TWO German tourists who arrived in Scotland for a holiday at the end of February have finally left after being stranded in a remote glen by a snow storm for five weeks.
After island hopping in the Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland for two weeks, Oliver Suft and Julia Kumschier from Bavaria headed for the Highlands hoping to see the dramatic scenery featured in the Bond film Skyfall.
But as they braved inclement weather to drive along an untreated hill pass near Ben Lawers on March 18 their camper van became stuck in a snow drift.
The couple were forced to abandon the van and walk six miles to the nearest village, Bridge of Balgie in Glenlyon.
For the past five weeks Mr Suft and Ms Kumschier have stayed at a bed and breakfast in the village, doing odd jobs to pay for their accommodation, as they waited for the road to be cleared.
Last week Perth and Kinross council sent a JCB to dig a channel through the snow and drag the camper van out of the snow drift.
Before they headed home on Monday, Mr Suft said they had enjoyed their unexpected sojourn in Highland Perthshire. During their time with B&B owners Jason and Melanie O’Flynn, he said the couple had made friends with their children, the family dog and a flock of chickens.
“We had a great tour of Scotland in the two weeks before we got stuck, but actually never stopped to talk to anybody,” Mr Suft said.
“This is our first time away from home and we didn’t know what to expect, we thought we were sorted because we had everything we needed in our van.
“Although it’s been frustrating being stranded, when it just didn’t stop snowing we had to just let go of our plans.
“Instead of getting better, the weather got more fierce and we realised the van was going to be stuck for quite some time. We couldn’t believe what had happened. How can you plan for this?”
Until they hit bad weather, the couple had made a whistle-stop tour of Scottish islands. “Then we were forced to slow down and get into life in the country,” said Mr Suft.
“We are so lucky to have found the family who have been so kind to let us stay and feed us.
“We felt so bad that we couldn’t pay them as we have mostly been sleeping in the van at campsites and didn’t bring money with us to stay at hotels for a long time. But they said if we felt bad that we could help around the croft and garden which has been fun.
“The experience hasn’t put us off Scotland but we were crazy with delight when we got the camper out.”
His girlfriend, who celebrated her birthday in Glenlyon on April 1, added: “Our stay has been full of new experiences, I’d never seen a newborn lamb before, but now I’ve even held one.”
Mr O’Flynn admitted he was sad to see the pair go.
He said: “’As you can imagine, everyone got very friendly over time. My wife and I are really sorry to see them go.
“Julia and Oliver showed a great sense of humour and certainly enriched our lives. Our kids made an amazing bond they’ll never forget.”