I’m not sure the travel lodge reception staff knew what to make of the guest stood in front of them at 1am, her head on the desk whilst she moaned softly “he’s snoring again…” As they had no vacant rooms for me to escape to, they gave me a spare duvet and pillows so that I could try and sleep on the sofa bed in our room. Because of course that extra 1 metre of distance would make all the difference. Not surprisingly, sleep didn’t happen for me, and between snoring bouts Rich woke several times because the room was so hot and stuffy. Still, we were remarkably chirpy come morning, anticipating a lovely big bed and long sleep once we’d arrived at our destination for the week.
It’s such a pain needing ‘perfect’ sleep conditions, and being a ridiculously light sleeper even when it does happen. Still, it has its advantages – like on a previous occasion being able to hear a would be burglar climbing in through my first floor bathroom window after scaling the drainpipe. I suspect that after encountering me, he didn’t sleep so easily for a while though. Short, angry, Welsh women with deep voices and bed hair can be quite scary, especially when they’re only wearing pink knickers. And yes the police found that aspect of the encounter hilarious. Gits.
Pete and Rich, father and son rally medic team superduo, left at 9am to get to the Colin McRae Forest Stages Rally 2013. With the whole day at our disposal and plenty of time to drive to the cottage, Cyn and I drove to the House of Bruar. We may have spent almost two hours there, and we may have had more bags coming out than going in, but it was great fun seeing how the Scottish elite like to dress. There were bargains to be had in the seconds shop, and as the cafe stocked gluten free cakes it would just have been rude not to. So we also decided to forgo the supermarket near the cottage and buy our dinner supplies in the deli. Haggis and neeps would do nicely.
From Bruar we headed to Aviemore, and on a whim decided to take the furnicular railway up to Cairn Gorm for a spot of lunch in the highest restaurant in the UK – Ptarmigan. Neither of us are really ‘ladies who lunch’ but there wasn’t enough time to walk to the top, and we were both interested in experiencing what is an amazing feat of engineering. It’s kept open even when there’s several metres of snow on the ground.
I was last here in 2003 for the Chicks Unleashed pilot weekend – mountaineering skills for lasses. I’ve no excuse for not having been back since then, but I certainly won’t leave it that long in future. My knees are too buggered to ski, and without cochlears it would just be nasty to try and get Rich to stay upright on narrow bits of plastic, but we’ll have to set a date for some snow-shoeing up in the Highlands.
Eating venison burgers with such a magnificent 360 degree view felt surreal. It’s rare to have such clear views up here, and for them to remain clear all day even more so. Ninety minutes after leaving Cairngorm we’d reached the town of Fearn, and after collecting the keys from the Anta shop, arrived at Bankhead cottage. It’s in a stunning location – literally only about 80m from the sea, and has 3 large double bedrooms, a living room, a conservatory/tv room, a large kitchen, and a table tennis room! It belongs to the Anta factory owners and they used to live here before they bought Ballone castle, just a few hundred metres away. There’s obviously money in tartan.
We immediately loved the house, but decided that it’s most certainly a show home for all things Anta, which made it a little dark in places. Not ideal when two guests need light to lip read. Once dark there wasn’t enough light to sit and read or talk in the living room without a head torch. It also lacked little homely touches like soap dishes and coasters – which we worried about as we were paranoid about marking the furniture and being charged for it! After a few days though we figured that the owners weren’t really that bothered about heat marks, or about bulbs that actually lit a room properly. We’d also developed a slight aversion to tartan. Tartan wallpaper on one wall as a feature would probably look good. When the whole room, curtain, bedding, and lampshades are tartan, it’s a bit much.
Pete and Rich joined us later in the evening, having had an incident free rally, and after a dinner of haggis, jacket potatoes and veg stir-friend in redcurrant jelly (try it – I made it up, but it works) we strolled down the to the little hamlet of Rockfield, nestled just above the high water line. It’s a gorgeous place, and we spent a few minutes admiring the view from the jetty.
I’d forgotten how different a country Scotland can feel, so coming back has been a welcome surprise. I’d stayed in the borders with Rich a few years ago, but we like it here so much that we’ll have to make a concerted effort to come back regularly. No ipads, limited mobile phone reception – just us and the views. Everyone needs to go off-line sometimes. It’s good for the soul. As is Scotland.