Our last morning in Edinburgh began, as it did the day before, with a ridiculously hearty breakfast at the cafeteria. Everything from black pudding to blackcurrants, bananas to bacon. We were moving on, and for the first time on our trip, didn't know where to. It was the first day of our programmed flexibility, a phrase with rather Orwellian undertones, but other than south, we didn't have anything planned.
We had started to get a sense of the United Kingdom's scale on the drive down from Aberdeen, and I knew that our spa day, the only other accommodation booked for the road trip, was about two hours away from Edinburgh. That was tomorrow night, so we really had to only get halfway there today, which meant we had plenty of time for a scenic route. We headed east, up along the coast through North Berwick and round to Berwick-upon-Tweed, where we stopped for lunch. The dynamic vistas of powerful seas, striking rock formations and beautiful cliffside made for engaging viewing along the way.
After a pie and a pastie - without sauce, sadly, but still a great pleasure after months of baguettes - we headed back in the car and towards what we had picked as our target: Moffat. For me, it was vaguely appealing because I like Steven Moffat. Sam, entirely independently, had been told by a receptionist in Edinburgh that it was a nice destination. We got a little stuck along the way when attempting to detour around a blocked road - there were signs littered along the route up to the closure telling us to follow the detour ahead, but no signs actually pointing us off to the detour. We backtracked and tried cutting through at a previous intersection, with no luck, so went back even further and managed to get around it.
After that, it was pretty smooth sailing. Despite the distance looking unremarkable on the map, it was a staggering drive. I had somehow picked a gorgeous alpine route that wound around lakes and through dales that gave Switzerland a run for its money. At moments, with the wide expanses of hay fields and cattle, you could be forgiven for glancing and thinking you were in Australia. At others, it was the most picturesque, stereotypical Scotland you could imagine. Little stone-lined avenues covered by trees, with soaring green hills on one side and a bubbling brook on the other. The weather would ebb and flow, sometimes sunny, sometimes spatterings of rain. It was phenomenal.
We eased into Moffat with an eagerness to see what it held. It turns out to be a rather modest little country town, perhaps about the size of a Naracoorte, or a little smaller. A couple of grocers, a pharmacy, ten inns and B&Bs, and a few clothes stores. We parked the car and then wandered looking for a room. The first reception was unattended, so we wandered to a B&B and after ringing the bell were greeted by a charming man called Paul. We asked about a room and he showed us upstairs to a lovely twin room with ensuite. We took it on the spot, and not just because breakfast was, naturally, included.
I had haddock, chips and peas for tea in a classic Scottish pub with a local ale. It's a sleepy place, and you could be forgiven for thinking there were more pubs than people, but it has an undeniable charm too. The people are friendly and the accents never get old. Sam joined me for dessert - devastatingly, he didn't read the pudding day information correctly and thus tomorrow's spa evening will be sticky date free - and so I had a toffee pudding tonight instead. Such is life.
When I finish typing, I'll go downstairs and wander out into the carpark where I discovered a free Wi-Fi zone on my walk earlier. Unlike squatting in a Helsinki metro station, I doubt I'll be particularly threatened. Tomorrow is going to be another easy day, and I doubt we'll meander to the Lakes District. There is too much relaxing to do at the spa to dawdle with scenery.