The trip was for my wife's birthday and it started properly when we got to Inverness, the Highland capital is not very attractive, a lot of concrete and modern designs sit uncomfortably within the old town and it looked fairly run down to me, the modern shopping centre must take a lot of the blame for the empty and dull streets surrounding it. We stopped for a drink in Lauder's, an establishment which housed an eclectic mix of tourists and locals, one of which gave me 'the look' as I was between him and the pint he left at the bar, I looked back, the tension slackened and he slumped off. I then got the impression we were trespassing as a local posse obviously wanted our table to be beside their mates, more looks. We finished off with an Indian meal which was rather bland, Glasgow Indian cuisine does not travel unfortunately.
On our way north the next day we stoped at the Whalligoe Steps where local women used to bring up the catch in baskets on their heads on a rather steep path up a cliff, the wind was very strong and I wouldn't have liked to have done it carrying fish. As we parked an irate local stormed towards us with "that's a bloody stupid place to park" he then informed us in a very loud and agitated voice all about the 'b^£$*(d' who owned the cafe and how she had ruined the place and his life before eventually giving us his blessing to leave the Batmobile where it was.
A few hours took us to just outside Wick and the magnificent Ackergill Tower, fought over by local landlords until 1623, we were encouraged to explore the tower and indeed open cupboards, drawers and family albums etc. during our stay. I came across some very interesting military memorabilia but as a lot of it named a certain Thomas Atkins I doubt the authenticity but applaud the detail of the forger. On our second morning my wife got her breakfast and I was seemingly forgotten, when the lad again hove into view my wife pointed this out, his bemused look and reply left us in stitches, "are you in a hurry, like?" Normally of course we would have marched off in high dudgeon, but the lad was likeable and laid back so no harm done.
While there we went to Scrabster and a highly recommended seafood restaurant for dinner, The Captains Galley, we turned up to be told they did not normally open on a Monday night, despite taking the booking, but wanted us to come in nonetheless, what could have been a disaster turned into a memorable night as we were entertained by owners Jim and Mary. Once Jim had finished in the kitchen we swapped sea stories and got on really well. The food by the way was exceptional and Jim chooses his fish each morning as the boats come into the quay about a hundred yards away.
|Dunrobbin Castle, peasant status confirmed.|
Another day in the area then off around the top of Scotland, mostly on a single track, windy road which thankfully had plenty of passing places and not many cars. As we approached Ullapool where we were staying for the night the brake warning light came on and I checked the front wheels, by which I meant I looked at them, one did not look right and I stopped at a local garage for advice. I was told not to drive home on it but it might get me to Skye, our next stop. Panic set in and although our bed and breakfast was four star we were too anxious to really enjoy it, I decided to go back to Inverness the next morning and hopefully have the car repaired there as we were more likely to get the parts and if the worst happened hire a car and continue to Skye that way.
|A real view from a window.|
We arrived at Kwik Fit Inveress to be told the car should not be driven around Skye or anywhere else, but they had three jobs in front of me if they could get the parts. Chris the manager listened to my tale of woe about the wife's birthday and seemed sympathetic, we headed off into Inverness wondering whether we would make it to Skye in time to eat. Within about an hour and a half I got a call from Chris saying the car was ready, I was overjoyed, the holiday had been saved. Well done Kwik Fit.
|Smiley face back.|
We arrived at The Three Chimneys with more than enough time to spare, and from our arrival until we left it was superb, from the decor and comfort of the room, the stunning views, all the way through to the excellent food and wine and wonderful staff. We decided not to have coffee during our last meal, there was an espresso machine in the room, and stopped to talk to the reception staff before retiring, a minute later a waiter caught up with us holding a box and a pair of tongs informing us we had not had our chocolates, thanked and told we did not want them he then offered to put them in a bag for us.
|The Three Chimneys|
It took ten hours to get home at the end of our tour, one pit stop and half an hour hold up for an accident along with the usual roadworks, sunshine all the way until we entered Lancashire. It had been so hot in the north that I had had to buy sun cream. Coming back slowly to earth now and real life, we had a great time and best of all a mountain of brownie points in the bank, albeit the bank is empty of cash.
We met and talked to a large range of people from all different backgrounds during the week but Jim and Mary at Scrabster, Chris in Inverness and Karen at the Three Chimneys stand out.
My moaning self will be back next week.