weeks late

September 4, 2009

So, now that I’ve got a representative portion of my photos onto Flickr, and now that it’s several weeks irrelevant, I can update you all on the final days of our time in Scot-Land (to quote a movie I’m working on.)

Sunday: Leisurely breakfast at a window seat with harbour view, not a standard fry-up this time, but a kipper fried in butter with toast for me (very salty indeed!) and smoked halibut on a muffin with a poached egg and cream sauce for Linda.
Next stop, the hunt for fresh lodgings, so we headed to the tourist information centre, where once again they, despite being run off their collective feet by swarms of similarly disorganized tourists, showed us the Scottish hospitality that we’ve seen so much of, and found us a B&B south of Uig at a place called Cnoc Preasach. Don’t ask me to pronounce it (though we did learn that Gaelic is pronounced “gallic” in these parts.)
That sorted, it was off to Talisker, the distillery of which is beside a tiny village called Carbost (not to be confused with Skeabost, Orbost, or the other Carbost, for the second whiskey tour (and the purchase of otherwise impossible to get fine beverages,) and the discovery of Isle of Skye Oysters – just up the hill from the distillery, we found a man selling his local rock oysters, farmed right there in Loch Harport, and sold out of his shed, shucked by the man himself, for 50p an oyster. If we’d had the oysters in Applecross, he told us, they’re his work. Best of luck to him (shame we didn’t have the oysters in Applecross.) Delicious!
We followed that up with a visit to Mrs Nicolson, our hostess and breakfast provider, to drop off luggage and do some much overdue washing (well, she did the washing for us.) Then a drive around looking for places which exist on maps but are only marked in the real world by, I don’t know, a tuft of grass identifiable only to locals. Saw lots of signposts indicating things that appeared not to exists on maps. Our search for the ancient MacKinnon crofting grounds was thwarted.
Dinner proved difficult, as the only two places to eat in Uig were packed, and looked like places where backwoods greasy spoons from the mid-seventies went to die, along with the families that were in them at the time of their reported demise. Too scary to eat in by a long shot, so drove back to Portree, and roamed the streets with packs of similarly hungry tourists in search of the facilities we associate with civilization, all of us only now remembering the Skye is small and remote. Strangely, there are quite a few places to eat and drink in Portree on a Sunday night, but they all seem to be massively in too much demand, or to have priced themselves out of the market and are therefore empty. And then it rains some more, and there are packs of hungry, bedraggled, desperate-looking tourists roaming the streets. We stopped at a terrible-looking place called Well Plaid, which was neither full nor expensive, but so ugly that even the desperate punters weren’t coming in. We had local mussels, dependably good; Cullen skink, which is much better than it sounds – it’s a thick smoked haddock and potato soup – and langoustines on a bed of undistinguished wild rice. Once again, we were impressed by the quality of the food in an establishment which looked like it should have offered up the creme de la blurgh. And then back to Mrs Nicolson’s house for a good night’s sleep.
The next morning we had the choice of looking at Skye’s hills and not climbing them some more, or moving on and seeing a little of the Great Glen. What’s another 200km driving, we’re Antipodean? We’ll check out the great long line of lochs south of Nessie territory. Sounds like fun. And so it was, once we got off the main road (I hate those things!) The scenic trail around the Lochs is precisely that, and deserves to be driven touristically slowly. We had been heading for Glen Coe, famously scenic, surrounded by peaks that Himalayan climbers train on, and were almost foiled by a complete lack of B&Bs with vacancy signs posted, until we found a large pub/hotel whose name I could not spell, nor pronounce (nor remember, though I could look it up, but I’m strangely disinclined.) Room at the inn, for two nights, even, though not in the same room. We’ve not spent two consecutive nights in the same room the whole time in Scotland. Our own fault, but we’ve gotten to see quite a lot of the place!
The guy at the desk warns us off every slope in the neighbourhood, clearly discerning at a glance our unintrepid natures, and recommends a sightseeing walk around a small local lochan
gradients maxed out at about 1:30, safe for grandmothers with hip replacements overdue, and he seemed disappointed when we reported back that we’d walked every trail in the area in an hour, with rest stops, and photography stops, and sound recording stops included. He then gave us some vaguely accurate directions to a slightly more interesting walk, but it would have involved being rained copiously on, so we bailed. Especially once we determined that we had almost no idea what he was talking about once we’d scoped the landscape he’d allegedly described.
Never mind, the whiskey menu at the hotel was truly exceptional , and the food wasn’t half bad (though the haggis was so heavily spiced as to be more of a meaty cinnamon roll…)
Then we drove back to Edinburgh, to rid ourselves of the rental. On the way we stopped for lunch at Crieff. Good food, but watching the pedestrian traffic was a painful exercise, given that nearly all of it was on the way to starting friction fires with pure thigh on thigh action, and waddling to keep the friction up.
The return to Edinburgh was complicated by the cloud cover. I completely lost my sense of direction, and we got the car back with minutes to spare, with the help of a friendly service station attendant (thank you, who ever you are!) with accurate comprehensible directions.
Nice hotel, central-ish Edinburgh, cheap on Wotif, (or similar), then the next morning we met the wonderful bootpainter. Look at her photos. A truly wonderful sense of colour and form. And humour. Met Mr bootpainter, too, and then had to run and catch a train back to London. Here endeth the story…
The pictures tell much of the rest.



  1. It’s been lovely to read about your travels. Almost as good as being there with you 🙂

    • I wish I’d posted in a more timely manner, but I wanted to get the pics on Flickr to match the text, and that took forever. Almost.
      Probably should have broken it into small chunks, eh?

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