Day 1 – To Inverness
The trip up to the airport was relatively stress-free once beyond Winchester. We avoided the lower part of the motorway as there was a fair amount of congestion; Big Bro does not do stationary traffic too well.
Once past the A34, though, the journey was fine and I was dropped off at Terminal 5 just after 8am. Everything is DIY at the airport these days; I had checked in online during the previous day and had my boarding pass on my phone. Placing the QR code from the boarding pass on the scanner identifies you and prompts you to place your bag/s on the scales; it then prints the bag tag which you apply to your bag yourself. Once you have confirmed that the tag is attached, the bag starts its journey towards the bowels of the earth. You then get emailed the bag receipt.
Then on to the self-serve area to start the journey through Security. Again placing the boarding pass on the scanner starts the process; you smile nicely into a camera and if all is OK, the gates open and then off you go. However, nothing happened and i was then told by an assistant to take my specs off. This time, the process was successful and then on to the area for hand luggage search and body scan. A warning: try to avoid people struggling with pushchairs and children as they take at least ten times as long to go through as a singleton especially when at least one child refuses to go through the body scan.
AlasI had forgotten to remove my watch so I had to be frisked; my stupid error and I was very apologetic. My camera bag was taken to one side for a hand search and a rescan; each item was checked for Lord knows what and my iPad was re-scanned; naturally all was in order.
I then enjoyed a proper breakfast in Huxely’s; not cheap but that’s because of the captive audience.
It was then time to head to the gate. Before long, my turn came to board and I was directed towards a self-board gate; again scan the boarding card and smile into a camera. A message “Seek assistance” came up. I was told that apparently had not gone through Security (really? How would have got to the gate – sneaked through a ceiling void or something?). It seemed that I was close to being bumped off as a no show.
The flight itself was uneventful albeit rather cramped. Fond memories of my business class flight to the States last September came to mind!
Arrival at inverness was on time but it did seem to take a heck of time after that to unload the baggage. Once that was collected, I went across to the Avis desk to pick up the keys for my hire car; it was a little Suzuki Swift. Having six gears on my gear, finding that the Suzuki had its reverse gear where my sixth gear is made for a few interesting noises. I did find out it is possible to very briefly enable to rear camera at 50mph!
I’d previously found a walk through walkhighlands.co.uk which was about ten miles away from the airport to headed down there.
The town itself had seen better days but I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was free parking in the centre. Signs in shop windows, though, gave the impression that there were plans to introduce parking charges. This would only add to the further decline the town’s fortunes, I would think.
I had a walk following a very good footpath alongside the Nairn river and thought about following it all the way to Cawdor castle. there was no obvious option for returning by a different route, though, and the as there was only two buses a day from Cawdor, I did not want to risk missing the bus and having then to walk back. Instead, a crossed the river at Firstall bridge and firstly headed back down the opposite bank before taking a route into another part fo Nairn to see if the were other parts of the town I had missed.; they weren’t! It did have a rather nice railway station, though, even if most of it was now unused.
I decided it was time for essential refreshments and stopped off at Cafe One One Two; a wine shop-cum cafe-cum coffee shop for a latte and a of gingerbread cake, both delicious.
Then it was on with the walk, this time back along the river heading towards its mouth to the small dock, passing nesting swans. Crossing another bridge, I passed through some extensive sand dunes and onto a pristine beach. A few walkers on the beach but no-one else.
Time was getting on and so I headed back to the car and decided to visit the grounds of Cawdor castle before heading to my hotel in Inverness as I can recall seeing some magnificent Highland cattle in the grounds on my last visit.
No cattle this time but instead some rather splendid black sheep and their lambs and a a few sheep with some rather splendid horns. Difficult ti get a decent photo, though, as the sheep were off to the other side of the field as soon as they saw me. The horned sheep kept their heads down feeding.
It was coming on to rain lightly so I decided to head off to the hotel , arriving there around 5pm. I’ve stayed here on at least three previous occasions so there were no surprises; a typical Premier Inn room. Dinner was at the adjoining Loch Nevis House Beefeater; I had their Meal Deal which saved me a few pounds against the coast of the individual items.
After that, it was time for bed.. goodnight.