(Apologies to those trying to make sense of our travels. I have managed to get my goings and comings from Inverness, inverted! This post should have come before the last one. The Internet connections on this trip have been very challenging for me, can I use that excuse? I hope you enjoy it nevertheless)
Yesterday started at 4am. It finished at around 9pm. It was daylight on both ends of the day, as is the case in the United Kingdom this time of the year. We took the bus from Oxford back to London, Heathrow, and then a one hour flight to Aberdeen, where we picked up a hire car (yes, more dragging of suitcases, but thank goodness no rain). We spent most of the day driving to Inverness, by way of the Grampian Mountains.
The scenery is gorgeous in the Grampians, but there is simply no place to get off the road to take photos, so you’ll have to take my word for it. Picture fields and fields of contentedly grazing cattle and sheep, with loads of greenery as far as the eye can see, under fluffy white clouds scattered in a pale blue sky. Lining the roads were wild flowers including foxglove and patches of heather, roses and ‘gorse’ a vivid yellow blossomed bush that smells of sweet coconut.
We stopped on a whim to visit a castle and gardens, and for a cup of tea and a loo stop. Nice when you can accomplish all four things in one stop! The castle tea rooms were charming and the loos were amazing, resplendent with tartan floor coverings! (Do I really need to suggest the stark comparison to our Oxford bathroom?) The castle has been occupied and lovingly maintained by the same family for over 450 years, so it is something special. There was no photography permitted inside so, again, you’ll have to take my word. In most of the beautifully presented rooms there were discretely placed photographs of the family with the Royal family, Queen, Queen Mother, Charles and Diana, the sons, etc.
The grounds have gradually been updated and developed since the late 90’s, a relatively short period of time in a place where the summers are so short. It was a steamy day, and not just by Scottish standards, we felt the heat and humidity too. It did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the biting midges or the flies, however, so be warned!
The remaining drive to Inverness was painless, but having been awake since 4am, we were ready for the day to be over soon. We stayed that night at the Glen Mhor Hotel, located exactly on the river, and were fortunate to have room100 which had a view onto the river, and was thankfully on ground level, so no stairs to drag the cases up and down, save the tiny steps into the front door. Nico’s restaurant had a decent meal, but not outstanding, I’m afraid. As a friend of ours used to say, he judged a restaurant by their desserts, and this one was lacking. I’d ordered the apple crumble, but at the appointed time was told there was none. As we were among the first diners I can only presume, there never was any, not that they had simply run out. The chef said I could choose from any other dessert, however. I asked if the cheesecake was homemade and the waiter said yes, it was a baked cheesecake, and it was blueberry. It was neither. Nuf said.
The accommodation at Glen Mohr was very nice, our room recently refurbished, and the location was excellent. It was very convenient for a late afternoon walk around the city area to take a few photos and find the Travel Information office. We sat outside for a while after dinner, as the sun was still fairly high at 8pm! This morning I write, iPad in lap, from the local Inverness laundrette run by a very helpful Vietnamese lady. We begin the day with the mundane, anticipating the extraordinary that lies ahead.