The eyes finally open at 8:30 AM and a realization hits that tardiness is a non-issue today.  No firm plans other than a walk off the ship and in to town to see what surprises may be in store.  The weather is co-operative, at least for now, though the outlook calls for light rain and only 13 degrees.  One can only hope.

Barely past the port exit, taxis lie in wait with drivers quite willing to take passengers wherever their mind can wander.  Albeit within a 7 hour time frame before the ship departs.  Though not originally considered, it seemed not a bad idea especially when compared with the ship tours that had been available for the day.  The ability to go, willy-nilly so to speak, and stop wherever and for as long as desired, pretty much sealed the deal.  Oliver, the Philippine driver, opened the car doors and the journey was begun.

Through the town of Invergordon (the actual port town) we were soon on the highway.  The term is used a little loosely given that our main street downtown is much larger.  To Scotland’s credit, their highway is much more scenic.  The trees all along the way are older and larger and the surrounding landscape is similar to our foothills area.

The first little town we enter is Dingwall.  This is the oldest in Northern Scotland.  Had you been around at the time, the Beatles played here in 1963.  You could have been one of their huge audience of…19.  Apparently they were a little less known at the time.

The speed limit in town is 20 miles an hour.  Given this outrageous pace, it is felt that obstacles on the roadway should be place to slow things down a bit.  Difficult to explain, they’re basically a jut-out from either side of the road.  This makes it mandatory that you move to the opposite (on-coming) lane in order to get by.  This effectively slows down traffic in that you can’t go by until it’s clear to do so.  And sometimes there are jut-outs on both sides of the road, with just enough room for one car to go through at a time.  I have to say I just don’t understand the rationale, but apparently it works for them.

We pass by another old town, Muir of Ord.  This town is famous for the Glen Ord distillery.  Not being a Scotch whisky fan the reference is lost on me.

We continue on our way heading to another little town called Beauly.  I had mentioned the large trees that we see along our trip.  Many of these are oak.  Depending on age and size, the Forestry Commission has actually stamped them with an official serial number.  This makes permission, by them, mandatory prior to cutting it down.  This also includes trees on private property.  Location does not necessarily grant total ownership.

In Beauly a quick potty stop was made longer by glancing across the street to the 600 year old Priory.  Basically it’s the church of the day way back when.  Sadly in ruins now it at least exists to give reference to a time long gone accompanied by the cemetery still holding many of its parishoners.

Stopping at the nearby Robertson’s Specialty Farm Shop was, to me, a requirement.  It didn’t have to be that specific farm, but somewhere that had the Highland cattle.  They would be the ones I refer to as The Woolly Bullies.  These cattle are very well known for the large heads, large horns and very long hair.  Looking at them, one would suppose they would be ideal for really cold winters.  Today even their calf was running about, much as any child would do.

Making our way along the shores of the Beauly Firth, we bypass Inverness (for now), cutting more inland to likely one of the most well-known landmarks in Scotland, Loch Ness.  It is a very long (27.5 miles), narrow Loch and is also the deepest at 755 feet.  Unfortunately we were a day too early to see Nessie, the Loch’s most famous resident.  The sign near the information center just outside our port area had clearly stated “100% guaranteed viewing of Nessie – tomorrow”.  I guess maybe next time…

Driving along the shoreline of the Loch was very reminiscent of driving the shores of the Okanagan Lake in B.C.  Trees and flowers on one side, a beautiful water-front view on the other, the weather remaining co-operative – all in all a relaxing Sunday drive (ok, Thursday…it’s easy to forget what day it is).

Urquhart Castle, or at least what remains of it, overlooks the Loch,.  At one time it was one of the largest strongholds in Medieval Scotland, but today not much is left but jagged ruins.

Off we go once again, this time heading for a drive through the country side, passing through the picturesque town of Drumnadrochit.  Another is Kiltarlity and then on to the James Pringle Weavers operation.  Always on the lookout for another hat for my collection, I thought this would be a good place as they are well known weavers of wool in Scotland.  I was not disappointed.

The timing is good for another call-of-nature stop so off we head to Inverness and a little perusal around downtown.  Stone and brick buildings remain but centuries old buildings are not as common as we have seen before.  New sits side by side with old, not quite pushing it aside but certainly making its presence felt.

This entire day seems to have covered considerable ground but also in a very comfortable fashion.  This personal mode of sight-seeing is one that would be nice to do all the time.  Maybe if I bought a Scottish Lotto Ticket…?

Tomorrow we go our separate ways – a tour of Edinburgh proper on one side and a visit to St. Andrews on the other.  However, there may be some disappointment involved.  Time will tell for sure.

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