I finally made it to Scotland! My first impression is that I’m going to fall in love with Scotland as easily as I fell in love with Ireland. It’s that spectacular. But let’s rewind to last night. I went to bed at 7 (early even for me) and woke up wide awake at 11. After an hour of tossing and turning and watching some British television (which has a surprisingly large number of American shows; I watched Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives), I finally fell back to sleep until 6AM when my cell phone alarm went off. I never wake up to an alarm, but I’m thankful I set it last night!
I enjoyed a large breakfast buffet at the hotel (as usual, with mushy scrambled eggs which I’m going to give up even trying because I hate them) and then took the shuttle back to Heathrow. You might remember I spent some time there back in April after being bumped from my flight. It’s starting to feel like a second home. I dutifully got my bag tagged and headed to the flight assistance counter. It took about an hour and a half to finally end up with a seat, but just when I had resigned myself to another day in London, they decided to send me to the gate in case the lone passenger who hadn’t cleared security yet didn’t show. By the time I got there (with about 10 minutes to spare), they had a seat and boarding pass for me. So off I went to Inverness!
The Inverness Airport is old-school. Stairs brought up to the doors and the baggage reclaim was in a portable building. The airport is out in the middle of farmland, about 10 miles east of the city. Even though I had reserved an automatic car, and even though I called yesterday to let them know I’d be coming today, there was no car waiting for me. Did I maybe want a full size luxury car? Umm… on narrow, single lane roads? No, thank you. They finally managed to find a smaller automatic in the back lot that still needed to be cleaned but was more what I had in mind. Soon, I was off for the Highlands! Despite the mist and rain, it is absolutely stunning! And I had no trouble adjusting to the right-hand driving at all this time. (And I’ve only once tried to get in on the passenger side!)
My first stop was in Kinlochewe, where I enjoyed my first scone of the trip at the Whistle Stop Cafe. On the way, I stopped at the Loch Maree overlook to snap a few pictures, but boy, was it cold! After my snack, it was time to tackle the single lane road leading 10 miles from Kinlochewe west to Torridon. I bypassed the hotel and headed straight for the winding road to Lower Diabaig. The route follows the coast for a couple of miles before turning inland and climbing up over the mountains. The road is all single-track with passing places. Some of the tighter turns and hills had me cringing, but I made it to the tiny village of Lower Diabaig unscathed. The village sits right on the shores of Loch Torridon and is nothing more than a few houses and a cafe. I walked around for a little bit and then headed to the hotel.
The Torridon is supposed to be one of the best hotels in Scotland. It’s on the opposite side of Loch Torridon from Diabaig with a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains. The interior is historic with lots of wood paneling in the lobby and the lounge. My room is reminiscent of my room at Charingworth Manor in the Cotswolds last year. It even has a small staircase leading to the bathroom, complete with a clawfoot tub!
Once I got settled, I set out for Shieldaig, about 7 miles away from Torridon. Dinner was fish and chips at the Shieldaig Coastal Kitchen and Bar followed by a walk overlooking the village. It is now about 10:30PM, and it is just starting to get dark as I type this looking out over the lake and mountains. I wish I could say I’ll be up for sunrise tomorrow, but given that is at around 4:30, I think I’ll skip it and sleep in!