Saturday, 25 July 2009

Tour d'ecosse - stage 7, Carbisdale Castle to Tomintoul

I'm surprised to see overcast and heavy skies first thing, given the forecast was for a glorious day. I do a final wee tour of the castle and it's grounds before packing the bike and heading out by 9.30.

Today's route took me south east, at one point past an enormous field of lavender, the smell of which was intoxicating. And so to Tain, then alongside the Dornoch Firth to catch the cute little two-car ferry to Cromarty, the Cromarty Rose.
It's most definitely passed its best. Like the Glenachulish though, great to see it still doing its job.

Cromarty is a nice little village, but I just pass through on my way to Fortrose. I take the road down to Rosemarkie campsite then along and out to Chanonry Point to see if I can spot any dolphins. The beach is very busy with people hopeful of seeing the same as me, but sadly there are no dolphins in sight. I do however spot a seal feeding and capture a bit on film. After an hour or so I take myself for a very nice lunch at the Crofters Bistro just along from the campsite. As I'm sat there enjoying my homemade burger and fries I spot dolphins jumping way off in the distance, the splash they make on entering the water again very distinctive. However, they are way off toward the far side and the people on the beach will have no better view than me. The sun has broken through and the rest of the day there is blue sky and light winds.

Lunch over it's time to head for Tomintoul. Unfortunately this involves joining the hideous A9 at Inverness, but thankfully only for 7 miles or so as I turn off to enjoy a quiet back road for a while. Eventually I arrive in Aviemore, and stocked up with provisions I drive 1 mile out on the ski road to
Rothiemurcus Centre, where I have been many times, and enjoy a large cappuccino and scone.

I take various, virtually unused, roads to reach Tomintoul via Nethy Bridge, with one road so little used there's grass growing down the centre! Barely a cars width, the worst happens; a car comes in the opposite direction! We negotiate each other with care and I'm on my way once again. The final stretch has some great hairpin bends reminiscent of the Bealach Na Ba, and before long I pull into the quiet little village of Tomintoul at 6.30.

The hostel warden tells me their water is contaminated so looks like I'll need to top up my fluid levels at the pub tonight!

I went in search of internet access and first enquiry was at the Clockhouse Restaurant on the corner of the square. I asked if they had a public bar which was met with; "what, you're not going to eat?" I pursued my line of inquiry rather foolishly asking as to whether they had WiFi access or not. I was looked up and down before she screwed up her nose and firmly said no. So, not one to be bullied, I asked if she could help me and point me in the direction of where I might find WiFi. She waved her hand in a dismissive way saying, "there's one of those pubs across the way, but I'm sure I wouldn't know". So if you're ever in Tomintoul and would like to experience a female Basil Fawlty, head to the Clockhouse. Eventually I am successful at the Gordon Hotel, but at a price; for non residents, even though it's a public bar, I am charged £5, and that's with my own computer!

I'm beginning to feel I've entered a strange village and all eyes are upon me. If I hear there's a wicker-man burning tonight I'm out of here!

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