And hello from Thom. I suppose since Jen and Jake have now disappeared into Wales, yet to be heard from, I'll fill in for a day.
I too am getting excited about heading off to Scotland. It's a country I love. I travel there every year about this time to attend a gemmological conference in Perth. After Jen's BCU exam in Thurso, weather permitting, we hope to paddle around a bit in the Orkneys (we will ferry over) and then paddle sweet spots along the west coast of Scotland as we head back south. Jake also hopes to bag a Monroe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Munro) and Jen and I support the idea. After that I'll leave Jake and Jen and head east to Perth to give a lecture and meet up with my gemmological family for the weekend.
Being a bit older (and I like to think wiser) my remaining travel, training, and preparation schedule leading up to Thurso differs a bit from Jen and Jake. I depart from San Diego on this coming Tuesday and fly directly into Edinburgh where I'll go straight from the airport to bed at a friends house, not to arise till I damn well feel like it. Experience tells me that after ~24 hours of relaxing I'll be ready to stretch my legs so I hope to get over to the Royal Botanical Gardens for a walkabout on Thursday. After the vigorous exercise of ambling about the gardens I'll then move on to the next step of my plan; preparing for the cold (water temperature of 9 degrees C - Geez - whose idea was this?). That's right - we have scheduled dinner at the Royal Scottish Malt Whiskey Society for that evening. I promise you that I will be most diligent regarding my preparation for the upcoming cold (I feel warmer already).
By then I will have toughened myself up for the BCU challenge and will drive up to Thurso leaving Edinburgh early Friday morning in order to meet up with Jen and Jake that afternoon. Their job, as you know, is to have scouted out the coastline, carefully marking on the map all the dangerous spots for me to avoid. I rarely have leverage on the water with Jen - but in this case if I look good, then Jen looks good.
It became clear early on that Jake and Jen (Jen in particular) needed assistance learning how to 'travel well'. Jen, of course, was originally talking of she and Jake sleeping in a van and me in a tent! Clearly she needed help getting a grip regarding the weather of Northern Scotland in April (I'm getting cold just thinking about it). Naturally I am here to help so I did some research and arranged for us to lodge at Valley View B&B (http://www.valleyviews.co.uk/index.htm) for our three nights in Thurso. If you bother to visit the site you will notice that there are beds, and showers, and... well heat! But even better our breakfast (and box lunches) will be prepared by Chef Steven, the only holder of the coveted AA rosette cooking award in the county (I'm feeling warmer already).
I'm working on lodging for the Orkneys and think I have just the right place with heat, direct access to the waters edge, another award winning breakfast and this one even does dinners on request. However, convincing Jen to relax in the lap of comfort takes time. You can help by posting your supporting comments here for her to read.
I'll let you know how my plans work out. Regards - Thom