Oliver is…

He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man

…done with the Highlands

Despite growing up in the shadow of the Highlands, I’d never really made the venture to see them. I’d been to Inverness a couple of times, normally for Christmas shopping or to the theatre, but the farthest I’d been beyond that was Dornoch, where I’d been as a kid to play a game of cricket.

After visiting Aberdeen, I got the train to Inverness for a couple of nights before heading up north. The Highland capital was nothing like how I remembered it — in truth, I didn’t really, I just had recollections of not liking it that much. The apartment I had on the river was a great place to stay and walking round the centre was much more enjoyable than doing the same in Aberdeen.

Inversneckie

Of course I took a trip to Loch Ness, getting a boat across the water to Urquhart Castle, desperately searching for Nessie while also half-appreciating the heathered hills as ‘Will You Go, Lassie, Go‘ blared over the tinny speakers — probably the most Scottish thing possible.

Where's Nessie?

One of the main reasons I’d never gone to the north or west was because of perceived distance, but after living in Australia, where my Austhai has driven us six hours on a Friday after work for a weekend away, it kinds of seemed stupid not to explore Scotland, just a few hours in each direction, a bit more.

We hired a car and, against my advice, my driver for the trip decided against paying an extra £20 to bring down the excess from a stupid amount down to about £100. Before we’d even left Inverness we were hit by a van, leaving an obvious mark on the rear of the car, something that car hire places love to charge you £600 or so for.

Setting off after that in a pretty foul mood, it wasn’t long before the beauty of the Highlands changed that.

Growing up in Scotland, I’d kind of got used to the scenery there and taken it for granted. After travelling through deserts, barren landscapes and America, I was looking at it all through fresh eyes and although I probably wasn’t as enamoured as a first time visitor — on the basis of a survey of one other person, I wasn’t — I’m definitely glad I went up to Dunnet Head, the most northerly point on the British mainland.

Dunnet Head

The drive up was full of great scenery, a stop at a distillery, visits to Dunrobin and Castle of Mey, as well as frequent stops to admire the fields full of Highland Coos. I’d thought they were always ginger, but I saw black and white ones too. Did you know there where black or white varieties?

White Highland Cow

Black Highland Cow

After stopping in Wick for some sweeties, we arrived at Dunnet Head and checked into a B&B with one of the best views imaginable. A short drive from there was the tippermost, toppermost point of mainland Scotland/the UK, which offered views of Orkney. I had no idea it was so close.

Dunnet Head and Orkney

In the morning we were told that the B&B was for sale and although we entertained ideas of buying it for a few days, the practicalities of stupid mortgages meant it wasn’t possible. Plus, with the almighty wind and presumably the increbible cold in the winter (when maybe we could’ve just left for a few months Down Under), I’m not sure everyone on that trip would’ve enjoyed living there permanently.

Visiting this isolated little village, with an amazing local pub, made me sorry that I hadn’t seen more of Scotland when I had the chance, something I wished I’d done a bit more of just after I’d left there, but maybe one day I’ll have time to find out what the islands are like.

 

 

 

 

 

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