People Visit Us, and We Visit the Highlands.

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July 18th 2008
Published: October 20th 2008
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Mat: Well summer, if indeed you could call it a summer, is over. The leaves are falling, as is the thermometer. We were lucky to have quite a few friends and family visit us here at Lady E’s after our Europe trip, so I thought I would pop a few pics up of our recent Scottish escapades.

The day before Trace left Slovenia to fly back to Scotland, she found out that the visa she had been writing an application for was changing - in six day’s time! The new and improved “innovator’s visa” required a £200,000 investment from the applicant, not the type of money we have kicking about. So, upon arrival back home, Trace spend a frantic five days drawing together the application that we had previously been intending to consult an immigration specialist about. Only 200 applicants a year are accepted though this scheme, and it is entirely subjective rather than points-based, so we spent ten weeks wondering if we would be staying in the UK, or heading back to NZ in January. In the end however we got our passports back with the all-important coloured sticker, and will officially be struggling through another couple of winters here. Exciting stuff though, check out About Tack in the New Year, it’s going to be massive!

But I’m getting ahead of myself a little. About a week after I got back from Hungary, Trace’s parents Roy and Annette arrived for a two week stay. Good times. One of the first things we did was head up for a three-night loop through the Highlands. Amazing country. Rugged like the South Island of NZ, but the mind-blowing power of the mile-thick glaciers that previously ground through the land is something I have not seen on that scale. The huge U-shaped valleys, with their sides rising into the mist, gave me a wonderful feeling of insignificance.

The rental car Roy and Annette had was only insured for one person, so Roy ended up doing all the driving. I think the first day was about 10 hours. What kept Roy going was the satisfaction he gained from lowering the estimated time of arrival on my SatNav. Speaking of which, “Janice” the SatNav was not the most popular member of the trip. Her slightly erratic behaviour did not go down well with Trace and Annette. Personally I think they felt jealous of Janice, with her unwavering confidence, and the way she held the boys’ attention. Sure, her map was a little out of date, and maybe she gave the occasional bung piece of advice, but Roy and I could see through these faults to her true nature. She had a good heart, and if you took the time to understand her, she would look after you. Trace continues to dislike Janice, and curse her foibles, but when she is about to leave home in the car and wants to know where to find Janice, I often suggest she uses the mapbook instead. She then goes quiet, and in return for me handing Janice over can be coxed into reciting “Janice is a machine, she is not perfect, but I am glad I have her support”.

On our first night we stayed on the Isle of Skye, after circumnavigating one the peninsulas, and checking our the incredible terrain of the “Quiraing”. Our accommodation on Skye was a little bizarre - a B&B filled to the brim with nic nacs. Shelf upon shelf of pewter animals, pottery fishmen, and plastic gnomes. Awesome.

The next day we headed off north towards Ullapool, and I successfully managed to convince the team to take a scenic route west of the main road. Part of this trip involved a fantastic climb up and through “Applecross Pass” towards - you guessed it - Applecross. Once in Ullapool we sat down for a great seafood feast (thanks again Roy and Annette for spoiling us so much during your visit) and then had a local beer while an Australian family played Gaelic music.

The next day we crossed eastwards towards Inverness, and stopped in for a tour at Glen Ord Distillery, followed by a tour of the small “Black Isle” organic brewery. Very interesting. I had never seen how vigorous the initial fermentation of whiskey is - a huge vat of bubbling goodness that takes your head off when you open the lid. The fermentation is so vigorous that it looks as if it is boiling.

We also stopped in to a new visitor centre at Culloden - the site of the last battle between nationalistic Jacobite forces and the English (the English won). The exhibition and GPS-prompted outdoor audio-guide were world class. All very interesting, and highly recommended for next time you are in Inverness...

On our last day we took a detour to Loch Ness and visited Urquart Castle. Funnily enough Dad has been scanning old slides from back in the 70s, and sent me a photo of Urquart from back in the day without knowing we had just been there.

After getting back home we had a veritable swarm of visitors. My crazily fantastic cousin Lara, and fantastically crazy auntie Jenny arrived for a week stay, and our good friend Nicki came for the weekend. After spending a lot of time by ourselves in the country, it was slightly surreal to have seven of us lounging outside in the sun, sipping wines, and filling the Scottish countryside with phrases such as “I’m beached ees bru” and “I only eet plinktun”.

Since then we have had Ben visit, and buy and cook us a slow-growing £20 free-range 3.8kg chicken. Yes, 3.8kg. According the local butcher it was the "Rolls Royce of chickens". We have also been tandem paragliding twice with our Aussie mates Steve and Dee, and were even able to fly the things for 20 minutes or so. We also visited Nicki in Dublin and went to a horse behaviour conference there.

Right, I had better get on with six months of puffer jackets and cold feet.


Additional photos below
Photos: 63, Displayed: 26


The front lawn of our nic-nac infested B&B on the Isle of SkyeThe front lawn of our nic-nac infested B&B on the Isle of Skye
The front lawn of our nic-nac infested B&B on the Isle of Skye

This is the outdoor big-scale stuff, indoors was where the true nic-nac extravaganza took place.

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