed the choices down to two, and to my great joy I was bought one of each by the two locals who wanted my opinion as to which was the better.
Being as diplomatic as I could I said that both were delicious in their own way, and I couldn't choose between them.
This led to a full on whiskey sampling session with lots of laughter and friendly banter, and midnight came and went without any sign of last orders being called.
Turned out that it was a very 'local pub' and despite the camp-site so near, they rarely got any visitors from outside the village.
One of the regulars asked me where I was from and when I replied 'London', he said 'Never mind, lass'.
The next couple of hours passed in a happy, whiskey-fumed blur accompanied by music from the locals that had guitars and fiddles, and it was nearing three in the morning when the landlord finally said it was time for everyone to go home.
Another chap asked me where we were staying and when I told him that we'd pitched our tent in the nearby camp-site he said 'Och noo, did ye nay hear there's a force nine gale forecast for later this morning?'
By that time I was past caring about what the weather had in store, partially because of the whiskey, and partly because I'd been rained on so much over the last three days, a bit more wasn't going to worry me.
We bade our farewells and tumbled out of the pub with the locals, and wombled back along to the tent.
The weather was still fine at that time, and I reckoned that we'd be gone before the gale came; after all, the chap had said 'Later on in the morning' hadn't he?
I flopped into the tent, hunkered down in my spleeping bag and still full of good food and drink, nodded off as soon as my head hit the pillow.
It could only have been an hour at the most before the gale arrived.
The first sign that something was rather amiss was that I was being rained on.
Being rained on while in a tent is never a good thing and when I opened my eyes I fuzzily tried to work out why the half of the tent top sheet that should have been covering me, wasn't there. The thin inner layer was still there but it wasn't doing a very good job of keeping me dry and I struggled to figure out what the feck was going on.
To my amazement, the boyfriend was still fast aspleep and snoring loud enough to rival the wind which was howling around what was left of the tent.
I hit him a couple of times and at last he woke up and asked what was wrong, and why had I woken him up?
I couldn't be arsed to explain and instead got out of my wet spleeping bag, got my feet into my boots and got out of the tent to try and get it back to where it should be.
As soon as I got outside, I was soaked. I was only wearing a sweatshirt and knickers and I was met by not just the rain, but waves which were reaching over the little shingle beach being carried by the gale.
Cursing the boyfriend's decision to pitch the tent facing the sea, I grabbed hold of the top sheet and tried to get it back over my bed.
At last the boyfriend figured out what was going on and I yelled as loud as I could over the noise to get him to move the car in front of the tent so that it could act as a windbreak.
Finally he got the message and tried to start the car.
Unfortunately, the car was too wet to start and it took him about five minutes to get it going.
During those five minutes I desperately tried to hold onto the tent which by then was trying to take off.
I stood there in a force nine gale, half-naked, being pelted by wind, rain and sea, but still half-tiddly from the previously consumed whiskey.
At last the car started and the boyfriend managed to get it in front of the tent, which did at least stop the majority of the sea hitting me and the tent, and another ten minutes or so later, we'd managed to peg down the top sheet again.
I was soaked to the skin, freezing cold and the effects of the lovely, warming whiskey had worn off.
The boyfriend discovered why pissing in the wind is not a very good idea, but the rain soon cleaned him up again.
The gale carried on buffeting the tent for another four hours.
My spleeping bag was soaked through as well, but curling up in it was marginally better than nothing at all.
Then at about nine o'clock, the storm finally raged itself out and the sun peeked wanly through the washed out clouds.
Still wet through we loaded up the car with the drenched spleeping bags and tent and drove off back towards the sanctuary of London and city life once again.
I was still damp when I got back home.
Worst camping holiday, EVER!
I haven't been back there since although I would very much like to.
Next time however, I'll be staying in a B&B.