Friday, October 14, 2016

Autumn Colour

The bracken and trees are just starting to change colour here in Southern Scotland. Some images from our morning walk.

And here's a colour study and line drawing from my sketchbook of some autumn leaves: Norway Maple and one other that I'm not sure of!

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Holiday In Inverness 2016: 28 - 30 September

Dornoch beach was our first stop on Wednesday. Brock loved it here and met several dogs to play with.

Afterwards, we went into the town and had a very good coffee and cake at the Dornoch Patisserie and Cafe. The staff were very friendly and efficient.

The Jail is an impressive building and now houses a number of craft units, and is interesting to look round. There is also a Co-op for food shopping and other shops, cafes and hotels.

Our next port of call was Tain, where we had lunch in the Sunflower Cafe (all day veggie breakfast for Rob and jacket potato with cheese and coleslaw for me). The food was pretty good and the portions were generous. There was an 'unfortunate incident' in the cafe, when I noticed a young man drop what I thought was a scarf or large handkerchief on the ground - I called out to him and he came back to look at it and said it wasn't his. After he had gone, the staff were cracking up with laughter, as it turned out to be a pair of boxer shorts! I felt rather sorry for inadvertently embarrassing him, but it was quite funny.

I bought more vintage buttons to add to my collection from the charity shop in Tain before we drove on to Cromarty on The Black Isle. Brock got a third walk along the sea front and around the town.

Oil rig seen on the opposite shore at Invergordon (there were a number of them lined up, disappearing into the distance).

The Sutors (flat fingers of land guarding the entrance to the Cromarty Firth).

Cromarty lighthouse.

I think that Wednesday must be a half day in Cromarty, as most of the shops and the cafe were closed. Still, we enjoyed the walk around the town. We made a final stop-off in Rosemarkie where we bought an oil burner and some gem stones in Panacea, a new age shop. The shop owner, Cornelia, is very friendly and helpful.

Thursday was our first wet day! We walked Brock along the seafront and through the town of Nairn, before having an early lunch back at the Bakehouse in Findhorn. We both had the vegetarian black dal which came with nan bread (I forgot to ask for GF, but I'm sure they would have had some), raita and ?rhubarb chutney. It was absolutely delicious! I really wish this cafe was nearby as we would go there often. We also had slices of cake and coffees (yes, we are on a bit of a diet now that we're back at home!). This was the best meal we had on this holiday. Brock had another walk before we decided to relax and watch old films back at Rookery Nook for the rest of the day.

On Friday, we drove to Ullapool on the west coast, stopping off for a walk at Rogie Falls. The waterfall was impressive, with plenty of water rushing down.

This image is taken from the suspension bridge. It is a really lovely walk and well worth a visit if you're in the area.

At Ullapool, preparations were underway for a two-day music festival with The Stranglers headlining. We had lunch in the dog-friendly Ceilidh Place (salad and chips for me; scrambled egg on toast and chips for Rob; we both had good, strong coffees). The waitress recommended the An Talla Solais art gallery, so we headed off there for a look round. There was some beautiful work on display.

The weather was pretty good: mainly sunny with just a few light showers on the drive over. We sat by the harbour eating ice cream and taking in the stunning views.

On Saturday, it was time to head home. We stopped off in Dunkeld again as it is about half way home. We had lunch in the Scottish Deli, which allows dogs in. Rob had a hummus and sunblush tomato baguette; I had the same filling with a salad. Excellent! By far the best of the three cafes we have tried there.

A very enjoyable holiday, but it seemed to go by in a flash.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Holiday to Inverness 2016: 26 - 27 September 2016

Brock had his morning walk at Culbin Forest on Monday. Culbin is a Forestry Commission plantation on sand dunes. There are dozens of tracks through the trees: some emerging onto the beach. I would recommend printing off a map from their website before starting out!

 A devil's coach horse beetle.

Pine trees growing on the dunes.

The ever-popular Findhorn Foundation was our next stop. It was incredibly busy and hard to park, even at this time of year. The cafe we had hoped to visit (La Boheme - found near the entrance to the site) was closed so we had to resort to the renamed 'Phoenix Cafe' further into the site. An attractive wooden building, with seating areas inside and out, but, as on our previous visit two years ago, the service was atrocious. There was a long queue; the till broke down; they ran out of coffee beans; no menus were available apart from one at the till point; there was a 30 mins + wait for the food to arrive (Rob had ordered a pie which simply needed to be put on a plate, and my choice was a jacket potato with cheese). So disappointing, when this could be such a nice cafe with some proper management and staff training. Until that happens, I would avoid it at all costs!

Afterwards we enjoyed looking at the lovely eco houses on the site. Here are a few of my favourites:-

There is a great wholefood and crafts shop on the site, which is well worth a visit. We stocked up on some food for the next day's breakfast: mushrooms, tomatoes, Quorn bacon and FR eggs.

Next, we headed to the village of Findhorn - another hard-to-park place. We headed to the Bakehouse for afternoon tea and cakes. This superb bakery has everything that the Phoenix has not: excellent food, friendly staff, and fast service. There are half a dozen homemade gluten free cakes to choose from: I had a cranberry slice that was delicious. Rob had a huge slice of pecan pie, and we sat outside enjoying the sunshine. Highly recommended!

Dinner that night was an Indian takeaway from Saffron in Inverness. The food was pretty good and they delivered to the door, which was a bonus. The price for two curries, two rice, poppadoms and a side dish was £26.50 (including delivery). A bit more than we would normally pay, but enjoyable.

On Tuesday we had a three mile walk at Glen Affric, taking in two of the trails at the unfortunately-named Dog Falls. The walk takes you past the water fall/gorge, through forest and around tiny Coire Loch. The pine forests, fungi and late flowering plants and bilberries were wonderful. It was surprisingly busy in the car park, but most people just go as far as the waterfall, so the longer trails are not too busy. It is very quiet, with a light wind in the trees being the only sound you can hear.

The Bothy at Fort Augustus was our lunchtime stop. It is dog-friendly, but service stops at around 2.30 pm, so we only just made it in time. Rob had veggie burger and chips. There were no GF vegetarian main courses, so I just had a mushroom/cheese starter without the bread, and a side of chips. With a tea and a mineral water, the bill came to £18.80. Despite the bad reviews it gets on Trip Advisor, we found the staff to be pleasant and welcoming. I probably would not return though, unless some GF veggie options were introduced.

Afterwards, we walked down to Loch Ness to see the tiny lighthouse, or 'unoccupied beacon' as it is less romantically referred to.

 Loch Ness in the background.

 The Caledonian Canal with five locks, seen from the bottom ...

... and the top.

A pretty town, but a bit too touristy for my taste. On a previous visit, we hired a boat and went out onto the loch - no sign of the Loch Ness Monster, though.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Holiday to Inverness 2016: 24 - 25 September: Dunkeld, Inverness and Chanonry Point

Rob, Brock and I have just returned from a week's holiday in Inverness.

We stopped off at Dunkeld on the way up. It is a very picturesque town with hotels, cafes and small shops. Palmerston's Cafe was where we had lunch (jacket potatoes with hummus and salad). The food is pretty good, but one of the waitresses is rather on the abrupt side, which is a bit off-putting, so I couldn't recommend it.

There is an excellent deli in the town: The Scottish Deli. We bought a bag of food there to take with us for the week: muesli, almond milk, cheese, butter, olives, wine, stuffed chillies, bread, hummus, strawberries etc.

We arrived at Rookery Nook, our accommodation for the week, at about 4.00 pm. It is a 'compact and bijoux' apartment with a tiny, private garden area (complete with bird feeder, rockery, washing line, seating area and plants). The apartment is in a very quiet area of Inverness, but only a few minutes drive to the centre or the ring road, so suited us very well. It has an open-plan kitchen/dining area/sitting room, with a bedroom, and a shower room.

Brock made himself at home on the duvet we'd bought for him (no pets on the furniture, please!).

On the Sunday, we headed into the centre of Inverness to do the Ness Islands Walk, only to find that there was a marathon and fun run taking place.

A view from one of the islands. We managed to complete the walk before the main race began.

 Warming up before the race starts.

Just before the race began.

The event was sponsored by Baxters soup and it was quite amusing to hear the commentator trying to work 'his favourite soup' into interviews with the competitors.

Rob and I had a walk around the town, but most of the shops, and the museum were closed. We did manage to get some postcards in The Works!

Chanonry Point near Rosemarkie on The Black Isle was our final stop for the day. The sat nav took us on the scenic route around the Beauly Firth, which is absolutely beautiful.

It was a bit windy on the point, but the beach that runs back to Rosemarkie was quite sheltered. You can see dolphins from here if you arrive in the late afternoon.

Chanonry Lighthouse.

Walking back along the beach towards Rosemarkie.

Brock enjoyed the walk and met some friends along the way.

By the time we approached the community cafe on the beach, the sun had come out and it was hot enough to sit outside for lunch.

The popular community cafe in Rosemarkie. Good tea, and GF egg roll, but very dry cakes :o/

We had a couple of hours rest at the holiday home before visiting a nearby pub for dinner: The Fluke. It was quite lively, with a mixed age crowd, and music from a jukebox. We ate the cauliflower and red pepper curry, which came with rice and poppadoms - quite tasty, washed down with some cider! They had quite a few other vegetarian meals on the menu: most centred around halloumi cheese.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Edinburgh Festival and Museum Visit

Rob and I were up in Edinburgh Fringe Festival for the whole of yesterday, until well after midnight. We had booked three shows: Mervyn Stutter's Pick of the Fringe at 1.00 pm; James Acaster at 7.30 pm and Joe Lycett at 10.30 pm (actually started about 15 - 20 mins late).

We just made it in time for Stutter. The host is the most annoying part of the show, but he sometimes gathers together 7 decent acts: a range of musicians, actors, comedians etc. This was about our sixth or seventh visit to one of his shows - have to say it was not one of the better ones. I think they had had a couple of acts pull out and people had filled in at the last moment.

1. Roulston & Young: Songs for Lovers (And Other Idiots) [Cabaret]
2. ? Replaced Act
3. Scorched [Theatre]
4. Patrick Monahan: That 80s Show [Comedy]
5. Bubble Schmeisis [Theatre]
6. Justin Moorhouse: People and Feelings [Comedy]
7. La Poule Plombée [Cabaret]

None the less, the singers who performed in two of the slots (1 and 7) were very good - talented and original. The two comedians: Justin Moorhouse and Patrick Monahan were both quite funny. The excerpts from plays: well, I liked one of the three: Scorched - performed by one actor playing an old man with dementia who has flashes back to his earlier life, including fighting in the second world war. With very few props, and some great sound effects he told the story very well and captivated the audience. That would be my recommendation from the line up.

We headed to the National Museum of Scotland, in the gap between shows, to look at their new galleries.

Rob took these photos from the rooftop gallery...

You can see the seating for The Tattoo in the centre of this image.

These were some of the exhibits that caught my eye:-

 Phoebe Anna Traquair, Biblia Innocentum, 1897 - 98 (embossed leather)

 Transfer printed pot lid, c. 1850 - 1875

Michael Powolny, Traubenbock (Grape Goat - what the?), c. 1907 - 10 (glazed earthenware). Not something you see every day.

 Gilbert Marks, charger with dolphins/waves, 1901 (pewter).

 Jasperware paint box, late 18th century.

Male figure, blolo blain, Baule People, Ivory Coast, early 20th century. Represents the spirit spouse of the owner. Look at that adorable face!

Leopard mask pendant, Benin, Nigeria, 19th century (brass). Worn at the waist by military officials.

Tunjos (votive offerings) and figurines, Central and South America, pre 1492 (gold)

Martin Bros, Bird Jar (stoneware, wooden base). I like his wise expression.

After an early dinner (excellent!) at Mother India, we went on to the Pleasance for a drink and to spot the celebrities (Dara O'Briain, Alex Brooker, Matt Forde, Lucy Porter, an actor that I recognised, but could not name!).

James Acaster's show was really good - plenty of laughs: he has quite a strange sense of humour - sets about his honey business; things that annoy him (including people pretending to hold up the leaning tower of Pisa); his extra-large shirt pocket, to name but a few topics covered.

Another long break in which we wandered down to Princes Street and Rose Street and had a large cup of hot chocolate sitting outside The Rosehip restaurant.


The queue for Joe Lycett's show was interminable. The show was running late for some reason, but we finally got into the venue at the Assembly Hall. Nice, very large, venue inside, but the bar area outside was a bit dark and depressing. The show, though, was hilarious and worth the wait. The hour passed in a flash as he went over some of his email and twitter correspondence with officials such as parking fine administrators (a lot funnier than it sounds!), talked about some of his strange friends and people he had met. We both said afterwards that he was the sort of person you could have a great night out with - one of those people who is naturally funny.

Just a half mile walk, twenty minute bus ride, short walk, and two hour drive to get home. Finally went to sleep at 3.00 am!


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