Last week I chronicled the last few days of our Friendship Force homestay in northeast England. At the end of our stay, we took the train back to Edinburgh and picked up a rental car at the airport. Prior to our departure, we got a mixed bag of advice about driving in the UK, some said we were crazy as loons and “don’t you know they have great public transportation?” Others said we would be just fine. So with all that well intended advice, we decide to go for it. Well, folks the first day or two was a little nerve racking but suffice to say it, we made it home in one piece, no accidents or even near collisions. Since we picked up the car at the airport in Edinburgh, our first traffic was heavy city driving and the first roundabout had five exits! Since traffic was slow, it made it much easier to make decisions besides that we smartly upgraded the car to one with in dash GPS, just wish we would have upgraded to an automatic transmission as well. Donna’s main job as navigator was very critical, she keep saying “left, left, left” to remind me of which side of the road to stay on or when we approached roundabouts. A couple of photos by Donna to prove I did drive during our stay in Scotland.
With all that in mind, we were soon well on our way up the A9 to Inverness for the first part of our stay in the Scottish Highlands. For accuracies sake, we stayed in a pig barn converted to self catering cottages near the very small village of Croy.
Here’s view from our cottage taken toward the Moray Firth one beautiful, sunny, cool morning. Yes, the scenery and landscape was this beautiful everywhere we looked.
Our hostess at the cottage was Barbara, she would check on us from time to time in between taking her boys to school and events. Her mum and dad would stop to chat, they live nearby and converted the pig barn to cottages over 16 years ago. Like a lot of Scots they are excellent in the art of conversation. Here’s a photo of Barb’s mum and Donna having a chat one fine morning. We found out they (Barb’s mum and dad and her uncle) were going to the North America in a couple of weeks, first to Toronto, then over to Winnipeg to visit friends and family. They were then planning to rent a car and drive to the Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone National Park, Seattle then to Calgary for the trip home. We must have had a funny look on our face when we said to her “do you know how far that is?!!” She said yes but they were game for it. We often wondered how they faired in their long trek west.
Our hosts also had a couple of shaggy ponies that would greet us everyday. They were always looking for a treat especially something sweet and if we didn’t have anything, they’d eat the grass on the other side of the fence!
Nearby the cottage was historic Ft. George, an active military installation on the Moray Firth and home to the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland. The first fort was built on this site in the 1700’s to pacify the Highlands after the Jacobite uprisings, a religious civil war. Of note, the final confrontation between the Jacobites and British government at the Battle of Culloden was very close to our cottage and is now a national historic site. During our five days in this area, we went down to the beach near Ft. George a couple of times to watch the sunset. While the clouds obscured the sun this evening, it was a beautiful site to see. We were also on the look out for dolphins that come in during the low tide.
Also nearby was the beach city of Nairn although in the middle of May is not beach season in the Highlands! It was more sweater, coat and gloves weather most days! Downtown Nairn was quite quaint with nice shops and friendly people.
I had the good fortune to celebrate my birthday during our stay in Inverness. We were told the nearby Cawdor Tavern was the best restaurant around. So we celebrated with some fine food and great Scottish whisky.
During our stay in the Inverness area, we made a couple of road trips, one west and south and one east and south. The southwest route took us to some national forests where we found some hiking trails that took us to waterfalls. Here’s a couple of photos from our walks and some of the scenes.
We also stopped along the narrow winding backcountry road to photograph this small, peaceful scenic church and cemetery.
Also, along the road there were the ever present flocks of sheep. This lamb was having it’s dinner, not even a couple of tourists photographing could interrupt the meal!
We stopped in Ft. Augustus, at the headwaters of the Loch Ness. No, we didn’t spot the monster but there were plenty of people looking!
Our excursion to the east and south of Inverness took us to the Cairngorms National Park and the Glenmore Forest Park. It was cloudy when we left our lodgings but the weather got worse at we followed the road up to the mountains. It was pouring rain when got to the end of the road and it was really cold and windy. It wouldn’t have surprised us if it would have started snowing.
So after a look around and a few photos, through the car windows, we headed back down to the touristy lovely little town of Aviemore. After a warmup with coffee and cake, the weather turned miraculously sunny. So we bought a picnic lunch and head down the road to the Highland Folk Museum where they have restored historical buildings with towns and farms from the 1700’s through the 1930’s. We had a fun afternoon exploring the living history museum. We heard that the school marm was really quite strict especially in penmanship, I would have failed! Here are a few scenes from the museum.
Our last full day in the central Highlands was in the city of Inverness with a population of over 60,000 and one of the fastest growing cities in Europe. It’s considered the “capital of the Highlands” and is the main administrative center and shopping center for the Highlands. We went to one of the local churches, it was Sunday after all. Lots of church to choose from along the River Ness.
The Old High Church of Inverness is one of the historic sites along the River Ness. While it wasn’t open, the cemetery was fascinating. The headstones told a story of some of the inhabitants of Inverness such as merchants, carpenters, and sailors. And like almost every city, village, and hamlet in the UK, it has a memorial to those who gave their lives in service during the World Wars. Notice WWI is referred to the “Great War.”
As we were walking around Inverness, we couldn’t help but notice this interesting sign posted along the River Ness.
But as we were leaving town, this sign above a tavern attracted our attention. Said like a true Scotsman with their gift of gab and words!
Well that more than enough for this week’s post. Next up Lochcarron and the Western Highlands.
Until next week,