Some places we've been and some places we're going.

Archive for April, 2013

Round and About

It’s official. I cannot stop Alex talking “Invernesian” or his version of it! He’s relentless. I suppose at least when we go to the Isles there will be a change of accent.

As Alex got his gear ready to go and play golf at Brahan Course today all I could think was, “The heavy stuff won’t come down for a while yet”. We decided to go and buy a nice warm top for me but when we were inside we realized we’d gone to the Garden Centre instead of Pringles. That meant we needed to have scones etc before we headed out into the cold again. The extremely polite, ultra calm GPS cyborg  who is supposed to guide us effortlessly to any destination is on a different wavelength and we spend more time trying to ignore her than actually following her directions. Today she took us to a road that ended abruptly at a paddock/field and politely told us we’d arrived at our destination. She loves U Turns but hasn’t yet mastered re-cal-cu-la-ting.

On the way to the Golf Course we stumbled across the Red Kite bird hide, didn’t see any Red Kites but lots of little birds. In a field on the way in we saw a glorious pheasant and in a house yard on the way out we saw another but neither of them cooperated in my photo shoot. I guess they’ve had too many people taking pot shots at them to risk hanging around.

We didn’t find the Golf Course which is just as well considering the foul weather, maybe tomorrow we’ll try again.

Sorry to those of you who have added comments and they haven’t appeared. I’m still trying to work out why they’re not being displayed.

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The Croft

Today we went almost as far north as you can go in Scotland to Mark & Lena’s croft  (small farm), the closest village is called Betty Hill and the closest town is Thurso. You can find them on http://maps.google.com/

The weather was changeable, sleet & wind, rain & wind, snow & wind, sun & wind & just wind! The good thing about the weather, apart from the fact it gave us breaks when we could enjoy the fabulous views, take photos and go for a short walk, is that it made me realize I need to buy another, warmer jumper! My four layers just didn’t cut it & we are heading for the Islands which are notorious for their winds and cold weather. Lena keeps trying to convince herself, and us, that it will be beautiful Spring weather when we go but I’m not going to risk freezing.

The view from the croft over Armadale Bay was stunning with big breakers coming in. Walking down towards the beach was very hard going with the wind making our eyes stream and giving Alex an “Ice-cream Headache” but coming back up was “a breeze???”. There are ruins all about the area some where families left during “the clearances” but others where the old people died and the young ones had moved away to an easier lifestyle leaving the house to fall into ruin. I can’t help but think that the wind must play a big part in the destruction. The perfectly painted white houses are a sure sign that the owners are now “White Settlers” ie English who use them for a short time in Summer or have retired and moved to a seemingly idyllic, peaceful home.

Although there were signs all along the roads warning of Deer we only saw one herd and they were far away from the road. The roads around the area are single track with marked passing places, most people take care and pull into a passing place when they see another car coming but we did have one scare when we had nowhere to pull in and an approaching car raced right up to us. A small red car and everyone knows drivers of those are mad!

Now snug back “home” Alex is now scrubbing and polishing his old Golf Clubs which have lived in Lena & Mark’s loft for 18 years. Tomorrow he plans to play a round at Brahan Golf Course, an ecologically sustainable one which is just outside Dingwall. I’ll check the weather before I make any plans.

Aviemore

Our jaunt today was to Aviemore. We went past our old house which looks quite different now with a wall out the front and you can’t see any garden. It was new when we moved in but it certainly looks tired now. We then spent some time with our nephew, Colin & his family. Lovely to see him grown into a happy family man. We left Colin in charge of the choccies etc so the kids wouldn’t go overboard.

When we left Colin’s we went for a walk down the quiet little road on the other side of the railway line where there has been much less development. The Steam train which runs between Boat of Garten and Aviemore went through too quickly for me to get a decent photo and I couldn’t find out when it came back again so I missed that opportunity. There were lots of Hoodie Crows and black headed Seagulls about. We saw three Roe Deer when we went to have a look at the Spey Valley Golf Course at what was Dalfaber Farm when we lived in Aviemore .

Tonight we tried out a new Indian Takeaway, called “Chilli Chak” the food was delicious.

If you click on a photo it will take you to a slideshow and the captions will be clearer.

Invergordon

The weather forecast for today wasn’t good, coming from the north and the Pole doesn’t seem that far away! We thought a  long walk in the forest was a bad idea but since the laundry bag was full clothes washing was a good idea. The wonders of modern technology meant we could do the washing while we went to Pringles to get a jumper or two. When I was packing I decided that restricting my clothes to a few colours meant everything would coordinate. The down side of that, I’ve discovered, is that it appears I’ve been wearing the same clothes every day so off we went to Pringles where I bought acrylic and Alex bought cashmere. Happy with our purchases we headed up the coast to Invergordon where maintenance is done on Oil Rigs. There were at least 6 in the harbour some maybe being dismantled.

Coming back from Invergordon I spotted a couple of seals in the Cromarty Firth. The road is very busy but we were able to pull into a layby and walk back (safe side of the Armco barrier) to see one seal lying on its back moving its flippers about and looking directly at us. A second one swam in towards us, had a good look then went back out again.

On the road back to Inverness we came to a section of road we thought was covered in fresh snow but when we got back to the house we discovered the white was actually an accumulation of hailstones. Luckily each time we were out of the car there was no rain or hail and in fact we walked about in sunshine so it’s been very variable today.

East Coast Jaunt

Today we had our breakfast at a Garden Centre. While we were there we could have bought a waterproof jacket, boots, Polar fleece, crockery, Scottish souvenirs, BBQs, knick knacks, beds and bedding, kitchen gadgets or old fashioned lollies. The eating area is able to cater for about 100 people and on Sundays someone plays the grand piano and another person the guitar. There were a few plants around too.

We headed down the road towards Nairn, went to the beach where Alex reminisced about going there in a bus with the Sunday School and having Fish and Chips on the way home at Granton on Spey. At the harbour there was a statue of a Fishwife. The detail was fantastic especially the plain stitch knitting on the cardigan opening, the texture of the rope and the flesh on the fish. In her basket were birds’ eggs, a scale, herring and little packages. In her creel was a box. I’m always disappointed when I can’t find the artist’s name anywhere on a sculpture.

The old Abbey ruins at Kinloss were interesting as were the gravestones, some have carvings of skulls and bones which seemed to be tied in ribbons or scrolls. There were many skippers and shipbuilders buried there including an Australian buried in the 1800s. The language on many tombstones was archaic and some were highlighted by moss growing in the carved letters.

Burghead is a town built on the site of an old Pictish Fort, we couldn’t get into the Visitors Centre or the Well because they don’t open until May. The town is situated on a narrow spit and the streets and very narrow lanes run parallel along the spit. The houses are impressive solid stone structures mostly two storey but some low houses with front doors ideal for the vertically challenged.

It was a relief to get to Hopeman with its well tended facilities! The wind was so strong there that the rigging wires on the boats were singing. We walked until our eyes were streaming then came back to the car and drove to where I knew there was a geocache where I could leave something.

From there we made our way back “home” via Lossiemouth, Elgin and Forres. Even the main roads were narrow and it seemed that some farmers took their massive machines to town for their shopping.

Arrived home in time for Alex to get into the kitchen to make dinner and give Lena a break.

Less Sitting More Walking

After yesterday’s full day of driving about we decided today we needed to walk. Our legs are now complaining because we walked and walked through the forest because I had the Geocache bit between my teeth and impenetrable scrubby stuff and steep drops/rises got in the way. The first place we went was along the canal which was nice and flat. Alex found the cache on his first ever expedition, a tricky one too he also found the second one, his devious mind is good for caching. We had a hot drink at a café in a Garden Centre, one with very elaborate hot houses, people pay to go through them. The woman asked me if I wanted cream or marshmallows with my hot chocolate & I said, “Just one marshmallow thanks”. She told me they were only small so I said I’d have two then. The photo will tell what I actually got.

The jaunt into the forest just behind Lena & Mark’s house certainly took more effort than I expected and all for one cache. The second one couldn’t be accessed from the direction we’d taken. When we were only 100m away a vertical drop, fence and train line stopped us so we decided to leave it for today and come back by car along a road we could see beyond the train line. Then we had to climb back up the hill, fight our way through the forest and find our way home. Luckily I did record home in the GPS but Alex also had an idea of the way we needed to go. He saw a deer I only saw some very big fungi growing on a tree trunk.

Gairloch

Today it was my turn to drive and we headed north then west. The car is easy to drive If you’re not bumper to bumper then the way it shuts off the engine every time you stop moving for any length of time is very, very annoying even if it does restart as soon as you touch the accelerator. Alex is going through the handbook again to see if we can bypass the eco mode.

We stopped at Rogie Falls which had an impressive amount of water cascading down, it’s no wonder the Salmon choose a different time to make their way upstream, even with the Fish Ladder I’m sure many would be smashed to death in the river. There was so much mist that photos don’t do the vista justice. Throughout the day we experienced sunshine, rain and bitter wind, reminded me of the saying about Melbourne,” If you don’t like the weather wait 5 mins for the change”. There is still a lot of snow lying on the hills and when we were looking down Loch Maree it was only 4deg.

Our lunch stop was at The Old Inn, Gairloch. I thought Alex had a pea/potato mash but it was the famous Mushy Peas. He forgot to ask for salad.

We took our time driving back, stopping frequently to take in the awesome scenery. We saw goats, a colourful male pheasant, heaps of sheep with new lambs, Shetland Ponies and some Salmon jumping in Fish Farm pens. A female pheasant almost breathed her last, I tried to avoid her as she seemed to be heading straight for the wheels  but there was no bump and no feathers exploding into the air when I looked in the rear vision mirror. She lived to challenge another car.