Last week, I left, at an early hour, for my final villages. Having set myself the task of visiting 500 for a book called, unimaginatively perhaps, Villages of Britain, I’ve been racing around the remaining few-inevitably the farthest flung to meet the deadline. My advice to anyone driving to Islay from London is not to go via Burnham Market; unfortunately, I had to.
The long Scottish evening was darkling by the time I reached the goose farm where I was staying. Next day, Caledonian MacBrayne enabled me to visit Bowmore, built in the 18th century after an older settlement, inconveniently near Islay House, had been demolished.
The ferry to Knoydart, inaccessible by road, had long departed by the time I arrived at Mallaig the next evening. But I was able to call up a boatman, about to transport a 50th-birthday party down the coast.
I leapt from the ferry steps, was given a beer and, in order not to delay the celebrations, was deposited on the seaweedy rocks at Airor, rather than my preferred destination of Inverie pier. Driving home-600 miles I could reflect on the variety of life, landscape and experience found within Britain. It was a good time to be on the motorway: with England playing Algeria, the road was clear.