Cruising in the Crawler Lane: Adventures in Scotland, Part 1

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Crovie Village, Scotland. Where the sea is not only on your doorstep — it IS your doorstep!

At the time of this writing, I am almost done meandering around Scotland for ten days. I traveled with a friend and we spent most of our time in northeastern Scotland (the Moray Coast area near Banff). After that, I traveled by myself to the Borders area in the south to visit my ancestral hometown of Kelso.

First of all, I would like to apologize to all the drivers in Scotland. Yes, for the first several days at least, we were the ones stalling our manual transmission rental car while driving up hills and through round-abouts. We were the ones poking along in the far left lane (a.k.a. the crawler lane), afraid to drive over 65 m.p.h. It’s not easy driving on the left side of the road and shifting with your left hand. Just one of those things would be difficult, but add both of them together and it causes Driving Dread. It took me about four days before I could approach the car without wincing at the imagined bloody outcome.

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More Crovie.

Thank you Scottish drivers for not honking at us too often and for not crashing into us.

There, that’s out of the way.

We chose to stay in the historic fishing village of Crovie (pronounced “Crivvy” by the locals). It was settled by displaced Highlanders after the Battle of Culloden. Located at the bottom of a steep bluff right near the sea, I suppose it was land that nobody else had the guts or desperation to settle, and so it was theirs for the taking.

Crovie operated as a town and fishing center, home for up to 300 people at one time, until 1953, when a severe storm damaged many homes. Most of the people moved to Gardenstown, just a mile next door. Now the town functions mainly as a tourist attraction, hosting seasonal visitors and a few residents.

We met the last of the remaining full-time residents during our stay. His name is Billy. He’s lost some fingernails, and parts of fingers. He is also missing some of his upper teeth. But Billy is a rough-cut gem, and has obviously survived a hard life near the sea.

SCOTLAND! 027Our abode was Crovie Cottage Number 13. What could go wrong, right?

As the cottage ads say, abode number 13 is not suitable for triskaidekaphobics (those who fear the number 13). Fortunately, we do not suffer such a fear and found the place inspiring and charming. It took us a while to figure out which switches to flip for necessities like hot water and electricity, and how to operate the electric meter that required feeding with 1 pound coins for an uninterrupted flow of electricity, but after a day or two we had it down.

We also learned how to light a coal fire in the fireplace, and how to eat breakfast with the front door open to the sea (which is only three feet away).

Be forewarned – if you ever decide to visit or stay in Crovie, the descent into the village is extremely steep. You also can’t just park your car in front of your cottage and unload. There’s not enough room between the cottages and the sea for a road, so you have to park either at the lot above the steepest part of the road or the one at the bottom of the steepest part, and roll or wheelbarrow your supplies to your cottage.

My kind of place! More adventures to follow . . . .

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