“Haste ye back!” the Scots say. I’ve taken advantage of that welcoming spirit over the years. I’ve viewed dozens of Scottish castles, golfed the world’s greatest links, and ridden the rails on The Royal Scotsman.
But haste implies “hurry.” And on a weekend add-on to a London meeting I sought surprises and luxury in the Scottish hills, lochs and isles around Glasgow and Edinburgh. Along with the fastest action I could find.
I kicked off in Glasgow, home of the great turn-of-the-19th-century designer-architect Charles Rennie MacIntosh, whose famed buildings and interiors are scattered throughout the area.
For a quick overview of mountains and lochs, I booked at
(Loch Lomond Seaplanes , Europe’s first city-center seaplane service.
At Princes Dock on the River Clyde (in front of the Science Centre) I boarded a nine-seat Cessna. The trip reduces travel time between Glasgow and the Western Isles from hours on the road to 30 minutes — with spectacular overviews.
Flying in a piloted seaplane, compared to, say, a G4, is like carpooling in a VW after racing a Maybach flat-out on the autobahn. But the bonus is taking off from the water, a unique thrill as you skim along on pontoons and lift from blue to blue. For a few seconds I felt part of both sea and sky. Try that in a jet.
Sitting up front and watching the pilot fly this Cessna gave me the illusion of co-piloting, but I preferred watching the panorama unfold below: mountains to the west, and lochs and rivers contrasting with green hillsides. Eighteen lochs lie in the National Park alone, as well as some of Scotland’s finest Munros, mountains that rise over 3000 feet.
We flew out to the Machrihanish peninsula over rock outcrops jutting from the ocean. Clear water lapped the coast, and clouds trailed over the landmark hills of Arra, called the Sleeping Warrior.
Our flight ended over Loch Lomond, and offered views of the Trossachs and Arrochar, and glens, gardens, stately homes, and castles, above corners of Scotland rarely seen.
After our soft harbor landing I had time to contemplate at a tea of scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam in the quaint village of Luss. A car and driver returned me to the city, and I noted the contrast of roadside scenery to the panorama of wide-open skies.
Charter the seaplane and you could choose to picnic on the best salmon in the world on the shores of an isolated loch, or maybe fly over the craggy Cuillins and the Old Man of Storr on the Isle of Skye. Or just take to the breezy Scottish skies wherever you point.
Ok. I’d flown around and hit the road. Time for a fast boat. Midday I ferried from Gourock to Dunoon to join a high speed, powerboat ride based at Holy Loch Marina, in Sandbank, near Dunoon.
Suited in rubber gear I speeded to the secluded Isle of Bute in the Firth of Clyde, banging my tailbone all the way (sit in the rear if you have a back problem). The hour of bone-crunching pain was worth it, because a short walk from the pier was the astounding Victorian- Gothic country house, Mount Stuart This estate is a refined masterpiece, just about every surface a work of art.
Stella McCartney, Sir Paul’s daughter, wed in the soaring white chapel. You too can book a room and sleep over, or rent the whole place and throw the most exclusive bash imaginable. If you want to be alone, maybe just picnic by the secluded beach or in 300 acres of gardens. (But I do suggest chartering a helicopter or seaplane to get here. Leave the powerboat to the masochists.)
Next morning, a driver sped me to Edinburgh. I strolled around the narrow passageways of the old city, then hired a chauffeur-driven yellow tricycle from Trike Tours Scotland ( www.triketoursscotland.com). This is a new, unique wind-in-your face way to see the imposing castle and the Royal Mile, and to hug some scenic Scottish byroads.
I geared up in goggles, a helmet and oversuit; it can be cold year round. With headphones for music and driver commentary a companion and I tooled around Edinburgh and its nearby hills – a thrill ride leaving the responsibility for staying on the left and following road signs to the driver. The chauffer/laddie even set tea and biscuits on the sidecar when we stopped at an overlook.
Next time I’ll ask to trike back roads to St. Andrews, Gleneagles, or whichever links appeal (there’s room behind the cab for clubs). The driver could stay overnight and chauffeur me back, if I choose. Or maybe I’ll hire the trike one-way, then a limo back, or even a helicopter. So many choices, so little time.
Who knows? Whatever the transport I will make haste again to the lochs and lanes of Scotland. And most of all, to those skies.