Friday, October 22, 2010

In which we are introduced to haggis

Our hostess Mary fed us quite well during our stay at Cairn Eilrig.  Knowing we were off gallivanting in the mountains, she prepared stout fare that would fuel our hikes: thick porridge, bacon and sausage, eggs, beans, mushrooms, oatcakes, endless toast and jam.

As a breakfast person, I loved it.  I tucked it all away everyday.  Even if I wasn't quite so hungry one morning or two, I found room for her porridge and sausage.  It was that good.

So one day, J. and I were raving about the sausage she served us that morning.  It was a very unassuming black patty of crumbling matter.  But once we took a bite, its rich earthy flavor and subtle seasonings blew us away.  It was that good.

We asked Mary about it.

"Oh, it's not sausage," she said, "It's haggis!"

A little back story here: I'm normally quite willing to try new foods.  Even fish.  But not organ meats.  I draw the line there.  When people asked us, upon hearing that we were going to Scotland, whether we were going to try haggis (go find out exactly what it is - I'll wait), our response was a flat "no."

And sly Mary slipped it to us underneath our very noses.

Even as the reality of what I had consumed that morning slapped me upside the head, no sense of revulsion followed.  It was that good.

Butcher's shop, Aviemore, Scotland

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Over the hills and through the woods to the Cairngorms

Our next stop on the trip was the Cairngorms, on the other side of Scotland in the eastern Highlands.  One would think, looking at a map, that you could just head due east and get there in relatively short time, but no.  We had to take the bus north to Inverness, then catch a train southeast to Aviemore, then hop on a bus to Glenmore, then walk up the hill to where our bed and breakfast Cairn Eilrig is located behind the Reindeer Center. 

But I'm not complaining.

On the bus to Inverness from Fort William
How can you when you have views like this from the bus?

On the bus to Inverness from Fort William
This is a far cry from my experience with bus rides, which has been limited mostly to the stretch between O'Hare airport in Chicago and my hometown of Rockford, Illinois, where there are cornfields as far as the eye can see and random collections of industrial buildings.

On the bus to Inverness
We passed lots of homes like this. 

We rode for a long time along Loch Ness. Nessie did not make an appearance. It wasn't really the weather for monsters--the sky was a lively blue and the surface of the loch was dappled with sunlight. No mist or moaning wind.

Inverness Railway Station, Scotland
We arrived in Inverness, where the buildings all seemed to be carved out of the same block of stone.

Inverness, Scotland
Various storefronts tried to introduce a dash of color into the mix.

Inverness Railway Station, Scotland
The train station was modern, white, and airy. These little guys were posted on a wall.

Aviemore Railway Station, Scotland
We arrived at Aviemore Railway Station, which was decorated with candycane colors. I loved the railway stations of the United Kingdom. While the Victorians sometimes overdo it in the decorating capacity, their railway stations are lovely.

Cairn Eilrig, Cairngorms, Scotland
Our final destination, Cairn Eilrig (Hill of the Deer Walk), where we met our gracious host Mary and her black lab Poppy. 

Reindeer Centre, Cairngorms, Scotland
How can you resist reindeer?  The Reindeer Center is located just beneath Cairn Eilrig.  I peeked over the fence numerous times during our stay in the Cairngorms.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

On to the Cairngorms

View from Cairn Eilrig, Cairngorms, Scotland
View of the Cairngorms from Cairn Eilrig, the bed and breakfast we stayed at during our time in the eastern Highlands of Scotland.

Friday, October 08, 2010

The path between Fort William and Ben Nevis

Footpath between Fort William and Ben Nevis, Scotland
There is a path between Fort William and the Ben Nevis trailhead. Achintee Farm is right on this path, so we walked this way several times daily during our stay in the Fort William area.

Around Fort William, Scotland-39
The path mostly follows this stream as it winds its way down from Glen Nevis.

Footpath between Fort William and Ben Nevis, Scotland
Trees line the way

Gnarly tree along footpath between Fort William and Ben Nevis, Scotland
and grow in the middle of the way.

Footpath between Fort William and Ben Nevis, Scotland
Fields are nearby,

Footpath between Fort William and Ben Nevis, Scotland
lined with posts shaggy with old man's beard moss.

Sheep, Achintee Farm, Fort William, Scotland
There are usually sheep, their baas aloft on the wind.

Ben Nevis in background, from footpath between Fort William and Ben Nevis, Scotland
The mountains loom in the distance.

Footpath between Fort William and Ben Nevis, Scotland
A path with mountains in the background needs a welcoming home at its end.

Footpath between Fort William and Ben Nevis, Scotland
I wish I could walk this way everyday.