Hot off the Caledonian sleeper service (depart Inverness 20:44, arrive London Euston 07:47), I can report that Phil and I have had a fab fortnight in Scotland.
We took the Friday evening train to Edinburgh / Leith, spending Saturday with Sue (mostly at Ocean Terminal avoiding the downpour watching The Great Gatsby, but we did tour HMS Edinburgh en route) and with Eurovision providing the evening entertainment. We breakfasted all 3 days at The Haven – the excellent new cafe/coffee shop just 5 mins away from where we were staying at the Premier Inn on the Western Harbour waterfront (aka Newhaven). On Sunday we saw Emma and her family (but not the view from the Pentlands – cloud foiled that plan) but did get to enjoy the sun in Princes Street Gardens on the Monday before we caught the commuter train up to Dunblane to stay with Mary and Colin (and to enjoy a pint of two of small brewery ales in The Tappit Hen pub by the cathedral).
On Tuesday we continued north courtesy of Scotrail to Inverness, where we picked up our hire car from the excellent Enterprise rent-a-car (complimentary collection and drop off at the railway was the attraction when we booked – and their entire service proved to be faultless). With a stop off at Dingwall Tescos for 10 days of supplies, we drove West and finally made it to Diabaig around 5.30pm – after an 18 year break in my case… we’re not planning to leave it so long for a return visit!
Our first few days were grey and damp, but that meant we could make full use of the wood burning stove and settle into our routine of lie in, read, lunch, read / snooze, afternoon tea, read, beer + nibbles, read, dinner, read/DVD. Hard work, especially when interspersed with gazing out of the lounge window at the view of Loch Diabaig, Applecross, and the Isles of (South) Rona and Skye….or at the bluebells carpeting the gardens of Corrie Craggie. I also made the most of the binoculars – and became a bit obsessed with spotting the seal in the bay, and birds galore – blue tits, great tits, chaffinches, greenfinches, redpoll, oyster catchers, guillemots, eider ducks, cranes, seagulls, cuckoos (heard but not seen), blackbirds, ravens… I’m sure there were more I didn’t recognise (even with the bird spotter’s guide).
We managed to stretch our legs along the shoreline on the Friday as the sun made its first significant appearance, and along the coast path to Craig and back on Sunday coinciding with another foray from the sun. Tuesday we took the car out for a spin along the Applecross coast road, after a short stop in Torridon to check out the excellent Torridon Stores & Cafe. We lunched at the Lochcarron Bistro (vg) before taking the more direct road back to base. On Wednesday and Thursday the weather was fantastic – so we spent all day sat outside in the camp chairs, having put in some practice on Sunday afternoon and Monday….
During our stay we also walked up (and it’s a LOT of up!) to the top loch on a few occasions to pick up a mobile phone signal and data (weather forecasts, plus the all important Monday crossword clues and solutions!).
Handily, our last day in Diabaig started off shrouded in low cloud which meant we weren’t diverted from packing up, pottering and finishing off our carrot, egg, cheese, tomato and oatcake allocation – with crumpet for afters. Applecross and the Isles materialised just before we took our leave at 3pm … and drove back to Inverness with heavy hearts. A fine burger, fries and beer at The Filling Station before settling in onboard the sleeper and trundling back down south overnight. Euston came as a bit of a shock…
- The Snow Leopard – Peter Matthiessen
- A Curious Life For A Lady: The Story of Isabella Bird – Pat Barr
- Into The Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest – Wade Davis
- Black Orchids – Gillian Slovo
- The Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan – William Dalrymple
- The Circle of Reason – Amitav Ghosh (still in progress)
- plus a selection of NYRBs
- Corncrake Ale (The Orkney Brewery)
- Northern Light (The Orkney Brewery)
- Yellowhammer (Black Isle Brewery Co.)
- Blonde (Black Isle Brewery Co.)
Links to things we didn’t do (this time)
- Loch Torridon Community Centre
- Torridon walks
- Applecross walks
- OS Explorer Map (1:25 000) Torridon – Beinn Eighe & Liathach
Weather: BBC 5 day forecasts
Flickr set photos: Scotland, May 2013