Elgin and Lossiemouth, Scotland

JULY 7th, 2007 [Saturday]

We left the Isle of Skye after dinner. We actually had no plans on where to spend the night today. We briefly toyed with the idea of driving all the way to John O’Groats, the supposedly most northern tip of the entire Britain island and an extremely popular spot for sunrise watching.

But then we got a bit high (tipsy) from the alcoholic haggis dinner and spent precious time dancing the alcohol off at the car park, so it was like 8 PM when we actually left the island. John O’Groats was supposed to be an 8 hours’ drive away.

So we drove and drove and drove. It was night and dark, so no photos. About 3 hours into the drive, our fuel tank indicators began to blink. This was when we realized we made another cock up. You see, petrol in the Isle of Skye was more expensive compared to mainland Scotland, so when we left the island with half a tank of gas, we thought we could just refuel at any petrol station that we drove past. Except we forgot that we were in Scotland and not Malaysia. Here, most petrol stations close by evenings, much like every other shops. Especially in little towns. None of the petrol stations that we drove pass were open.

We were expecting to slow drive our way to Inverness, one of the main cities of Scotland, where we hoped to get better luck with locating a 24-hours petrol station. Except that when our fuel indicator started to blink, by estimation we were still about 60 kilometers away from Inverness, and usually when the indicator blinks it means you still have 40 kilometers worth of fuel left.

It was one of the most edgy nights I have ever spent on the road. It was not like we were going to be in any life threatening danger, but the idea of being stranded in the middle of nowhere with a car out of fuel was really really stressful.

JULY 8th, 2007 [Sunday]

Fortunately, in the end, nothing bad happened, and we managed to creep our way into the city and immediately found a petrol station that was open.

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Phew… I can’t be sure, but I reckon if we went for another few kilometers, we would really be in trouble.

Anyway, so… after this stressful episode, we decided that we were in no shape to continue to John O’Groats. It was another 4 hours away, and we were already past midnight. And we were all really tired and sleepy.

What we did next is another of those budget traveler thing. We found a Tesco that was open for 24 hours. We bought a few coffees and sandwiches there, and then all 15 of us used their toilets to brush our teeth, wash our faces and freshen up a bit.

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And then it was time to bring out the map and come up with plan B spontaneously. You see, the reason people (we) want to go to John O’Groats is mainly because of the sunrise view by the sea. So maybe we should explore if we can find another place that is by the sea and facing the same direction. And I thought I found such a place.

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So, Lossiemouth it is!

We arrived close to 2 AM (I think), and we got lucky. We found a public car park just by the seaside. And there was a public toilet right next to the car park. Perfect!

We did some research prior to coming on this road trip. You know, during summer in England, sunrise is typically 5 AM-ish. But in the northern regions of Scotland, it could be as early as 4 AM. So we thought we could get a bit of sleep and wake up to catch the sunrise. Yes, this was the night where we ALL slept in the car.

I did wake up at 4 AM. I really did! I think… I’m not sure about the other 2 cars, but I was the only one who woke up in my car. And I saw the most spectacular sight ever!

It was beginning to get less dark. But it was raining and all I could was see rain drops splashing on the windscreen. It was also super foggy, fat hopes to catch the sunrise. I couldn’t even see the beach! How amazing was that?

So… I went back to sleep…

I finally woke up properly around 7 AM, and most of us did at about the same time too. So I did a quick headcount check and confirmed that a grand total of 4 persons actually did wake up at 4 AM to attempt and fail to see some sunrise.

So… no sunrise. By the way, this was what we were facing. I think this is a nice spot to view a sunrise, if the weather had been nice.

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If you want to, just use your imagination to place a rising sun in the backdrop.

There are two ways to look at things. We could be negative and think: Damn! We missed sunrise! This sucks!… or we could be positive and think: Wow! Thank goodness we didn’t drive that extra 4 hours to John O’Groats! It would most likely be raining too over there. Imagine all those hassle and end up seeing rain instead of sunrise!

The thing is, because we did not make that 4 hours drive, we saved ourselves 4 hours of drive back. We spent that extra time utilizing the public toilet to get a semblance of a shower and had a nice D.I.Y breakfast by the sea.

And then I discovered that there is a castle nearby which we could visit with our Explorer Pass. So we drove to the nearby town, Elgin, to get to this place called the Spynie Palace.

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It seemed pretty impressive, based on these description boards. And I was impressed with how rustic this palace was, it seemed very old and looked like it could turn into ruins any time soon.

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So we entered through the door, climbed some stairs,

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And finally made it to the top to see…

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What the… Oh, f*ck! No! Come on, man! What the heck is this?!

I thought this palace looked rustic and will potentially be falling into ruins soon. Well… the inside is hollow with only bits of stones and walls left. This isn’t going to be in ruins soon, this is already in ruins!

It was such a big let down, especially after all those descriptions at the entrance. And, we entered for free because we had the Explorer Pass, but if you didn’t have this pass, they were charging £3.50 per entry. Under normal circumstances, £3.50 is a cheap price to pay to visit a castle/palace. But, £3.50 to see… this? I don’t know about you, but I think it was a bloody rip-off!

So… let’s see. No sunrise, visiting a palace that felt more like a sham. I guess this has got to be the most depressing post that I am going to write about Scotland. Damn!

No worries, my next post would be a much happier one. Promise…

[to be continued]

 

20 Comments

  1. Ehhh…but were standing on the grounds that was once something majestic. Maybe you were one of the last few peoples to see the ruins 😀 As SK said, this leg of the Scotland trip sounded very adventurous. All is good when you get the basic necessities like toilet, fuel, food and drink 😀

    • Yeah, this was the most adventurous and scariest part of the trip, without doubt. But I guess it is probably good to have this type of experience when traveling once in a while. Spices things up and makes the trip more memorable. 😀

  2. You guys really terrer ah. Lady luck seems to be with you in the petrol incident.

    Too bad about the sunrise la.

    But still the view look lively mah from the “castle”. A bit like harry potter show leh

    • Harry Potter not so bright I think, I remember the movies all very gloomy one. But then ah, I guess the castle style is the same, after all Hogwarts was supposed to be somewhere in Scotland. 😛

        • Yeah, I guess when Part 1 movie was out, all the fans who read the novels were still kids, but when Part 2 was out, most of the fans have grown up, so it is more suitable to bring the movie into a darker tone. I actually watched all the Harry Potter movies and read 3 of the books. Expecto Patronum!~ 😳

  3. Gosh, the castle hah..hah… But it is what it is, the remains of a once majestic castle. I understand how you felt because that was how I felt when I went to Melaka and visited A Famosa. I read about it in our sejarah book and what I saw was just the “pintu gerbang”. And lots of hawkers around hah..hah…

  4. Oh dear, if it was just one car and you got stranded with no petrol…shudder to think what would happen (seen too many movies). At least if someone comes up to kill you, you have 15 people to fight him off! ;D

    You guys went to a place called Lousymouth to see the sunrise…what did you expect? 😀 😀 😀

    • I think if there is anything coming up to kill us there, it would most likely be bears or snakes rather than humans, so numbers count for nothing. 😛

    • You are most definitely right. Here in Malaysia there are the most dangerous animals of all roaming at night: humans.

  5. wah, sounds so adventurous traveling with the blinking tank indicator for 60km!! lucky lucky you found a petrol station and also a 24-hour Tesco!! even luckier, you changed plan and just drove 45 minutes instead of 4 hours for the no-sunrise trip, hehe!! 🙂

  6. Haha, reading your initial paragrapgh macam Zombieland or Jeepers Creepers or The Hills Have Eyes or They Are Watching, macam those movies la, drive in the middle of nowhere, 3am in the morning, and sh*t, no petrol.. Go pump petrol, then all kena kidnap into a bus or a house or something, kena tortured with wax or what, huhuhuhuhuhhu, scary 🙁

  7. Wah, all of you so brave to drive with so little petrol in the cars. 15 persons 3 cars => 5 persons sleep in one car, boleh muat kah? Or need to sleep on top of each other (for the guys only la).

    I didn’t go these two places. I went to Inverness and John O’Groats but then I went for 8 days whereas you all only went there for so few days so cannot cover so many places.

    UK castles are mostly like this unless those that have humans living in them so it is not surprising. No matter that you did not see the sunrise. It is the fun of budget travelling in a huge group that makes the experience worthwhile. I am sure you are glad you all made the trip.

    Did you go to lake district or the moors before you left UK? I tak sempat go the two places.

    • Can lah, we did it. Basically we just slept upright, in a sitting position, just like that. Of course it was difficult lah, but we did it. It was a good experience, but not one that I look forward to again.

      Unfortunately no, none of my friends were keen on the Lake District, so I was not able to go on a road trip there.

  8. Holy Marcus! I am here finally. No worries about my scrappy post labelling bloggers with names. I have told you umpteenth times that I enjoyed your rants and screams #+=&@..

    Your trip was so tensed looking for a petrol kiosk in the dark night. I also had same Shit at midnight with blinking lights near Grand Canyon. It was hell and we found a cowboy town.

    I believe many castles in UK are similar with nice fronts like empty shells. They probably had to many ancient wars and the govt couldn’t care less unlike in Japan and China where they took great pains for restoration.
    You guys had so much fun and memories!

    • Stop saying Marcus. Now ah, if you are the one who say Marcus, my brain will auto correct to that other name hahahaha! 😀

      I suppose you are right. I think angmohs in general, their historical sites are mostly intentionally left to be ruins just so that you can see them at their face values, never mind if it made bad viewing experience. Probably better than doing a bad restoration job that might make the place lose it’s original historical value. I guess it is jakuns like me who feel bored because I did not know much of their history anyway.

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