We had grand plans for today, with many sites to see as we left Edinburgh and started our drive up into the Highlands. Unfortunately, we were stopped dead in our tracks very early on by poor rental car management. We arrived at the downtown Edinburgh Avis before 9:00am to pick up our pre-paid, reserved-months-in-advance vehicle only to find two very harried blokes having to explain that there were no cars. Not just no mid-sized cars. Not just no car for us. Literally NO CARS.
Standing at the counter, I couldn’t believe we were actually living a classic Seinfeld moment.
I felt really sorry for the guys manning the counter, getting yelled at by every party unable to understand why there were NO CARS in spite of their pre-paid reservations made months in advance. Those boys needed a drink by 9am. I don’t understand exactly what had happened, some BS about cars having been sent off to another location for some festival maybe, but on this morning, there were none to be had in downtown Edinburgh. They had sent people off to Glasgow to try and retrieve some cars; we were put on a waiting list to receive one, and we walked off to find the breakfast we had planned to have after we got out of the city.
Returning to the rental location over an hour later, there were different people in the line, different people yelling at the same two desk agents, but miraculously one car that would fit our luggage had just been returned. Did we want it? Hell, yes.
We got into the car as quickly as possible, feeling distinctly like a pitchfork-wielding mob was about to take it from us. Only a couple of hours lost. Okay, we had already prioritized our site-seeing the night before and knew what we would cut from the itinerary.
But, as we pulled out of the parking lot, the car stalled. Steve got it restarted, only to have it stall again. He was probably rusty at driving a manual transmission, yes, but he was having much more trouble with it than we were expecting. Long story short, we made it about 2 blocks from the rental location before smoke started coming from the engine, and another block before the clutch completely gave out.
We came to a smoking, immovable stop just 3 blocks from the rental place, right across the street from where we’d eaten breakfast. After a quick run back to the Avis center and a phone call to the breakdown service, we were helped along by a very nice service man with AA, who agreed the clutch was unfixable. The guys at the rental location had told us to have the car (and us) towed to Avis’ airport location because “they didn’t do service” at their location. I tend to think they were already having enough problems and we didn’t have to be theirs as well.
Either way, we were glad to be taken to the airport since we knew we would never get out of Edinburgh if we had to wait on a car downtown.
We had a pleasant ride to the airport with the AA man who gave us touring suggestions in a very thick Scottish accent that required us to concentrate very hard to understand, and who then confirmed with the Avis agents that the clutch had failed through wear and tear, and not that Steve had somehow managed to burn it out by driving all of three blocks.
I never knew “clutch” had a smell before, but apparently it does. As we were waiting in the Avis parking lot, a man walking by with his son said “I smell clutch”. The car was gone, but it was us he smelled.
There were cars aplenty at the airport and we were quickly exchanged into another vehicle, one which Steve was able to get the hang of quite quickly. We began to speculate that the driver who had returned the earlier car must have beaten the hell out of it, and just barely made it back to the agency. Finally, four hours later than planned, and reeking horribly of clutch, we were on our way.
As we got a few miles down the road, we both started to unclench a bit from our harrowing experience. We made it out of the city safely and across to Dunfermline where we spent about an hour walking around the abbey and the ruins of the palace and monastery. It was a bit rainy today, but the sun still shown through the clouds, casting everything in a beautifully moody light.
There was a festival happening in the park next door, so there was a strange juxtaposition of walking around the 12th century abbey while Maroon 5 could be heard on the wind, but a later volley of gun and cannon fire seemed somehow fitting, so we went with it.
Leaving Dunfermline, we figured we had time for one more stop on our drive to the hotel. It was too late to make the last ferry out to Lochleven Castle, so we agreed to add it to the itinerary for our next trip, and continued on to Dunkeld Cathedral. The interior of the nave ruins was off-limits due to current preservation efforts, but we were able to walk around the exterior and managed a few shots.
We also walked down to the River Tay and to the adjoining field for some sheep pics.
Earlier in the day, as we were being driven to the airport, the AA guy had given us advice that basically amounted to “look around ’cause there’s cool old stuff everywhere”. We were treated to one of these moments when I swizzled my head to look out the driver’s side window in time to catch a beautiful castle along the highway. No idea what it was, but it was purty.
Other sites that had been on our original agenda for the day and that have to be saved for next time are Killiecrankie and Blair Castle, but we did stop a couple of times as we drove through Cairngorms National Park for some thoroughly beautiful landscapes.
We were also treated to a literal double-rainbow clear across the sky! I’ve never seen anything like it. There was effectively one rainbow that started over in the middle and ran the ROY G BIV gamut twice. I suddenly knew what that guy was so excited about. Really cool.
The day didn’t go exactly as planned, but we had some good sightseeing and made it safely to Aviemore for the night, so we’re not complaining.