The problem with not having time to write each day as we finish the day’s activities is that I forget! Thank goodness for all the photos I take to remind me of what I’ve seen. I have a terrible memory when so much is happening every day and I think that is one reason why I have always taken a lot of photos. That, and the fact that I love to look back over beautiful things I have seen.
Our time in Brora was brief but the town was very picturesque and the Royal Marine Hotel was a bit special in a classic old Scottish way. We departed with not very far to travel that day, but much to be seen along the way.
The Castle and Gardens at Mey were saved from ruin in the 1950’s when the Queen Mother purchased them as her Scottish home in summer. She funded major refurbishments to the castle and gardens and what endures is not only a legacy for the area but a charming reflection of the Queen Mum’s humour and humility. The staff told a very poignant story that took place on her last visit there at the age of 101…
The Queen Mother was not well and she thought it was likely that it was her last visit to her Scottish home. There was a particular gaggle of geese that used to visit every August when she was there but no one had seen them yet that summer, eleven years ago now. Each day she asked if anyone had seen them and when they said ‘No mum’ she would say ‘I haven’t got long now, I wonder if they’ll come’, meaning it was nearly time for her to leave for the summer, but also hinting that her life was drawing to a close. She was rather sad that she had not seen her geese when on her final day the car arrived to take her away. Just then one of the staff called out ‘Look M’um there!’ And the geese flew into view, parting in perfect formation exactly overhead. The staff member telling the story said the Queen Mum was so delighted it was hard to describe, and it was one of the most magical things she’d ever seen. It turned out to be the Queen Mum’s last visit to Mey.
Hard act to follow, a story like that and a beautiful garden. But Mother Nature has her own stories to tell. We boarded the ferry only about 10 miles from Mey, at John o’ Groats, to visit the southernmost of the Orkney Islands. The weather here is so brutal, the Orkneys are not even accessible for much of the year. That we had a day it wasn’t raining, as well as one of the warmer days all summer was nearly miraculous! The main attraction was to see wildlife, and within minutes of approaching the island, we had already seen puffins, those funny little black and white birds with the orange clown feet and beaks. I have no photo for you as my camera is only my iPhone and one would need a huge lens and a lot of time and patience to get a photo of one. But it was exciting. We saw several bird species that nest on the sheer rock faces of the island, and quite a few grey seals as well, again at distances that didn’t permit good photos, but the scenery alone was worth the trip. If you have a good imagination you can see the seals in the photo of the caves.
It is intriguing to be in a place where the sun doesn’t set until 10pm and it never quite goes completely dark then it is up again at 3.30 or so. The last two photos are the same view from our room at the Ben Loyal, one taken 9.30pm, the other about 12 hours later… The morning photo shows the fog sneaking around the mountain’s contours, and just about to cover the ruins of the castle that we hiked up to see.
I hope not to put you off reading but I am having to post a couple of times in close succession as it may be a week before I have Internet access again. One has to go with the flow of opportunity with these things!
–or so ardysez