The rain was so heavy in the night when a car pulled into the car park I cold not see it after it turned off it’s lights. I was not happy. As it was about 4am I asked Fin if he wanted the wiz he refused earlier and he agreed it was a good idea. As I went to push the door open I am convinced the wee beasties had placed a plank of wood against the door, it felt so heavy. I squinted out, there was literally a wall of them against the side of the Hobby. I shut the door quickly and waited one minute before letting Fin in again. I had his towel at the ready and rubbed him down, more to kill any of the damn things than to dry him. I went to bed truly miserable. When the sun eventually came out it was grey and as my friend Mairi, a Scot would say- ‘Dreich’- bloody horrible.
I drove stoically on to Lochinver and looked for the Fisherman’s Mission for fish and chips. The lady in the ‘ti’ said it had shut a couple of years ago but was ‘opening next year’. Great! I phoned Deb laughing and told her and we both laughed. I could not believ my luck. I walked the short length of the place and found a bistro next to a restaurant. I went into the restaurant as it was dog friendly and asked for fish and chips with a coffee while I wait. The coffe was not bad, I say, the coffee was not bad. The fish and chips howeve,r were the most expensive plate of grease and soggy batter I have ever paid for. The chips had to be re-ordered and came out the second time edible. As the coffee was not bad, I had another cup to wash down the grease and burped loud burps all afternoon. Do you say ‘pardon me’ when you are on your own and burp? I do and think myself odd. Who am I asking to pardon me? Myself? I realise I have spent far too much time without human contact. I tell Deb that I am not going to Smoo caves and afterall the only thing I am going to Durness for is chocolates. She laughs and promises to by some via internet for me and we can share them with wine when I get back to hers. It’s a deal and I turn south. Going back through the Moin Thrust I see what Deb meant, it’s very interesting driving through a glacial valley. The mist had risen enough for me to see most of it. I drive as quickly as I can without burning fuel too quickly and get myself near Inverness.
I see signs for somewhere and decide to explore. I don’t know where the somewhere is, but what the heck, just do it. I find myself on the Black Isle. It is relatively flat and full of fiels of wheat, barley and vegetables. It is a stark contrast to where I have been and I am curious. I find a road on a map when I can stop and place myself in the right direction, but as you can guess by now, I take a wrong turn and find myself nowhere, turn around and aim for somewhere. I see a sign for a fairy glen and think that I should stop and see it. A carpark nearby has a sign for no parking but a lady tells me it is not enforced. The glen is at the end of a walk along a small river and stops with a waterfall and is pretty. Fin enjoys the walk and we settle down for the night. I am glad to be out of the wet, midge infected, unfriendly west coast. I cannot believe how my spirits lift by not being there.
At 2am the high pitch scream starts and I am now able to categorically say it is the alarm for the leisure batteries. If they drop below 10 volts they let me know, otherwise they eat into the engine battery and I could find myself stranded. I have to move the Hobby to put some charge in. I remove the front window blinds and in my dressing gown I move away not having a clue as to where I may go or even where the hell I am. I just drive. A few minutes down the road I see another car park and park up. There are no signs so I feel it will be ok. Shortly after the siren calls again. I repeat the whole routine again, only this time, drive around for half an hour, along the golf course and by my nose, find the car park again, near a little museum apparently. Exhausted I flop back into bed and look at my phone for a GPS position. Google maps are so brilliant, I love them. I find myself and turn on the Google earth bit and can see exactly where I am and see that I am exactly opposite Fort George across the river and that is where I want to be tomorrow. Hoorah. I then sleep deeply.
When I awake to the sound of children, alerting Fin, I let him out for a look. I put on the kettle and get a shower before leaving. Driving along the beach I see masses of campers, tents and motorhomes parked in a camp site. It’s a beautiful view, but I bet they’ve paid for it. I love wild camping and the odd bit of anxiety is worth it.
I have checked some tourist brochures before I leave and see that there is a winery nearby, so head for it. I have to go up a wrong turn to get there of course, but when I get there expecting good things I just find a very nice lady called Sarah, but no winery. I am disappointed and get chatting with her after sampling small sips of the choices of wine. She explains to me that the lady who owns the castle created her own recipes for the wine, mead and liqueurs on sale, but after Europe came along with all it’s regulations the wine had to be produced elsewhere. Shame. After a second cup of coffee I asked Sarah if she wouldn’t mind some constructive feedback. She agreed so I told her how things could be improved as I had received it flatly and felt it was a terrific business opportunity missed. She was revved up after I gave her my ideas of improvement and I believe that after I left she will find a way to have them implemented. I just tapped into her passion and I await to see if she sends me an email with updates as pronmised.
Onto Culloden. I got to the carpark with a badly damaged wing mirror. White van man got too close to the white line at exactly the same moment I also got too close to the white line and guess what? I am pragmatic and hardly even shrug. All the money I have saved wildcamping has just been spent on a replacement - hey ho! In the car park at the battle ground there are masses of coaches and was I am greatly relieved to find that I can walk the battle field for free and not have to enter the visitors centre and pay for the guided tour by earphones and recorder. I can find all I want to about the fierce battle that lasted less than an hour and killed thousands on Google. I enjoyed walking the field non-the-less.
By the time I got to Fort George it was twenty past five and about to shut. I noticed with my now practiced eye a lorry parked off the road on the fort approach, with a motorhome and a caravan parked behind. Aha! I drove up to them and was rewarded with a perfect place to camp and stay. I was doubly rewarded by some very lovely souls for company too. A Dutch couple in their seventies called Hank and Marrrrika spoke to me as old friends and Carley was off fishing, but her husband Bob welcomed me, literally. I was a little overwhelmed and a tad skeptical to my shame. We later walked to the beach with a promise of local dolphins in the loch, so I was happy to join. No dolphins tonight but I found some great company and around the campfire marshmallows were toasted on the end of sticks. Bob’s two daughters Ilana and Roshan were delightful and generous in their sharing. They talked for England and were very bright, bordering precocious.
I went to bed very happy, full of good cheer and wine and was asleep in seconds.