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Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Now a bit of northern Scotland?

I was originally coming to Inverness to cat sit while Janet and hubbie were off on holiday, but as I told you  before, poor Pickles - at the age of 21 -  went to the great big cattery in the sky a few weeks ago.  However I still came up the A9 to house-sit and water the plants.  The house isn’t the same without Pickly Pussycat.  I miss her little hello-miaow, and her constant purring!

The good weather that we enjoyed last week has held and it has been really warm, around 23 C/73F – too hot for me!!  I’ll say it again – My thermostat just doesn’t work!  Anyway today I took a run down to the northern end of the Caledonian canal  near the canal basin that you could so clearly see in my photo of Inverness from the air taken on my way to Iceland.  cale canal locks What you couldn’t see from so high up was the series of locks that boats have to navigate through before they are finally on their way through the Great Glen at the right level!  cale boatyardFurther on, past the locks is a boat yard, where several boats awaited attention, either in the water or high on blocks – do they call them gantries?  There were some bonnie boats!!!cale boats 

I really wanted to be on the other side of the canal where there’s the old towpath, so had to head for the main road to Fort William and cross the canal by the road bridge, which had just recently been opened to allow a tall-masted boat through, and turn down the next road.cale canal and yacht From the car-park I could walk up to the side of the canalcale canal jacobite cruise boat


cale canal 

and was just in time to see the sight-seeing boat returning from her afternoon cruise to Loch Ness, above.   I wondered if there would be an evening cruise but there was no-one to ask by the time I went round.  Might have been rather pleasant!may blossom2  

The saying goes “Cast ne’er a clout till may be oot.” which basically means don’t take off your winter clothes till either the month of May is over, or the may/hawthorn blossom is out (in bloom).  You can take your pick!  There’s an addition  to that saying, that I only heard some years ago, and it is “Button up tae the chin till June be in!”  That would suggest the month of May for the first part.  Personally I think it’s the may blossom that has to be out before you think winter’s over!  Plenty of it about at the moment! It is flowering all along the sides of the canal. buttercups2I took photos of several wild flowers along the banks.  There were buttercups,(left)forgetmenots forget-me-nots, (right),  speedwells, (below), to name but three! speedwells

Next day I drove over the Kessock Bridge to visit the area they call The Black Isle – strange name as it’s neither an island nor is it black!  The weather was cooler and driving towards the first villages the sky was becoming a bit hazy and grey.  margaret road avoch I stopped first in Avoch, pronounced Auch, ch as in loch, to look at the rows of cottages standing gable ends to the sea, which is very typical in fishing villages – strength against the prevailing wind - bus shelter avoch

and was somewhat amused at the bus shelter on the main street, with a boat for its roof.

Next stop was in Fortrose where I accidentally ended up finding the ruined cathedral.  fortrose cathedralOnly an aisle with old graves exists now.  Apparently it was in a ruinous state as early as the 17th century.

A promontory sticks out into the Moray Firth – that word Firth again – mouth of a river – south of Fortrose, and I headed along it to Chanonry Point, where I seemed to remember there was a memorial to Coinnich Odhar, the Brahan Seer, who was executed for witchcraft at that point.  chanonry point brahan seer plaque Sure enough the plaque was there, and so was a crowd of people all heading past the lighthouse to the very tip of Chanonry Point.chanonry point lighthouse




Suddenly in the distance I saw the reason why, and started following the crowd!  fortrose chanonry point I stood for ages looking to the sea and took loads of photos, chanonry point dolphins

but this was the best one – two dolphins out of maybe four or five playing out there, breaking the surface together.  That was an exciting moment – better than seeing minke whales off Iceland!!  Eventually I tore myself away from the dolphins’ play, Hugh Miller's birthplace and continued my way to Cromarty, birthplace of the 19th century geologist Hugh Miller, and at one time a very busy fishing port. cromarty harbour 





cromarty vennel


cromarty boatsAgain, as in Avoch, the houses in the old fishertown formed rows of little streets, all running away from the sea.  It was interesting to see some large houses like thesecromarty big house,


cromarty st ann's



once merchants’ houses and private homes to this day.cromarty group  I love this little group of cottages, right, and this corner toocromarty corner , below left.

cromarty east church The old East church, once Roman Catholic and later Presbyterian, has recently undergone restoration and is a typical church building of its time, with galleries, and family “boxes” where the richest families would sit together in front of the minister’s nose!cromarty garden

There were some beautiful little gardens outside some of the cottages.  Because I love  Ladies’ or Granny’s bonnets -  Acquilegias – this little plot really caught my eye.acquilegias2

Then there were the clumps of wild flowers

red campion


 growing along the little vennels,

cromarty potters garden




so pretty!  cromarty ice house and school tower


Just one more photo from Cromarty.  Through the gap between the foreground cottages is the spire of the local school and a grass covered building which was the town’s ice house, which I presume was where the ice to preserve fish catches was stored.

So the afternoon passed with me wandering the neuks and crannies of the village, but eventually it was time to return to Inverness. 

Where to next?  Talk again soon.


Peggy Ann said...

I love your photos! It is so interesting about the houses end to end coming away from the sea to guard against the wind. A.D. Scott's second novel was set on the Black Isle! 'Double Death on the Black Isle'

Evelyn/Ev/Evee said...

Must have a look at that! Thanks Peggy.