After a very late breakfast (everything is possible in the Caledonian) with soft fried eggs on toast (I love that), Iain and Cathy ask us what our plans are. Well, we haven't any for today! They are very busy, one of their jobs protecting a young dove which was attacked by a cat, and they don't want us to help, so we just get in the car and drive away. We have a new map of Scotland with us, a plasticized one, and Teije has marked all the roads where we have been until now. But still there are lots of white spots.We start touring on small roads around the Cromarty Firth, a bay that cuts deep into the land with some oilrigs in the middle of it. We thought we knew this area reasonably well, but we see some nice new spots where we haven't been before. In Invergordon we see an oilrig from nearby and there is also a cruise ship. We have no idea where it goes, but busloads of people embark on the boat. Then we drive on to the Fearn peninsula, north of the bay, and make our first stop at Balnapalling on the southern point of the peninsula where we sit outside with a coffee. It is very windy, but the temperature is nice.
We follow the Pictish route on this peninsula and so we find out that there are much more interesting things to see here than we had thought. In rustic Nigg we stop at a small church with a quiet graveyard where we have a look at a Pictish stoneslab, one of the oldest with christian motives on it. It is so peacfull here that we can imagine one would like to be buried here!
Near Balintore is a nice beach, but we haven't come for that, today. In fact, we have never seen a beach full with people sunbathing in Scotland. Sometimes a few people, but for beachlovers there is still enough space here (when the weather cooperates, off course). Well, the temperature here is almost never as high as in Spain...
In Tarbat we visit this church which is now a museum, het Tarbat Discovery Centre. In the middle ages this was a thriving merchant town, but even before that there was a rich Pictish community in the 8th century. Even today, people are busy with excavations. The Picts were not only savages as they are being depicted in some history books, the evidence can be seen in the beautiful statues and engravings that are shown in the museum.
From Tarbat we drive to the northern point of the peninsula, to the lighthouse at Tarbat Ness. Wo is that photographer sneaking suspiciously, there..? The lighthouse fits greatly into the scenery, also because the sun shines so brightly on the sea. In a winter storm it must be pretty bad here. We also visit Rockfield, a small village which lies protected under the cliffs.
And unexpectedly, we come across a castle, Ballone, that has been renovated completely by a local architect in the end of the 20th century. With its white walls it sticks out against the blue sky and the sea. Obviously, it is private property, who wouldn't want to own a house like this! The big disadvantage is the wind; we would plant at least some trees around it. And so we keep fantasizing, every time that we find a new castle.
At the end of the afternoon we take a break at Tain, for a meal and a drink. The 16th century town hall also looks like a castle, with all its turrets. Tain was an important administrative centre during the Clearances in the 19th century, the evacuation of parts of the Highlands because landowners wanted to get rid of their farmers to make more profit from their lands. The Highlands were not always as sparsely populated as today!We have seen a lot of new things and we are quite satisfied with our day without plans when we return to Beauly. We spend the evening in the bar where a mixture of nationalities have gathered tonight: Spanish, Finnish, English, French, Dutch and German poeple. And not to forget the occasional Scottish! A merry lot and we have fun.