In hindsight we should have moved further north than from lovely Loch Earn to Loch Ness.
We have based ourselves a week at a time in self-catering accommodation and taken drives of the local area. After 3 days here, one drive back we fancied doing would have us crossing roads we’ve travelled before, and to get further north, takes a lot of miles. Not ones to beat ourselves up too much for our mistakes, we’ll put up with it, but will know better next time we visit. The roads in Scotland have been good with much less traffic than England and Wales, so it’s much easier to actually drive further.
On arrival here, we were upgraded to a two bedroom apartment. It’s lovely, right on the loch in a nice, quiet part of the complex. We’d cooked ourselves a lovely dinner and were sitting relaxing (purring almost) when I took one more look at all the correspondence I’d had from them over the last couple of months before I deleted it. Imagine my shock and horror when I looked a little further down the page on the last one and found our “upgrade” appeared to have actually cost us a further 170 pounds or Aus $350 for the week! I was sick. I was so sick I couldn’t sleep.
We headed to the office here but it turns out whilst they do the bookings, they don’t handle the money so I emailed what I thought was the office in London but it wasn’t (see my blood pressure rising here). However that e-mail had gone to a bigger sort of boss who sent it on, then kept on it, until it was sorted it all out for me and we didn’t pay the extra. It’s a nice apartment but not that nice!
All this took most of the first day here for someone to say “no, you don’t owe the money”, so day one went by in a daze of tiredness and annoyance, and was a day wasted. In a big holiday of over 10 weeks that we (mostly I) organised ourselves, that one hiccup so far is pretty good! All we did that day was drive a little way to the Loch Ness Experience at Drumnadrochit.
The “experience” is a series of 6 rooms with movies and displays basically explaining why there CAN’T be a monster in the loch, and while it was ok, it’s not something I would tell any of you you need to visit. But then I could have gone to the most exciting show on earth and felt down-I just wasn’t in the mood. I slept all the way home in the car too (apart from stopping to take a quick photo of Urquhart Castle).
The most often seen photo of the “monster” is a fraud-the man who took it has since admitted this. There is not enough food in Loch Ness to support a creature the size Nessie is supposed to be and bubbles seen often our end and near the entrance into the loch from another river are just methane bubbles (caused by rotting vegetation) rising to the surface. So there, it’s a hoax to keep tourists coming back. Or is it……….?
The highlight of that day was dinner-Russ cooked me a beautiful forequarter (shoulder) of roasted scottish lamb with roast potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potato, peas and broccoli and gravy and mint sauce. He went out in the garden here and picked the mint for the mint sauce!
On Wednesday, we drove to Inverness where we did a bit of shopping in the Victoria Market (now converted into 47 lovely little shops), and just strolled around town. We crossed a huge bridge onto The Black Isle and stopped for lunch at North Kessock. It was nice to find a tourist info place with picnic tables and toilets for a change although picnic tables seem slightly more common in Scotland than England as do public toilets!.
I loved the little village of Cromarty on Cromarty Firth and wish we’d stayed there instead of Loch Ness. Loch Ness is lovely but, as I mentioned too close to Loch Earn. The Cromarty Firth is home to a number of oil rig building and maintenance yards so there are quite a few of them sitting out on the water. Sounds ugly and industrial, but somehow it wasn’t.
We came home over the Beauly Pass through some gorgeous country. We’d just passed something dead on the side of the road (and no, we didn’t eat it) when I saw a lovely fence dripping with mosses and lichens. We stopped the car, took a photo of that, then went back to investigate the dead body. It was a badger. Not long dead, he was much bigger than I thought a badger would be. They are protected in Scotland and we found out later, we should have rung the badger society so they could come collect him. Dinner was a quick pasta of Scottish smoked salmon and was delicious. I also made a beef curry for dinner the following night in case we got home late from what looked like being a big day out.
What good luck I decided to make that curry. We left home at 10 am and didn’t return until 9 pm. I drove and I feel like I drove right around Scotland yesterday!
Back and through Inverness, we drove to Fort George Via Ardersier where we lunched at the common and took a walk along the stony beach. Near there, we stumbled upon an amazing, organic, on-farm cheese factory at Connage. We both love our cheese and Russ is a bit of an industry expert, but we both walked away gob-smacked. The friendly, knowledgeable staff helped us to buy more than we would normally, but it was all too good. If it wasn’t made by them, it was made pretty locally and made well. I bought a bag of Scottish tablet (a sickly sweet condensed milk toffee I think) so have tried that now and don’t need to again.
Heading to the coast and driving through the very pretty town of Forres (it won something for all the floral displays in town) we stopped by a huge carved Pict stone, then a bit further on came across Duffus Castle just sitting in a paddock.
There’s been a castle on the (man-made) hill since the 1100s, but it’s just ruins now. Still, it was a really lovely spot amongst the farms and little towns and we especially enjoyed having it all to ourselves. The only disturbances were about 4 fighter jets taking off from an airfield nearby and a farmer harvesting some sort of dried beans we couldn’t identify!
Along the coast, we drove the Scenic Coastal Route through a number of delightful little seaside towns-old fishing villages. Most seemed unspoiled and not at all touristy. My favourites were Findochty and Cullen. Finally at about 5pm, we turned for home. Our chosen route was 150 miles long and that took us along the Malt Whiskey Trail, the Speyside Trail, and the Wildcat Trail. I now think I’ve seen every major whiskey distillery in Scotland as they seem to all be along the Spey River. Name one! I’m sure I drove by it! And yes, Scotland has wild cats. Much like a domestic tabby cat, but with slightly longer legs, a much longer tail, and a bigger head. But we didn’t see one.
Driving through Aviemore, we saw a little snow on the hills behind. After that, it got dark and started to rain, then it got windy and started to pour. I was never so glad to arrive home at 9 pm to my curry waiting and some delicious cheese for supper!
We have lots of rabbits and birds on the grounds of the Highland club and every morning and afternoon the rabbits are out feeding. Most are just babies so have very little fear of us. They come in all colours too so black, white, grey, brown and brindle-they really are cute. But I’d like a couple to eat!