It was late afternoon. In the middle of the Firth of Clyde. Phil was swimming in the sea, Lottie was sniffing the seaweed, and I was peering through the binoculars trying to spy on bobbing boats. The sun was shining, the waves were lapping, and there wasn’t a soul to be seen… just us, and a few seals and birds. Bliss. It felt a world away from 2020. After six months of pandemic overload, it was just the tonic we needed! 🙂
We booked our trip to the Isle of Arran, back in Autumn 2019. After our amazing campervan adventure around remote Scotland last year, we were both eager to explore further afield. As one of the easiest Scottish islands to get to, it would be a wonderful gateway experience for us. And a perfect -memorable- place to celebrate my 40th birthday. So we booked the cottage, bought the map, and started getting excited.
But then the pandemic arrived. Suddenly life had to be paused and plans for the year cancelled. We assumed -and accepted- that my birthday adventure would be another victim of the virus. But then rules were relaxed, and we were amazingly free to visit! But instead of excitement, I was now scared about our trip across the sea. As well as worrying about a last minute cancellation due to rocketing cases, I was suddenly nervous about holidaying during a pandemic. After months of shielding, the thought of going on a ferry, staying where others had slept, and being a whole sea away from healthcare scared me. I’d spent the last six months in my safe kingdom, so venturing 400 miles away, into the unknown, into a potential danger zone, was a big scary deal.
But life needs to be lived, so I put on my brave face. And it was amazing. 🙂 We loved Arran. Often described as ‘Scotland in minature’, it had everything. The north of the island was a dramatic composition of steep, craggy mountains looming over a wild coastline of deserted beaches. Whereas the south was rolling hills and forests and impressive little islands offshore. It was quiet, it was peaceful, it was remote. Bliss. Everyday Phil would get up early to cycle or run or hike or swim, before we’d spend the rest of the day exploring together. There were castle ruins and ancient standing stones and rock-pools. There were long winding roads and fishing hamlets and passing places. We spotted red squirrels and cave houses and waterfalls. And so many sunbathing seals! My off-road scooter was pushed to its limits, as -for the first holiday ever- I was able to explore beyond the main path. I scootered on beaches, I scootered along coastal footpaths, I scootered across very muddy moors! It was awesome! Freedom! But the best day of the holiday was when we circumnavigated the top of the island, following the one coastal road, as it wound its way past beach after beach after beach. Every corner revealing a super new panorama. We pulled over whenever we spotted a view to photograph or a cool site to explore or a special place to watch the sea from. It was our kind of perfect.
But it wasn’t all roses and rainbows. 😉 On the middle day, the Bumblebee suddenly stopped working. There were warning lights and clonky noises and a big red ‘Stop’ sign. The one mechanic on Arran described it as a catastrophe and claimed it couldn’t be mended over there! Cue panic! But amazingly, our wonderfully kind landlady came to the rescue and lent us her car, so the adventures could continue. 😀 On the last day, we waited and waited for the planned RAC van to come across from the mainland to take our campervan and trailer home… but it never arrived. So we were forced to leave everything behind (scooter, presents, medicines) at five minutes notice, and return to Scotland as foot passengers! The stress levels rocketed further when the pre-booked hire car then failed to meet us at the port! We were stranded, seven hours from home… and I was running out of oxygen! But thankfully it arrived after an hour of stressy phone-calls. It took another week -and lots and lots of chasing- for the Bumblebee and trailer to finally make it the 400 miles south. Bad weather, a broken dock and fully-booked ferries all halted her return. We were very relieved to be reunited with all our belongings! I’d missed my electric toothbrush!
Amazingly, wonderfully, thankfully, after all of my pre-holiday coronavirus jitters, we felt very safe on Arran. It turned out to be an ideal spot to escape to in a pandemic! 🙂 They had not had a positive case since May; being an island there was no passing traffic, and with the ferry running at reduced capacity for social distancing, there were fewer tourists. Onboard the boat all passengers wore masks, and we were able to sit outside for both journeys. The cottage was spotlessly clean, and -as requested- the oxygen paraphernalia was still sealed and left for me to set up. The small population mainly lived in the big villages, and as we spent most of our time exploring the quiet and remote and deserted beauty spots, it was easy to keep away from folk. We chose to avoid pubs and restaurants, but used their shops as they either only allowed one customer in at a time, or had traffic lights outside to limit the people entering.
Surprisingly, the pandemic barely entered our mind whilst there. 🙂 I deliberately kept away from the news and social media for the week, and it helped enormously. For the first time in six months, I wasn’t worrying or thinking or stressing about the virus. I was able to enjoy the now and not worry about the next. My shoulders felt lighter, my brain less frazzled, and my happiness tank charged up. It was the break we desperately needed. A chance to laugh, explore, have an adventure, feel normal again. Escape 2020.
In fact I would have recommended holidaying in a remote spot during a pandemic ( 😉 )… until the last day! 😛 When Bumblebee went wrong, we were forced to take more risks. Some we were able to prepare for -and mitigate- in advance, like arranging a hire car so we didn’t need to share the tow-truck cab. Some we deemed small, so took the chance, like lathering ourselves in hand gel and avoiding buttons so we could drive the hire and borrowed car. And some risks were forced upon us, and so we had to do our best to keep safe, like donning masks and sitting at the back when we needed a lift to the ferry. Solving a saga in a pandemic, definitely made the situation harder. We had to constantly decide which of the risky options was the safest. And which were too dangerous for a Shielder. Should we find a random hotel or take the ferry home? Should we wait for the hire car or get a taxi? It pushed us out of our comfort zone, but that’s often the best way to grow. We coped with smiles on our faces! A world away from the Sarah of the early pandemic. Very proud! 🙂
I’d hoped to celebrate my 40th birthday with a memorable adventure. Thanks to the views, the pandemic and the Bumblebee, it was certainly that. We won’t forget this holiday! 🙂
We’re still waiting for the Bumblebee to come home… four weeks in the local garage and counting! 😛