Today we drive around in the area southeast of Inverness: near Nairn we turn to the south and wander about. We use our map to look for new roads where we haven't been before but in the meantime we forget to take pictures. We see quite a lot of nice thinks worth photographing, but maybe it is because we already have so many pictures of Scotland and are so used to this pretty scenery that we forget it. Another good excuse is that it is very hard (for us, at least), to make good landscape pictures, we should do a course for that. We are only mateurs and don't have the 'photographic eye' yet.
Of course we run into our daily share of nice small houses and castles, like castle Grant to the right. If we had to choose we take the small house since that is easier to keep clean. And the house to the right is just a part of the wall surrounding castle Grant. If we really had the opportunity to choose a house in Scotland we would have a very difficult time, since there are thousands of great houses in phantastic spots! Fortunately, we probably never have to face this difficult choice, unless the national lottery decides to sponsor us.
On the background the Cairngorm Mountains border to this hilly region with many different landscapes like coniferous woods, deciduous woods, heathland which are blossoming now, and bare fields. The wetaher is as alternating as the landscapes: much rain, much sunshine, sometimes warm and sometimes cold. The weather also influences us in taking pictures: when it rains we rather stay in the dry and warm car than go outside making photographs.Despite the lack of pictures, we are bsuy driving around the whole day and pause only once in Grantown-on-Spey. After that we go further south and finally take the A9 to return to Beauly. All in all, it was a quiet day on which we have made quite some kilometers. We must think of a way to make route maps of the roads we have driven on, that way we can later see where we have been to.
At night, Iain serves us a delicious meal and we are being entertained by an ex-submarine-soldier who has many stories to tell, and a salesmen of streetsweepers who travels between Turkey, the Netherlands and Great Britain. A very lucrative merchandise, he tells us. The discussion becomes more animated when politics are involved and ways to fight against criminality, but we keep it cool. You never know what will happen when such subjects are being disdussed in a Scottish pub!
In the meantime, Cathy tries to persuade us to stay longer in Beauly, with stories about a hurricane, or at least a big storm, coming this way. And we can't leave in such bad weather, can we? But we are unyielding, we came here this time to see England and so we will. Although we would also love to stay here... but that we don't tell this time, it is hard enough to leave this place once again!
Wednesday 24 August 2005, via Glencoe to the south of ScotlandDespite the pleas of Iain and Cathy we will leave today. But then suddenly Iain tells us at breakfast that we have no choice but to stay one day longer since it will be his birthday tomorrow. We have no idea if he is telling the truth, but it is a strong argument, a very good excuse. But even that won't stop us, we have to be strong now! Around eleven we say goodbye and hooting we drive away, in the direction of England.
We see no storm, no hurricane and the clouds disappear within an hour or so to show the sun. We drive with our car windows open and go along the west side of Loch Ness to the south. Not the quickest way, but surely the most pretty. At this picknick place along Loch Linnhe the sun and the scenery is so inviting that we have to get out for a while.
And then we come through Glencoe, a very impressive area with a peacefull aura. But history tells a different story, the village with the dame name has a very bloody past, like so many other places in Scotland. In 1692, all male MacDonalds were slaughtered by the Campbells because they had waited to long before they pledged their oath to William III.Clan wars were not uncommon in Scotland, but this was different: the Campbells pretended just to visit the MacDonalds and were welcomed heartily as the rules of hospitality demand. And to kill your hosts when they show you this hospitality is worse than betrayal for the Scottish!
There are several places to visit in this neighbourhood, like the Highland Mystery World and the Glencoe visitor centre, but we will go there another time. We left already quite late and want to go much further southwards so we can enter England tomorrow.
Before Glasgow we reach Loch Lomond, the largest natural sweetwater lake of Great Britain, almost 40 kilometers long. On nice days it is crowded with people here which is not strange since it is an ideal destination for people from Glasgow and the towns around it to enjoy nature. We saw it in 2000, when we got stuck in a traffic jam on the opposite bank of the loch. Now it is fairly quiet and we sit outside for a while at a restaurant until suddenly a downpour falls down over us and we have to run to the car to stay dry!
Near Glasgow our navigation kit gets confused and suddenly we drive into the town instead of going around it. So we take over control and after half an hour we are on quiet roads again. Via Kilmarnock we drive towards Dumfries, but when we start looking for a hotel we soon find out that it will take much more time than we had reckoned: hotels are fully booked, ask ridiculous prices or smoking is not allowed in the rooms. And so we drive much further than we had planned and end up in Thornhill, not far from Dumfries, when the sun is already going down. We are ready for tomorrow when we will see totally new places where neither of us have ever been!