We got up early for our full day of exploring the Highlands of Scotland. The boat was docked a 25 minute walk from town and a shuttle bus took us down to the meeting place where Allan, our guide, met us. We had set up the tour to avoid the run of the mill stops like Loch Ness and the fabled monster. We stopped for a photo opportunity at Dornoch Firth and looked across to a monument erected by the victor in one of the many the conflicts between Scotland and England. Dornoch Cathedral in the town of Dornoch came next. Its giant organ is far too large for the church and has a tendency to vibrate the pews when played! We saw an RV parked in the center of town which represented a popular way of travel in this area. It is a calss C on a Ford Transit chassis.
Outside of town we saw Highland cattle and along a waterway, some seals.
Next was a lengthy visit to Dunrobin Castle and the Falconry associated with this large structure. We walked through the entire castle including the children’s play room that had a Hornby OO gauge electric train. The floor was covered with a Tartan Plaid carpet. The castle even had its own fire engine and brigade outfitted with brass helmets.
The falconry housed over 40 birds including hawks and owls. The master of this attraction exercised three of them. The owl was most impressive and seemed to follow his master’s verbal commands.
Anne wanted to drive through the highlands and her wish was fulfilled as we viewed rolling hills and valleys populated with sheep and cattle. We encountered an interesting monument to Sir John Macdonald who was the first prime minister of Canada who had roots in this region od Scotland. A fine railroad runs through the land and Tom got out to photograph the standard gauge track.
Our next stop was at the Falls of Shin where the salmon leap up the falls, back to their birth place after swimming all the way to Greenland and back. Getting the salmon jumping in mid leap is a great feat and Tom rose to the occasion.
As we headed down one of the many single lane roads (a class B), Alan pulled into a ‘passing place’ and told the story of the Duke of Summerland and his second wife. Instead of willing his fortune to his eldest son (by his previous marriage from which he was widowed), he willed his money and land to his second wife, Duchess Blair. The family was enraged by this error of protocol and sued for full restitution of the estate. In an out of court settlement, Duchess Blair demanded sufficient funds to build a castle. She had her revenge by building the castle over the only railroad that served the prime Summerland castle so she could always be over her dreaded in-laws. On the 4 sided tower of her castle she erected only 3 clocks, with the side facing her relatives empty. She would not give her relatives the time of day!
We had passed numerous fields of barley. The prime use of this grain is in the making of famous Scotch Whiskeys. Our last stop took us to Balblair (established in 1790) where a Highland Single Malt Whiskey is aged to perfection. Retaining only 10% of their production for sale as the single malt variety, they sell the remainder for blends which keeps them on financial solid ground. That 10% represents what their tasting experts call, “Vintages timed to perfection.” While Anne and Tom are not whiskey drinkers, we tasted 4 different selections and agreed that some were ‘smoother’ than others. Photography is not allowed in the actual fermentation rooms because of the high concentration of alcohol fumes in the atmosphere which is an explosion hazard.
Back on board we had another delicious dinner as the oil rigs in the harbor looked over us.