Driving on the Left, Part II

More Driving Lessons

Last we left off, we had reached Inveraray, having driven through Edinburgh, not without incident. I believe we encountered a flat tire, having rudely been accosted by a curb while I was minding my own business, and narrowly saved by the rescue men who regularly change tires for the Americans and Canadians who seemed to have a love of contact with the curbs. A quick stop at the Kwik-Fit tire place, and all was well.
We were told to avoid Glasgow, but again the best laid plans…well, you know the saying. We rolled into Inveraray late and exhausted . I didn’t want to drive again, and neither did Robyn.

We had a good nights sleep, and our host gave us some fatherly advice about roundabouts, including a story about telling his daughter to avoid the one outside London that consisted of the main roundabout with eight satellite roundabouts around the perimeter.  Robyn and I both must have looked horrified, because he hastily assured us that we would encounter no such monster in Scotland.  Thank God for small favors!

It was also here that I thought my portable wifi would catch up with me.  When I called the company to tell them I had left it at home, they told me they could send another to the place I was staying.  Since we were on our way to the Isle of Mull, our host agreed to take the delivery for us, and when we came back from the Isle of Mull, we could pick it up.

We took off with me driving this time, Robyn having had her fill the day before in Glasgow’s rush hour.  It was a beautiful drive from Inveraray to Oban which is on the Firth of Lorne on the West Coast of Scotland.

We passed the most amazing church that I stopped  to take pictures of, but sadly cannot remember the name of.

Once in Oban we drove our car onto the ferry that would take us to Craignure on the Isle of Mull.  Foot traffic can purchase tickets the day of, but if you want to take your car you must make a reservation for day and time rather far in advance.

I discovered this by accident when trying to figure out the cost of the ferry on the internet back in February.  The cost was reasonable–right around 75GBP for two adults and car roundtrip.  You can find the schedule and prices here.  The Caledonian MacBrayne was amazing, with a cafeteria that had food ranging from snacks to meals for even the most picky person or child.  Check in was a breeze, and driving onto the ferry was easy as pie.  The ferry ride was smooth, passing Duart Castle on the sound that was a great photo backdrop.

We drove off the ferry into Craignure, and couldn’t have been happier.  We didn’t know the hard part was ten minutes down the road.

The Isle of Mull has what are called one track carriageways.

This means that cars going in either direction share one lane. How does that work, you ask? Well, I drove on it for two days, and I still couldn’t tell you. What I can tell you is, I’m sure I now have a bleeding ulcer. My knuckles will be white for the rest of my life, and the moment of true understanding came when we rounded a curve that on the left side had a sign pointing in the direction that we were going that said, CEMETARY. I know now that they chose to put a cemetery seemingly in the middle of nowhere for the head-on collisions that happen at that point. Saves time, you see. They can just drag the bodies out of the car and up the hill and bury them. No muss, no fuss. In a country that has seen so many civil wars, what’s a few more drops of blood on the soil?

I was surprised at the speed by which cars traveled. Where I was going 30, they would easily be going 50. I decided that the trick to surviving on these single track roads was to follow someone who knew what they were doing. That way if a collision happened, I could watch from behind, thus allowing me time to escape. Unfortunately, this didn’t work very well because every time I found someone to follow, they would pull over and let me pass, quite unlike Americans who would do anything to prevent you from passing them. At one point I frantically waved the person to go on ahead. He did, but eventually pulled over again to let me pass.  I just don’t think I looked that confident.

We managed to make it to Tobermory with nary an incident. We made it to Iona the following morning with only one incident.  Americans always pull to the right to let someone pass.  On a single track carriageway in a country where you drive on the left, you should pull to the left to let oncoming traffic pass you.  All I can say is, old habits die hard.  And if I pull to the right, and someone coming at me pulls to the left, well, we are eventually going to occupy the same space at the same time.  Suffice it to say, Robyn and I went flying into the pasture, which was the result of me realizing I’d better go WAY FAR right to avoid a head-on collision.  When we finally came to a bouncing stop, she got out to talk to the people in the other car while I tried unsuccessfully to erase the image of the passenger in the other car looking like she was certain death was imminent.  By the time I exited my vehicle to go throw up in the nearby bushes, I heard the other driver saying quite cheerfully,  “Great Driving! You avoided an accident! Well done!”  Apparently they didn’t hold a grudge.

I became grateful to see cows, sheep and goats meandering on the side of the road. That meant I had to slow down, so that when they leapt unexpectedly into the road I didn’t slam into them, throwing their furry bodies into the ditch.

It took two hours to make it to Fionnphort (pronounced, I am told, Fen-a-fert), or, for perspective, a distance of 48.6 miles. But we were alive, and as Robin pointed out, undamaged in any way, shape or form.

In Fionnphort we caught another ferry–this one only for foot traffic–to get to the Isle of Iona, home of Iona Abby.  We toured Iona Abby in the misty, driving rain after which we took the ferry back to the Isle of Mull, got back into the car, and proceeded to drive back to Craignure on the other side of the island, or 34.8 miles. We must have done better (we did have more people to follow) because we managed that in one hour and 15 minutes. I refused to drive to the gas station after we parked at the Pennygate Lodge, and told Robyn if she wanted to fill up that bad, she could drive. On the way out, the proprietor of the Pennygate Lodge where we were staying informed us that if we needed diesel fuel, we wouldn’t get any because somebody had run over the only diesel pump in town. We stared at her.

“Are you kidding us?” we asked.
“No, I’m not.” She said grinning.
“What happened?”  We asked.
“Ooch, twas an American, backing up and not looking where he was going!”
At least I left the curb in working order.