Attempting to make it as a writer

Drive across Britain – Tain

So guess who got the Hotel Morangie  in Tain – hope my family are proud  as I know one or two of them at least are partial to a wee dram of Glen MorangieIMG_0625

A management decision this morning I am not running as I have 84 miles to go to get to John O’Groats and then another 184 back to Fort William; I stayed in bed and although I could not sleep, I did doze.  The cyclists, 16 miles away were going to be up and out from 6 am to give them a good chance of finishing and setting off home in daylight.  I did manage a final ‘good luck and keep going’ via text, but suspect he will not read it till later.

DSC_0513Yesterday I left Fort William and took the road along to Fort Augustus where the road split to travel up either side of Loch Ness.  What an incredible sight as you get your first view. The road is windy with places to stop and photograph or marvel, which I did many a time so it took a long time to reach the Exhibition Centre.

This was one interactive tour I was going on.  So having done the tour, am I convinced either way.  They were able to explain many sightings and photographs with a lot of highly creative plausible explanations .  The one thing they cannot prove is the truth of the monster; but of course she is not going to show herself to us mere mortals is she?

Could Matthew and his new wife, yet to be named, meet up with the monster.  They will be travelling up one side or IMG_0613the other of the loch.  The monster was very popular in the 1700s, so could they have a pet? Or be involved with a discovery.   Read the book to find out how I decide to weave this into the plot.

Base camp tonight was at Bonar Bridge.  A very damp and dismal camp.  People were coming in late, cold, wet and wishing it was all over.  Sexy Sporty Dad reflected the same reaction and having droped back to 86th, which I thought was still impressively brilliant, was tempted to curl up in a warm bed without the requirement to leap on another bicycle.  But having done this far and only one day to go had enough determination and will power to complete one more day.  He is not as tired as last evening and not too battered, and quite happy to loll in the comfy chairs provided.

IMG_0642The kind people from Deloittes had provided a drying room , which was in constant use but very effective. I left him to his buffet meal and an early night.

I on the other hand had struggled to find a B&B in Bonar Bridge and discovered which ever search engine I tried they all came back with Hotel Morangie  which was over 16 miles from base camp.  So having done the wifely duty I came back to my Scotish hunting hotel 200 yards from the entrance to the distillery for Glen Morangie Whiskey.

Luckily they also had a restaurant where I was treated to haggis filled chicken with a whiskey cream sauce.  Middle son might be able to replicate the meal for me but I suspect would not be able to readily lay his hands on the Haggis.IMG_0650

The building and fine stags head in the hall may be dated but the internet and wifi were very up to date.

I have learned  I cannot do bridges.   I love bridges you know the little old stone ones with the slow nearly dried up river still struggling to flow underneath.   It’s the big ones – I discovered going across the Severn earlier in the week that I felt ill driving across – well I have been across a few yesterday and now know I have a fear of driving over large expanses of water.   I was overtaken going over one today, which was nearly enough to push me over the edge!



I have lost the sun.

Well that is an abrupt change of weather, overcast  and threatening but I did manage to stay dry and even keep a pathetic run up the hill along the bridge and back down the lane.  I watched as base camp woke up and got ready.  It occurred to me that if I was running back to the main road amid a group of cyclists I may not last, without being run over, knocking someone off or worse, collapsing in an ungainly puffing and spluttering heap as all these fnely tuned athletes pass me by.

I saw the first runners leave the camp and push up the hill to the main road and wished them off and I waited till the DSC_04617.15 lot had passed by and then I headed back to my hot shower and good scotish breakfast.    Sexy Sporty Dad was either running slightly later or had snuck through the groups without me spotting him but I felt I had done my bit as the rain began to trickle down.

Yesterday the weather was very different with blazing sunshine and a real touch of summer.   I set off to pass through Stirling but saw a sign for Bannock Burn, yet another battle field I know nothing about.  I detoured. I had just missed a tour and next one was not for an hour – not sure why except that the experience was interactive…. I couldn’t stay. But this as with many events took place long before my hero Matthew reached the Scottish borders.  It didn’t stop me having a coffee though.

DSC_0480Then I headed over to Glen Coe.  I suspect that this is the hottest, sunniest day Scotland has ever seen and the views down the Glen and back up again were actually breathtaking.  But picture this on a cold and wet 1743 winters morning with the wind howling up the valley.  And a young lost Matthew with no bicyle, no car and not even a horse to ride running along frightened, not sure where he was or where he would end up, hungry and alone……

Next time I will not stop for a convenience stop at the same place as Pit Stop 3 for the cyclists.  I probably got there a few minutes after Sexy Sporty Dad left but as soon as I drove in I realised my mistake.  The car park was heaving with bikes, cyclists and tag on vehicles.  Not to be beaten I noticed a car beside me waiting to pull out,  fab I could pull forward let him out and then reverse into his space and turn before finding a stopping point further on.   As I pulled forward a car pulled right up behind blocking both me and the chap trying to get out in.  The driver leapt from the vehicle and ran; you make your own mind up where.  20 minutes later he had not returned and nature was calling me.

The blocked in car had managed to squeeze out just nudging  the blocker slightly, but he had a small van. I was blocked in every way.  A wee stop and a coffee later and the blocker had been replaced by one of the support vehicles but left me space to reverse slightly and move out.  My fear was cyclists have their own agenda.  One of the crew saw my dilemma and having the power to direct bikes he guided me out and back on my way.

Hoping to stop off at the house Skyfall  and naturally the thought that  James Bond might rush out and need my help solving his latest adventure.  I always did fancy myself as a Bond Girl.   Ah well if not then I could always see the bridge the Hogwarts Express travels across.  A little magic in my life would never go amiss especially cleaning up the home when Sexy Sporty Dad and I arrive back from our travels.

I missed both as I was too busy overtaking cyclists. Here is yet another place to be added to my ever lengthening, toDSC_0469 be revisited list.  What happened to the once in a lifetime trip?

The whole journey through Glen Coe and many miles before and after I spent on the wrong side of the road.  Probably not a feat I will admit to Middle Son while I spend a lot of brave journeys shouting at him to stay on our side of the road.   I did have a valid reason, it was the easiest way of going past groups of lycra clad wobbly bottoms and actually moving out of 2nd gear.  Perhaps not mention to Sexy Sporty Dad who would hate the thought of me driving on the right.

I arrived at Fort William still in sunshine, later than planned but with Ben Nevis towering above me.  The town and base camp lay at the foot of Ben Nevis and I could only glance up and up and up to the train on the top.  It was later at the camp I discovered that the train had other littler trains which turned out not even to look like trains or swans as someone pointed out, but to be the unmelted snows from previous years going up the North Face of the mountain.

How am I going to weave my newly named hero Matthew up the mountain and does he have a wife in tow at this stage? I IMG_0559decided not to climb it even in the name of research but maybe he could be one of the first to get to the top with James Robertson in 1771 or possibly with the mining man John Williams in 1774?   We will find out.

So I didn’t run this morning and I certainly couldn’t be seen out in my running gear  in mid-afternoon but I could go for a casual walk, which is how I came to be walking the 20 minutes over to base camp from my lovely   Torlundy House.  The trip took far longer than planned as I stopped and looked at everything and photographed each new vista I was met with.

I managed to persuade Sexy Sporty Dad that although he had been on a bike all day, a stroll would do him good so he walked back with me to the B&B, before I had to drag him off the bed, and I thought I was tired,  to go for yet another excellent meal in Fort William at a place called Browns

DSC_0459He is very tired, and quite snappy, but today was the most gruelling one of the whole 9 days.  It was 120 miles with three pit stops.  Maybe if he had taken it slower but then he would have been out for even longer, some were out for 12 hours!   He came in an incredible 49th.

We have decided to amend our plan slightly and rather than stay in John O’Groats on the last night we will come back to Fort William to break the journey the following day.  Unfortunately the B&B is fully booked but we will find somewhere.

Today I learnt that I am not very observant, having missed completely the two places I really wanted to see, and not very patient when I am on a timetable  – not a good traits for a writer.



That fitness fad was short lived:

I didn’t run this morning as the idea of getting lost in the outskirts of Glasgow was not a thought that appealed to me.   Not that I have had anything but great treatment up here but the area is far more built up and busy than I am used to, with not a lot of fresh air or wildlife to interest me and too many people to be seen by.

Yesterday I left England and Arrived in Scotland.  Wow already!DSC_0344

The most obvious place my hero is headed will be Gretna Green and I would hate to disappoint, – this plays an important part in his  journey and as you might imagine he is joined by a heroine – or will she be a nemesis…..  time will tell and you will have to read the book.  Oops I will have to write the book first.

I had a strange sense of urgency as I went round, even the air seemed to be rushed.   I could almost hear them whispering hurry up and I kept looking over my shoulder expecting someone to come hurrying in…  Who could I introduce at this point?

Now I am guessing the big shopping outlet didn’t exist in 1743  so my hero, maybe we should come up with a name, could not shop till he dropped.

I mistakenly first went into Gretna Hall who also have a blacksmith’s anvil and a kissing gate but no signs to say this was not the original blacksmith’s shed just a lot about the DSC_0407history.   It is now a licenced venue for weddings with lots of evidence to point to the perfect setting.

Although it did not look like the one I had studied on the internet and it cost nothing to go in, to a visitor attraction! It was only as I drove off looking for Glasgow that I saw my mistake and doubled back.   However the Hall may well now play an important part.  Isn’t that how research works!

DSC_0440The original blacksmith’s shed and anvil now house an exhibition of the history of why Gretna was such a popular place with English runaways.  Certainly I hope to use some of the fantastic coaches that are now housed in the exhibition and possibly a wedding dress.  Although I am not sure how couples marrying in haste had time to consider a dress or ceremony when all they needed was the certificate and bed as quickly as possible.

As luck would  have it there was a wedding taking place or that had just taken place, meaning I could go round the exhibition.    The bride, the groom and DSC_0429guests, a handful did not appear to be in the  least bit rushed, as they sat leisurely soaking up the blazing sun.

Having left the celebrations in Gretna, I drove up through Lockerbie.   I did not see much but it had been important for me to drive through there as the plane crash had affected me quite emotionally at the time and I felt I needed to go and just be there.  Then on to Hamilton, in the outskirts of Glasgow.   I have been very impressed with the motorway system and the roads in general up here in Scotland.  This may not last as I travel further north but considering my lack of idea where places are I have been able to find my way round fairly well.  My opinion of course!

IMG_0534And then; it’s funny how often you can miss a turning into such a big place as Hamilton Race Course, but on my third attempt I found the way in.

So Sexy Sporty Dad had passed through into Scotland even before I had left Penrith and came in to Hamilton, a scorching 61st in the ratings.   He is starting to look a tad tired but still able to speak in understandable terms. There is at least  less comment on how to do it next time.

He allowed himself to come out for a meal with me tonight and we met a group of 4 cyclists who had opted for a night in the hotel as a change.  A thought akin to cheating in the eyes of Sexy Sporty Dad.  Keeping them a degree further down the insanity ladder in my eyes.   I think quite a few cope with the rigorous routine in different ways.  These guys are not going for the fast timings on a daily basis but have found they can cover short bursts at a very fast pace indeed but then need a stop and a couple of pints before the next very fast pace.  Each to their own torture but I feel  if Sexy Sporty Dad tried this I might well be cashing in his insurance earlier than planned.

Today I learned to trust my instincts –  and read the instructions, especially if I have written them myself; as they will be thorough! (am I OTT? – no I haven’t learnt that about myself!)



Over half way,  well by tonight we would be. We had already reached day 5 of 9!

Tucked away just off the main B5305, minutes from the motorway junction I was booked into yet another fabulous room at Smithy Cottage.  Deep in a forest and just up from the huge cycling camp, I had left the curtains open overnight.  As the sun woke up I watched the colours and shapes emerge from their sleepy darkness.

IMG_0501It was such a beautiful morning, I was not going to miss the opportunity  to enjoy the fresh open countryside that I found myself in.  I snuck silently out of the front door and woke  up the sheep in the next field.

What a busy road, I had not expected that. But I kept up an intermittent speeded up walk and  slow down as I battled against the traffic zipping along.   I ran, well made it up to near the base camp where cyclists had already IMG_0510started leaving.  Like Lady of the Manor I grandly waved and wished them luck as I  saw many off from the huge imposing entrance to Hutton in the Forest, in whose grounds the bikes had been camping but I had not been staying.

Sexy Sporty Dad, struggling with the early mornings had still managed to get out before I got there but I felt I had done my bit for some at least.   Trotting back, it is always faster going home, to the hot shower and full English breakfast two groups of cyclists passed me.  Duty calling I told them to turn back and go the way the others had.

DSC_0313Yesterday I had decided that I would investigate the Pendle Witches although their murder took place long before my story happens I might be able to weave the journey around the area.  I went to visit the Pendle Heritage Centre which is housed in the Park Hill house home of the Bannister Family, whose descendant Roger is best known for running  the mile in under four minutes.  I am not surprised, if he ran up and down some of those hills no wonder he was fit.

I then went onto Pendle Hill itself.  Apart from a huge hill there is not a lot to it.   Although I took a wronDSC_0329g turn at some point and Sat Nav led me round and round some very deserted moorland roads across cattle grids and down some incredibly narrow lanes; for which I was somewhat glad Sexy Sporty Dad was not in his car with me.  His nerves
are not as steely as mine needed to be.

Finally I found a main road and followed it along for many miles only panicking as I read the sign on the side Yorkshire West Riding.  Suddenly an element of fear embedded itself as I realised that I was driving along not having a clue where I was in the country and I could quite easily be going way off track.  Wasn’t I suppose to be going up through Lancashire.  I was quite at the mercy of Sat Nav on my phone and not sure how much faith he deserved!

I have failed abysmally on my quest not to use motorways; they do provide a great catch up and give me an opportunity to actually spend time where I want to be.   As I drove swiftly along the M6 I noticed the signs saying “cycle race – hold ups beware” , it was only later I realised the Tour of Britain is going around the same area over next couple of days, passing by the B&B but I was not going to wait around for it to pass I had my own tour of Britain IMG_0517to complete.

What has struck me suddenly is the tiredness.   Sexy Sporty Dad, I can understand, he is putting so much effort in and sleeping in a tent does not give you a good night’s rest but it is my tiredness that surprises me.   I too am exhausted by the end of each day,  driving really does take its toll.

So how is he doing; Sexy Sporty Dad, even after taking a wrong turn came in at an incredible 50th.   He still seems to be enjoying the rides and is getting in with plenty of time to have a sleep before I get to him.  He is bright and full of the tales of his route and who he rides with and which bits were hard work and which worryingly he found enjoyable.

IMG_0521So today I have learnt how much I rely on the internet and phone, and how frustrating it is without them.  It is like losing a limb!


DSC_0266This morning I decided not to run or to try and see the cyclists off.   I had booked into the Haydock Park Hotel, by far the most expensive bed I will have all week.   The hotel boasts a pool, spa and a steam room.  It feels churlish not to make the most of every single facility laid at my feet.  Hence I find myself trotting for miles through the corridors that all look the same, dressed in my complementary robe and slippers.

With the whole depth at 1.5 metres I cannot even pretend that I leapt in, but took the more leisurely route down the steps straight into the beautifully warm water.   The pool was not big so I managed a few lengths before hauling myself and my soaked costume out of the pool and into the Jacuzzi before testing out the steam room.

Yesterday I was going to pop into Ludlow again and check out a few more places even try to get in to the Feathers for a cup of coffee, but as with all my plans it didn’t happen like that.   I got a text from Sexy Sporty Dad to say he was being patched up by the medical team having come off the bike.  Ludlow is definitely on the list to come again.

What do they say about pride before a fall except that it was my pride and his fall, not sure its suppose to work that way.

DSC_0259The great thing about covering the whole country is that in some places we will go through places we know or have a connection with.  So it turned out that the route cycled through Lymm and past the Green Dragon where I had already met up with his father and two brothers among  others.   We were able to cheer on several cyclists before Sexy Sporty Dad arrived for a quick drink with us, all patched up and raring to go.

His family joined us at base camp before we all went on for a meal at my exclusive hotel.  Despite all the style and DSC_0278expense there was a lack of personal service and I was just another paying guest rather than someone special with a story.  It is odd to say but from all the places I have stayed this is probably the only one I would not wish to revisit except in rare circumstances.

DSC_0283Despite his antics and the delay in Lymm, Sexy Sporty Dad still managed a very credible 102nd.   It is still not a race but he seems to be getting the hang of it and has now passed the 4th day which is the most difficult in terms of psychology.

So today I have learnt that the cost of something does not always reflect the quality.





fogWell that is a surprise!

I probably have the most fantastic view from my bedroom that I will have for the whole trip.  I have a huge corner window looking from Ludlow over the Shropshire hills to a place called Long Mind.  I hoped to wake up just before sunrise and watch it from my bed.

As we already know; best laid plans etc.   it wasn’t that I overslept, but when I awoke I could see nothing.  The view was clouded in thick, impenetrable fog and I could not see the cows just below my window let alone a view to die for.

Well that wasn’t what the forecast said….  For the cyclists I hope it improves quickly

I took a stroll this morning down the long drive of 17 Populars, I had expected them to be Oak as the house is the lovely Acorn Place.    I poplarswas told about a short route to go for a run and meet up with the Alpacas in the fields beside the public path. So here I am trotting along at a swift walk possibly jog steps thrown for good measure.  I am slightly off the beaten track but just gone past a tiny golf course.  Well by tiny I mean it is more or less within the grounds of a small hotel/B&B and not obvious even as far as the main road.  There are  lots of rabbits skipping all over the smooth lawns and checking out the holes.

It sounds like an echo, the traffic, not far away it is slightly haunting as I can see very little except thick white fog.   Although I am a little damp from the fog I don’t appear to be getting wet from rain but there are large drops landing on the leaves of the trees beside me, and there is a chill in the air.

I have come to a style which was not too difficult to vault or inelegantly climb over.   But the downside is the path is no longer tarmac so I have landed in wet grass.  My feet are already damp and the socks are not offering any protection.  I don’t run on grass as you never know what holes may be underfoot.  Another excuse!

I have got to the end of the path and now it opens into a field.  I was lost before I set off so now I have no idea where I am going.  I will turn around and the Alpacas will have to wait for another time. I don’t expect they will miss me.  I can just make out a possible building over the other side of the field but the cows are the ones I recognise from my room.  I am in fact just across from my B&B to which I will now return as I know a fantastic breakfast awaits.

DSC_0165Yesterday having seen off some of the cyclists from the heights of Bath I took the route through to Wales over the M48 bridge.  A seriously terrifying experience but even worse than that was the thought that the riders were going over the same bridge along a specially designated route even closer to the edge.  If I never need another reason not to do the same route as Sexy Sporty Dad, there it is!.  (Up date on this – Sexy Sporty Dad led his group over here – he loved it!)

I know Tintern Abbey was vacated at the time of the reformation and began to fall into disrepair and had a lot of it torn down and put to DSC_0213other uses, long before my story will take place but I did want to go and see it.

Although mainly ruins there is still enough to imagine what life was like.   Maybe my hero might pass this way on his journey north.   Unlike Poldark Mine, I could not feel  the past  but I was amazed how sophisticated they were.  The underlying drainage system, the warm room in the centre which kept certain rooms warmer.  They had a kitchen and dining room and the bedroom cells just above a flight of stairs so they could feel their way to middle of the night prayers.

DSC_0179I left Tintern and followed the incredibly beautiful Wye valley up through Monmouth and on to Ludlow where I rested for the night.  Knowing how old it is I entered the famous feathers hotel which will be of relevance to my hero but was very disappointed that they were unable to fit one person in for a quick dinner.    So I went round the corner to the ’Ye Old Bull Ring Tavern’ who were happy to feed me, before joining a fresh looking Sexy Sporty Dad.

He seems to be coping well , today was hot but not too hilly and he slowed his pace to take in the scenery but still managed to come in 85th.   Worryingly he is discussing who he is going to persuade to join him next time!

I have learnt today that it’s the little things that make the difference, particularly in a bed and breakfast  – see the dustbin.dustbin


Drive across Britain – Bath

DSC_0128The quality of my accommodation has been quite exceptional, which is more than I can say about the quality of my attempts at running.  However I have been out, not quite before the sun but shortly afterwards to see his gently prodding awake of the world.   This morning I left the warmth and peace of my bed and managed a small jog towards the main road, all downhill and very short, I might add.

Still high above the hills of Bath with the mist in the valleys, I slowed to a walk  along the A36 stopping below the back of the house I had just left.  Taking a photo of the street name which is the very same as Middle Son I was overtaken by a couple of cyclists heading out of town.

A few more came by and then Sexy Sporty Dad passed me.  At least I had seen him whether or not he was awake enough to see me remains a mystery but it was a brief moment that kept me cheering all day.

Yesterday did not go as planned, but there is a certain flexibility built into my days and I called on it then.

I had planned to visit Crediton where a major fire (second only to the Great Fire of London at the time) wiped out most of the buildings in the town.   This will play a rather significant detail in the new novel so it would have been nice if the museum opened on Sundays but I knew that was going to be in vain.

It would have been a tad helpful if I could have found the museum at least.

DSC_0087There is nothing relevant to the fire that I could see having walked up and down the town.  There is the statue of St Boniface DSC_0093who famously was born there, not sure that bit can be weaved into the story.  There is the small shelter, still with the poppy wreath remembering the war dead and there is a tourist information office which, I guess, might be in the same place as the museum; which if you remember I could not find and it too would be closed on a Sunday.   I feel another visit may be required but am not suggesting Sexy Sporty Dad repeats the exercise in the near future.

I moved onto Exeter where the hospital will have just opened 6 months before the fire in Crediton.  Another significant bit to the plot.

Having been to school in Exeter I can remember visiting people at the very old hospital on the spot of the original hospital.  They have now revamped most of the town and the building is unrecognisable in my memory let alone the history.  It now houses a very  modern façade DSC_0150and ultra modern offices inside which again were closed for the weekend.

I received a call from my sister to suggest as I was passing her door, did I want to see her new house.  Well of course I did, so tea and cake and a suitable unplanned tour took me well away from my research.

I did reach Bath university to find a bleary eyed husband having finished in excellent time and gone to sleep for a couple of hours.  Although a little tired, and in a touch of non-worrying pain, he had had a massage which possibly contributed to his present aches but might be more beneficial in the morning, he is in remarkable spirits.  He was again in 30th position which although not a race means he gets to base camp for leisurely showers and massages and has time to nod off before I arrive for an update on his day.  He is still able to speak coherently and still planning the next stage.

Tonight they had the benefit of student rooms with beds and ensuite facilities in funky colours.  A fact that he assured me had changed since bath unihis days at uni.   It made me feel less guilty about the beautiful Abbey Rectory where I had to lay my head.

So today I have learnt that all the planning and list making in the world will not mean it will happen as expected.


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