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Published: June 15th 2018
The trip continues
The mist did not last long and the next day we did indeed get out to cycle. An old railway track took us 11 miles to Strichen where we found a fabulous tea shop in a converted church hall; it was also full of antiques. Strichen had two famous inhabitants, Alex Salmond of the SNP and the serial killer Dennis Nielsen. On the way back Chris got a puncture and we found that the spare inner tube was the wrong size. So he pushed the bike about 2 miles and I cycled back, a 22 mile round trip. I bought two more inner tubes in town and he repaired his bike.
Saturday 2nd June we set off again following the coastal road, destination Cullen, famous for Cullen Skink. The weather was glorious and we stopped in picturesque Gardenstown, although it was pretty tight getting into the harbour car park. There was a ship naming ceremony and we opted to leave before the traffic got too bad. We drove to Cullen and parked for the night down past the harbour. Lunch was a delicious bowl of the aforementioned soup in yet another converted church hall, and yes it was
full of antiques too. In the evening we found a great pub called the 3 Kings, it sold several cask ales and it had a fabulous beer garden. The only downside was a group of rich, loud locals eating lobster and champagne and talking about their various houses.....
Sunday and we moved further west to Inverness not before we visited Culloden. A fascinating National Trust visitor centre tells the story of the battle and Bonnie Prince Charlie. Standing on the battlefield felt quite sombre knowing so many had died there. Next we set off to the campsite in Torvean about a 45 minute walk from Inverness city centre.
Monday we cycled along the canal path, first towards Loch Ness and then to where the canal ends at the sea. We sat out enjoying the sun and in the evening made the mistake of going to the Beefeater near the campsite, £7.80 for 2 diet cokes!! It was cheaper and friendlier at the golf club over the road!!
Tuesday we walked along the river Ness and into the city and what a beautiful place it is. There was a fabulous coffee shop, off the High street and a funky clothing shop
and Chris and I both bought tops. They did delicious wraps for lunch when we went back. We went to the museum but it was pretty average so we had to try out the local beer at the Black Isle Brewery Pub. We bought some Aberdeen Angus sirloin and headed back for a snooze and a shower before an evening out in Inverness. This time we got the bus into town and went for a drink to Hootenanny’s, yet more Black Isle beer. Our plan was to have a Thai meal but we walked downstairs and the restaurant stunk of drains and we promptly walked out. We had an Indian but it was pretty average and expensive.
In Inverness we had two encounters with people from the US, the best and worst of experiences. In the bar in the morning we met Larry and Laura, who live near the Oregon and Washington border. They were great company and we had an hour or so chatting and they were really enjoying their cruise to Europe. We exchanged e mails and would visit if we were in their neck of the woods. In the evening, while in Hootenanny’s, a large family group
of Americans arrived, mother, father two teenagers and a girl about 10. They didn’t really chat to each other they all were glued to their phones or tablets but they ordered food. I had my back to them but Chris was opposite and the girl proceeded to shovel food into her mouth with her hands. Bear in mind we have visited plenty of countries where this is the norm but Chris was so appalled my her table manners that he said to her as we left “You were given a knife and fork for a reason, it’s to eat your food with”
Wednesday we set off to stay on the Black Isle and it was my favourite part of the trip. Isle is a misnomer but if you look at a map you will see why it is called this. We had visited on a previous trip to Scotland but not stayed. We camped in Fortrose and I had picked a pitch that was right on the bay, on the Moray Firth. We got set up, ate lunch outside and then set off to cycle to Chanonry Point. We were just in time to see the dolphins, such majestic creatures. We cycled into Fortrose and had a cuppa and then as we cycled back Chris hit a pothole and managed to get two flat tyres. We enjoyed the evening sunshine after Chris replaced one inner tube and tried to patch the other one but to no avail.
Our plan for Thursday was to get the bus to Cromarty at the end of the isle and a quaint little place. The nearest cycle shop was in Inverness so we decided we needed to get the bike sorted; we walked up to Fortrose and got the bus to Inverness. The driver must have thought we had a pass as we were just waved onto the bus without paying. Thankfully we knew exactly where the bike shop was, near our favourite coffee shop. So three more inner tubes were bought, coffee and cake taken and just time for a pint in the Black Isle pub before we got the bus. We got the bus to Cromarty and spent a couple of hours wandering, had a nice lunch of Cullen Skink. We also popped into a N Trust place called ............an interesting little spot.
Our original plan was to return on 15th June but a friend from East Boldon, who was also an ex colleague from work, was having her retirement do so I wanted to get back in time to be there. While I was in Cromarty I got a message to say she had died the previous night. I knew she was terminally ill, she had treatment last year and the cancer had returned, but she thought she had a few months but it sadly turned out to be only a few weeks. She re-married only three months ago. RIP Denise.
We got the bus back to Fortrose and popped into the fascinating pub called the Anderson. It was a pretty eclectic place for laidback Fortrose and with a fine selection of ales. A long day but we had achieved our aim of seeing Cromarty and getting the bike sorted. For those of you that are wondering why we didn’t just take the motor home to Inverness then maybe an explanation is necessary. Firstly we would have had to pack everything up to make it driveable. Secondly the road to Inverness is pretty narrow and windy and thirdly parking a 7m motor home in a city centre is not always easy.
Our last day on the Black Isle was equally enjoyable. We cycled to Rosemarkie and had tea in the beach cafe, a social enterprise place right on the beach. Next we cycled to the point but were 2 hours too early for the dolphins. So we headed up to Fortrose and had lunch, a haggis wrap. It was surprisingly tasty. We cycled back to the point and saw a wonderful display from the dolphins, including beaching. A fitting end to a fabulous few days.
So far not a drop of rain and still the last bit of the trip to go.
Till next time
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