Linlithgow to Hexham: Friday 9 October

img_8252Alarm-clock awakening for an early, misty and promising start. Such was our pitch of excitement that not even breakfast was taken before we set off in the van heading the short distance to the fishing lodge on Beecraigs Loch. The inevitable local flies were purchased to add to the our functioning souvenir collection, we tackled up and were soon afloat in one of the numerous hire boats for a frustrating but perversely enjoyable morning of fishing with rises all around our chosen positions just off the dam. Despite the activity around us, we had no takes until Leonie hooked one which simply snapped her line off and disappeared. Damn!

With our self-imposed noon deadine approaching, we reluctantly docked and disembarked, performed a quick change in the van and then set off fishless with backward glances making us realise how busy the Loch had become.

Onwards under yet another miraculously blue sky towards Peebles and our next planned stop at Eddlestone and the imposing châteauesque frontage of the Barony Court Hotel which sheltered the recently rediscovered Polish Map of Scotland – a disappointingly awe-inspiring creation which was clearly designed to be viewed from an aerial perspective, where the leaflets depicted a perfect 3-D representation of all of Scotland.

Sadly difficult to visualise from our lowly position on a level with its elevations, features such as Skye and the Great Glen were nevertheless clearly identifiable as was Ben Nevis – with a broomstick pole stuck in the top. Discarded tools, trailing hosepipes and cement-stained plastic barrels indicated this renovation was still a work-in-progress, although even in its incomplete state it seemed to provide a fitting and final overview of our trip so far.

A sandwich-and-chips lunch served in a business-like Hotel bar fuelled us for our onward journey as, at mid-afternoon we set forth again, head for the border and Hexham beyond, crossing the Cheviot Hills on what had now become a busy arterial road. We enjoyed a brief stop at the border, a point marked by giant standing stones carved on the relevant side with “Scotland” and “England”, each country also marked by national flags, with the English version looking decidedly down-at-heel, tatty and frayed along its trailing edge.

Reaching Hexham, Peter, Irene along with house-guests Frans and Pauline provided a warm welcome as we eased our road-weary van onto the drive. We were looking forward to being fed and watered in characteristic Hexham style – and to sleeping in a proper bed for the first time since our departure!

Wine, food and conversation flowed, we remembered to plug in the van-electrics; traded in my now worn-out in-van slippers for a natty pair of hotel slip-ons; caught up with family news; drank some whisky and enjoyed a comfortable night with all modern conveniences and a lot of room for manoeuvre.

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