AFTER their car broke down hundreds of miles away from home, an English couple have thanked the kindness of residents of a north Sutherland village for their hospitality and helping them get back on the road.
Andy and Sharon Simpson suffered every motoring tourist’s worst nightmare when their vehicle hit problems just outside Bettyhill.
Thanks to the quick work of local mechanics and the kindness of hotel owners, the couple were back on the road the next day to continue their tour of the north Highlands.
The incident took place at 3pm on Thursday, October 26 when the Cambridgeshire couple (right) were celebrating Andy’s 61st birthday by navigating round the North Coast 500. He received an unwanted birthday present when he discovered his Astra VXR had an irreparable puncture.
The couple managed to limp into the village and got to Bettyhill Garage looking for a replacement 20-inch wheel. With no chance of the wheel being delivered from Inverness to Bettyhill that day, Mrs Simpson said the mechanics went out to find accommodation for the couple so they could stay in the village overnight. She said despite the stress of breaking down in a place they did not know, they had never been made to feel so welcome anywhere in the world.
"We had never been to Scotland before and travelled up because Andy was celebrating his 61st birthday," said the 56-year-old. "After leaving John O’Groats, we headed west towards Bettyhill where we suffered the puncture.
"As the puncture was in the sidewall, it was irreparable and due to the type of car, we had to get a specialist tyre. We had to try and find somewhere to stay and the guys at the garage sorted out the accommodation for us.
"Staff at the garage organised for us to stay at Bettyhill Hotel which was open for the last day of the season".
Mrs Simpson said despite only staying overnight waiting for the tyre to arrive, the owners said they were welcome to stay as long as it took to get their car back on the road.
"The hotel was on their last day of the season and the garage said they were unsure if they would be able get the tyre the following day," she said.
"But the hotel owners made it clear we were welcome to stay longer if necessary.
"All the staff were fabulous and we both learned a very valuable lesson that it’s not always where you are, it’s the people that make life’s experiences good ones."
News of the couple’s predicament soon spread throughout the village and while exploring Bettyhill, residents approached them asking if they were okay and if they would be able to continue their travels the next day.
"Everybody in the village went above and beyond to help us out," said Mrs Simpson.
"It was a different world to what we are used to.
"We did not realise how the lifestyle is different to where we live, how lovely the people are and how concerned they were for us. A woman in the village shop was really concerned about us and wanted to make sure we managed to get our puncture mended. Coming out of the shop, somebody walking their dog asked us if we had somewhere to stay overnight.
"There was so much care shown by people in Bettyhill even though we were strangers."
Bettyhill Garage managed to source the required tyre and had it fixed, allowing the couple to get back on the road and continue their holiday the next day.
Mr Simpson said: "It was really heartwarming how people in the village looked after us.
"It was something we’ll never forget and we just wanted to say thank you".
Mrs Simpson said their experience of Bettyhill has changed their outlook on life.
"It turned out to be the highlight of the trip for us and we just wanted to let everyone in the village know how much it meant to us. We usually travel abroad on holiday rather than drive around the UK.
"But our experience at Bettyhill showed us travelling is more than about seeing places, it is about meeting the people who live in these places too. People in Bettyhill made what was at first an awful experience into one of the best of our trip."