Monday, 30 July 2007

Day 2 - Helmsdale to Beauly

17th July 2007

Overnight rain had passed although it was damp for the departure from Helmsdale at 10.30am.

Len and I managed to leave earlier too, since the hostel closes at 10am. Youth hostels, as I had pointed out to George, are not hotels. You're supposed to get out earlier and go do that walking or cycling that you'd planned to do.

We stopped at Dunrobin Castle, the ancestral home of the Earls, and later the Dukes of Sutherland, on the Sutherland coast. Our impression was that the family had been closely linked to royalty throughout its history. The Duke in the nineteenth century was said to be very keen on machinery and even drove his own steam engine. Was this the same man, or his father, who was responsible for much of the Highland clearances? Deserted crofts dot the landscape of northeastern Scotland.

The sea lies beyond the main wall of the garden, and two beautiful formal gardens, one of which is a rose garden, are carefully manicured. We watched a falconry display on the lawn, with Goldie the eagle and a large Harris owl and a falcon. The speaker explained the different modes of hunting of each bird and had them flying close over the heads of the audience. Hunting birds were reared and used all the time before guns became reliable, but have fallen out of favour since. Falconry is still a sport of royals though, in the Gulf sheikdoms of United Arab Emirates.

After lunch at the castle, we motored on, bickering a bit about how long we should stay at the Glenmorangie whisky distillery near Tain. Len was anxious to overtake the boys who had made good headway the previous day, so we compromised and I was able to go and buy some 18 year old Glenmorangie from the shop.

As it happened, the lads had already slackened their pace and we overtook them on the A9 before Dingwall, where there was yet another Tesco to stock up on bread and milk. Beauly (Beau Lieu), west of Inverness, was our destination for that night, at the Lovat Bridge campsite

There were some beautiful views of lochs and forths on the route. Two heavy showers drenched the boys again before they arrived at the campsite by the end of the day.

The campsite was basic, but set by a fast flowing river and very scenic. The boys were told off for trying to use the games room. Why does a group of 17 year olds strike panic into the hearts of people? We did manage to wash and dry all the clothes in a local launderette, which meant a good start for the next day in dry clothes.

John, who had lost his wallet on the road earlier on, reacted badly to a balti curry taken in town. Not a very good day for him.

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