Last weekend, I had never even heard of The Highland Games then this weekend I was making the trek up to Braemar in the heart of The Highlands, to see men in kilts toss a caber. We were offered the tickets from our new landlord who could no longer make it. Tickets, accommodation and meals were sorted we just had to get ourselves there and back. This was the tricky bit. If you look at Braemar on a map it is in the middle of a national park. At first glance we thought it would be impossible to get there, but we were determined and searched every possible way. It turned out we could catch a train to Aberdeen and then a bus from there. Leaving after work on Friday, we knew we had to be in Aberdeen by 9.45pm to catch the last bus across to Braemar. We left ourselves plenty of time between the train and the bus, booking the 6.33pm train arriving in Aberdeen at 9pm. Everything was going to work out swimmingly. But, as we turned up to Waverley station, we saw that dreaded word that ruins everything – delayed. Due to a signaling outage between Newcastle and York our 6.33 train was delayed by 5 hours. This meant our 9.45 bus would be long gone. Thinking the Virgin train staff would be able to help, we went to them seeking guidance.
The next train to Aberdeen was at 7.33pm but we would still miss the last bus to Braemar. We started thinking of our options, which were quite limited. It was at this point that the Virgin staff turned into a joke – absolutely useless. The first person ‘helping’ us said he was from around Braemar ways and asked if we were going to the games, we said yes. He then started telling us ‘Oh the Queen is going to be there ya’ know’ to which I replied ‘That’s nice but we might not be there at this rate.’ He kept on talking, to my disgust, and telling us his life story about how he used to be in the games and competed in the little kids sack race. If this wasn’t frustrating enough he first suggested, as a solution, that we catch a bus as far as we can and hitchhike the rest of the way. Bear in mind we would be getting in after midnight and would be in the middle of nowhere. He then suggested we catch the bus as far as we could and then catch a cab the rest of the way. When we asked the Virgin staff if they could cover this cost due the delay, that has completely mucked up our plans, their reply was ‘Oh no, that would be going above and beyond’. Thanks Virgin East Coast, a company that doesn’t even have the basics of customer service down. This guys next statement I’m sure was intended to be helpful but it just came across very odd. This guy’s final solution for us to get to Braemar was to stay with his mum…who lived close by. Now, I wasn’t a fan of this guy by now so why the hell would I want to stay with his mum. Again, we would be getting in around midnight and this guy expected his mum to drive and pick up two strangers in the middle of nowhere. We finally decided we would train to Aberdeen and figure out a solution along the way. Some very lovely friends offered to put us up the night in Aberdeen (Thanks Brinley and Susan!) but we decided we would catch a different bus as far as we could and get a taxi the rest of the way. The bus driver said it would be really easy to get a taxi, he’ll point it out when we get off the bus and it should only cost around 20 pounds. After getting off the bus in Ballater, the bus driver’s definition of ‘really easy’ confuses me. As we hopped off, he pointed down the road, ‘That window by the lamp post, go knock on it and you’ll get a taxi’ he said and then off he drove into the mist. Here we were, the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere, knocking on strangers windows for a ride. We knocked and knocked again but there was no answer. Thinking we were stranded, we walked around a little bit and found a pub. They’ll be able to get us a taxi we thought, and sure enough they did! 30 minutes later we finally arrived at our hotel after a tumultuous 7 hour journey to The Highlands.
A writer, explorer, and music enthusiast. This site is where I share my thoughts, aspirations, adventures, and mishaps.