Success! A haggis meal has been consumed. It was not all plain sailing though. Yesterday we hopped on board the train at an ungodly hour (7ish) and headed for Inverness. At this hour our Britrail train passes aren't actually valid, but we were counting on the conductor not knowing this or not caring. Indeed the conductor glanced at our passes and then passed right on (he didn't let on if it was apathy or ignorance). Nothing in Inverness was open at that hour, except McDonalds. We boarded our train to Dunrobin Castle at 10ish. The Dunrobin Castle station is only open during the summer months. It is at the end of Dunrobin Castle's driveway and is used solely for their tourists. Actually it was built by one of the Dukes of Sutherland (the family that lives in Dunrobin Castle) so that he could take advantage of the railway which passed by his doorstep.
Dunrobin Castle is simply amazing. The grounds are second to none. They have a resident falconer who gives demonstrations through the day - we were able to watch two of them. Each demonstration involved an owl an eagle and a falcon - though not all at the same
time or the eagles would kill everything else. The castle itself looks like a fairy tale and is beautiful throughout, although possibly Hampton Court Palace has a superior interior. It also has a museum which though macarbe is interesting. Imagine a small house which has every wall space occupied by a hunting trophy (ie a head), stuffed animals standing against the walls, tails from various animals hanging off... things and about a million glass eyes staring at you.
Did I mention that the train from Inverness to Dunrobin Castle takes two hours? I meant to. That meant that we arrived at noon. There were only two trains out of Dunrobin Castle in the afternoon - at 1pm (which only gave us an hour at the castle) or at 5.30pm. So we had to take the 5:30pm train, which got us to Inverness at around 7:30pm. The next train past Aviemore left at 8pm so we had to wait for that and long story short, we got to the place I had picked for dinner too late and so my haggis was thwarted once again. While I was sulking my way home with a microwave dinner (bangers and mash if you
must know, actually I could have got a microwave haggis dinner - but it just wouldn't be the same) we happened across a nice looking restaurant which also served haggis - tomorrow night then.
Today we got to the train station at a more respectable hour only to find that the last train to Inverness for the next 3 hours had left. Apparantly we had been reading the Saturday schedule - which is included on the same timetable as the Monday to Friday schedule just to be confusing. Anyway, the station manager suggested we try hitching a ride with the sleeper train which would be going past soon. This sleeper train had started in London the day before at about 8pm and was due in Inverness at 8am, it's a sleeper as, well, everyone sleeps overnight. So anyway, the train pulls in, the conductor hops out to check if anyone is getting out and we asked her (politely) if we could catch a ride to Inverness. Sure thing, provided we don't wake anyone, which we did (3 actually). Once again, Inverness was asleep, however the weather decided it had been atmospheric for far too land and took this opportunity to
become down right dramatic.
Thats ok though, as the first stop of the day was Culloden battlefield. Culloden and dramatic weather go together nicely. We had to catch a bus to get to the battlefield. Kindly, the driver dropped us at the battlefield so we wouldn't have to walk from the bus stop. Unkindly, he pointed us in the wrong direction to the nearest bus stop, so we walked for 2 miles to the last one before Culloden rather than 200 meters for the first one after.
Stop number two for the day was Cawdor Castle. Supposedly the home of Macbeth, however no one can prove or disprove this. Cawdor Castle is still occuped by the current countess. She spends the summer months in her summer home and opens Cawdor. During the winter months she lives in the Castle. Of all the castles we've ever been to, this one is possibly the funniest. Funny in that you can tell someone still lives here and it just doesn't quite look right. Eg The Yellow Room had tapestry's from the 17th century, ming vases a carpet from the dawn of time, a couch, lazi boy and tv. The Study had rare books,
chippendale furniture, celtic artifacts, a phone book, pencils and a touch-tone phone. There were two kitchens, the current one (which looked like anyone elses kitchen, but on a bigger scale eg ceramic cook tops, dishwasher, waste-disposal) and the old one (unused since 1938 - and frankly, I don't know how they used it up till then because it looks original eg wood fire range with rotisserie attachment big enough to skewer a stag).
But at the end of the day it was time to come home and taste the haggis. The haggis was indeed worth the wait. I followed it with a Glenlivet. While I was drinking my whiskey and Cheri was eating her desert someone in the restaurant was having a birthday. In some restaurants the staff will bring out a cake and sing to you. In Scotland they have the restaurants piper, pipe in the cake and THEN sing happy birthday to you. After his duty here was finished, the piper went out to the front door and provided local colour and character by piping in the dramatic weather. Did you know that you can get a wee raincoat for bagpipes?
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