thankfully We start our trip in Dunblane – best known as being Andy Murray’s hometown and – say – site of the 1996 shooting of 16 Dunblane schoolchildren and their teacher.  It took us 5 hours to get here from Birmingham – an uneventful drive with the highlight being a stop at ever dependable Tebay Services for a fruit scone with clotted cream, eaten overlooking the pretty duck pond.

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Dalwhinie Distillery

We drove a further 4 and a half hours winding our way along the A9 to the start of the North Coast 500 route in Inverness and on to our next stop in Wick.  We passed the famous Dalwhinnie and Glenmorangie distilleries en route, along with a number of other less famous (but probably equally delicious) brands.  We passed by many fields of cows, sheep and neatly rolled stacks of hay punctuated by autumn hued, bracken covered hillsides.  A coffee stop yielded a tiny café in the middle of nowhere (close to the Cairngorms National Park) which offered six different sorts of cake.  We plumped for a slice of very delicious chocolate cake in front of a roaring wood burner.  This was welcome as the weather had turned pretty nasty with storm Ali in full progress and an amber weather warning flashing on the road signs for storm force winds.  I managed to avoid the temptation to stock up on the goodies the café shop displayed – piles of sumptuously soft mohair rugs, fair isle mittens and boxes of the softest socks imaginable.  Tough call.

We passed by the Black Isle – so named by the Vikings as it never gets snow covered (something to do with the position of the water around it).  Cromarty was a little further down the road – apt to be passing through one of the shipping forecast locations in this wild weather.

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