Dark clouds announce the arrival of the light rain we can hear drizzling onto the Hymer camper van when we arrive in Glasgow in the late afternoon. But it takes more than this to stop us. We explore the inner city on foot, admire the imposing “Gallery of Modern Art” and the eccentric glass structures – all designed by world famous architects. Scotland’s largest city is even more colorful and lively than we expected. But Glasgow’s history also had to survive difficult times. In particular, the world economic crisis of the 1970s had a major impact on the city. Problematic suburbs such as Carlton remain a reminder: bleak concrete buildings characterize the landscape here. However, Glasgow found a way out of the crisis: empty factory walls became galleries and museums. An impoverished industrial city became a celebrated center of arts.
Bethany Kingsley-Garner has long been in love with Glasgow and its inhabitants. The ballerina originates from the English city of Devon but is full of praise for her new home. “The city is vibrant” says the young woman enthusiastically when we meet her in the heart of the city after her training. The 29-year-old is still sitting in front of the mirror in her black dress, pinning up her long dark blonde hair. Nothing can distract her. The training demands total concentration. Because Beth is the prima ballerina in the Scottish Ballet – and performs the main roles in productions such as “Cinderella” or “Swan Lake”. She loves these major performances: “The feeling that you get on stage is like no other.” Beth ties her bright pink ballet shoes and enters the hall.
I’m motivated to work towards perfection.
Beth has been dancing since she learned to walk. Even as a young child she loved moving to the music of large orchestras. When she was three years old, she was allowed to accompany her sister to ballet lessons for the first time. Since then, nothing can stop her: Beth earned a place in the renowned “Royal Ballet School” in London and has frequently performed on stage since then. She moves the audience and impresses the critics. When Beth begins to dance, we understand why: her ballet shoes fly gracefully over the floor and Beth radiates strength and poise. Every jump seems perfectly simple and effortless. Yet this appearance of effortlessness is the product of hard training, effort and pain. “I’m motivated to work towards perfection”, she reveals to us.
After she graduated, Beth began to dance for the Scottish Ballet. There she experienced the most emotional moment of her career: after a major performance she was named the prima ballerina. Beth looks back: “I heard the audience clapping and my face was covered in tears. I will never forget that moment.”
Beth grabs a grey sweater and takes us up onto the roof of a high-rise building to show us the city from above. It has grown dark yet the ocean of lights illuminates the streets. Glasgow remains lively even at night.
Beth closes her eyes. With ballets she has bet everything on one card. A risky decision: Beth knows that one false step in a careless moment could put an end to everything. Once she injured her knee and ended up in a wheelchair. Dancing was unimaginable at that time. “I thought I would never get back”, admits Beth. However, she came back even stronger than before: “I continued because giving up would hurt so much more.”
We want to see more of the Scottish night-life. That is why we get back into the Hymer camper van and head inland. Our destination is a small village with less than 800 inhabitants. This is where the “Killin Music Festival” will take place. When we arrive late in the evening we are surprised: thousands of people are flocking to the brightly lit stage, dance to the music and seem to know every verse by heart. Whether young or old, teenager or pensioner: everyone celebrates together here. The highlight of the evening is the performance by the folk-rock band “Skerryvore”. One of the band members is a bagpipe player. We are skeptical: how can an old instrument like that make modern music? Yet when the band begins to play, the bagpipes blow away any doubts: Skerryvore gives Scotland an unmistakable sound.
My favorite part of the job is when I can see even just one person in the crowd smiling as if they’re in their own little world of joy.
After this unforgettable performance, we meet the bagpipe player backstage. Scott Wood is a little out of breath but obviously overjoyed. Music is his passion. But he does not look anything like how we imagined a bagpipe player: Scott is only 23 years old and wears neither tartan nor a kilt. He quickly puts down his unusual looking instrument and greets us like old friends. The musician tours around the entire world with Skerryvore. He also celebrates numerous successes with his own quintet, the “Scott Wood Band”. This is a career that other artists can only dream of. For Scott, his joy of music is what counts above all: “My favorite part of the job is when I can see even just one person in the crowd smiling as if they’re in their own little world of joy.”
Scott embodies the relaxed Scottish attitude that we already encountered so often on our road trip. He agrees: “We never take ourselves too seriously. Scott is proud of his homeland and feels deeply connected with its traditions. That is why he wants to give Scotland’s national instrument a future and teaches the bagpipes at schools. This makes us curious: how difficult is it to play the bagpipes? Could we also learn it? Scott hands us the instrument. We struggle to create even a single tone and all fail miserably. Scott laughs. His success is the product of years of practice, he tells us.
Scott’s success has also created envy: “One of the harder aspects would be dealing with criticism from other musicians in the scene, as you get older, you realize that is just jealousy.” However, he does not have much time to concern himself with this criticism because Scott is already making plans to make Scottish music famous outside the country: “My next aim is to take Scottish music to some of the biggest festivals in the world!” So perhaps we will hear from Scott Wood again soon on our road trip. The sounds of the bagpipes are still ringing in our ears as we get into in the Hymer camper van and head off towards our next destination.
Lonely roads that wind through the beautiful landscape, rough coasts where all one can hear is the sound of the ocean and high mountains dotted with shining lochs and dense forest. There is no question that Scotland is ideal for road trips with a camper van. These are the best routes that every passionate road trip fan needs to have driven:
A838, the typical Highland road
The A838 winds from the coastal town of Ullapool further and further into the wild North where you only rarely encounter another vehicle. Almost no other road is as typical for the Highlands as the A838: changing landscapes provide incredible views around every corner, all of this accompanied by a feeling of freedom.
Trotternish Road on the Isle of Skye
Trotternish Road in the north of the island is worth seeing when visiting the beautiful Isle of Skye. The road starts in the pretty port town of Portree, then runs past the famous “Old Man of Storr” cliffs to the waterfall at “Kilt Rock”. The road always runs along the entire coastline of the Trotternish peninsula.
Mull Scenic Road
The Mull Scenic Road runs around the Isle of Mull. The varying scenery ranges from panoramic ocean views to the island’s green hilly landscape. The most beautiful part of the road runs along the Loch na Keal bay.
“Old Military Road”
The A93, also known as the “Old Military Road” gives you an amazing first impression of the Highlands. It runs to the Cairngorms National Park and through the mountains and seemingly into the middle of nowhere. This peace and quiet is also a product of the highway that runs parallel to the road and takes most of the traffic. Important: with its numerous curves, hills and valleys, the A93 is like a roller-coaster.