Friday, June 25, 2010

The Highlands

By Claire
We're having a great time here in the Highlands. The scenery is beautiful, the weather is cooperating and shopping is always an adventure. Plus, we're seeing men in kilts. In the campground this morning, a brawny guy in his kilt was doing chin ups from a tree limb. It was quite entertaining.

We are staying at Bught Caravan Park (€21.60), just a few miles down the road from Culloden but within walking distance of the town center of Inverness. We enjoy watching the various campers and tent campers that arrive and set up. This one was fascinating to watch. It worked like a magic box, starting out as a tiny cart attached to the back of their car. It even has a full kitchen under the awning.

We walked around Inverness, easily finding the TI where a very helpful woman answered our questions and made suggestions. We were lucky to find out that there would be a pipes and drums show at 7:30 in a little town called Beauly, about 20 minutes away. There would also be some Highland dancing. She showed us on the map how to get there and told us to go to the town square. We set Susan to take us to the town center, a very useful setting as we have found out, time and again. We found great parking in a lot (free), and walked into town.

Beauly has a population of 1,800 and puts on a show every Thursday night of the summer, weather permitting. It has a small town square and some of the people were standing or sitting in the glare of the sun. We chose a spot next to the stage.

With 15 minutes or so before the start, we wandered over to the local cemetery and found a priory from the 15th century. We learned that in the summer of 1564, Mary Queen of Scots traveled through the Highlands to Easter Ross. She stopped at Beauly Priory before visiting Dingwall, capital of the Earldom of Ross. It is known that Mary was touched by the beauty of the priory, which was enhanced by a fine orchard. She is reputed to have said: "Oui, c'est un beau lieu" (Yes, it is a beautiful place.) Some suspect that part of the phrase has been corrupted to 'bew li', giving the town its current name.

We wandered back to the square (about 100 feet away--this place is tiny) and chatted with the MC for the evening, a local man, who was very friendly and did a wonderful job.

The show started off with Ken, another native, who played the accordian. It was fun and again, very small town. I almost felt like we were at a live Lawrence Welk Show.

30 minutes later, the dancers were announced and up they came. They were adorable and so serious.

This little girl seemed entranced by them and chose to sit front row, center.

We really enjoyed the dancers who ranged in age from six to sixteen. The MC was very encouraging, always telling them they had done a fine job. One little girl stopped in the middle of her dance to reposition her swords while her partner continued to dance.

With great fanfare and excitement, the Beauly Pipe and Drum Band were announced and paraded back and forth through the square. They were great and it was nice to see their ages ranging from a girl of about ten all the way up to a man in his sixties. The Drum Major was quite skilled and threw his mace up in the air, where it spun around, then deftly caught it without breaking stride. The band recently came in third in a regional competition.

I noticed that they all wore Wing Tips and of course each had a sporran and a knife tucked into their sock.


It was a thoroughly enjoyable, low key, non-touristy event and just what we were looking for.

This morning we planned the rest of our itinerary in Scotland then headed to Chanonry Point in Fortrose to watch for Bottlenose Dolphins. The woman at the TI had told us that this was the best spot to see them. Jill and Mike, who we met at the Edinburgh campground, had recommended that we go and see the dolphins.

We crossed the Beauly Firth on one side and the Moray Firth on the other as we crossed a bridge leaving Inverness. It was a 30 minute drive to the point which has a lighthouse and good parking. We fixed a picnic lunch then decided to walk over past the lighthouse with our chairs. There were about 20 other people, binoculars fixed to their eyes and cameras ready. We sat comfortably for awhile sharing our binoculars. I spotted a seal who popped up, looked around, then slipped under until he popped up again yards and yards away. It wasn't long before I saw a dolphin leap out of the air, his buddy close behind. It really was a thrill. We had quite a show for about 15 minutes. Another nice, low key, wonderful experience.

Viewing spot

We drove off to our first distillery, Glenmorangie, further north. The tour was nice and the wee dram was even nicer. I wanted to try "the original" so Chuck went to ask about two more wee drams. No problem. We both liked it even better and decided to buy a bottle for those cold evenings--whenever those show up. As usual, everyone is outside basting themselves in the sun as I write this--at 8pm.

One of the people on our tour of 5, Chris, stayed and chatted with us for awhile. We were quite relaxed and had the tasting room to ourselves. He is an accountant from London, probably about 40, who has left his job and is traveling through Scotland by motorcycle for 3 months. He was sick of his job and hopes to figure out what to do with the rest of his life. We enjoyed talking with him.

Glenmorangie Distillery

We learned that they use American barrels that have been used once because they give the best flavor.

O ye'll tak' the high road, and I'll tak' the low road,
And I'll be in Scotland afore ye,
But me and my true love will never meet again,
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond. ~ Anonymous


Paros Shepherd said...

Here's to Glenmorangie whisky and to you both:

'I drink to the health of another,
And the other I drink to is he
In the hope that he drinks to another,
And the other he drinks to is me'.

A Scottish Toast

Love your blog, love those men marching in kilts, love the adorable wee dancers (esp. girl in red) and the picture of the sweet bairn who was 'sitting in the front row and center' - is priceless!!!!! You are showing us the Real Scotland.

Karin on Paros

Chuck and Claire said...

Thanks Karin!

Elle in Umbria said...

Oh that billboard with the "BIG PACK" of (oatmeal?) and the handsome shot-putter certainly has me putting him (I mean IT!!) on my shopping list!
Scotland's got a lot to recommend it.. certainly a male-dominated culture, tho' know the joke about looking under the kilt, right?
"If what you see is a quarter-pounder, then he's a McDonald." ;-D

The adventure continues...

Chuck and Claire said...

Hilarious! Thanks.