Our days are so full, touring Scotland, I don’t manage to stay up in the evening to write every single day. Which is a pity, but then, the day only has 24 hours, and some of them simply have to be sleep.
Mornings at the Holly Lodge in Strathpeffer are just too beautiful. After only three nights they will be sorely missed. At the beautiful breakfast table in the dining room we would meet with all the other travellers staying at the house that nigt. There was a retired teacher from Aberdeen who had a lot of knowledge and was fun to talk to in the mornings. There was this Australian girl, travelling to the Outer Hebrides with her parents, feeling like a teenager again. There was a couple from Germany who was deep in conversation with another couple from Argentina, so they didn’t even realize that other Germans were in the room as well. There was a British couple staying for a wedding, which resulted in a lost voice and a headache for either one of them on the second morning. There was this couple from Edinburgh, escaping the hussle of Festival Month. Every morning it was lively talk and exchange of experiences. I could have stayed at the table for hours.
However, our third and last full day led us – finally – to the east coast north of Inverness. Fiona had recommended to visit the Tain Pottery on the A9, so that’s what we did. It was a really good recommendation. The setting of the Pottery itself was worth the visit. It’s situated on the outside of Tain. Just a few buildings, cottages, a garden and the workshop. Just beautiful. Inside the Pottery there is the showroom at the beginning, where they obviously show all their recent designs. Beyond the showroom is the storage area, where visitors are just as welcome as anywhere. So we browsed through there. Siobhan got very luckcy at the ‚Seconds‘ shelves, finding quite a few pieces of her favourite design for way less money because of some minor flaws neither of us has yet found. But the experience doesn’t end here, because the next door leads to a huge hall where there are hundreds of pieces drying, which looks amazing. However, if you also take the stairs up to the second floor, you will find the decorating workshop. It’s fool of tools and colours. There are a few workplaces but when we visited, there was only Lee. I very much enjoyed talking to him and learning, how he ended up there. Hestudied graphic design, then volunteered in Spain, where he had the chance to work with pottery and one thing led to another. He says, he feels settled now and is very happy with his job. I love hearing those stories, maybe because they are important to me on a deeper level. Lee gave us a lot of his time and in the end even found a bowl of the ‚McKenzie of Wick‘-Tartan, which I love.
Speaking of which: I have not eaten any candy, not used any form of sugar, ever since we started that trip. Siobhan is the master of food, so she decides what I may eat and what not. You might not believe it but I love it. I don’t have to waste my energy thinking about food, let alone preparing it. It’s idal. Also I am distracted by the most wonderful country I know of, so that helps. Still I’m really proud of it because I don’t even want it. To me it was also important to make sure that this sugar-free experience is linked to deeply emotional memories, which we are having in spades here…
Back on track: After the pottery, Siobhan wanted to go into the Glenmorangie Distillery, which was just a five minute’s drive further north. The premises are beautifully maintained and designed, but the visitor’s center – compared to Talikser – was a little boring. So we didn’t stay long. We then decided to drive over to Portmahomack, originally to head out the the Tarbert Ness Lighthouse (the next morning the couple from Edinburgh told us how amazing it had been there on that day). However we got stuck on the beach. The sky cleared when we arrived there and the temperatures rose up to a hot 18° C. Sammy got to go swimming and catching his ball, while Siobhan and I started to seek shells. Well, you might guess what that lead to… more shells! Our souvenirs are very natural, by the way. We brought black sand and seaweed from Talisker beach, white sand from Luskentyre on Harris and from the Kyle of Tongue on the north coast, sheep wool from the Fairy Glen at Uig, and now beautifull shells from Portmahomack.
We originally (once again) had planned to go to Culloden in the afternoon, but it took us hours to get away from the Cromarty Firth, because I also found a way to shoot the oil rigs that were brought in there for repares. Since we had already booked a table for that night in Inverness, Culloden didn’t happen that day.
Insteadt we arried in Clachnaharry, Inverness, just at the appointed time. This is where The Clachnaharry Inn (‚The Clach‘) is located. We chose this fine establishment because of the reviews on ‚dugswelcome.com‘, where I signed up for the duration of our trip. Dogs are very welcome here. Sammy had barely come inside when he was already petted. Lucky boy, that one. We had our diner there. Just after they started making some space for a one man live show that night. It started at 9 p.m., so we stayed and listened for a while, before we decided to call it a night and get back to Strathpeffer.
This morning was a lovely breakfast just as it was before. Especially since we got served veggie Haggis again. It’s so yummy!
Today was travelling day. You might think that this is boring, but travelling in Scotland is never, ever boring. First we did what we didn’t manage yesterday: we went to Culloden. The Culloden Battlefield is a special place to visit. Yes, there is a Visitor’s Center and of course there are many people from all over the world, judging by the many languages spoken around the site. But it’s – first and foremoste – a war grave and respect is, of course, demanded. It got to us right at the beginning. While inside the Vistor’s center its a more touristy atmosphere, what with the shop and everything, outside on what had once been a battlefield where hundreds of men (1.500 – 2.000 Scottish and 300 English soldiers) were killed and buried, where the wind blows over the moor and red and blue flags show where the front lines once were and where the English ambushed the Sottish… well, it’s somethings different all together. It’s might be just the most important sight to see on a Scotland trip. Just one thing: I do wish that people were more respectful. We were just looking at a stone commemorating the men of Clan Mackintosh, when a girl with her mother came along. In this area people are generally and in writing asked to show respect by keeping quiet. So it was really annoying when the girl, upon beholding the stone, let everyone know that she’d like a mackintosh right now. Most people couldn’t keep quite for these few meters and I think that’s really sad – and disrespectful.
Anyways, after Culloden we headed south. Southwest to be exast, on the A82 in direction of Fort William, along Loch Ness. I didn’t have too many expectations for Loch Ness, since I was already told that, like many tourist Highlights, it didn’t quite live up to it. And so it was. No offence, but that could have been the lake next to my home town, absolutely nothing special. Sure Urqhart Castle is certainly nice, but that’s it. Originally (here it is again) we had planned to take the eastern route down to Edinburgh, but we spontaneously decided to head west. We are still in kind of yearning for the Herides and the rougher, wilder north and west of the country. So a last Highland Good Bye was in order. Unfortunately the A82 through Glencoe was closed because of a bad motorbike accident. So we had to head even further west, almost to Oban. This however meant that we could stop by Stalker Castle and Castle Doune on the way.
I didn’t believe that we would make it to Edinburgh in time to get the car into the car park close to our appartment. It closes at 8 p.m. and we had lost so much time on our way. Believe it or not, I pressed the button for the parking ticket at 7:58 and we were actully in! We had our apartment quite close to the Grassmarket, by the way. We were told, Reigo Street is a good parking center. It is. It’s safe and not too expensive. You should consider it if taking a car to Edinburgh.
Infos on the apartment will follow. For tonight I’ll call it a day.