We continued our drive off the Isle of Skye on August 22nd and crossed the Skye Bridge back onto the mainland. Our first stop was the picturesque Eilean Donan, a 13th century castle built on a small tidal island where three sea lochs meet; Loch Duich, Loch Long, and Loch Alsh. We kept cruising on the A87 to Loch Ness, then north up the west side and made a short stop at Urquhart Castle. We continued northeast to Inverness where we turned and went south to the Cairngorms National Park. Our accommodation was 3 miles outside Aviemore and was indeed one of the more interesting places we’ve stayed in a while. Our home for the next 3 nights would be a “yurt” near the banks of the River Spey. The yurt is located on a historic estate farm called Inshriach House. We loaded our bags into an old Land Rover and were driven down to the yurt. It had a small cabinet with some kitchenware, a bed, a chaise lounge, and a wood burning stove. We also had our own private sawdust compost outhouse nearby. We got the fire going and settled in with a local charcuterie dinner along with our Skye beers and Copper Dog scotch.
The next morning, we got the fire going again to take the chill off and boil some water for coffee. After breakfast, we set out on a “small walk” with a map our hosts had given us. We climbed a nearby hill using trails and logging roads to get to a great lookout over Loch an Eilein. We started down the slope in the direction of the Loch, but the trail soon tapered off into nothing more than a game trail. In hindsight, I should have turned back and led us out the way we came, but no, I pressed on. Once back on the trail, we continued around the loch stopping for a picnic on the far side. Heading back, I realized I had bit off a little too much…our hike ended after 4.5 h from our starting time. I’m sure we walked over 15 km, but it was all very beautiful.
Back at the ranch, I went to fetch some water from the well and chopped some wood while Bec headed down to the river to fire up the wood burning sauna.
That evening, we popped into Aviemore for dinner at The Old Bridge Inn. The food and atmosphere were terrific. We noticed that there were a considerable number of bikers in town. We then discovered that there would be a huge rally that weekend.
The next day, we stopped in at the Rothiemurchus shop for a few items before heading into town for breakfast at the Mountain Café. Bec had the scones with clotted cream and I went for a huge slice of coffee cake. Coming out of the café, we realized that the “Thunder in the Glen” was in full swing and we stuck out without our leathers and patched jackets on. We wandered into a whisky shop and learned that Speyside Distillery had organized a tasting on the historic steam engine train that afternoon. It sounded like fun, so we grabbed a couple of tickets. We strolled through town and took in the festivities while waiting for our 2:00 pm departure. On the train, all tasters boarded a single car and were soon barreling down the track. We arrived at our destination of Broomhill, got out, stretched our legs, and were soon on our way back to Aviemore.
On Saturday morning, we cooked up a nice breakfast on the stove including 1 local farm egg and haggis patties. We then said goodbye to Aviemore and set out for Edinburgh. We had a look at the Ruthven Barracks ruins and grabbed a coffee for the road in Kingussie. We decided to stop at the Dewar’s Aberfeldy Distillery which was about 10 miles off the highway. We shared a tasting flight and then stopped in at the Iain Burnett Highland Chocolatier. Heading back to the A9, Bec and I were quite surprised with the amount of oncoming traffic. It wasn’t until we reached the main highway that we were informed that the A9 was now closed in both directions and we’d have to go back the way we came. Our detour added about 2 hours to the drive but included an official “scenic route” which was amazing.
In Edinburgh, we found our hotel easily and did a re-pack of our luggage in preparation for the next day’s morning flight. We heard from the Dewar Clan who were also in Edinburgh and planned to meet up later. We set out on foot around 5:00 pm and walked up to nearby Calton Hill to get a nice view of the city. We then worked our way down Princes Street and found that the Edinburgh Fringe Festival was in full swing. The live music, food, and people having a good time sucked us into the Festival Village on the rooftop of Waverley Mall. We continued along to the Gardens below Edinburgh Castle and then stopped in at the Edinburgh Gin Distillery. After that, we met up with the Kyle, Katherine, Karina, and Kaden and wandered the streets before stumbling upon Jamie’s Italian where we decided to have a late dinner. We said our goodbyes and rushed back to our hotel to meet up with Mrs. Dewar, Kathleen, and Amber as they had picked up a bottle of Misty Isle gin for Bec. We visited for a bit before saying goodbye and getting some rest before the 9:00 am flight back to AD.