Scotland is small. If you tore it off from England and dumped it in outback Australia, it would take the Federal Police, Interpol and a hoarde of alsatians ten years to ever track it down again. But this tiny country is crammed with mind-blowing beauty and contrast. We only had a week with The Mothership so we wanted to force-feed her as much of it as possible.
It's ridiculous after just one year how protective you feel about a place. Mum would make an innocent comment like, "It's raining" or "Why are all the buildings so grey" or "HOW much for a cup of coffee?" and we would snap and splutter defensively, like she was a playground bully picking on our baby brother. Even though we'd whinged about the very same things when we arrived last year.
It also felt like Scotland was our new boyfriend and parental approval was pending. We desperately wanted her to be impressed. The first Saturday we stopped briefly in South Queensferry beneath the Forth Bridges. Rhi and I loathe how every tourist bus stops at the stupid bridges, but now we wanted Mum to love them.
"The orange one is the rail bridge. It's the greatest feat of Victorian engineering. Built in 1890. Look at it. LOOK AT IT!"
"Aren't you going to take another photo?"
This continued as we trundled around the gentle greenness of Perthshire. Look at the cows. Look at the castle. Are you looking? And again as we wound our way through the Highlands. Look at that Loch. Get a load of that Glen.
We were exhausted as we headed for the Isle of Skye and let the scenery speak for itself. The peaks of Glen Shiel loomed over and made me feel deliciously small and insignificant. Our rented car had felt quite big and fancy back on the streets of Edinburgh, but now it was just a silly little box of metal sitting on top of a silly little road that made barely made a scratch on the landscape.
Skye itself was shrouded with thunderclouds which made for a brilliant contrast against the aqua water. We passed the Cuillins, all black and menacing and streaked with snow.
"It's the Cuillins, Ma," I announced, with such ridiculous pride you'd think I'd given birth to them myself. "Don't you think they're beautiful? Huh huh?"
A few days later we wound up on the Isle of Mull, as scenic as Skye but more raw and rugged. The weather got progressively worse as we drove across to Fionnphort, the car wobbling over the single track road. But all I could do was gawk out the window and feel that incredible buzz that comes from seeing something so new, coupled with a slight panic that you won't get to see it all before you get deported.
The wind ripped the car doors open as we pulled up at the ferry port. My arm sprang out like a Hitler salute as I pointed across the water to the Isle of Iona.
(To be continued. I'm sleepy.)