Category Archives: Sight Seeing

Mallacoota

Betka Beach

Betka Beach

In February of this year, we bought a Travel Auction package we saw advertised on TV to a Mallacoota caravan park. In these auctions, you are told what it would cost, then you make a bid-the top 50 bids win. The parks RRP for a 10 night stay was $330, we bid $180 and won. We then had to pick a date for travel within 12 months of winning. Mallacoota is right on the Vic/NSW border, so close to 520 kilometres from Melbourne OR Sydney you wouldn’t argue about it, and considered one of Victoria’s most remote towns. It has a population of around 1000 that swells to about 8000 over the summer holidays (that’s why we came just before!)

We left Daniel’s place in pouring rain (the wettest we have ever had to pack up in) and headed east of Traralgon for the very first time with the van.  As we travelled, we realised why we’ve never come this way before with the van-the roads are a disgrace to the state of Victoria. So very rough towing a van!

One patch of about 1 kilometre of road outside Stratford was so potholed, we just knew we’d arrive to all sorts of mess inside and we weren’t wrong. We have a portable oven, hotplates and fruit bowl that fit neatly into a spot on the bench beside the fridge and above the built in hotplates in the van. That stuff has travelled all over Australia sitting there but when we arrived and opened the van door in Mallacoota, it was all strewn all over the floor. Squished tomatoes, avocados and electrical goods covered the floor!

Mallacoota

Mallacoota

We set up in the rain and it continued for the next 20 or so hours without a let up, but Sunday afternoon it cleared for a while so we managed a drive 3 ks out of town to the very beautiful Betka Beach to take a look and some photos. Wow, what a lovely spot to have to ourselves.

Betka Beach

Betka Beach

Monday, we braved the wind and took the boat out for a bit of a fish. The boat played up-coughing and spluttering and generally being a bit scary to be out in that wind. The fish were hiding and it was a waste of time for a number of reasons. We came back in and Russ arranged to have the boat looked at by a local mechanic the following morning.

Tuesday was a perfect day for fishing, so after collecting the boat from the mechanic, followed by an early lunch, we set off out. The boat seemed to be going well, then once again, it started spluttering and coughing-so much for the miracle fix we’d just paid for! Never mind, it was a super calm day, so we just limped out a tiny way, parked up in a pretty spot and started to fish.

We only brought 7 fish into the boat, but all were well over size so we counted it a great success. We came home with 5 flathead and one bream, returning one 33 cm flathead as that’s just too small to bother with at the fish cleaning table. Fish for dinner Wednesday night, and some for the freezer.

Tuesday night, we had a yummy dinner at Lucy’s Handmade Rice Noodle Shop here in town. A funny little place where you grab your own wine glasses, water,condiments and hope the food you ordered makes it to your table. We had the best steamed bbq pork buns I’ve ever had, fried pork dim sims I’d have not known were dim sims if I hadn’t ordered them (hand made and so different from shop bought), really delicious chilli prawn salad and fried rice. The bbq pork buns were ordered as pork noodles but somehow got lost in translation so we missed out trying the handmade noodles. Oh well, now we have to go back!

Shipwreck Beach

Shipwreck Beach

Today we hung around the van, watching the cricket, until the boat-motor-fixit-man called to say it was done. By the time he called, it was too late to go fishing, so we went out to Shipwreck Creek and Beach and Pebbley Beach for a drive. Back home, we had our flathead tails for dinner.

Flatty tails

Flatty tails

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Back in Perth then off across the Nullarbor

Manchester to Abu Dhabi

Manchester to Abu Dhabi

We arrived back in Perth on October 16th after what seemed like a particularly long flight. We got held up boarding in Abu Dhabi then held up again on the tarmac. Not what you need with a 12 hour flight ahead. Neither of us got more than a couple of hours sleep and I felt the service by Etihad’s cabin crew was a bit slow and surly.  I was hot and thirsty and it was hard work to get a glass of water.

Harry

Harry

We spent two nights in a motel near Todd and Deb’s so we could catch up with them and Harry which was great as we hadn’t seen them since Iona and Simon’s party in Leeds 4 weeks before. Deb cooked dinner the night we arrived, the next night we went out for Chinese in Vic Park and the following day, we had yum cha in Vic Park. It was all excellent.

On Saturday night, we stayed with our friends Charley and Beaty-we met them many years ago at a caravan park in Denham and have remained good friends since. Beaty cooked us a lovely dinner and we caught up on all the Shark Bay news.

Monte Casino

Monte Casino

Sunday, we drove to the farm at New Norcia where our van was stored with family on a farm there. I can’t tell you how nice it was to sleep in my bed, with my pillow and doona etc-so lovely. I hadn’t slept well since we got off the plane and didn’t again on the Sunday night, but Monday, I slept like a log finally. I had that trouble the last time we came back from the UK, but it wouldn’t stop me flying!
Wheat Monte Casino

Wheat Monte Casino

It was a lovely visit to the farm as usual. Pam and Carson organised a bbq on our first night, then Russ and I made fish tacos on the second. In between packing up the van and shopping for fresh food for the trip ahead, we  had time to get out and about round the farm to see the crops, and to see a huge mob of ewes and lambs being drafted for shearing the following day.

Faces in the flock

Faces in the flock

Carson had shot and frozen us 9 rabbits and they gave us plenty of lamb they kill and some beef. Our freezer is filled to bursting as we still have about 20ks of fish and crab meat in there too.

It was sad leaving as I doubt we’ll be back in WA next year for any length of time, but Lewis is working on us to go to Bali in January which we may do.

The actual Nullarbor Plain

The actual Nullarbor Plain

Tuesday, we hooked the van up and started our 3500km drive home.  I always think it’s such a long way, but once we’re out on the road, I love the trip. It’s not all as flat and featureless as my photos show it to be-there are some lovely treed stretches. This time too, there was lots of water lying about and quite a few wild flowers early on, so really lovely.

On night one, we made it to the former gold rush town of Coolgardie, night two we got to Cocklebiddy, last night we made it to Nundroo Roadhouse and today we arrived in Streaky Bay.

Without looking it up, I think we’ve come about 2100 of our 3500 so far, but we are staying here for 6 nights so we can do some fishing and crabbing-something we haven’t done since the end of July and are missing badly. Crossing into South Australia, we only had to hand over a bit of lettuce and a wedge of lime to the quarantine man so I reckon we shopped pretty well. Our first job after that crossing was to go to the supermarket in Ceduna and stock up-we were both shocked yet again at the prices and are seriously considering a move to the UK where most things are so much cheaper!

After we leave here, it’s two nights/3 days on the road to Portland where we’ll stay 2 nights, a night in Port Fairy, another in Warrnambool, then on to Traralgon where we’ll base ourselves for the next few months.

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End of the holiday

Yorkshire Moors

Yorkshire Moors

Our 10 week and 4 day holiday of the UK and Switzerland is almost over. Just two more nights, before we fly back to Perth.

With a change in our plans to visit Wales before we left to go back, we decided to visit one of the areas we’d driven through a couple of times but not really explored.

We tried to book a cottage, but had trouble paying as we had next to no chance to get onto the internet on the boat. In the end, we chose another cottage whose owner made the payment process so much easier. We booked it Friday at about 11 am and arrived at about 4 pm and collected the keys.

I didn’t research this place-just trusted the woman when she said it was really nice. As we drove there, I said to Russ I hoped it had wi-fi, a wood fire, a comfy bed and decent pillows and a separate shower. Not only did it have the lot, the fire was lit and we’d been left fresh home-baked scones, jam, butter and laundry detergent to do a load of washing.  All this and 70 pounds cheaper than the other place I’d tried to book. Because it sleeps 6, it’s super spacious with big rooms and well equipped full kitchen.

The MoorsThe cottage is on the outskirts of a  really pretty town called Matlock which is on the border of the Peak District and right by the Yorkshire moors and dales. We’ve spent our 3 days here travelling up and down dales, across moors and around the Peaks. It’s quite heavily populated, but so, so beautiful. The area was the centre of the industrial revolution so there are lots of old factories, remains of lead and coal mines too apparently,although maybe they were underground as I haven’t really noticed them. Along with the factories and mines come the rows of workers houses in all the villages and towns.

Little Castle Bolsover Castle

Little Castle Bolsover Castle

As well as quite a lot of driving in the area, we managed to visit a couple of Castles (Bolsover and Peveril), a big car boot sale and the Masson Cotton Mill museum over our three day sale. Bolsover was great, Peveril was up such a huge steep hill we gave up and sat and just enjoyed the views. The cotton mill museum was interesting as we made it in time to see several of the machines working.

Masson Cotton Mill

Masson Cotton Mill

What a great holiday we’ve had. My good friend Deb asked me what was the best bit. After thinking about it, I think the whole trip was better than we expected and there was very little in the end to complain about.

I won’t miss 6 foot wide roads and the 127 million people that seem to use them, stairs, crappy pillows, toilets that have to decide if they’re going to flush, hand held showers over baths, dogs (or their leftover smells) in restaurants, cafes, apartments, cottages, boats and in national parks.

I will miss our friends, our little car, amazing scenery, history everywhere and fantastic supermarkets.

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Louth and the Norfolk Broads

early morning mist on the broads

early morning mist on the broads

On Friday October 3rd, we left Edinburgh and drove about 300 miles to stay for three nights with friends Joy and Simon in their gorgeous home on the edge of the not-s-small village of Louth. We had a really fun and relaxing three nights and two days with them that went all too fast!

I met Joy many years ago when we both belonged to an internet recipe site called Recipezaar. At the time, she and Simon were living in Wales but she and I had become good enough cyber friends for Russ and I to visit her when we holidayed in the UK 7 years ago.

Joy and Simon are actually Australians, with family there, so they decided a few years ago to move “home”. We caught up with them quite often in Perth. The move to Australia lasted just over a year- until they realised how much they missed the UK and all it offers them.  They’ve been back just over a year and are very happy now!

Joy is a fantastic cook and hostess, and Simon is a great host who hates to see an empty glass at the table so needless to say, we felt very much at home! On the night we arrrived, we had a great Chinese meal followed by an impressive cheese board.

raclette

raclette

Night two, we had a raclette. I know Joy and Simon love raclette, so I’d hinted I’d love to try one. I wasn’t disappointed.

Raclette is a melting cheese, and in Switzerland, I think they do just that-melt the cheese, then scoop it up with crusty bread.

Joy’s version is quite different. We each got an assortment of chopped and prepared ingredients, and starting with the raw meat and onion, added things to a dish on the hotplate (of a machine sitting in the centre of the table) in the order they took to cook. When they were done, we topped with raclette cheese and popped under the grill part of the machine. Each dinner had a bowl of baby skin-on potatoes and split a couple of them on their plate before topping with the cooked and cheesy mixture. It was really yummy and lots of fun and I’m having a machine!

Sunday, we took Joy and Simon out to a pub we’d had a drink in the day before. Daniel Craig is known to frequent it, but he didn’t show up. Still and all it was a lovely lunch in a really quaint little pub. Dinner was a marinated Thai chicken breasts with great salads and another fantastic cheese board.

Louth Church

Louth Church

We took a lovely walk around the village of louth, caught up with all our laundry, had a fun visit to friends of Joy and Simon, and I even managed to cook and freeze two meals for our time on the boat on the Norfolk Broads.

We left Joy and Simon’s in pouring rain and made our way to our boat on the Broads. We arrive at the boat yard outside Norwich around 4pm, and by 5pm were underway (still in the pouring rain) on our 4 night adventure.

On most holidays, we allow ourselves one really extravagant activity With this holiday being 10 weeks long, we allowed ourselves one each. Mine was to fly to Switzerland to visit our dear friends, and Russ’s was the boat on the broads. I’m so glad we did them both as they were amazing times

Raining on the Broads

Raining on the Broads

Like I said, it was pouring when we left the boat yard, so we made our way up stream very carefully mooring at Coldham Hall Pub for the night. We popped into the pub for well earned glass of wine, to use their Wi Fi and to just unwind. After our drink, we went back to the boat and made ourselves a warm salad of salmon capers and dill, baby potatoes and asparagus. Exhausted, we both slept like logs!

early morning mist on the broads

early morning mist on the broads

Tuesday, we woke to a mist over the water and the promise of a lovely day so we got underway. The boats on the broads are only allowed to do 6 mph in most places and as low as 3 or 4 mph in others, so it’s a pretty leisurely way to see the Broads. Mid week and out of season was a wise choice too-I can imagine it would be manic with boats, and moorings would be as scarce as hen’s teeth in the high season!

We putted up the river stopping for lunch at Hardley wind mill. As luck (?) would have it there was a windmill enthusiast on hand to give us the complete and utter run-down on the mill and all mills in general.

Hardley Wind Mill

Hardley Wind Mill

We were able to climb three very steep sets of stairs, then 2 equally steep and scary ladders to the top. When I said I might miss out on the ladders, he said I’d regret not seeing the view and I should do it. The view was great (I even walked out around the sails,) but OMG it was scary! All this for a 2 pound each “donation”

Our boat from the windmill

Our boat from the windmill

After lunch and our very educational visit to the mill, we headed up the Chet River to Loddon where we planned to spend the night. The Chet River was really narrow and windy and we were thrilled not to meat a boat on it’s way out. The banks were very weedy and a fouled prop on the boat would have cost us 250 pounds if we called out the engineer!

Loddon's lovely library

Loddon’s lovely library

With the boat safely tied up, we took a long walk across the fields to the lovely village of Loddon. I really loved the buildings around town especially the local library and church.

Back on the boat, we had pre-dinner drinks on the back deck to watch the sun go down. It was lovely to be visited by a family of swans (mum, dad and 7 cygnets) to talk to locals as they walked their dogs and watch the fishermen in their little boats head home. We had chilli con carne (made and frozen at Joy’s) for dinner  and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Moon over the Broads

Moon over the Broads

Wednesday, the good weather had moved on so after a lazy late breakfast, we headed back up the Chet River and moored at the mouth while we waited to see what the nasty weather would do. Our good luck at not seeing another boat on the river deserted us and we had to pass three boats and were over taken by another-quite nerve racking but we survived!

Sunset over the BroadsAfter lunch we decided it was silly to move on, so just stayed put on our mooring for the night. The weather lifted a bit so we could sit and watch another pretty sunset on the back deck then we had chicken, leek and mushroom casserole for dinner

In the morning, we motored back towards the boatyard, stopping off for lunch and more Wi Fi at Coldham Hall Pub, then moored at Bramerton for the night. Once again we took a long walk around that very pretty little village before having dinner-left over casserole with asparagus, parmesan and sour cream added and all served over pasta. Same but quite different.

remains of a windmill on the broads

remains of a windmill on the broads

Our boat was a bit of an old donga, but everything worked and the bed (especially the pillows!) was comfy, so we didn’t let its old age or the rain spoil our days! If we’d taken a better boat, it’d have been double the price so we were quite happy with it. We saw lots of bird life (heaps of swans, ducks, geese, herons, harriers etc) I think I saw a mink and we saw rabbits and hares.

This morning we returned the boat to the boatyard around 9 am then drove to our last cottage just outside Matlock in the dales on the edge of the Peak District. Talk about saving the best til last-it’s gorgeous. And to make it even better, the owner had lit the wood fire and left us some fresh fruit scones, jam, butter, milk and laundry detergent.

We have 4 nights here, then we’ll drive the 1.5 hours into Manchester on Tuesday and catch our plane back to Perth Wednesday morning.

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Edinburgh, what a surprise

Edinburgh Bus Tours

Edinburgh Bus Tours

After a bit of a shaky start to our four nights here-we got lost finding the apartment, lost finding our car park and lost getting home from it, we’ve found our feet and our bearings and have fallen in love with Edinburgh.

Home for 4 nights is by the amber traffic light on the left

Home for 4 nights is by the amber traffic light on the right

As the dearest of all the accommodation we’ve stayed in so far, this apartment is also the worst. It’s got pictures fallen off the wall just sitting on the floor, doors that don’t shut, cupboard doors that fall off when you open them, the washing machine doesn’t work and there’s no dishwasher. The kitchen gear looks like it was bought at charity shops and garage sales and the bed is like sleeping on a plank with the second worst pillows in the UK.

Now having had my moan, I have to admit it was expensive, but the cheapest I could find, and the location is fantastic-a 15 minute stroll to the city centre past wonderful homes, churches, restaurants, cafes and gardens, across cobbled streets-it’s beautiful. We have a Tesco supermarket right across the road from us (one of those big ones) and a pub ,and good little Chinese we bought takeaway from on night one, just a few doors away. So it’s not all doom and gloom!

One of my fav streets on our walk to and from the city centre

One of my fav streets on our walk to and from the city centre

We put our car in the car park and haven’t seen it since. We just hope it’s there in the morning and that the annual pass we have here for the parking spot has been paid up!

Our days have been really full. We bought a 48+ pass for Edinburgh bus tours (so one of those hop on hop off jobs) which gave us access to 4 different buses along 4 different routes plus a bus and boat tour out to and on the Forth of Firth.

Rail Bridge over the Forth of Firth

Rail Bridge over the Forth of Firth

We’ve given that pass a hiding right from the first minute we bought it. On day one, we took an hour tour with a live guide round the city, then came back and did our boat and bus tour straight up.. That was great-a good bus ride out to a boat that took us out on the Forth for 1.5 hours out to a ruined abbey on an island, spotting seals, under the road bridge and the rail bridge and for a look at the third bridge being constructed.

Back in town, we jumped on another bus and went up to the royal mile and toured The Real Mary King’s close-a street that was built over during the construction of the new town hall in the 1700s and remains just as it was (sort of) back then.

The tour was a bit of fact mixed with a lot of theatre and was OK. I think it was a bit overpriced and the vaulted ceilings and wooden floors (put in for our safety) made it feel like a series of cellars. One house and the old cattle byre did feel really original though and I enjoyed them.

Holyroodhouse Palace

Holyroodhouse Palace

Yesterday, we visited the Queens Edinburgh residence, Holyroodhouse Palace. It cost about the same as the tour the day before and was so much more worth the price. It was amazing. We got given an audio guide and wandered from room to room on the first floor at our own pace for a couple of hours. These are the official reception rooms used by the Queen to meet with visiting dignitaries. When the Queen is in residence the palace is closed to tourists.

Royal Yacht Britannia

Royal Yacht Britannia

After our visit to Holyroodhouse, we took yet another bus out to Leith Harbour to have a bit of a look at the Royal Yacht Britannia. There’s a viewing area, poorly signed, behind a car park with the yacht behind a big fence with spikes on top. I think they really want you to buy a ticket, but we didn’t really have the time or money or the desire to do so. A bit of a disappointment really, but the bus ride out past the botanic gardens through the burbs was good.

Leith Harbour

Leith Harbour

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

We finished off the day with another bus ride back up to the Museum of Childhood. We only had 1/2 hour before closing time to look around, but that was long enough. Too many train sets and dolls houses and not enough stuff from my era to really grab my attention.

Today we got up early and walked to town where we caught the last bus on about the last minute of our ticket’s 48 hours. We went up to the Edinburgh Castle and took a good look around over 3 hours. it’s not cheap-about 16 pounds each plus 3.50 for the audio guide, but we had those English Heritage passes and using them, got in for half price. The nice boy at ticket sales charged us both as concessions for the tickets and guides so it only cost us 17.20 in total. A bargain!

There is seriously so much to look at and the views are so spectacular, you could spend way more time there, but my legs were nearly worn out, so after three hours and with it being lunch time, we gave up.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

We lunched in a great restaurant called The Outsider. We’d intended to eat out every night here but by the time we get home of a late afternoon, I just want to put my onsie on and chill with something simple for dinner from Tesco, and a bottle of wine. So lunch today was our treat. I had rabbit, leek and chestnut mushroom pie and mash, Russ had grilled plaice, buttered kale and sweet potato and we shared a green salad, rustic bread and herbed oil, and a bottle of sauvignon blanc. It was all delicious.

National Museum

National Museum

After lunch and before we walked home, we visited the National Museum for about an hour and a half. It’s one of the best museums I’ve ever visited-a really beautiful space with really well thought out exhibits (my photos don’t do it justice). Once again, we could have stayed longer but my feet were now worn out completely.

National Museum

National Museum

Tomorrow, we’re off to Louth (back in England) to stay with friends for three nights.

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Loch Ness, Isle of Skye and Speyside Steam Train

Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye

We had three full days before leaving our accommodation on Loch Ness this morning and making our way here to Edinburgh.

Driving down along the Loch Ness South Trail

Driving down along the Loch Ness South Trail

After our huge day out of Inverness on Thursday,(we didn’t get home until 9 pm) we had a relaxing morning, lunch at home, then drove around what they call the Loch Ness South trail. It has a stunning viewpoint about half was down the loch over another couple of other lochs and along the Great Glen. It’s a narrow little road, but with not much traffic on it, it was fine. We also took a detour of that road and visited the Falls of Foyer. It looked like it’d be a good walk to the bottom but we quit at the first lookout when it started rain.

Falls of Foyer  were much taller than they look

Falls of Foyer were much taller than they look

Saturday we set the alarm and got away pretty early (for us) to the Isle of Skye. It was only 57 miles from our accommodation on Loch Ness to the Bridge of Skye, then we did about 120 miles on the island and finally the 57 home.

Skye Bridge

Skye Bridge

It’s a really ruggedly beautiful place and it was hard not to stop every hundred metres for another photo. You get great views of the Hebrides, picture perfect villages with tiny whitewashed cottages, tall mountains covered in mist, waterfalls and of course the occasional castle ruin. We lunched at Columba 1400 in Staffin-it’s run to benefit kids in trouble and Russ’s burger and my pannini and soup were excellent .

Speyside steam railway for lunch

Speyside steam railway for lunch

Sunday we had booked ourselves lunch on a steam train that operates on a 10 mile stretch of track out of Aviemore (75 miles from Loch Ness). I wasn’t really holding great hope for the meal but was honestly surprised at the quality of food we got. Russ had Pate, roast beef and apple pie, I had lentil soup, poached salmon and apple pie. We got a side of veg with our mains and coffee and home made fudge to finish. It was lovely to have an Aussie couple beside us-two federal police from Canberra on holidays in Scotland and Ireland for 7 weeks.

Speyside steam railway for lunch

Speyside steam railway for lunch

After lunch, we drove out to a reindeer farm. In 1952 a Laplander came to the area on his honeymoon, discovered the local reindeer had been hunted to extinction so he and his wife and 8 reindeer moved to Aviemore. The herd is able to roam free in the alpine national park for a lot of the year but they are pretty well domesticated and easy to get up close to. It was a bit overpriced and quite a hike up to the holding yards, but I’m so pleased we did it.

Reindeers

Reindeers

Today we drove to Edinburgh where we’ll spend the next 4 nights. It was a nightmare finding our apartment and another nightmare finding our parking place when we’d unloaded our gear. The car is in a parking building about a mile from here! We had problems connecting to the internet and using the TV but it’s all sorted now and we’re relaxing with a bottle of bubbles before we have Chinese for dinner.

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Loch Ness-the mistake

Beauly Pass

Beauly Pass

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.

Loch Ness from our apartment

Loch Ness from our apartment

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.

Home of the Loch Ness Experience Drumnadrochit

Home of the Loch Ness Experience 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).

Urquart Castle on Loch Ness

Urquart Castle on Loch Ness

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!

Victoria Market Inverness

Victoria Market Inverness

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!.

Cromarty

Cromarty

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.

Lighthouse Chanory Point

Lighthouse Chanory Point

Beauly PassWe 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.

Dead Badger

Dead Badger

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.

Duffus Castle

Duffus Castle

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!

Findochty

Findochty

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!

Out front our apartment Highland Club Fort Augustus

Out front our apartment Highland Club Fort Augustus

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