We decide to forego the full English breakfast at the Premier Inn this morning, and just make do with some fresh fruit from Tesco. Cheaper and better for the diet.
After yesterday's traffic jam, we have some very pleasurable motoring today, and we soon find ourselves entering Scotland. Damn, I forgot my passport!
Look at these empty roads! What a change from yesterday!
On the way I spot a couple of amusing road signs.
The 10 metre high sculpture, nicknamed "Angel of the Nauld", overlooks the M80 just north of Auchenkilns. The female sculpture's large swooping arcs from her hands to her dress are based on the Gaelic name for Cumbernauld, “comar nan allt”, which translates as “the meeting of the waters”. Not quite sure how that follows, but so the story goes. The sculpture, created by Andy Scott of Kelpies fame, is part of the Cumbernauld Positive Image Project's aim “to create a distinctive image of Cumbernauld; increase residents’ pride in their town; raise awareness across Scotland of Cumbernauld’s attractiveness as a destination to live, work and play; create a sense of place and provide a positive statement about the town. Again I am not sure how this sculpture plays a role here, but she is pleasant enough to look at as we glide past on our way further north.
Pitlochry Dam and Fish Ladder
We park in the centre of Pitlochry town and follow the signs to the dam and visitors centre on foot. The road leads through the town, down a hill, under a bridge, along a narrow lane, up another hill and down a slope before it gets to a dedicated car park for the visitors centre. Doh. At least we get a little bit of exercise rather than driving to the nearest car park. We have spent enough time in the car the last couple of days.
I am officially intrigued by the Fish Ladder, as although I do understand that it facilitates salmon to travel upstream during breeding season, I have never actually seen one.
But first we stop for coffee and cake in the modern visitors centre overlooking the hydroelectric plant.
We walk across specially constructed walkways from one bank of the river to the other (not the one shown in the photo below), and although the power plant is certainly impressive, it's the reflections in the loch that first and foremost grab my attention.
Hydro-electricity is produced using the power of running water to turn the turbines in the power station.
Once we reach the fish ladder on the opposite bank, I have a feeling we have seen something similar before, possibly in Madeira in 2003. Either way, it is a pretty cool idea.
This is how it works: each of the 34 tiered pools has an opening below water level to allow fish to swim through to the next level. The ladder is even equipped with a fish counter (the sort that counts each fish, not sells fillets) so they can monitor the success of the ladder. Some 250,000 salmon have climbed those stairs since the ladder was first opened in 1952. That is very impressive.
I continue taking photos of the dam and surroundings while David goes back into town to collect the car. He's a good man.
We head for the hills of the Cairngorms (a mountain range and national park in Scotland) to find somewhere to have our picnic.
This will do for a picnic
Not a bad view
Cowboy Caviar (mixed bean salad) with chicken and Southwest Sauce
We are fascinated to find, as we make our way even further north on smaller roads, that each layby is identified by a number. I have not seen that anywhere else. There are plenty of them too, something that we come to appreciate a lot as the week goes on.
Hmm, but not today...
As you may have noticed, I have called this blog “In search of the Hairy Coo”. 'Hairy coo' is of course the local slang for the adorable long-haired Highland Cattle. There are two reasons for this – I was tasked with getting some photos of me petting a highland cow by my friend Kay; and also because it reminds me very much of my first visit to Scotland in 1974 with my parents. My mum adored these cute bovine animals and used to call them 'hippy cows'.
'Pretend' Hairy Coo at the Ralia Highland Gateway Centre where we stop for a pee break.
Apparently, cuddling a metal coo doesn't count.
Mid afternoon the Sat Nav dies, meaning we have to revert to the old fashioned way of finding our way using a map. Those of you who know me well, will realise that it is not a good idea to leave me to do the navigating while map reading. Not only do I get my lefts and rights mixed up, my sense of direction is so poor that I can get lost in my own back garden.
Let's hope we make it to the cabin this evening without too many detours and without having a major falling-out.
Love the roads and the scenery!
The further north we get (and nearer our cabin), the narrower the road gets.
We find the turning off the main road without any major drama, despite me map reading, although I fear the credit has to go to David, who has a photographic memory when it comes to maps: once he has seen the route on a map, he can drive there.
The Wee Barn
I booked this holiday on a whim a few weeks ago. We have been talking about visiting Scotland for a while now, but no actual plans, and certainly not this year. I thought I would just do an internet search to give me some idea of costs, and then I saw The Wee Barn and fell in love. Ten minutes later I had booked it.
The Wee Barn is in what you could safely call a remote location. Some two miles down a single track road with a handful of other houses, a post box and telephone kiosk, It is situated down the lane leading to the landing where ferries take passengers across Little Loch Broom to the smattering of houses the other side. Surrounded by countryside on three side and water on the fourth, the setting is idyllic.
The cabin itself is small, of course (there is a huge hint in the name), but more than adequate for us, with a living room / dining room and a very well equipped kitchen.
As well as a bedroom and bathroom, the entrance hall has a comfy chair and a well stocked bookcase.
Once we have unpacked, I whip up a quick dinner of cold Black Forest ham, scrambled eggs and roasted tomatoes.
After dinner a settle down to relax, but David has other ideas, and suggests going out for a short drive. I shall make that the subject of the next blog entry however.