Every day it seems to be a little colder and there is more rain when we drive to the north. We have stayed long in the hotel, talking with Iain and Cathy, but after that we go out since there is still a lot for us to see and do in this region, even if we have been here many times before.
When we drive towards Wick we are sometimes surprised by a heavy rainstorm, but at one of the brochs along the coast Teije wants to have a look at it. He has to walk quite a bit before he gets to this prehistoric settlement, a tower, build in the first centuries BC. with remnants of smaller stone huts around it. The tower gave protection when the tribe was assaulted by raiders.But when he wants to make more pictures, the batteries of the camera are empty and it is too far to quickly run to the car and go back again. Later we also come across a cairn where we have to walk for a mile through the fields and since it is so cold, we decide it will have to wait for a next time. It is only 5 degrees outside and with the wind it feels even colder.
From the broch one can see Dunrobin castle, near Golspie. Today we skip Dunrobin, since we have been there last year and made some nice photographs then. Today, we want to visit another castle.
This year we do visit the de Hill o'many Stanes, but we are obviously not well prepared: we thought it was a sort of Scottish Stonehenge, but the truth is a bit different. It turns out to be a collection of low standing stones (originally 600, of which about 200 still stand) placed in at least 22 rows. The exact meaning of the stones is unclear, but since it must have cost a lot of work, it must have been important for the people who constructed it. The age is an estimated 4000 years.
Quite numb with cold we continue to Wick where we do some shopping. Wick looks like a nice town, probably even better when it is warm and dry, so we will come back another time to spend a few hours here. Today it is just too cold and windy, not the most pleasant weather to walk around.
So, we enter a pub to warm a bit and when we come out the sun shines again, but still it is very cold. Even the Scottish people are surprised it can be so cold in May. Wehave been here twice in March with higher temperatures!
Since we left late, we cannot see and do everything we have planned, but that is allright, we will be back someday. Maybe we should spend one or two nights around here, maybe even in Wick, so we have more time to look around. We take small roads which take us even further north until we reach the coast.Cathy told us she would love to visit once the Castle of Mey, where the Queen-Mother Elizabeth spend some time every year until her death a few years ago. We are just in time to visit the inside of the castle and today seems to be Holland-day, since we are told that only Dutch tourists have visited the castle today.
We are not allowed to make photographs inside, but the castle is also very photogenic from the outside. Inside the castle, we get the impression people still live in it. It is also cosy and comfortable which is not the case in every castle. Every room has its own guide who tells us all about the purpose and history of the room and the objects that are displayed. Since a few years the castle is open for the public, but is closed now and then when prince Charles uses it for one or two weeks.It takes us almost an hour to walk through the rooms and the tour is certainly worthwhile. It is like visiting a still inhabited castle, instead of walking through a place which belongs more to history than to the present. We can recommend a visit, something the people in the ticket office ask us, too. When we tell we have a website where we will show the castle on our castle-page, they get enthousiastic and we get a few postcards for free. Photographs and a link to the website of the castle will follow soon on the castle page.
Then we have to the long way back to Beauly. It is almost 2.5 hours before we are back 'home'. We are lucky it is saturday, because through the week it would have cost us at least an hour more.
The pub is filled with people when we arrive at the Caledonian hotel. After midnight a small company remains and they teach Teije a certain cardgame he doesn't know. They keep playing for a couple of hours, so we will be late again tomorrow!
Sunday 08 May 2005, a short trip to Inverness
When we have coffee with Iain and Cathy we suddenly hear a parade with bagpipers. It is in commemoration of V-i-E day with some old veterans. At first we don't get it, V-i-E-day, what is that? But it is a abbreviation of Victory in Europe-day, the commemoration of the end of world war II in the UK.
It is still quite cold but the sun shines and it is nice to walk through Inverness which is the biggest city of the Highlands, but not too big. The view over the river is beautiful and the castle glimmers in the sun. We have our winter coats on, so we enjoy a warm coffee outside a restaurant.
From Inverness (we leave without having found a t-shirt) we drive southwards along Loch Ness and soon take a steep road into the hills, west of the lake. It is a deserted area with steep and narrow roads and hidden villages. We are lucky enough not to encounter any traffic, since I wouldn't like to pass another car on a single track road going up with a slope of more than 20%. The broom (and another sort of which we forgot the English name) is flowering and the hills are colored with yellow.
On the plain west of Loch Ness are many traces of prehistoric settlements, like the remains of houses on the picture. We walk around and look for these traces, but we don't see much more than round circles in the ground, indicating the outline of the dwellings. Like here, you can find everywhere in Scotland remnants of old cultures, more than the maps and touristic leaflets tell.It is still early in the afternoon when we return to Beauly, since we want to take some more pictures of the hotel itself for the website we have made last year for the Caledonian hotel. But when we enter the bar, the time starts to fly when we are talking with Iain and Cathy and later with everybody who comes in.
The hotel building has been standing here now for more than 300 years and used to be a coaching inn where the stagecoaches stopped to change horses. It is a big building and demands a lot of maintenance and with all the new rules coming up, Iain and Cathy fear for the worst. A license to renovate the pub on the ground floor is still not in (after more than a year) for all kinds of bureaucratic reasons. Although it is not a 5-star hotel, it is the only place we want to be when in Beauly!Tomorrow we leave again after a couple of nice days with our friends here, and in the meantime we have seen some new things as well. We really want to go to bed early tonight, but again, this plan fails... We learn to play dominos, a real and serious mania here and it is 2 o'clock in the morning when we go to our room. We'll see tomorrow...