From the Highlands to the Lowlands

Notorious highland battles dot the countryside of Scotland along with many castles, sitting perched in prominent sites so they could  be strategic, defensive and basically see what’s going on. Today we pass the battle of Glencoe, where in 1692 the Campbell’s lost face for life after befriending the  MacDonald’s then slaughtering them.

Canals criss-cross Scotland and the t] Caledonian a canal has an impressive line of loch after loch – today full of all sorts of boats slowly making their way to the canal much higher up.

Isle of Skye comes with a huge reputation and a favourite destination for tourists and the Scots alike. Whether it be whisky tasting at Talisker distillery or visiting  Dunvegan Castle and the seat of McLeod’s for over 800 years (of which most seemed to be called Norman) or visiting Portree the main town –  it can pretty much be covered in a day. For those people wanting to walk or hike the Ilse offers a vast choice along with water sports like kayaking and the harbours are filled with yachts . I can imagine sailing around the islands of the Hebrides would be very gorgeous and obviously popular.

We stayed two nights in the south of the island in Sleat which was 10 minutes from the first-rate Clan Donald museum visit, before crossing 20 minutes on the ferry from Armadale to Mallaig to then catch the Jacobite steam train to Fort William. The 2 hour trip passes the impressive beautiful coastline and countryside and was a thrill to be riding in the old carriages listening to the sounds of the steam engine.

Our bus driver was patiently waiting to then head 1 hour up the side of Lochness to Inverness and GlenMhor hotel overlooking the Ness river. The hotel is ingenious and made up of  several Victorian houses so we were spread in rooms along the Ness bank. Its daylight here from early in the morning  to late at night – the photo bottom right was taken at 4am !!

Two days based in Inverness (which I must say is not the prettiest of towns) gave me a chance to take everyone North to Dornoch, the sweetest picturesque village that I fell in love with on my research trips. Home to the famous Royal Dornoch Golf course, cathedral where Madonna got married and a superb Whisky and Gin shop. I had booked a regional whisky tasting here with the very talented Lorna for an hour and apart from JJ fainting and ending up under the table where we left her. The rest of us came away with a lot more knowledge and an understanding of the Scottish whisky regions and a bit warmer inside after our varied tastings.

The Royal Golf course hotel chef Sam put together the exact lunch I wanted – bowl of soup and platters with iconic Scottish smoked seafood and cheeses. The view out the huge windows of players teeing off – some in very colourful ‘plus fours ‘ on what was a beautiful sunny day and we could have sat in the big lounge chairs  with our coffee for the afternoon. If you wonder who I am pointing to : My maiden name is Cadzow and it seems we have a relative ‘Sir Norman Cadzow’ who was president and Club Captain of the Dornoch Gold Course. I asked about him but he is no longer a member!

20 minutes north, our last visit of the day was to Dunrobin Castle and Clan Sunderland  home – arriving late in the afternoon means the huge bus loads of tourists (that we don’t count ourselves part of) are leaving and our walk around the enormous castle towering above the formal gardens was really nice – apart from the Museum.  I didn’t like the many trophies including elephants, giraffes, and every animal you could imagine.

We followed the firths that head out to the north sea back to Inverness and the graveyard of many oil rigs waiting to be broken down for scrap metal, now all part of history.

Our second day in Inverness was spent visiting the eerie battlefield of Culloden and devoting time in the excellent interactive displays. The story of the Jacobites follows you around Scotland the it culminated in a battle less than an hour long here. Now with the road running along the edge and surrounded by farms. Following a rather somber visit we had a special time in my favourite garden at Cawdor Castle – the castle is still loved and lived in and the gardens are full of my favourite foliage plants and many colourful perennials  along with one of the best Laburnum walks I have seen.

The countryside has changed from the Highlands and fields of barley are everywhere – essential to keep the flourishing whisky business going. Distilleries are throughout Scotland from the Highlands to the Lowlands  – worth over a 4 billion pounds a year  and exported to more than 220 countries.

It is said to: ‘Keep out the fire but keep the warmth in’