When did you last make time to dawdle? Can you remember what it was like to do nothing more than meander, pootle or bumble along? And when was the last time you took the slow road, just because you could?
If your answer is ‘too long ago’ then you need to keep on reading. And then possibly put 3rd May 2018 in your diary. That’s because it’s the day my new book project, Take the Slow Road: Scotland gets released. That’s the cover, above. I love it. What do you think?
I am really excited by it. Not only because it’s a new book, but also because it’s the product of a dream come true, and because of that, is a departure from the stuff I have done before.
If my previous books were tender looks at food, camper vans and camping, this one is a love note to the journey that gets you there in the first place. It’s about taking the time to enjoy the road as a destination in itself, taking time to see and understand landscapes and to relish the moments that they give you.
You might say that Take the Slow Road is the antithesis to Top Gear. And you’d be right. It’s the cure to your overactive, overachieving, go-getting lifestyle and all that unnecessary noise and guff that goes with it. It's the opposite to understeer and oversteer and not really seeing anything except the price tag and the BHP and the number of head turns per mile.
But. And this is very important. Take the Slow Road has never been about being lazy. Quite the opposite. It’s about getting off the sofa, getting out and getting some air in your lungs. It’s finding, seeing and loving all that is to love about life on the road.
I spent a year writing Take the Slow Road: Scotland, making lots of journeys north from my home in Cornwall, sometimes on my own, sometimes with my kids and sometimes with friends. Each trip was incredible, for all kinds of reasons. I drove a few different vehicles, sometimes borrowing motorhomes and campers from Marquis Motorhomes, sometimes driving my own van, and once borrowing a beautiful Type 2 VW from Deeside Classic Campers. I also cheated on one trip and did part of it in a hire car with a tent, although this was more to do with me missing the deadline than anything else. Incidentally, on that trip I did perfect the art of cooking pasta in a hotel kettle when I had to take cover during a really heavy storm.
When you flick through the pages of Take the Slow Road I hope it will take you on a visual and literary journey through Scotland that will inspire you to nip out to the garage and promise the old girl that you’ll book that trip north like you always said you would. I hope it’ll inspire you to turn the key and head off to climb high mountain passes, take tiny ferries to beautiful, remote islands, saunter alongside stunning lochs and laze on lonely beaches. I hope it’ll drive you to explore tiny seaside villages, botanical gardens, cycle routes, camp sites, stone circles, castles and landscapes that you won’t find anywhere else.
Why write about Scotland first?
If anywhere was perfect for a road trip it is Scotland, of course. It has great distances, great views, great people and some of the greatest landscapes in the United Kingdom. Scotland also has the UK’s deepest lake, the highest mountain and the oldest building. It has eagles, red squirrels, wild cats, pine martens and capercaillies. Whales, dolphins, otters and seals swim in its seas. Huge, beautiful Caledonian Pines grow alongside its byways and on its mountainsides, while rare machair grasslands thrive above the tideline of its most beautiful west coast and island beaches.
Scotland also has roads. Thousands of miles of them. Many of them are spectacular in the extreme. With the exception of some of the major routes, every route I drove had something special about it. Heck, even the M74 passes through some interesting scenery.
Scotland has Britain’s highest main road, highest classified road and the world’s longest triple tower cable-stayed bridge, the Queensferry Crossing. It is a country of superlatives, where you can be at the most north westerly tip of Europe or at the UK’s most remote pub.
For motorhomers and camper vanners Scotland is a brilliant place to travel. Generally there is a positive and tolerant attitude towards ‘wild camping’ and parking up at beaches or in the countryside that’s down to an understanding that motorhomes and campervans are ‘good for business’. Good for them. And good on us if we work really, really hard to keep it that way.
Next up. Take the Slow Road: England and Wales
I am already embarking on the next book in what I hope will be a long series. But I need help!! If you have any great ideas for journeys in England and Wales that are interesting, beautiful, difficult or join up themed destinations (I joined up the Harry Potter locations in Scotland), let me know!
In the meantime, please enjoy some of the images from the book.