Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Road to the Isles

Imagine my horror when, standing at the desk ready to be signed up as co-driver, I discovered my driver's license had expired. Co-driver I could not be, given the liability, and disappointingly it meant I could not drive on the left as I'd been dying to do. My partner had to do all the driving which he did, expertly, with me not so expertly reading the maps. Usually I drive and he reads the maps - something we've worked out over the years and it has prevented many a tantrum on both our sides. 

So he drove all the way from my home town up the west coast of England and Scotland to the Isle of Skye. Sounds simple, but there is no direct route and at various points one is going south to go north and east to go west, or at least that's how it feels. It was with great relief that we arrived at the place we'd reserved for a few nights - Kinloch Lodge on the Isle of Skye - the driver and navigator exhausted and not a little scared from the one-track roads, narrowest of narrow two-track roads, the very fast local drivers, and the trucks and wagons that shared the same routes and all of whom seem to be coming towards us.

Kinloch Lodge is a former hunting lodge (photo, top), now hotel, belonging to the Macdonalds of Macdonald and is a superb place to use as a base on Skye. We were met by a family member who showed us around the drawing rooms, the dining room, the shop and who carried our cases to our rooms in the second building across the garden. When we returned to the big house, having dressed for dinner, we sat in the drawing room where in short order a waiter brought a cocktail list in case we wanted a pre-prandial drink. We did. 

The cocktail I ordered will appear tomorrow as the Friday cocktail. 

The perfect place in which to have a drink, afternoon tea, a quiet read, even a nap if you don't mind snoring in front of strangers. 

Below views from the windows to Loch na Dal.

Hotel dining rooms are some of my favorite places for there one meets the best of characters - not in the sense that they may be saintly, but that they appeal to one's prejudices and sense of caricature, fun, ridiculousness, call it what you will: everyone on their best behavior, dressed to the nines, being very correct with the silverware and being overly-familiar with the waitstaff. 

The walls of the dining room and the sitting rooms were hung with family portraits and very impressive it all was, especially in the dining room. I'd like to tell you I saw the dining room by candlelight but as there was daylight until after ten each night I never actually saw it when the green of the walls, the pink of the carpet and red paisley curtains would work together into a warm welcoming cocoon. As it was, the room was very attractive, especially of a morning, but whoever had chosen the plain pink of the carpet had never heard of stains from dropped food. 

And stains there were but that whole English, though in this case Scottish, country house look can take a bit of wear and tear, dog tracks and faded chipped grandeur. It is as you know a very accommodating style for decorating a house, and instantly inviting. I'm in no way criticizing as I felt at home immediately. 

The food at Kinloch Lodge was superb. Claire Macdonald is a famous cook, writer of many cookery books, in Great Britain. That she is well-known over here I cannot say, but I do know that I like what she and her chef produce for the breakfast, tea and dinner tables. I mentioned in an earlier post how I'd twice breakfasted at Kinloch on locally produced Finnan Haddock topped with perfectly poached eggs. It needed nothing more than a perfect slice of toast or two to go with it. Tea for me was fruit cake, cucumber sandwiches and green tea in a proper teapot. Dinner was five course meal with each dish composed of locally produced ingredients. 

There are too many wonders around and on the Isle of Skye to relate here but the next two photos are of the famed Eilean Donan Castle, one from the loch and the second taken by a photographer apparently standing on a patch of seaweed.

Below is the gatehouse to Dunvegan castle with another view below it.

A birthday treat for my partner, a surprise, was organized by his brother, wife and nephew. With many dire warnings beforehand from the nephew as to what it might be, skydiving, deep-loch diving, sheep wrestling, he was mightily relieved to find it was a trip to Scone Palace (pronounced scoon). 

It was suggested that we walk a little before the visit to the Palace as the tickets were timed and anyway a walk would do us good! I'm back, I thought. That phrase "do you good" took me right back to my childhood. 

Keeping an eye on skies like this during our walk in the grounds before visiting the Palace, we rounded a stand of trees to find the actual surprise - a picnic under a very large tree (planted in the 1830s) being laid out by brother, sister-in-law, nephew and nieces. All the right stuff, sandwiches, cakes, pop and wine in a wicker picnic basket with silver and china.  As you see, the walk did us good! 

Brits love picnics as much as they do mazes and the one at Scone Palace is a very good one. I got bored and had to be led out by my six year old goddaughter. 

The evening before the family reunion in Longforgan we stayed with a family member just outside Pitlochry in an old croft. A delightfully quaint place if inconveniently located halfway up an effing mountain (I quote). 

The view from the garden gives you some idea of the elevation. 


  1. Thanks for a great post. It makes me homesick for Scotland, even though I am English born, or should that be Cornish? Loved all the photos. More please!!!

  2. Great to have a little tour from an insider. And how wonderful to be around family.

  3. There will be more photos but probably next week. Tomorrow the Haggis.

  4. Blue skies and green walls ~ it is almost too much to bear!

  5. what a great trip, I'm so jealous! That hotel/ country house looks so cozy -great place for a get-away!