Today the weather forecast tells us that we can best go east, the most rain is already on the west coast, like the last two days. We drive first a bit past Forres, after which we turn to the north, there are still enough roads where we have not been before. But first we stop to have a look at the Brodie Countryfare, a luxury store that apparently belongs to the castle Brodie next door. It is a big and beautiful store but the prices are quite high and we do not take any souvenirs.
And so we arrive in Burghead, a village on a protrusion in the Moray Firth. No, we have never been here before. At the Burghead Well the door is closed and there is a note that you can pick up the key a few streets further. But there are already 2 people who just come out and have the key. They are offering to wait until we are back, then they bring the key back. Stairs lead us to a source in a building of which it is unclear when it was built and by whom. It lies on the parapet of a Pictish fort from the 4th to 6th century but it is unclear whether the room was part of the fort because as a source of water they would have better built a well. A mystery.
After some driving around we end up in Elgin, a reasonable city where we stop at the Johnstons of Elgin. In 1798 Alexander Johnston started using a mill to process linen, flax, oatmeal and tobacco, but soon switched to wool, especially that of cashmere goats. And that worked out especially well for him and his family. When we see the prices in the store we also understand why: I see a black and white checkered scarf that I like and it feels very soft. But the price keeps me from buying it: £ 60! That is almost € 70, that is a bit too much for me. And fortunately we don't need a baby blanket for £ 155.
After this short stop we drive further east and arrive in Portknockie, a village with a steep coastline where already in 1000 b.c. a fortified fortress (Green Castle) stood. We follow the signs to Bow Fiddle Rock, a very beautiful rock formation where we take a short walk. The cliffs are steep and there are no rails so be careful with children! We stay on top of the hill because we do not have sturdy footwear and you need it here if you want to climb down to the beach for example.
We are here now in the middle of a cloudy day but the scenery seems to provide beautiful pictures especially with sunrise. We are usually not such early risers and are just happy that it is dry, even though there is a hard and cold wind. Soon we go back to the car and drive through the villages along the coast, Findochty, Portessie, Buckie and Portgordon. The coast is erratic and hilly, sometimes steep, then slowly rising again. Almost all villages have a harbor and were important fishing communities in the 19th century.
Nowadays there is still fishing but with a much smaller fleet. The houses all look well maintained so apparently the economy is doing alright even though there is still some unemployment. Many people only live in these villages and commute to a nearby city for their work.
Immediately surrounding the harbors are often the older houses and beyond, often on a hill, the newer ones. Most villages have a few hundred houses and about 1,000 inhabitants. Usually there are a few local shops and furthermore many people seem to have their own company. It stikes us from posters hanging everywhere that there are lively neighborhood societies everywhere that organize all sorts of activities. They seem to be fairly close communities.
From the coast we drive to the south and when we finally decide to go back to Beauly (it is still at least a one and a half hours drive) we suddenly see a bridge that seems to lead nowhere, Craigellachie Bridge. It spans the Spey River, which can be quite fierce and is probably the oldest existing cast-iron bridge in Scotland and is special because of the long, single arch. The bridge was built between 1812 and 1814, while the cast iron work was prepared in Wales and then brought here by ship.
The bridge was in use until 1972 when another concrete bridge was put into use that was more adapted to current traffic. The great thing about Scotland is that this type of construction does not get destroyed but is left as it is and information boards and commemoration plaques are placed so that its historical meaning is preserved. The Scots really hang on to their history!In the evening Iain tells us all sorts of historical stories, he knows a lot about the history of the area and is a good storyteller. I can listen to those stories endlessly, but unfortunately I can never remember all the names of everyone involved. And then all those years, at a certain moment they are getting mixed up inside my head, so I can not repeat any here.