Thursday, 28 July 2016

Scotland: Hanging out in Cromarty and hiking Ben Nevis

This holiday came just a day after my trip to Seville. Now that may sound a bit flash but I had two weeks booked off work and decided to squeeze in two holidays. That doesn't really make it sound any less flash and neither will the photo below of Cromarty House, where we stayed. But I promise you I haven't become some kind of extravagant double holidaying, champagne swigging bastard. 

After five days of Spanish heat, I needed reminding what rain looked like and Scotland duly obliged. Not that it rained a lot, but the weather was definitely more Scottish than Spanish - as you might expect.

Cromarty is a small coastal town an hour's drive from Inverness, with a population of about 800. The pace of life is pretty relaxed and the average age of the population somewhere towards the greyer end of the scale. The coastal scenery and surrounding countryside is very pretty and there's a restaurant in the town called Sutor Creek (the only restaurant in the town) that has won all sorts of awards for its amazing food. 

But it wasn't all relaxing strolls around Cromarty, eating delicious things and generally taking it easy. Oh no. We rented a car, headed south and climbed Ben Nevis. And much like when I climbed Scafell Pike with Tom a few years ago, the weather was decent on ground level but very wet and very cold once you get about halfway up and disappear into the clouds. I expect the views from the top are amazing, but as you'll see from a couple of the photos, visibility was not so good. A wall of grey in every direction, so thick in some places that you just follow what you hope is the path in a straight line until you see the next marker for walkers. 

The next day, after a very solid night's sleep in an Airbnb in Gairlochy with an incredible Hollywood Boulevard style bathroom (should have taken a photo but didn't), we headed back to Cromarty via Loch Ness to see if we could spot the monster. No monster appeared but we did visit the Loch Ness Exhibition, which takes you through all the expeditions down the years to find Nessie and all the people who have supposedly caught a glimpse. Some were more convincing than others...

So, that was Scotland. You may look at the photos now.

Cromarty House. Quite big. Quite old. Very different to the hostels I'd been staying at in Spain.

The peacocks at Cromarty House seem to enjoy sitting on the window ledges outside. I don't know if this is normal peacock behaviour.

A trial was taking place in Cromarty Courthouse when I arrived. Turns out Harriet had been disturbing the peace outside the local pub after a wee dram too many.

Ever wondered what I'd look like delivering a church sermon? Like this.

The gate of East Church in Cromarty, the exterior of the church in the previous photo.

A fallen tree in the Fairy Glen, Rosemarkie, covered in rusting coins that have all been pushed into the soft damp wood over the years. It makes the log look like it has scales.

The Fairy Glen again with some waterfall action included in the shot.

Harriet took this photo from the shore of Cromarty. Not a bad sunset as they go. Probably better than any of my photos too, which is obviously quite annoying.

The view from the lower half of Ben Nevis before we disappeared into the clouds and there was no more view.

There was still snow on Ben Nevis in July, which we had to walk through. I'm gazing thoughtfully off into the distance, preparing to manfully pick my way through the rocks and ice. 

We reached the top! Didn't stop for long though as it was bloody freezing up there. Just long enough to eat some sandwiches and Jelly Babies.
On our way back down the Ben, with feeling returning to my fingers and the left side of my face after some frostier moments at the top.
A panorama of Loch Ness. No monster in sight.

BUT WAIT, WHAT IS THIS?!? Maybe the stories are true after all...
(Or a hotel on the loch has built a big fibreglass Nessie for the tourists, you decide.)
And a thistle because it's Scotland

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