Highlands To The Islands

We downed a huge breakfast and took a stroll passing a rather posh farmhouse with a tower and burn that was crossed by a ford.

All very Home and Gardens. The sun was shining and had been over the horizon for a fair few hours by now, so we headed further north to our first stop at Dunrobin Castle. We parked the car and went to the entrance, alas we were a bit too early so enjoyed the surrounding countryside, as to our horror we saw tour bus after tour bus arrive and their occupants cue to get in; it seemed we were trapped in the 2 day tour of the highlands. After applying some patience we entered the castle with its 89 rooms can best be described as extravagant. Like Cawdor Castle it was the family home, but unlike Cawdor there was no photography allowed inside the castle. Dunrobin is huge and palatial with views over the ocean and is the Clan Sutherland ancestral home, their motto is Sans Peur (without fear), this lack of fear was shown at the battle of Culloden earning them the Castle site and surrounding farmlands. The castle was built on the relentless abuse of the working people so its grandeur and beauty came at a high cost to the local families.

The gardens are also well tended in the Geometric style.
Clynelish is a Highland wild cat; it is also the name of a distillery. As we were on a timeline for a ferry there was no tour booked, but they very kindly offered us a mid morning tasting of the 14YO. I was the skipper, so got mine in a plastic sample bottle. We then went to the pretty fishing port of Brora for the worst coffee of the trip, we took a stroll by the harbour and I tasted the Clynelish, a good whisky to take the taste of bad sweet coffee away.

One of the must visit distilleries is Old Pulteney in Wick, it has a great reputation and rightly so. We were again privileged to have a monopoly on the tour with an excellent and professional guide. We then had tastings in a comfortable tasting room, there was no rush and we were left alone for a while. Our guide then returned with a special malt they had served at an industry event the previous evening. We enjoyed the very clean and complex whiskies and were made to feel special by the guide.
It was a short drive to John O’Groats for a look at this famous place and the John O’Groats Hotel. The weather was turning cold and wet. We were not catching the ferry to Orkney from here, rather to go a little way west and to sail from Scrabster (Thurso) to Stromness. The crossing was smooth, but not smooth enough to stop the car alarm going off with the vibration. I positioned myself on the upper deck using the remote to stop the alarm when it went off. As we reached the top end of the island of Hoy the sea went from eerily flat ink black to boiling with the contrasting currents.We joined the snake of cars driving from Stromness the Kirkwall and quickly found our accommodation. It was a very well appointed home close to the old part of town and St Magnus Cathedral, most of all it was very warm with underfloor heating.

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