After a twenty minute car share, seven hour train journey (with four changes), and forty minute walk, the evening of 6th September saw my sister and I settling down at the Loch Lomond Youth Hostel. Not only was this the first time that we had holidayed without the parents, but it was our first UK holiday without the use of a car. How would we cope with having to walk or catch the bus everywhere? Would we able to get everywhere we wanted to go? Would we manage three days on our own without wanting to kill each other?
The following morning was not the best of starts. Attempting to walk to Ballach for to explore the town we managed to get lost in an endless maze of holiday cottages and golf course, turning what should have been a thirty minute walk into one that lasted an hour and a half. To make things worse, it was chucking it down with rain. By the time we were there and able to take refuge from the weather in a tea shop my waterproof jacket had ceased to be waterproof, my jeans were soaked through and I was freezing cold. I couldn’t help thinking that a car would have enable us to be there in five minutes. We would be warm, and I wouldn’t be in the position of having to wring out my t-shirt in the toilet. A pot of tea has rarely been more welcome in my life.
After we were unable to drag out our drinks much longer we braved the outside again, reluctantly wandering the castle grounds until we could legitimately retreat to a pub for lunch. And what a lunch. We went to the Water House Inn where I ordered soup and a sandwich, followed by ‘Millionaires Cheesecake,’ – fudge flavoured with a chocolate topping. Harriet followed up a massive burger and chips with her second hot chocolate of the day. Amazingly, by the time we left the sun had come out. We immediately began to enjoy ourselves a lot more, embracing the castle and grounds with a lot more enthusiasm. Now we knew the way, the walk back to the Youth Hostel did only take thirty minutes.
The following day we took the bus to Luss, a picturesque village on the west side of the Loch. I had a brief sulk after having to pay £4.90 for a six mile journey (‘You’re joking! You can take a train India for less than that.’) but my resentment soon disappeared once we saw the view.
I managed to drag Harriet up most of a hill; we were walking for about three hours in total. Then we went back into town for coffee and shortbread, a wander round the churchyard and a paddle in the Loch.
Once back at the Hostel I began to think of about the differences between holidaying with a car, and using only public transport and your feet. It’s true that jumping unthinkingly into a car would have been more convenient. We weren’t able to climb Ben Lomond, for instance, because the bus and ferry times just weren’t convenient. We got wet, we had to carry all our stuff on our backs, getting places took forward planning. But actually, there’s something quite positive about that. We were more in touch with the elements; forced to explore the area by foot in the rain ultimately (once we were warm and dry) proved a more rewarding experience than jumping in a car to a cinema or shopping centre to avoid the weather would have been. We gained a better sense of our location, the distances and the terrain by having to walk everywhere. Spending entire days outside left us more tanned and more tired. The tiredness, combined with the Hostels distance from anything interesting to do in the evening, meant we fell asleep at 9.30pm and woke fully refreshed at 7.30am. We joked that we were being a lot lamer than when we holidayed with parents, but we felt fantastic. The train journeys weren’t too bad either. We saw a lot more of the countryside than flying would have enabled. It was stress free (no being treated like a criminal for carrying water) and simple. I was able to make significant headway on a book that I have been meaning to start reading for months. Somehow at home there is always something else to do, so being forced to sit down for seven hours was a real luxury. Ultimately, I concluded that there is no need for internal air travel, and while there are a few times when owning a car is necessary, going on holiday isn’t one of them.